(Trinidad Express) – THE Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) and the Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) have urged the Government to “focus on human development and crime prevention rather than expend time and energy in seeking to resume hanging”.
In a statement yesterday, the CCSJ noted “passions are running high” in the national community following successive brutal murders of a number of young women.
Most recent was 22-year-old Arima Magistrates’ Court clerk Andrea Bharatt, who was kidnapped on January 29 after taking what she believed to be an “H” taxi on Arima Old Road and found dead, off a precipice in the Heights of Aripo, Arima, on February 4.
Ashanti Riley, 18, disappeared after getting into a “PH” car at Sunshine Avenue, San Juan, on November 29, 2020. The teenager’s body was found in a river in Upper La Canoa, Santa Cruz, on December 4, 2020.
“However, the call by some to resume hanging is not going to fix the many problems that have led us to this juncture where our women and girls, indeed, citizens in general, are unable to go about their daily lives in peace,” stated the CCSJ, which is chaired by Leela Ramdeen.
The GCL is an independent, not-for-profit civil society entity, established on October 2, 2013 by activists and organisations from 12 Greater Caribbean countries following an international conference held in Port of Spain.
The ultimate goal of the GCL is to “achieve the permanent abolition of the death penalty in each and every country of the Greater Caribbean and the creation of a culture of respect for the human right to life and the inherent dignity of all human beings”, the statement said.
“While our organisations condemn the rise of violent crime in our region and express solidarity with victims, members reject the notion that capital punishment will act as a deterrent or foster respect for life in our communities,” the CCSJ said.
The organisations have agreed with some sentiment that the death penalty has not been shown to be a deterrent to crime.
Stop the blame game
The CCSJ said Trinidad and Tobago must “stop the blame game” and “use our collective human ingenuity to devise strategies to address the root causes of crime in our country”. It cited a failure to nurture some values and render some services, also stating that “there is no swift justice in T&T”.
“Why is it taking so long to create a transportation system that will serve our people effectively?” the organisations asked.
The statement quoted Sir Dennis Byron, former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as being right when he said: “Crime flourishes when the environment is conducive to people behaving in a certain way.”
“To some extent, crime flourishes in T&T because we are not nurturing in our people moral and ethical values, at home or in schools. Many have no moral compass. Conscience formation is critical if we are to build a just society,” the organisations stated.
“Each of us must step up to the plate to play our role,” the statement said, adding: “Often, domestic violence is fuelled by the silence of many who see/know something and say nothing. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”
The CCSJ and GCL stated: “Baying for blood will not fix, for example, our dysfunctional families so that men and women will develop mutual respect for each other; it will not address the gross deficiencies in our criminal justice system.”
The statement recalled the brutal murder of six-year-old Sean Luke in March 2006 and said: “At a virtual status hearing last Thursday, the public learned that the State is still to get Sean Luke’s DNA results 15 years after his murder. Such lengthy delays defeat justice.”
The organisations also recalled remarks by Chief Justice Ivor Archie, at the 2010 opening of the law term, when the CJ said:
“I am yet to see any persuasive empirical evidence that executions significantly reduce murder or crime rates generally… social scientists…suggest(s) that the certainty of conviction, and within a reasonably quick time, is a more potent factor.”
The organisations said “inadequacies in law enforcement and a lack of effective preventive measures hinder progress” and stated: “We call for those in authority to strengthen our criminal justice system, for example, by spending more money on crime prevention thus implementing some of the recommendations in the 2012 UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) report: Human Development and the shift to better citizen security.”
Among the recommendations to Trinidad and Tobago and other countries in that study was to seek to achieve a better balance between legitimate law enforcement and preventive measures, with an emphasis on prevention.
This means improving law enforcement agencies to ensure they are fair, accountable and more respectful of human rights, improved detection and conviction rates, as well as forensic capabilities, and improved court systems and facilities that eliminate backlog, incompetence and corruption.
The organisations note that in 2018, Pope Francis revised the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty to reflect that the death penalty “is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”.
The organisations said 143 countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice and the global trend is towards abolition.
“If we work together in T&T, we will find solutions to the many social ills that confront us, without having to resort to lethal means,” the organisations said.