THE EDITOR: On Thursday, the 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty will be dedicated to children whose parents have been sentenced to death or executed. The theme this year is: Children: unseen victims of the death penalty.
The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty states:
“Today, 142 countries... are abolitionist in law or practice. While few studies have been done to quantify the number of children who have a parent who has been sentenced to death or executed, Amnesty International’s 2019 annual report stated that at least 19,336 people were known to be under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2018 and at least 690 were believed to have been executed in that year...
“Frequently forgotten, children of parents sentenced to death or executed carry a heavy emotional and psychological burden that can amount to the violation of their human rights. This trauma can occur at any and all stages of the capital punishment of a parent: arrest, trial, sentencing, death row stays, execution dates, execution itself, and its aftermath. The repeated cycles of hope and disappointment that can accompany all of these stages can have a long-term impact, occasionally well into adulthood.
“Stigmatisation from the community in which they live and the loss of a parent at the hands of a state all reinforce deep instability in the child’s day-to-day life. In line with the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (November 20, 1989), the focus of this World Day is on children and their human rights.
“The experience of having a parent sentenced to death affects each child differently, including children within the same family, depending on factors like their personality and circumstances, the reactions of those around them, and the wider public response to the situation, including the scrutiny of media coverage...
“In international human rights law, it is a well-established principle that the best interest of the child should be a paramount consideration in any decision that impacts a child. It is therefore necessary to consider how a parent’s death sentence will impact the child and to take this into account when deciding on sentencing, commutation and pardon...
“In 2013, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution 24/11, in which it ‘acknowledges the negative impact of a parent’s death sentence and his or her execution on his or her children’ and urges states ‘to provide these children with the protection and assistance they may require.’ And in 2018, the Human Rights Committee’s general comment No 36 made an explicit recommendation for states not to execute parents of young and dependent children: ‘States parties...should...refrain from executing parents to very young or dependent children.’”
While we stand in solidarity with the victims of crime, including their children, let us not forget that all children are of worth and reach out in solidarity to the children of offenders.
In observation of World Day, CCSJ, in collaboration with the Greater Caribbean for Life, RED Initiatives, and with the support of the EU Delegation ambassador, UWI Faculty of Law, St Augustine Campus, and Amnesty International, have organised a panel discussion on Thursday from 5 pm to 7 pm at the Church of the Assumption Parish Hall, Long Circular Road, Maraval. Admission is free.
The moderator is Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, dean, Faculty of Law, UWI, St Augustine Campus. Panel speakers are Aad Biesebroek, EU Delegation ambassador, keynote speaker; Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, deputy director, care services, Children’s Authority; Gerard Wilson, Commissioner of Prisons; Alloy Youk See, PRO, Social Workers’ Association and former senior prison officer; Andrew Douglas, lifer, Maximum Security Prison, Arouca; and myself as chair of the CCSJ and member of Greater Caribbean for Life.
For further information contact 299-8945 or 776-8069.