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Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 13:34 GMT
Bahamas convict executed

Officer posts notice onFox Hill Prison gate An officer posts Mitchell's execution notice on the prison gate

A Bahamian man convicted of stabbing to death a German couple has been hanged in the capital, Nassau, despite international pleas for a stay of execution.

David Mitchell, 27, was executed on Thursday and a notice announcing his death posted on the gates of Fox Hill Prison.

Mitchell had been one of three convicted killers due to be hanged at hourly intervals during the day. But the second, 51-year-old John Higgs, committed suicide on Wednesday, and the other, Eddie Thurston, 32, was given a last-minute reprieve to appeal to the Privy Council.

'Abolish penalty'

Mitchell's execution took place despite appeals for mercy from human rights group Amnesty International, among others.

A petition was pending with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

London-based Amnesty urged the government of the Bahamas to "uphold its obligations under international law, and to impose an immediate moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty permanently".

Amnesty earlier said in a statement that Higgs' suicide was "an illustration of the brutal realities of the death penalty".

"People on death row have been convicted of appalling crimes, but society should not condone the killing of defenceless people, whatever they have done."

Privy Council

Thurston, a former mechanic convicted of murdering an unidentified man in 1995, has been allowed time to appeal to the panel of law lords in London, which acts as the court of last resort for a number of former colonies.

The Bahamas - which executed its first convict in 12 years in 1996, and has since hanged four prisoners - is among several Caribbean countries eager to use capital punishment to fight increasing crime. Last year, a record 65 people were murdered in the country.

The UK Government has been trying to persuade its former colonies in the Caribbean to abolish capital punishment.

But its moves have become unpopular with many of the residents of the island nations - particularly those in Trinidad and Tobago - who regard the death penalty as the best deterrent for the growing number of drug-related murders.

They have increasingly complained of being thwarted by judges thousands of miles away who they regard as being completely out of touch with the needs of the Caribbean.

In May, the UK Government sparked a diplomatic row with Trinidad and Tobago after stepping in unsuccessfully to block the execution of nine convicted killers.

Opinion polls at the time suggested 80% of Trinidadians supported capital punishment, encouraging Prime Minister Basedo Panday to try to speed up the execution process.

Leaders of the island nations have been discussing whether to set up their own regional supreme court, which would have the final say over cases such as these.

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See also:
18 May 99 |  Americas
Privy Council blocks executions
26 May 99 |  Americas
Trinidad death penalty on trial

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