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Thursday, October 15, 1998 Published at 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK


World: Americas

Two executed in Bahamas despite appeal



Two convicted murderers have been hanged in the Bahamas despite international opposition and growing concern over the use of the death penalty in the Caribbean.

Trevor Fisher, 28, and Richard Woods, 51, were executed on Thursday afternoon.

The two men still had appeals pending at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which made a last-minute plea on Wednesday for them to be spared.

The decision to execute them followed a ruling by the Privy Council in London - the final court of appeal for a number of former British colonies.

Although Britain is opposed to capital punishment, the UK court upheld an earlier decision that it was inhumane to keep prisoners on death row for more than five years and so the executions should proceed.

The decision by three votes to two was controversial; the two dissenting judges argued that it was a denial of human rights to execute someone while that person's case was still under consideration by an international body.

Appeals in vain

Woods and Fisher were convicted of murder three and four years ago respectively.

Both were sentenced to death and both appealed abroad for a stay of execution.

The BBC's correspondent in Miami, Liz Throssell, says whatever the individual rights and wrongs in these cases, they highlight the mounting concern over the number of prisoners in the Caribbean awaiting execution.

Britain has been pressing its former colonies to ban capital punishment.

But governments in the region say their populations, sickened by rising crime and violence, are in favour of the death penalty.

There are also moves by Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad to set up their own court of appeal, thus severing their legal ties with Britain, and avoiding what they see as external meddling in their judicial systems.

Reservations

The Bahamas High Commissioner to London, Arthur Foulkes, later told BBC Two's Newsnight that he did have reservations about the death penalty.

"Between 1984 and 1996, there were no executions in the Bahamas and I think that's an indication of the way we would like to see things ultimately.

"But the fact is that the public has demanded that the law be carried out in the face of really callous killings and a sort of new breed of criminal that we haven't had in the Bahamas."

Public opinion endorsed capital punishment in the Bahamas, Mr Foulkes added.

He said that the Privy Council had to adjudicate on a particular case according to the laws of the Bahamas.

"And the Privy Council has decided many times before that capital punishment is legal in the Bahamas."



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30 Jan 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
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Amnesty International 1998 Report on Human Rights in the Bahamas


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