JG - Death penalty hurting human rights image - Vasciannie
Death penalty hurting human rights image - Vasciannie
published: Saturday January 26, 2008
Professor Stephen Vasciannie speaks on human rights in Jamaica at the American Friends of Jamaica/Cobb Lecture Series at the Undercroft of the University of the West Indies, Mona, on Thursday. - Nathaniel Stewart/Freelance Photographer
UNIVERSITY OF the West Indies lecturer, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, believes the retention of the death penalty has contributed to Jamaica's poor human rights image. He says tha most Jamaicans seem to support capital punishment, it may not be the best thing for the country at this time.
"Because powerful countries don't have the death penalty and various human rights organisations are against it, there is a kind of focus on Jamaica and the Caribbean as great violators of human rights," he said. "They look at the death penalty and they see nothing else."
The controversial topic was one of several issues the lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI) addressed Thursday during his presentation, titled 'The Human Rights Project in Jamaica'. It was the third annual America Friends of Jamaica/Cobb Lecture Series at the UWI's Mona campus.
Not a good thing
Professor Vasciannie pointed out that Jamaica was among a handful of countries where the death penalty is still on the books. He said this may not be a good thing.
"I think the majority view (in Jamaica) remains that we should have the death penalty but majority rule is not what counts in these things, it's principle. And I'm inclined to say that principle is what counts," he said.
The resumption of hanging in Jamaica is a divisive issue. Opinion polls consistently show most Jamaicans back a return to hanging, a notion supported by many legislators. However, local human rights groups oppose it.
The last hanging in Jamaica took place in 1988 when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) formed the government. The party returned to power last September and Derrick Smith, the minister of national security, has hinted at a return to hanging as a solution to rising crime.
During the question-and-answer segment of the lecture, Professor Vasciannie told his audience tha local human rights groups are perceived to be unpopular, they have, generally, performed well.