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GUATEMALA: court decision ruling death penalty unconstitutional for most crimes is a key step on path to full abolition

14 Nov 2017
[International Secretariat]
Region: GUATEMALA
Topic: Abolition of the Death Penalty

On 24 October 2017 the Constitutional Court of Guatemala declared Articles in the Penal Code and the Anti-Narcotics Law allowing for the imposition of the death penalty unconstitutional. As a result of the decision, from today the death penalty can no longer be imposed for crimes charged under ordinary laws in Guatemala – a step forward for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country and a major milestone in its journey towards abolition.

Guatemala has now become the 142nd country to have rid itself of this punishment in law or practice.

Despite today's positive development, the death penalty can still be applied under the Military Code. Amnesty International calls on the members of the Congress of Guatemala to take the opportunity of the renewed momentum created by the Court decision to immediately abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

The momentum created by developments in Guatemala should also be a wake-up call for other countries in the Americas and Caribbean region. While some defenders of the death penalty justify its retention with the ill-conceived premise that it has a unique deterrent effect against crime, the trend has steadily been changing. The USA has been the only country in the Americas region to carry out executions in the past nine years. Only three other countries - Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago - have been imposing death sentences. Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia have reported empty death rows in recent years. Nearly 100 people were under sentence of death in the Caribbean five years ago, a figure that had dropped to 72 at the end of 2016. Suriname abolished the death penalty in 2015, leaving Guyana as the last retentionist country in South America. Legislative amendments to abolish the mandatory death penalty have been pending in Barbados. Amnesty International renews its calls on governments in the region to immediately establish a moratorium on executions, commute all existing death sentences, and abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

7 November 2017
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT

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