[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Oct 21 22:33:30 UTC 2006
Anna's fight to free criminals left to rot on Jamaica's death row
"THANK you, Jesus." Ricardo Williams looked heavenward as he took his
first, faltering steps of freedom.
At the age of 12, he was convicted of murder.
After spending 1/2 of his 24 years fighting to prove his innocence from
behind bars, his "unsafe" conviction was finally overturned in April.
Anna Khmelnitski was present as Ricardo finally left Tower Street Adult
Correctional Centre in Kingston, Jamaica, to be greeted by his family and
"It was very emotional," she said. "His dad kissed the ground by his feet
and was in tears. Even I was feeling tearful and I'd only just met the
"Ricky gave away all his clothes and possessions to the other prisoners.
He said: 'I don't want to keep anything from here.' All he had with him
were his papers."
Anna, 25, has just returned to Cambridge after spending 4 months working
with the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (IJCHR).
The freelance nurse was inspired to tackle human rights on the Caribbean
island after visiting several of her pen pals on death row in the USA.
Anna, of Springfield Road, West Chesterton, even helped out the legal team
of one of her correspondents, Bill Clark, by interviewing him about his
case in the notorious San Quentin prison in California.
Her appetite for working with prisoners was further whetted on a trip with
her American legal contacts to Ukraine earlier this year, to research the
background of a man facing a murder charge in the USA.
So Anna, who is Russian, wrote to IJCHR and was delighted to be offered an
internship with the organisation.
In contrast to the huge number of murderers Anna saw who were awaiting
execution in the USA, just eight prisoners are currently on Jamaica's
In 2005, the ruling Jamaica Labor Party decided more than 60 prisoners who
had already been on Death Row for five years had suffered "cruel and
inhuman" treatment and should receive life sentences instead.
No-one has been executed in Jamaica since 1988, but the IJCHR is keen to
slow down the legal process to ensure the prisoners currently on death row
do not meet this fate.
An IJCHR lawyer managed to bend a few rules to allow Anna and her fellow
interns to visit the inhabitants.
Despite their horrific surroundings, Anna was impressed with the young men
she met. She said: "They were all very young and good to talk to.
"The cells were very decrepit and filthy. I suspect they sleep on
newspapers on the floor - there were mattresses stacked against the walls
but I think they were there for our benefit.
"They are allowed out of their cells for an hour a day, which they have to
use to slop out - they have to go to the toilet in a bucket.
"I really don't believe that these 8 people are the worst of the worst -
they were polite and very respectful, just like people you meet anywhere."
Anna also worked on the cases of people subjected to brutality by police
and prison staff, including Marlon, who claimed he was beaten by officers
in the street.
He could not afford medical treatment, and lost sight in both his eyes.
But the IJCHR was finally able to persuade the authorities - who only
supply one doctor to cover 24,000 prisoners in two jails - to allow him
Anna said: "It's almost impossible for them to get medical attention. If
we hadn't pressured the police, would he have got medical care at all?"
She also met Delroy Stewart, who last year was sentenced to death after
being convicted of raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl. He has since
been released due to lack of evidence, but was scarred - emotionally and
physically - by his time inside.
He lost part of his finger after it was allegedly slammed in a heavy door
by a prison guard.
"He keeps it pickled in vinegar as evidence," Anna said. "I couldn't
believe it when he showed me."
Anther problem for the IJCHR is that prisoners are abandoned in jail with
no idea of their legal status.
"Often people are held illegally - they are not charged or released for
several days," she said.
"We also met inmates who have never been visited by their lawyers and
didn't know what the status of their case was. It was very frustrating."
But the draconian legal system - and even the death penalty - have failed
to curb the violence that Anna believes is an inherent part of Jamaican
Marital rape is still not classed as a crime, and many men genuinely
believe that sleeping with a virgin is a cure for sexually transmitted
diseases, which has led to about 10 % of the population being infected
And Anna told the News the gangsters who rule the notorious Kingston
ghettoes used to receive money from political parties, which used their
underworld contacts to kill off opponents.
During a major trial of one of the "dons", which took place during Anna's
visit, snipers were stationed on the roof of the courtroom to prevent
gangsters from storming the courthouse.
But after witnessing suffering and poverty first hand, Anna is determined
to pursue a career fighting for the rights of criminals who have been
ostracised and abandoned by society.
She said: "This is what I really want to do. I'm hoping to get a visa for
an internship next year with one of the lawyers I met in the States. That
would be brilliant."
(source: Cambridge Evening News)
Rwandan political parries favour abolition of death penalty
A Forum grouping all approved political parties in Rwanda, said Friday it
was in favour of the abolition of death penalty in the country.
A bill on the issue is currently under discussion nationwide.
In a communiqu, the President of the Forum, Franois Ngarambe, who is also
Secretary General of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, FPR, said the
government must respect human dignity by adhering to the principles of
good governance and fundamental human rights.
40 people were sentenced to death in 2002 and anther 22 in 2003, for the
1994 ethnic genocide that killed some 800,000 people in Rwanda.
(source: Angola Press)
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