Caribbean events kick off with regional conference and abolitionist network launch


By Maria Donatelli & Aurélie Plaçais, on 3 October 2013

On 2 October 2013, the Greater Caribbean For Life, a coalition of individual activists and organisations from the region, was officially created. It formally adopted its constitution and elected its first Executive Committee.
The launch was the result of the debates and discussions between activists and lawyers from 12 different countries. In their final declaration, they committed to “campaign towards the abolition of the death penalty, inclusive of creating a culture of promotion and protection of human rights”.

Stop Crime, not Lives

On the eve of the creation of the network, a conference entitled “The Death Penalty in the Context of Public Security: Neither Right, Nor Effective” took place at the Faculty of Law of the University of West Indies, Trinidad. A day of intense and productive debates on several issues linked to the fight against the death penalty, such as youth mobilization, education, the fight against crime and the administration of justice, it prepared the ground for the strategy of the Greater Caribbean For Life.
Among the speakers, Richard Blewitt, the UN Development Programme’s representative in Trinidad and Tobago, mentioned the people’s perception of security in the region. “A survey conducted among 1,000 Trinidad and Tobago citizens in 2011 found that 91% favour the death penalty, but only 26% support the mandatory penalty. Most of the respondents also said that more executions were the least likely policy to reduce violent crime,” he said.
A powerful moment of the conference was the testimonies of three women from the Hope Support Group who lost their loved ones to crime. One of them, Merlyn Gowrie, said: “I don’t see why there should be the death penalty: my son is not going back to me. Do something about crime.”
The conference was attended by more than 100 people from various nationalities and backgrounds (students, prisoners, prison guards, lawyers, diplomats, academics, journalists and activists). It received wide media coverage and helped raise awareness in a society where public opinion still strongly supports capital punishment.
Watch and share the videos below in which five Caribbean activists talk about their daily fight against capital punishment:

World Day celebration in the Caribbean

The two days marked the beginning of a series of actions to celebrate the 11th world Day Against the Death Penalty, which will focus on the Caribbean. Many events will take place in the region over the next two weeks including a film screening in Trinidad and a speaking tour organised by Amnesty International. The tour will bring the testimonies of Grenadian former death row inmate Selwyn Strachan and Puerto Rican lawyer and representative of murder victims’ families Kevin Rivera Medina across three countries: Grenada, Jamaica and Dominica.

Photo: Francesca Donatelli

More articles