government: Parliamentary republic
state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 3 November 1978
legal system: based on English common law
legislative system: unicameral House of Assembly
judicial system: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, consisting of the Court of Appeal and the High Court
religion: Roman Catholic 61.4%, Protestant 22%, other Christian 7.7%, other or unspecified
death row: 0
year of last executions: 0-8-1986
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Rights of the Child
American Convention on Human Rights
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
Murder and treason are capital crimes. The death penalty was last carried out in Dominica in August 1986.
Dominica is a British Independent Territory that retains the death penalty and for which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council remains 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 Judicial Committee of the Privy Council 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 Dominica 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.
Dominica was one of the eleven parties to a 2001 agreement to establish a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council as the region’s final court of appeal.
Caribbean countries view the CCJ as the means to throw off the last vestiges of colonialism, but human rights groups have warned that the Court may be a hanging court.
The Caribbean Court of Justice was inaugurated in Trinidad on April 16, 2005 and, as of 5 March 2015, only four countries – Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana – had passed under its jurisdiction. On 3 July 2014, Dominica’s Parliament approved a bill to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the country’s final court of appeal, replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. Dominica completed the move with the accession to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ on 6 March 2015. Dominica’s decision made it the first country within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to accede to the CCJ.
In 2017 as in 2016 no new death sentence was issued and the death row was empty at the end of the year.
On 1 May 2014, Dominica was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. The head of the delegation highlighted that there had been a self-imposed moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1986. However, the popular sentiment in the country is for the reintroduction of executions for cases of murder. Therefore, the Government has taken the position that the death penalty will remain within the jurisdiction of the judiciary and will continue to be guided by the existing law.
On December 17, 2018 Dominica cosponsored and voted for the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.