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Trinidad moves to resume hangings

Bert Wilkinson | 3/23/2017, 1:06 p.m.
Authorities on both political sides are so fed up with the number of murders in Trinidad that they are moving ...
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Authorities on both political sides are so fed up with the number of murders in Trinidad that they are moving to make the oil and gas-rich nation among the first of the Caribbean Community countries to resume hangings of criminals convicted of heinous crimes.

In recent days, the administration of Prime Minister Keith Rowley has retained the services of a former attorney general and prominent local lawyer to help clear the path for the country to resume hanging convicts by the neck until death.

Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj was the attorney general back in 1999, when authorities hanged nine convicted drug warlords in two days for a string of murders, putting a dent in violent crime and killings at the time.

The month of March has not even concluded as yet but the twin-island nation with Tobago has already recorded more than 100 killings to go along with the more than 450 murders police were forced to investigate last year.

Authorities appear to have snapped into action after the recent murder of police constable Nyasha Joseph in the city. Two people are to be charged this week.

Most if not all of the 15 countries in the bloc of nations have in recent decades put the death penalty on hold or have succumbed to the lengthy process of appeals involving the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice, the British Privy Council, for countries that still subscribe to that court, or the Inter American Human Rights Commission. Others also take appeals to the U.N.’s human rights division.

These processes usually take approximately 12 years, frustrating enforcement officials and effectively stymieing any hopes of the death penalty being implemented. Critics think that the delays have helped to embolden c riminals.

But Maharaj told local journalists that he plans to use some of the tactics of the past to get around the various levels of appeals available to convicts. These tactics included making personal appearances to various courts, contending that government had a right to have its case heard.

Rowley has made it clear that he is “a firm believer” in the death penalty and his administration has every intention of resuming it as a deterrent to the increasing number of senseless murders.

The moves come just days after parliament had approved a bill giving accused persons the option to choosing a judge to hear a case or to stick with the old judge and jury system. Preliminary inquiries have also been outlawed, effectively reducing the time for the conclusion of cases.

Meanwhile, Faris Al-Rawi, the current attorney general, said the process will be resumed in a responsible manner. The country has 33 inmates on death row, but the sentences of 11 of them have been commuted to life because they have long passed the five-year time period to complete all processes and hang the person.

“If there is consequence and it is swiftly delivered it will occur to those who want to commit crime that maybe they should not. My job is to apply the law and ensure it moves faster, as we are making everything work sharper and faster,” Al-Rawi told the local Express Newspaper.

Some Western nations have tried to tie aid to the abolition of the death penalty, but many regional nations in the bloc have pushed back against this attempt.