government: costitutional parliamentary democracy
state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 6 August 1962
legal system: based on English common law
legislative system: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives
judicial system: Supreme Court (judges appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister); Court of Appeal
religion: Protestant majority
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
American Convention on Human Rights
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty) (only signed)
The issue of capital punishment, the Jamaica Constitution states, "No person shall intentionally be deprived of his life save in execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been convicted".
Murder is a capital crime, except for pregnant women, persons over 70 years of age and those who committed crimes when under eighteen years old.
The last hanging in Jamaica took place in 1988. Nathan Foster was executed at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Facility on February 18.
Jamaica is a British Independent Territory that retains the death penalty, but for which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the final court of appeal.
In 1993, the London-based Privy Council ruled in the case of Jamaicans Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan, that five years on death row constituted unusual and inhumane punishment. It ordered their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, thus establishing a five-year limit for prisoners on death row.
The UK Privy Council struck down the mandatory death penalty for murder in Jamaica on July 7, 2004, winning a reprieve for more than 60 prisoners on death row. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council found that the 1992 Offences Against the Person Act, which introduced the mandatory death sentence for capital murder was inconsistent with section 17(1) of Jamaica’s constitution. According to the Law Lords, any death sentence passed since the Act was introduced in 1992 must be held to be illegal. This meant that all those condemned to death following that date had to have their case returned to the Supreme Court for sentencing.
Jamaica has a keen interest in removing the Privy Council and is one of the main proponents of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which was inaugurated in Trinidad on April 16, 2005. In 2001, it was one of the 11 state parties to an agreement to set up this court to replace the Privy Council as the final court of appeal for the region. However, the legislative process by which this decision was taken was challenged before the Privy Council by the opposition Jamaica Labour Party and three civil society groups - the Jamaican Bar Association, Jamaicans For Justice, and the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights – in December 2004. The four groups asked the Privy Council to rule on the constitutionality of the legislation granting the CCJ the same powers as the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and jurisdiction over all matters within the jurisdiction of those Courts, passed in November 2004 by the vote of a simple majority in Parliament.
In 2005, the Privy Council found merit in the arguments of the groups and ruled that its replacement by the CCJ could not be validly incorporated into Jamaica's judicial system, except by way of entrenchment in the country's constitution.
Following the December 2011 General Election, the new People's National Party (PNP) Government stated its intention to have the CCJ serving in both the original and appellate jurisdictions for Jamaica, in time for the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's Independence in August. On April 19, 2013 the Government has once again tabled Bills in the House of Representatives as it pushes to keep its promise to replace the United Kingdom-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Jamaica's final appellate court.
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 pave the way for governments to resume executions.
In April 2011 the Jamaican government adopted a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, including a provision intended to reverse the effects of the 1993 ruling by the JCPC which ruled that prisoners who were on death row for more than five years should have their sentences commuted. The Charter was incorporated in Chapter 3 of the Jamaican Constitution.
According to Amnesty International, the Committal Proceedings Act 2012, which was introduced in 2011 and aims to speed up trial proceedings by replacing the Magistrates preliminary enquires with written briefings, was pending before the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament at the end of the year. Concerns were raised, including by the Norman Manley Law School , in relation to specific provisions which, as drafted, were inconsistent with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, incorporated in Chapter 3 of the Jamaican Constitution.
During the Human Rights Council’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review, Jamaica rejected recommendations that it institute a de jure moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences to prison terms, accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR or re-accede to the First, and abolish the death penalty.
In Jamaica no new death sentences were imposed and death rows were still empty at the end of 2017, after a former Jamaica Defence Force soldier, Leslie Moodie, had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment by the Appeal Court on 31 July 2015.
The United Nations
On 13 May 2015, Jamaica was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. The recommendations to introduce a de jure moratorium on capital executions with a view to fully abolish the death penalty and to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR did not enjoy the support of Jamaica.
On 17 December 2018, Jamaica voted again against the UNGA Resolution for a universal moratorium on capital executions