The Execution of Colonialism

In a world without colonial ’empires’ is it still ok for London to control other parts of the world?

Take their house, boat, their bling…” just don’t take their life…?

Baroness Scotland has urged Jamaica to abolish the death penalty. It is  easy for British citizens to understand they are expected to heed and observe British law and all the punishments that come with breaking it. If you are from a Caribbean Island that still has its court of appeal based in London however, you may feel differently.

Does London have the right to tell other countries who they can and can’t kill?

Amnesty International conducted a report in 2011. Four people were sentenced to death that year but no executions were carried out. The Jamaican government wants to reverse a 1993 ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that execution after five years on death row is inhuman and degrading. Capital punishment takes the form of hanging in Jamaica.

The Privy Council has been viewed by some critics as a court that actively frustrates the execution of the death penalty, which, at least nominally, remains on the books of most Caribbean territories, despite very few hangings in recent decades” David Rowe

Jamaica has taken appeals to the Privy Council since the 17th century. In overseas territories like Jamaica where the death penalty is still in use, the Privy Council in London holds supreme judicial power over final rulings, even though capital punishment in the UK was abolished in 1965.

West Indian islands like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have seen homicide rates rise considerably over the last 20 years with Jamaica having the highest murder rate in the world in 2005 with 1,674 murders.

That makes a murder rate of 58 per 100,000 people. In 2008 Jamaica’s Parliament voted to keep the death penalty. A moratorium had been in place since 1988 meaning all death sentences were suspended, the 2008 ruling reversed this.

On 2 April 1982 General Leopoldo Galtieri set in motion an invasion of the Falkland Islands. An embarrassing defeat followed for the Argentine Military regime and the beginning of what can now be described as a fully fledged democracy. 

649 Argentine military personnel lost their lives during the conflict that lasted 74 days, needless to say there is nothing that can be seen as benefitting Argentina from the short war.

Cristina-Fernandez de Kirchner

There is no doubt that the current President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, sees regaining sovereignty of the islands as a politically and strategically astute step in strengthening Argentina’s relevance on a global arena.

De Kirchner states her motive is to restore “territorial integrity” to the Argentine Republic, critics argue that natural resources recently found near the Falklands is the probable catalyst for fresh tensions between the two countries. 

What President De Kirchner, regardless of her motivations, has ceaselessly highlighted is the relevance of colonial jurisdiction. A letter to Prime minister David Cameron from De Kirchner in January 2013 quoted a United Nations in proclamation from 1960

“An end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”

Jamaican-American lawyer David Rowe says some jurists believe that the Privy Council is an important part of the Separation of Powers “investors are confident in it and Jamaicans, who generally do not trust their politicians, feel safer.”

Do Jamaican citizens believe they need a British judicial body to maintain stability in Jamaica? Rowe asks “Are we outsourcing justice because we cannot trust ourselves?“. It is this contentious point to which attention should be focused.

Do former colonial territories maintain the stability they long for by keeping a connection to their colonial roots? Distinguished Jamaican jurist Patrick Robinson who sees the fascination with the Privy Council as part of a Caribbean inferiority complex.

The Falkland Islanders voted in a referendum on March 12th 2013 to remain a British overseas territory. They share their highest court of appeal with Jamaica in Privy Council.

They may not have capital punishment, but they showed the world how they feel about colonialism and its remnants, they prefer it for the time being. The Caribbean islands that still adhere to colonial jurisdiction have not yet decided whether they are happy to have the Privy Council decide death row inmates fate.

Lady Justice  by Matthias Giesen

by Matthias Giesen

So what of colonialism in all its forms and manifestations? Why do countless commonwealth dominions still adhere to British law, or for that matter the British Crown? De Kirchner has ironically extolled the virtues of colonialism, but for some its clear that colonialism remains relevant and useful.