state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 3 March 1952, approved by US Congress 3 July 1952, effective 25 July 1952
legal system: based on Spanish civil codes
legislative system: bicameral Legislative Assembly consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives
judicial system: Supreme Court; Superior Courts; Appellate Court; Municipal Courts
religion: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
The prohibition of the death penalty is enshrined in the 1952 Bill of Rights, incorporated in Article II of the Constitution. Section 7 states: ‘The death penalty shall not exist.’ Puerto Rico carried out the last execution in 1927, and banned capital punishment in 1929. However its status as a Commonwealth of the United States means it is under US federal jurisdiction, and the US as recently as 2003 has sought the death penalty on federal charges in the trial of two men accused of kidnapping and murder. Kidnapping is a federal offence and prosecutors claimed that federal criminal laws override local laws, including the Puerto Rican Constitution. Legislation implemented in 1994 allows federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for several crimes in states and territories that have banned it. In Puerto Rico there was a public outcry against the request for the death penalty by the US prosecutors. Community and religious organisations called it an affront to the Puerto Rican culture. In the event the two men were acquitted, but the case re-ignited the debate about the island’s political status.
On 27 September 2012, a jury in abolitionist Puerto Rico rejected the death penalty in a US federal trial. Edison Burgos Montes was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Madelyn Semidey Morales, who had been co operating with the US authorities in an investigation against him.