government: Parliamentary democracy
state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 19 September 1983
legal system: based on English common law
legislative system: unicameral National Assembly
judicial system: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (based on St. Lucia)
religion: Anglican, other Protestant, Roman Catholic
methods of execution:
year of last executions: 0-0-0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
Murder is the only death-qualifiable offence. The Governor-General has the power to grant clemency.
Saint Kitts is a British Independent Territory for which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is the final court of appeal.
Since the 1993 Pratt and Morgan ruling by the Privy Council, the death penalty can not be carried out if the prisoner concerned has been under sentence of death for more than five years, in which case the sentence is automatically commuted to life imprisonment.
On March 11, 2002, the JCPC confirmed the April 2001 decision of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (ECCA) ruling that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional, and unanimously struck down the mandatory death penalty for murder in St Kitts and Nevis and six other countries. The JCPC made one modification to the ECCA's ruling, saying that sentences should be set by a judge and not a jury. All death row cases in these countries had to be reviewed.
On December 19, 2008, Charles Elroy Laplace became the first convict in the St Kitts to hang in 10 years. The last hanging in Saint Kitts and Nevis took place in 1998, when David Wilson, 28, was executed for beating a security guard to death in 1994. The execution took place before Wilson was able to appeal to the JCPC.
In 2001, St Kitts was one of eleven states to ratify an agreement to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council as the final court of appeal in the region.
St Kitts was also one of only six countries that had decided to replace the Privy Council by the CCJ by late 2004.
The region’s leaders say the court will remove the last vestiges of colonialism. Human rights groups however have expressed concerns that the CCJ will be used to speed up hangings, with Caribbean governments favouring the death penalty.
The Caribbean Court of Justice was inaugurated in Trinidad on April 16, 2005.
On 21 March 2012, four people had their death sentences commuted in Saint Kitts and Nevis by a judgment of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Justice. Sheldon Isaacos conviction was quashed as the Court concluded that he was unfit to stand trial due to severe brain damage, while Romeo Cannonier, Reudeney Williams and Louis Gardeneros death sentences were commuted. One prisoner remained on death row at the end of the year 2012.
At the end of 2015, only one person remained under sentence of death. Everson Mitcham was sentenced to death in June 2001, but he was still on death row, in violation of the Pratt and Morgan judgment of the Privy Council, according to which the stay of more than five years under sentence constitutes inhuman or degrading punishment.
The United Nations
On 11 November 2015, Saint Kitts and Nevis was reviewed under the UPR of the UN Human Rights Council. The Government did not support recommendations to establish an official moratorium on executions, abolish the death penalty and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
On December 19, 2016, Saint Kitts and Nevis voted again against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.