Death Penalty Database

Bahamas

Information current as of: August 23, 2013

General

Official Country Name

Commonwealth of the Bahamas (Bahamas). [1]

Geographical Region

Latin America (Caribbean). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Abolitionist de facto. [3]

Methods of Execution

Hanging.
Neither the penal law nor the laws of criminal procedure define the method of execution, instead granting the Governor General a broad-ranging discretion on the manner of applying capital punishment. [4] However, executions in the Bahamas are generally carried out by hanging. [5]

References

[1] BBC, Country Profiles: Bahamas Profile, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12650940, May 21, 2013.
[2] U.N., Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm, Feb. 11, 2013.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Bahamas Submission to the U.N. Universal Periodic Review, p. 3, AMR 14/002/2008, Jul. 14, 2008.
[4] Bahamas Capital Punishment Procedure, art. 15(1), Act No. 7 of 1926, Mar. 22, 1926, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[5] BBC News, Bahamas convict executed, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/593021.stm, Jan. 6, 2000. Amnesty International, When The State Kills, p. 103, ACT/51/07/89, 1989.

Country Details

Language(s)

English. [1]

Population

351,000 (UN, 2012). [2]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

1.

One man remained under sentence of death at the end of 2014. [3] There were 3 men on death row at the end of 2013. [4] One has since had his death sentence commuted to 50 years’ imprisonment, [5] and another is set to be resentenced. [6]

Numerous death sentences have been commuted because of the Privy Council’s ruling in Pratt & Morgan prohibiting stays of more than 5 years on death row. [7] Although 8 people were sentenced to death between 2008 and 2010, [8] no new death sentences have been recorded since 2010. [9]

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2017 to date (last updated on October 18, 2017)

0. [10]

Executions in 2016

0. [11]

Per capita execution rate in 2016

Executions in 2015

0. [12]

Per capita execution rate in 2015

0 executions.

Executions in 2014

0. [13]

Per capita execution rate in 2014

0 executions

Executions in 2013

0. [14]

Per capita execution rate in 2013

0 executions

Executions in 2012

0. [15]

Per capita execution rate in 2012

0 executions

Executions in 2011

0. [16]

Per capita execution rate in 2011

0 executions

Executions in 2010

0. [17]

Executions in 2009

0. [18]

Executions in 2008

0. [19]

Executions in 2007

0. [20]

Year of Last Known Execution

2000. [21]

The last execution in the Bahamas took place in January 2000 when David Mitchell was hanged for murdering a couple of German tourists. [22]

References

[1] BBC, Country Profiles: Bahamas Profile, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12650940, May 21, 2013.
[2] BBC, Country Profiles: Bahamas Profile, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12650940, May 21, 2013.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[5] Lamech Johnson, Child Killer’s Sentence Is Reduced To 50 Years In Jail, Tribune 242, http://www.tribune242.com/news/2015/jan/20/child-killers-sentence-reduced-50-years-jail, Jan. 20, 2015.
[6] Lamech Johnson, Killer’s death penalty set aside, http://www.tribune242.com/news/2014/may/01/killers-death-penalty-set-aside, Tribune 242, May 1, 2014.
[7] Pratt & Morgan v. the Attorney General of Jamaica, Appeal No. 10, Ct. of Appeal of Jamaica, Nov. 2, 1993.
[8] Amnesty Intl., Bahamas: Legislative challenges obstruct human rights progress: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, January- February 2012, p. 4, Index: AMR 14/001/2012, Jul. 1, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Death Penalty in the English-Speaking Caribbean: A Human Rights Issue, p. 7, Index: AMR/05/001/2012, Nov. 30, 2012.
[9] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[10] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[11] Amnesty International, Death sentences and executions in 2016, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017.
[12] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[15] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, ACT 50/001/2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2012/en, Mar. 27, 2012.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[18] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[19] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[20] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, ACT 50/001/2008, Apr. 15, 2008.
[21] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Bahamas: Legislative challenges obstruct human rights progress: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, January- February 2012, p. 4, Index: AMR 14/001/2012, Jul. 1, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Bahamas Submission to the U.N. Universal Periodic Review, p. 3, AMR 14/002/2008, Jul. 14, 2008.
[22] BBC News, Bahamas convict executed, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/593021.stm, Jan. 6, 2000.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.
Since the 2011 amendment to the Penal Code, which seeks to facilitate the imposition of the death penalty while respecting the case law of the Privy Council, [1] only certain types of aggravated murder are punishable by death : murder of a law enforcement officer such as a police officer or a prison guard ; murder of a judicial officer, including judges, registrars and prosecutors ; murder of a witness or juror ; murder of more than one person ; murder committed by a defendant who has a prior murder conviction ; and murder in exchange for value. [2] For these offenses, the only two possible sentences are either death or life without parole. Any other type of murder is punishable by a term of imprisonment of 30 to 60 years. [3] The amendment was passed by Parliament in November 2011. [4]

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.
The 2011 amendment to the Penal Code provides that any murder committed in the course of or in furtherance of a robbery, rape, kidnapping, terrorist act, or any other felony is punishable by death, with no explicit requirement of an intent to cause death. A felony is defined as any offense which is punishable by at least three years’ imprisonment, so it is a broad category. [5] Furthermore, any person convicted of participating in a joint criminal enterprise resulting in murder will be subject to the aggravated murder provisions if he performed any action in furtherance of the plan, even if he did not kill anyone or had no intention to kill. [6]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
A terrorist act resulting in death carries the death penalty only if the act could be prosecuted as murder or treason. [7]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
A terrorist act resulting in “serious bodily harm” carries the death penalty only if the act could be prosecuted as murder or treason. [8]

Treason.
Treason is punishable by death. Treason is defined in relation to what constitutes treason under the laws of England, and includes not only acts but also “imagining, inventing, devising or intending,” as well as the utterance or publication of such an intention. [9]

War crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Committing genocide as defined by the Genocide Convention is punishable by death if it consists in the killing of any person. [10]

Comments.
Several sources mention that piracy is a capital offense in the Bahamas, but we were unable to locate the corresponding domestic legislation. [11]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

No. In Bowe v. The Queen (2006), the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council—the highest constitutional court for the Bahamas [12] —struck down the mandatory death penalty for murder in the Bahamas, holding that the relevant legal provision should be construed as imposing a discretionary and not a mandatory sentence of death. The court reasoned that the mandatory death sentence contravened the constitutional prohibition on inhuman or degrading punishment because of its lack of individualization. The court also found that this principle was established by 1973, thus overriding the Constitution’s saving clause. [13]

In response to the JCPC’s decision, the Bahamas repealed the mandatory death penalty for murder in 2011 and enacted a law establishing that the punishment for aggravated murder is either the death penalty or life imprisonment, at the court’s discretion. [14]

There has been no judicial discussion of the validity of the mandatory death penalty for other offenses such as treason, genocide or terrorist acts, especially since these capital offenses are very rarely charged and have not, to our knowledge, been prosecuted since the Bowe decision. However, the Privy Council’s reasoning in Bowe would apply equally to the mandatory death penalty in other contexts. The Bahamas confirmed this interpretation at its 2009 Universal Periodic Review, when it indicated that the death penalty is not mandatory for murder or treason, the two principal capital offenses. [15]

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

There is no mandatory death penalty (see answer on the mandatory death penalty above).

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

There have been no executions since 2000. [16]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime.
Individuals cannot be sentenced to death for murders committed while juveniles. [17] The 2011 Amendment to the Penal Code provides that juveniles convicted of murder are sentenced to a minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment, with a parole review every 5 years thereafter as required. [18] The Child Protection Act, however, provides that no child will be sentenced to imprisonment if alternatives can be found. [19]

Although the exclusion is not expressly legislated for other death-eligible offenses, the Bahamas indicated to the Human Rights Council at its 2009 Universal Periodic Review that the exclusion is applied for all crimes. [20]

Pregnant Women.
Pregnant women who would otherwise be sentenced to death are instead sentenced to life imprisonment. [21] The finding of pregnancy is to be made by a jury, and the burden of proof lies with the defendant claiming pregnancy. [22]

Mentally Ill.

References

[1] Contribution by the Honourable T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education, at the Honourable House of Assembly on a Package of Crime Bills, pp. 18-19, http://www.bahamaspress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bannister.pdf, Oct. 12, 2011.
[2] Penal Code (Amendment) Act, art. 290, Act No. 34 of 2011, 2011. Contribution by the Honourable T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education, at the Honourable House of Assembly on a Package of Crime Bills, pp. 11-15, http://www.bahamaspress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bannister.pdf, Oct. 12, 2011. Bahamas Information Services, Prime Minister on The Bahamas Government’s 2011 Anti-Crime Legislation, Bahamas Post, http://www.bahamaspost.com/2011/10/prime-minister-on-the-bahamas-government-s-2011-anti-crime-legislation, Oct. 5, 2011.
[3] Penal Code (Amendment) Act, art. 291, Act No. 34 of 2011, 2011. Bahamas Information Services, Prime Minister on The Bahamas Government’s 2011 Anti-Crime Legislation, Bahamas Post, http://www.bahamaspost.com/2011/10/prime-minister-on-the-bahamas-government-s-2011-anti-crime-legislation, Oct. 5, 2011.
[4] Royston Jones Jr., Allen recommends vote on death penalty, The Nassau Guardian, http://www.thenassauguardian.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=37117&Itemid=27, Feb. 8, 2013.
[5] Penal Code (Amendment) Act, art. 290, Act No. 34 of 2011, 2011. Contribution by the Honourable T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education, at the Honourable House of Assembly on a Package of Crime Bills, pp. 13-14, http://www.bahamaspress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bannister.pdf, Oct. 12, 2011. Bahamas Information Services, Prime Minister on The Bahamas Government’s 2011 Anti-Crime Legislation, Bahamas Post, http://www.bahamaspost.com/2011/10/prime-minister-on-the-bahamas-government-s-2011-anti-crime-legislation, Oct. 5, 2011.
[6] Contribution by the Honourable T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education, at the Honourable House of Assembly on a Package of Crime Bills, pp. 13-14, http://www.bahamaspress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bannister.pdf, Oct. 12, 2011.
[7] Bahamas Anti-Terrorism Act, art. 3(1), Act No. 25 of 2004, Dec. 31, 2004, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[8] Bahamas Anti-Terrorism Act, art. 3(1), Act No. 25 of 2004, Dec. 31, 2004, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[9] Bahamas Penal Code, art. 389, Act No. 15, of 1873, May 15, 1924, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[10] Bahamas Genocide Act, art. 3(2)(a), Act No. 29 of 1969, Dec. 19, 1969, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009. Geneva Conv. (Supplementary) Act of the Bahamas, art. 3, Act No. 5 of 1961, May 18, 1961.
[11] The Death Penalty Project, Where We Operate : The Bahamas, http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/where-we-operate/caribbean/bahamas, last accessed Aug. 23, 2013. Hands Off Cain, Treason and piracy are also capital crimes, http://english.nessunotocchicaino.it/news/index.php?iddocumento=15000777, Jan. 1, 2011.
[12] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, art. 104, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[13] Bowe & Davis v. The Queen, Appeal No. 44 of 2005, JCPC, Mar. 8, 2006.
[14] Penal Code (Amendment) Act, arts. 290, 291, Act No. 34 of 2011, 2011. Contribution by the Honourable T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education, at the Honourable House of Assembly on a Package of Crime Bills, pp. 11-15, http://www.bahamaspress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bannister.pdf, Oct. 12, 2011. Bahamas Information Services, Prime Minister on The Bahamas Government’s 2011 Anti-Crime Legislation, Bahamas Post, http://www.bahamaspost.com/2011/10/prime-minister-on-the-bahamas-government-s-2011-anti-crime-legislation, Oct. 5, 2011.
[15] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, para. 6, U.N. Doc. A/HCR/10/70, Jan. 7, 2009.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Bahamas: Legislative challenges obstruct human rights progress: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, January- February 2012, p. 4, Index: AMR 14/001/2012, Jul. 1, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Bahamas Submission to the U.N. Universal Periodic Review, p. 3, AMR 14/002/2008, Jul. 14, 2008.
[17] Bahamas Child Protection Act, art. 126, Act No. 1 of 2007, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[18] Penal Code (Amendment) Act, art. 291, Act No. 34 of 2011, 2011. Bahamas Information Services, Prime Minister on The Bahamas Government’s 2011 Anti-Crime Legislation, Bahamas Post, http://www.bahamaspost.com/2011/10/prime-minister-on-the-bahamas-government-s-2011-anti-crime-legislation, Oct. 5, 2011.
[19] Bahamas Child Protection Act, art. 126(5), Act No. 1 of 2007, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[20] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, para. 15, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/10/70. Jan. 7, 2009.
[21] Bahamas Capital Punishment Procedure, art. 15(1), Act No. 7 of 1926, Mar. 22, 1926, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[22] Bahamas Capital Punishment Procedure, arts. 15(2), 15(4), Act No. 7 of 1926, Mar. 22, 1926, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

Date of Accession

Dec. 23, 2008. [2]

Signed?

Yes. [3]

Date of Signature

Dec. 4, 2008. [4]

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

No. [5]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [6]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

No. [7]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [8]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

No. No. [9]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [10]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

No. [11]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [12]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [13]

Vote

Against. [14]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [15]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [16]

Vote

Against. [17]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [18]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [19]

Vote

Against. [20]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [21]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [22]

Vote

Against. [23]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [24]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [25]

Vote

Against. [26]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [27]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [28]

Vote

Against. [29]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [30]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[8] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[9] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[10] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[11] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals A-53: Prot. to the Amer. Conv. on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, Jun. 8, 1990, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic8.death%20penalty%20ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[12] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, A-53: Prot. to the Amer. Conv. on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, Jun. 8, 1990, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic8.death%20penalty%20ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[13] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[14] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[15] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Note Verbale dated 7 September 2017, U.N. Doc. A/71/1047, Sep. 13, 2017.
[16] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 141, 144, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[17] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17-18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[18] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[19] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 95-96, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2012.
[20] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[21] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[22] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, includng alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2010.
[23] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[24] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[25] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: Human Rights Questions, Including Alternative Approaches for Improving the Effective Enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008.
[26] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[27] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009.
[28] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[29] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[30] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

Article 15(a) guarantees the right to “life, liberty, security of the person and protection of the law.” The right to life is limited by Article 16, which states that “No person shall be deprived intentionally of his life save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been convicted,” implying that capital punishment is constitutional in the Bahamas. [1]

Article 17 states: “No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” [2] However, the constitution also contains a saving clause specifically excluding the application of this provision to any lawful punishment existing in the Bahamas before 1973. [3]

A person may not serve as a Senator or member of the House of Assembly if he or she is under a sentence of death. [4]

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

The Bahamas does not explicitly extend international human rights protections in its Constitution. [5] However, the Constitution does explicitly provide for appeal as of right to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, a London-based court for British Commonwealth nations, in cases involving fundamental rights and freedoms. [6]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

Although the Bahamas has not carried out any executions since 2000, thus qualifying as a de facto abolitionist state, all the signs indicate that it is a retentionist state in intention if not in practice. The main reason for this divergence between policy and practice is the country’s highest court of appeal, the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) (a remnant of the Bahamas’ colonial history), which has in the past 20 years or so developed a very restrictive jurisprudence limiting the ability of numerous Caribbean states to implement capital punishment.

Four recent JCPC decisions have had a particularly significant impact on death penalty law in the Bahamas. In 1993, the Privy Council ruled in Pratt & Morgan v. Jamaica that incarceration on death row for more than five years constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and should result in commutation of the prisoner’s death sentence. [7] This decision was shortly thereafter applied in the Bahamas. [8] Pratt can have the effect of commuting death sentences due to administrative delays and stays due to appeals, [9] and is a major factor in the stoppage of executions in the Bahamas. [10] Furthermore, in 2006, the Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional because, failing to take into account the defendant’s individual circumstances, it is an arbitrary and therefore inhuman and degrading punishment. [11] As a result of the Bowe decision, all death row inmates who had been sentenced under the mandatory capital punishment scheme had their death sentences reviewed. [12] Finally, in 2011, the Privy Council’s decision in the Tido case established that the death penalty could only be lawfully imposed (1) in the “worst of the worst” or “rarest of the rare” cases, and (2) where there is no prospect of reform and no other means of achieving the object of the punishment. [13]

The 2012 Lockhart ruling also has the potential to impede executions. In that case, the Privy Council ruled that it was impossible to determine whether the defendant had any “prospect of reform” without expert psychiatric and psychological reports. [14] The insufficiencies of forensic expert evidence in the Bahamas [15] might well make this requirement a significant hurdle to overcome for prosecutors.

In response to the Bowe decision, Parliament amended the murder provisions in the Penal Code in October 2011 to restrict capital punishment to the most serious forms of the offense and to give courts the authority to issue either a death sentence or a sentence of life without parole in those cases. [16]

In August 2012, a Reform Commission was created to review the constitution. Its mandate included the strengthening of fundamental rights and freedoms and a review of death penalty provisions in response to the Privy Council’s decisions. [17] There are plans to put constitutional amendments to a popular vote ahead of the country’s 40th year of independence. [18] In July 2013, the Commission issued its recommendations with regard to the death penalty. Its advice was to retain the Privy Council as a final court of appeal (though in the long term, it viewed a separation from the JCPC as inevitable), but to pass constitutional amendments to tie the JCPC’s hands and prevent it from imposing restrictions on the implementation of capital punishment. For instance, the Committee Chairman suggested, constitutional amendments could define the “worst of the worst” standard and override the prohibition on executions being carried out after a specific period has been spent detained on death row. [19]

The Bahamas has thus amply illustrated its intention to retain capital punishment by amending its legal frameworks in order to facilitate executions despite Privy Council jurisprudence. The country has stated its retentionist intentions at the international level as well. In August 2012, Prime Minister Christie responded to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ recommendation to all member states to move towards abolition by reiterating his support for the death penalty. [20] Furthermore, at its second Universal Periodic Review in January 2013, the government delegation declared that the majority of the population, guided by Judeo-Christian principles, supports the death penalty. [21] It also reminded the U.N. Human Rights Council that its position on the death penalty had remained consistent: the Bahamas has been an active participant in the retentionist group of states which has affirmed that there is no international consensus on the death penalty and that capital punishment is a matter for state sovereignty. [22] As it had at its previous UPR, the Bahamas went on to reject all recommendations related to the abolition of the death penalty or the institution of a moratorium on executions on the grounds that capital punishment enjoyed popular support and that any other punishment would be inadequate for “cold-blooded murder.” [23] The Bahamas has also voted against all four of the U.N. General Assembly’s resolutions for a global moratorium on executions, [24] though for the first time, in 2012, it refrained from signing the Note Verbale of protest advanced by retentionist states. [25]

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

No. While there have been no executions in the Bahamas since January 2000, [26] the Bahamas continues to oppose UN resolutions for a moratorium on executions [27] and to reject all recommendations to institute a formal moratorium on executions. [28]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

In Bowe v. The Queen, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council—the highest constitutional court for the Bahamas—struck down the mandatory death penalty as inhuman and degrading punishment. [29] The 1973 Constitution prohibits fundamental rights-based challenges to pre-existing laws, which could have prevented a rights-based appeal of the pre-existing mandatory death penalty. However, because the 1963 and 1969 constitutions of the Bahamas permitted fundamental rights-based challenges to pre-existing laws, the JCPC found that prior constitutions controlled the pre-existing constitutional ambit of the death penalty. Because by 1973 other important cases in a variety of jurisdictions casting doubt on or striking down the mandatory death penalty had already been decided, the JCPC found that pre-existing law could not have constitutionally preserved the mandatory death penalty. Thus, the court was free to rule that the mandatory death penalty results in inhuman and degrading punishment because it does not match the punishment to the specific offense and offender and thus is unconstitutional in the Bahamas. [30] Following this decision, the death sentences of the existing 30 or so death row inmates, who had been sentenced under the mandatory death penalty provisions, had to be reviewed. [31]

In two seminal decisions handed down in 2011, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council reaffirmed the “worst of the worst” standard for capital punishment and gave it a narrow interpretation. It also addressed the issue of mental health assessments in the capital context, and concluded that no death penalty could be lawfully imposed without expert psychiatric evidence. In the Maxo Tido case, the JCPC confirmed and extended the application of the Trimmingham principles to the Bahamas. [32] Under the Trimmingham ruling, the death penalty is only warranted (1) in the “worst of the worst” or “rarest of the rare” cases, and (2) where there is no prospect of reform and no other means of achieving the object of the punishment. [33] The Privy Council found that in Tido the “worst of the worst” standard had not been met, because while the murder of the 16-year-old victim was “appalling,” there was no evidence that it had been planned or unaccompanied by unusual violence. [34] The court also remarked that it was unable to assess the defendant’s rehabilitation prospects given the absence of an expert psychiatric report. [35] In the Lockhart case handed down shortly afterwards, the JCPC ruled that “in every case in which the death penalty is being considered, the report of a consultant psychiatrist is needed before the question whether the reasonable possibility of reform can be properly addressed.” [36] The court also suggested that other types of expert evidence might be necessary to assess whether the second Trimmingham principle was met. [37]

In July 2013, the Bahamas Court of Appeal commuted a sentence of life without parole handed down under the 2011 amendments to the Penal Code regarding aggravated murder. The court reasoned that the provision’s failure to set out any minimum prison term made the sentence too uncertain to be applied, and substituted a sentence of 40 years’ imprisonment. The court also suggested that the provision instituting life without parole might well infringe upon the constitution’s prohibition on torture and inhuman and degrading punishment because it failed to take into account the individual circumstances of each case. Finally, the court noted that it was impermissible for the provision to derogate from the Governor General’s constitutional power to grant clemency. [38]

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

Decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council:
All of the Privy Council’s judgments issued after July 2009 can be found on its website at http://www.jcpc.gov.uk/decided-cases/index.html. Earlier Privy Council judgments can be found on BAILII at http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKPC. The Privy Council Papers website provides detailed case records for all appeals considered by the JCPC between 1792 and 1998: http://www.privycouncilpapers.org.

Decisions of the Court of Appeal of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas can be found and searched via a database on the court’s website:
http://www.courtofappeal.org.bs/index.php.

Recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas (the court of original jurisdiction for capital cases) may be found on its website at http://www.bahamassupremecourt.gov.bs.

What is the clemency process?

In capital cases, the trial justice of the Supreme Court submits a report along with any other information requested to the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, which consists of the Attorney General, appointees of the Governor-General, and a Minister who acts as the Prime Minister’s representative and the chair of the committee. The Advisory Committee considers whether a reduction or pardon is appropriate. The Minister is free to accept or reject the determination of the Advisory Committee, and the Minister delivers his decision on mercy to the Governor-General, who is obliged to act in accordance with the Minister’s advice. [39] In sum, the Prime Minister through his Minister chairing the Advisory Committee determines whether to commute sentences or pardon offenders.

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

Jury trials are automatic for serious criminal offenses including capital offenses. [40] Charges of murder or treason are tried by a jury of 12 people, [41] and a death penalty can only be handed down by a unanimous jury. [42]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

A defendant may appeal a capital sentence by the Supreme Court (the court of original jurisdiction) as of right to the Court of Appeal. [43] If the defendant has raised questions of fundamental rights and freedoms before the Supreme Court, the defendant may appeal as of right from a decision of the Court of Appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, [44] and the JCPC may grant special leave to appeal in other cases. [45]

References

[1] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, arts. 15(a), 16, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[2] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, art. 17(1), 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[3] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, art. 17(2), 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[4] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, arts. 42(g), 48(f), 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[5] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[6] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, art. 104, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[7] Pratt & Morgan v. the Attorney General of Jamaica, pp. 26-27, Appeal No. 10, Ct. of Appeal of Jamaica, Nov. 2, 1993.
[8] Reckley v. The Minister of Public Safety and Immigration et al., [1995] UKPC 2, JCPC, Jun. 13, 1995.
[9] Reckley v. The Minister of Public Safety and Immigration et al., [1995] UKPC 2, JCPC, Jun. 13, 1995.
[10] Roger Hood & Carolyn Hoyle, The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective, pp. 104-106, Oxford University Press, 4th ed., 2008.
[11] Bowe & Davis v. The Queen, Appeal No. 44 of 2005, JCPC, Mar. 8, 2006.
[12] The Death Penalty Project, Press Release: The Privy Council Abolishes the Mandatory Death Penalty in the Bahamas, http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/news/1059/privy-council-abolishes-mandatory-death-penalty-bahamas, Mar. 8, 2006.
[13] Daniel Dick Trimmingham v. The Queen, paras. 20-21, Appeal No. 67 of 2007, JCPC, Jun. 22, 2009, cited in Maxo Tido v. The Queen, para. 33, Appeal No. 3 of 2010, JCPC, Jun. 15, 2011.
[14] Ernest Lockhat v. The Queen, para. 13, Appeal No. 50 of 2010, JCPC, Aug. 9, 2011.
[15] Amnesty Intl., Death Penalty in the English-Speaking Caribbean: A Human Rights Issue, pp. 18-19, Index: AMR/05/001/2012, Nov. 30, 2012.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 11, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013.
[18] Khrisna Virgil, Call for Vote on Death Penalty, Tribune 242, www.tribune242.com/news/2013/feb/08/call-vote-death-penalty, Feb. 8, 2013.
[19] Sancheska Brown, Constitutional Commission Recommendation : Bahamas Can Take Control of the Death Penalty, Tribune 242, www.tribune242.com/news/2013/jul/09/constitutional-commission-recommendation, Jul. 9, 2013.
[20] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013.
[21] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, para. 20, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8, Mar. 22, 2013.
[22] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, para. 85, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8, Mar. 22, 2013.
[23] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, paras. 92.45-92.53, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8, Mar. 22, 2013. U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas: Addendum, pp. 3-4, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8/Add. 1, May 30, 2013.
[24] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012. U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010. U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008. U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[25] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[26] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Bahamas: Legislative challenges obstruct human rights progress: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, January- February 2012, p. 4, Index: AMR 14/001/2012, Jul. 1, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Bahamas Submission to the U.N. Universal Periodic Review, p. 3, AMR 14/002/2008, Jul. 14, 2008.
[27] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[28] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, paras. 92.45-92.53, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8, Mar. 22, 2013. U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas: Addendum, pp. 3-4, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8/Add. 1, May 30, 2013.
[29] Bowe & Davis v. The Queen, Appeal No. 44 of 2005, JCPC, Mar. 6, 2006.
[30] Bowe & Davis v. The Queen, Appeal No. 44 of 2005, JCPC, Mar. 6, 2006.
[31] The Death Penalty Project, Press Release: The Privy Council Abolishes the Mandatory Death Penalty in the Bahamas, http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/news/1059/privy-council-abolishes-mandatory-death-penalty-bahamas, Mar. 8, 2006.
[32] Maxo Tido v. The Queen, Appeal No. 3 of 2010, JCPC, Jun. 15, 2011.
[33] Daniel Dick Trimmingham v. The Queen, paras. 20-21, Appeal No. 67 of 2007, JCPC, Jun. 22, 2009, cited in Maxo Tido v. The Queen, para. 33, Appeal No. 3 of 2010, JCPC, Jun. 15, 2011.
[34] Maxo Tido v. The Queen, para. 36, Appeal No. 3 of 2010, JCPC, Jun. 15, 2011.
[35] Maxo Tido v. The Queen, para. 38, Appeal No. 3 of 2010, JCPC, Jun. 15, 2011.
[36] Ernest Lockhat v. The Queen, para. 13, Appeal No. 50 of 2010, JCPC, Aug. 9, 2011.
[37] Ernest Lockhat v. The Queen, para. 13, Appeal No. 50 of 2010, JCPC, Aug. 9, 2011.
[38] Angelo Poitier v. R., SCCr Appeal No. 95 of 2011, Court of Appeal of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Jul. 3, 2013. Artesia Davis, Appeal court suggests Penal Code amendment should be reconsidered, The Nassau Guardian, http://www.thenassauguardian.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=40482:appeal-court-suggests-penal-code-amendment-should-be-reconsidered&catid=3:news&Itemid=27, Jul. 15, 2013.
[39] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, arts. 90-92, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[40] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[41] Bahamas Juries Act, art. 18, Act No. 7 of 1998, May 19, 1998, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[42] Bahamas Juries Act, art. 24(1), Act No. 7 of 1998, May 19, 1998, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[43] Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, arts. 28, 104, 105, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009. Bahamas Ct. of Appeal Act, art. 26, Act No. 48 of 1964, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[44] Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, arts. 28, 104, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[45] Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, art. 105, 1973, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

Death-sentenced prisoners are held at Her Majesty’s Prison at Fox Hill in Nassau, the country’s only prison. [1]

Description of Prison Conditions

Conditions are harsh and unsanitary and generally fail to meet international standards. [2]

Overcrowding is a serious problem, especially in the male maximum security unit at Fox Hill, with almost 900 inmates held in a unit designed to hold 450 inmates. Minister of National Security Bernard Nottage characterized the level of overcrowding as “unacceptable.” Cells designed to house one or two inmates can house up to 6 prisoners. [3]

In the maximum security wing, cells are poorly ventilated and lit with no regular access to running water. In 2010, the government installed compost toilets in an effort to move away from the unsanitary practice of slopping (removing human waste by bucket), but the experiment was unsuccessful and slopping was reinstated. Lack of access to medical services was acute in the maximum security unit. [4]

Maximum security prisoners are allowed one-hour of exercise a day, four days a week.Poor treatment and abuse by guards may be a problem for death-sentenced prisoners. [5]

Pre-trial detainees have recently been held in the maximum security unit due to a lack of space in the remand center. [6] Non-Bahamian citizens, deemed a flight risk, are generally held in the maximum security unit. Authorities estimate that 46% of those housed in the maximum security section are awaiting trial. [7]

There is no separate unit for juveniles (between the ages of 16 and 18), but a classification system ensures that they are detained away from the most dangerous adults. [8]

Women are held in the same prison but in a separate unit located away from the male section. Prisoner guards have complained about repairs needed for the women’s prison. While conditions for women are better and less crowded (the women’s section houses less than 100 prisoners), women do not have the same opportunity to participate in work programs as do men. [9]

Generally, prisoners are allowed reasonable access to visits and are permitted religious observance. [10] There is no designated ombudsman, but prisoners may request a meeting with the superintendent to lodge complaints. In 2011, there were reportedly 20 complaints to judicial authorities regarding prison conditions. [11]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

There are currently no foreign nationals on death row. [12]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

There are currently no foreign nationals on death row. [13]

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

There are no women on death row. Death row’s sole inmate is a man. [14] However, a report from 2003 indicate that women may have been under sentence of death in the Bahamas at that time. [15]

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

There are no reports of juveniles on death row. [16] This conforms with the Bahamas’ domestic legislation [17] and international obligations as a signatory to the ICCPR. [18]

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

We found no reports of discriminatory sentencing. Moreover, the current death row population of one precludes any statistical conclusions. [19]

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

The law requires that the government provide legal representation to defendants charged with capital crimes who cannot afford counsel. [20]

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

According to law, appellants must be provided with an attorney at state expense on appeal if they have insufficient means to retain counsel and it is in the interests of justice that they should receive legal aid. [21]

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

The effectiveness of legal representation is limited by its lack of availability at the investigative stage. Arthur Dion Hanna Jr., Director of the Legal Aid Clinic at the Eugene Dupuch Law School, has stated: “When a person is first placed under arrest in the Bahamas, they don’t have guaranteed legal representation at that very early critical stage. Even if people are aware of their legal right to representation, then most of them can’t afford it. If a confession is coerced, there is no way to prove it a later stage.” [22]

Recent comments by Court of Appeal President Anita Allen suggests that the availability of legal aid may be limited in practice. In comments concerning the criminal justice system generally, Allen told reporters in February 2013 that a more robust publicly-funded legal system was required, stating: “[t]here are many defendants who are unrepresented and while a presiding judge is to seek to ensure that the trial is fair to both the unrepresented litigant and the state, which is always legally represented, the assistance which a court can properly give to the unrepresented litigant is limited.” [23]

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

Lengthy pre-trial detention and limited access to counsel may diminish effective defenses for some capital suspects. At the same time, a significant proportion of murder suspects in the Bahamas are individuals who have made bail for murder charges and subsequently come under suspicion of committing additional murders while on bail, [24] so inefficiency in bringing cases to trial may affect the safety and security of individuals in the Bahamas as well as the rights of some capital defendants. Moreover, the record-keeping system for tracking people released on bail was described by Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson in June 2012 as “woefully inadequate.” Reportedly, 400 people charged with murder in the past 10 years are currently out on bail. [25]

Reports of ill-treatment and excessive use of force by the police abound. In 2012, there were reportedly 6 deaths at the hands of police officers under controversial circumstances, and at least one man died in police custody. [26] In April 2011, the police reportedly started videotaping witness statements in response to the growing number of allegations of abuses. [27]

Judicial independence is generally established, but the absence of judicial tenure reportedly results in judges’ inability to render completely independent decisions because of lack of job security. [28]

In an effort to solve the issue of witness intimidation and killing, there are cases in which the law allows witnesses to testify anonymously against defendants. [29]

Insufficient infrastructure and staff impede the operation of the courts. There is a significant backlog of cases waiting to be tried by the Supreme Court – reportedly five years or more. Attempts to address this problem have included the hiring of additional judges and the creation of a criminal trial court at the Supreme Court level; however, these expansions have been insufficient. Poor court and case management compounds the problem once cases reach the trial stage. [30] Other structural problems include limited police investigations and forensic analysis capacity, an understaffed prosecutor’s office and a shortage of court reporters. In October 2012, the president of the Court of Appeal deplored the unavailability of 80 transcripts that prevented the court from reviewing lower court proceedings, and characterized the situation of the Court of Appeals as “close to a state of emergency.” [31]

Although politicians continue to support the death penalty primarily as an instrument of crime control and a deterrent to murder, a very small proportion of investigated murders result in criminal convictions. A 2011 study showed that of 333 murder cases between 2005 and 2009 in the Bahamas, only 10 resulted in convictions for murder and only 2 in death sentences. [32]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[2] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[3] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[4] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[5] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Reports: The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136099.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[6] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[7] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[8] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[9] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[10] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[11] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013. Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013. Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013.
[15] BBC News, Fresh Hope for Death Row Inmates, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3226324.stm, Nov. 21, 2003.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013.
[17] Penal Code of the Bahamas, art. 291, May 15, 1924, as amended by Act 10 of 2000.
[18] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[19] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 13, ACT 50/011/2013, Apr. 10, 2013. Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013.
[20] Bahamas Criminal Procedure Code Act, art. 194, Act No. 38 of 1968, as amended through to Dec. 31, 2009. U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[21] Bahamas Ct. of Appeal Act, art. 19(2), Act No. 48 of 1964, as updated through to Dec. 31, 2009.
[22] Amnesty Intl., Death Penalty in the English-Speaking Caribbean: A Human Rights Issue, p. 17, Index: AMR/05/001/2012, Nov. 30, 2012.
[23] Khrisna Virgil, Call for Vote on Death Penalty, Tribune 242, www.tribune242.com/news/2013/feb/08/call-vote-death-penalty, Feb. 8, 2013.
[24] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Reports: The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136099.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[25] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[26] Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International Report 2013 : The State of the World’s Human Rights, p. 31, Index : POL 10/001/2013, May 22, 2013.
[27] Artesia Davis, Police videotaping witness statements, The Nassau Guardian, http://www.thenassauguardian.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7313:police-videotaping-witness-statements&catid=3:news&Itemid=27, Apr. 11, 2011.
[28] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[29] Bahamas Information Services, Prime Minister on The Bahamas Government’s 2011 Anti-Crime Legislation, Bahamas Post, http://www.bahamaspost.com/2011/10/prime-minister-on-the-bahamas-government-s-2011-anti-crime-legislation, Oct. 5, 2011. U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[30] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[31] U.S. Dept. of State, 2012 Human Rights Reports : The Bahamas, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012/wha/204424.htm, Apr. 19, 2013.
[32] Chaswell A. Hanna, Reducing Murders in the Bahamas: Strategic Plan Based on Empirical Research, p. 48, http://www.bahamaslocal.com/files/Reducing_Murders_in_The_Bahamas.pdf, 2011.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

As the Bahamas has not yet submitted the required reports on its human rights situation, [1] the Committee has not yet issued any concluding observations.

The Bahamas has not signed or ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR granting the Human Rights Committee jurisdiction over individual petitions. [2]

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

At its second Universal Periodic Review before the U.N. Human Rights Council in January 2013, the government delegation noted that the mandatory death penalty had been struck down by the JCPC in 2006, and that in 2012 further judicial restrictions had limited application of capital punishment to the “worst of the worst” or “rarest of the rare” cases. It added that a majority of the population, guided by Judeo-Christian values, support the death penalty, but that the issue of capital punishment would come before the Constitutional Reform Commission. [3] Finally, the delegation pointed out that its position on the death penalty had remained consistent and that it had been an active participant in the retentionist group of states that affirms that there is no international consensus on the death penalty and that capital punishment is a matter for state sovereignty. [4] The Bahamas went on to reject all recommendations related to the abolition of the death penalty or the institution of a moratorium on executions on the basis of popular support and the inadequacy and injustice of any other punishment to respond to “cold-blooded murder.” [5]

At its first Universal Periodic Review in 2009, the Human Rights Council had also recommended that the Bahamas declare a moratorium on executions, engage in a public education campaign to explain to its population the drawbacks of capital punishment, ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, and abolish the death penalty. [6] Bahamas rejected all of these recommendations. [7]

The Bahamas is not a party to the American Convention on Human Rights. [8] However, in 2001, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in its capacity under the OAS Charter and the Convention to issue reports and recommendations, responded to the petitions of several individuals sentenced to death in the Bahamas. The Commission found that the Bahamas’ mandatory death penalty, inadequate clemency process, inadequate trial process including denial of legal aid, undue delay in bringing charges to trial, and inhumane prison conditions had violated the petitioners’ rights under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Bahamas Constitution. The Commission recommended that the Bahamas commute the petitioners’ sentences. [9]

The Bahamas’ last execution in 2000 was carried out while the defendant, David Mitchell, had a petition pending with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, [10] and in contempt of Precautionary Measures issued by the IACHR. [11]

References

[1] U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report Status by Country, http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/NewhvVAllSPRByCountry?OpenView&Start=1&Count=250&Expand=12.1#12.1, last accessed Aug. 23, 2013.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[3] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, para. 20, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8, Mar. 22, 2013.
[4] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, para. 85, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8, Mar. 22, 2013.
[5] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas, paras. 92.45-92.53, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8, Mar. 22, 2013. U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Bahamas: Addendum, pp. 3-4, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/8/Add. 1, May 30, 2013.
[6] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review, Report of the Working Group on Universal Periodic Review, Bahamas, para. 54.2, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/10/70, Jan. 7, 2009.
[7] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Summary prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Bahamas, para. 10, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/15/BHS/3, Oct. 29, 2012.
[8] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 20, 2013.
[9] Edwards et al. v. Bahamas, paras. 234-339, Report No. 48/01, OEA/ser.l/v/ii.111, doc. 20, Inter-American Commn. on Human Rights, 2001.
[10] BBC News, Bahamas convict executed, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/593021.stm, Jan. 6, 2000.
[11] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition, para. 64, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc. 68, Dec. 31, 2011.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

None.

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

The Death Penalty Project (based in the UK) does significant work in the Bahamas and the Caribbean region: http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org.

Helpful Reports and Publications

Amnesty Intl., Death Penalty in the English-Speaking Caribbean: A Human Rights Issue, Index: AMR/05/001/2012, Nov. 30, 2012.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc. 68, Dec. 31, 2011.

Additional notes regarding this country

None.

Search Tips   |    Research Methodology   |    Glossary   |    Search