Prisoners on death row for long periods
Stabroek News
February 20, 2002

Dear Editor,

I refer to an article in SN of 17 2 2002, captioned `Attorney General looking in to delay in executions' (page 3).

First I would like to commend both the Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs respectively for taking cognisance of the fact that persons are on death row for periods ranging from 1 12 years, which can be considered a blatant violation of their human rights.

The state has failed to execute within a reasonable time, thus it is only fair and reasonable that the state commute to life all those who have been on death row for over five years.

I further support my argument by saying that Guyana was a signatory to the optional protocol of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) on political and civil rights and only withdrew after death row inmates petitioned the UNHRC for redress and the UNHRC in one instance recommended Salim and Thomas's release and ordered a temporary halt of execution of others pending hearing. The state refused and withdrew which constitutes a travesty of justice at the highest level.

I know certain persons and groups in society will argue that those on death row have committed heinous crimes and should be hanged. I would counter by saying that because of our justice system which is riddled with defects it is possible for persons to be wrongly convicted. As is well known, the police force has a record of securing confession statements from persons contrary to the judges' rules which are often admitted into evidence.As a great person once said, "It is better for 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man be hanged."

I urge the democratic President Jagdeo, leader of the opposition Mr Hoyte, Guyana Human Rights Association and other bodies to speak out on this issue.

Yours faithfully,

C.A. DeNobrega Gibbs