INTERNATIONAL: Mandatory Death Penalty Struck Down in Bahamas

The British Privy Council in London unanimously struck down the imposition of mandatory death sentences in the Bahamas. This landmark decision held that the law "should be construed as imposing a discretionary and not a mandatory sentence of death." The Privy Council ruling said that the mandatory death penalty should have been regarded as inhumane and degrading punishment as early as 1973. "The ramifications and consequences of the Privy Council's ruling are huge; there are implications for at least 30 prisoners on death row in The Bahamas whose cases will now have to be reviewed," said Saul Lehrfreaund of Simons Muirhead and Burton Solicitors.

The Bahamas has hanged 50 men since 1929, and the nation has a total of 28 men under the sentence of death. The Privy Council ordered that the cases of two men be sent back to the Supreme Court so that their sentences could be reconsidered. The men, Forrester Bowe and Trono Davis, were both sentenced to death in the late 1990s, and the Council has long held that it would be inhumane to execute anyone who has been under the sentence of death for five years or more. "It marks a new dawn for human rights in the region and has given hope to all those sentenced to death around the world," stated defense attorney Keir Starmer.

(Bahama Journal, March 9, 2006).  See International Death Penalty.