JAMAICAN MPS VOTE TO KEEP DEATH PENALTY
December 19, 2008: Jamaica's senate voted to retain the death penalty, a punishment that has not been carried out in the country for 20 years, amid opposition from human rights groups.
Ten senators voted in favour of keeping the death penalty and seven against with three abstentions, backing an earlier vote in the House of Representatives in November.
The issue is due to go back to the lower house when parliament resumes next year to consider a proposed amendment to bypass restrictions imposed by the London-based Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for a number of former British colonies.
The vote went ahead despite a plea from opposition lawmaker AJ Nicholson, a former justice minister and attorney general, to put off the issue until the New Year in honour of the Christmas holidays.
But Prime Minister Bruce Golding, whose Jamaica Labor Party won elections in 2007, had vowed to press ahead with the vote.
Jamaica has avoided carrying out the death penalty since 1988 under pressure from human right groups. Eight inmates are currently on death row. After five years on death row, death sentences are commuted to life in prison.
The debate in parliament stirred passionate debate in almost every sector of Jamaican society, as serious crimes including murders, abductions and rape have been escalating to unprecedented levels.
There have been some 1,200 murders on this island nation of 2.7 million people since the start of the year, and crime against children has also risen sharply. (Sources: Afp, 21/12/2008)