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State told don't hang 32 Death Row prisoners

Inter-American Court orders compensation for Ramiah family

By Theron Boodan, Newsday

In a lengthy judgement the Inter American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) has ordered the State to pay to Joey Ramiah's wife and mother a total of US$60,000.

It also ordered the State not to hang 32 Death Row prisoners to whom death warrants had been read and who had petitioned the IACHR. The Court also said that this country's criminal legislation is outdated (1925) and new laws should be enacted to meet international standards.

Of the 32 petitioners, Joey Ramiah was hanged before the IACHR could have dealt with his matter. As a result the IACHR has also ordered the State to pay Ramiah's wife, Carol Ramcharan, US$50,000 to support and educate their child Joanus, while Ramiah's mother Moonia was ordered US$10,000 for non-pecuniary damage. On grounds of equity, the State was told it should pay to the attorneys who represented the 32 "victims" at the IACHR the sum of US$13,000 as reimbursement for expenses they incurred in bringing the case before the Court.

Attorney General Glenda Morean said yesterday that she did not have a copy of the full judgement and could not comment on it as yet.

After the Privy Council ruled that the State must allow prisoners access to human rights courts before carrying out a death sentence, the State withdrew its membership in the IACHR. However, before this was done, the 32 prisoners had petitioned the IACHR. Some attorneys described the ruling as absurd while others such as Desmond Allum SC, Gregory Delzin and Rajiv Persad, were giving praise.

The IACHR said the State should modify the conditions of its prison system, which it described as inhumane, to conform to intentional norms of human rights protection.

The Court said the State should abstained from applying the Offences Against the Person Act of 1925 and within a reasonable period of time modify the said Act to comply with international norms of human rights protection.

After that there should be a retrial of the petitioners under the new criminal legislation, and on the a further ground of equity, the State should abstain from executing, in all cases, regardless of the result of the new trials. In the judgement, the Court said the State breached Article 2 of the Inter American Convention on Human Rights by not passing domestic laws of international standard to protect human rights, and violated other articles that guarantee right to life.

It accused the State of violating the right to judicial protection and the right to be tried without delay.

The Court, which heard testimonies from attorneys Allum and Gaietry Paragass in February of this year in Costa Rica, ruled that the State violated the right of all persons sentenced to the death penalty to apply for amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence as enshrine in the articles of the Convention.

It said the State arbitrarily deprived Joey Ramiah of his right to life in violation of its Article 4 by hanging him while his matter was pending before them.

The petitioners were: Haniff Hilaire, George Constaine, Wenceslaus James, Denny Baptiste, Clarence Charles, Kieron Thomas, Anthony Garcia, Wilson Prince, Darrin Roger Thomas, Mervyn Edmund, Samuel Winchester, Martin Reid, Rodney Davis, Gangadeen Tahaloo, Noel Seepersad, Wayne Matthews, Alfred Frederick, Natasha De Leon, Vijay Mungroo, Phillip Chotalal, Naresh Boodram, Joey Ramiah, Nigel Mark, Wilberforce Bernard, Steve Mungroo, Peter Benjamin, Krishendath Seepersad, Allan Phillip, Narine Sooklal, Amir Mowlah, Mervyn Parris and Francis Mansingh.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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