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Human rights body points to local ‘blemish’

The continuation of mandatory death penalty sentences for certain offences, including murder, and Barbados’ “discrimination” against the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is a blemish on the island’s human rights record.

That’s what global human rights body Amnesty International has told the United Nations in a submission prepared for the UN’s Universal Review. And in the document, Amnesty is urging authorities here to take certain steps on these and related recommendations the island has “rejected” since December 2008.

“Amnesty International regrets that Barbados rejected recommendations which were intended to ensure that Barbados adheres to its international human rights obligations towards children, as well as to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” he organisation said.

“In particular, Barbados rejected the recommendations to eliminate all forms of corporal punishment from its legislation and discourage its use in schools, to decriminalise consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex, and to take all necessary actions to protect LGBT people from harassment, discrimination and violence.

“Although Barbados rejected recommendations related to the abolition of the death penalty, the delegation did undertake to abolish the mandatory death penalty. However, the relevant legislation has not yet been amended in order to make the death penalty a discretionary penalty,” it added.

In terms of the death penalty, the international body is recommending that Barbados “immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in line with UN General Assembly resolutions…”.

It is lobbying for Barbados to “commute without delay all death sentences to terms of imprisonment; to immediately remove all provisions in national laws which are in breach of international human rights law, in particular by abolishing all provisions which provide for mandatory death sentences; to ensure rigorous compliance in all death penalty cases with international standards for fair trial.

This was in addition to ratifying without reservations Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty”.

Amnesty also urged Barbados to take a number of steps related to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

It wants the island to “repeal all provisions that criminalise consensual same-sex conduct, including in the Sexual Offences Act; enhance access of men who have sex with men to HIV/AIDS prevention services; establish and implement policies and initiatives to address discrimination, prejudice and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Another recommendation was for Barbados to “acknowledge that LGBT persons are at risk of greater discrimination, prejudice and violence because of the existence of laws criminalising consensual same-sex activity”.

“The Barbadian Government should … play an important role in ensuring that the broader public understands that human rights must be guaranteed regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Amnesty stated.

“At the same time, the Government should exert its leadership to decriminalise consensual same-sex conduct and abide by its international human rights obligations. By doing so, Barbados will set the example for other English-speaking Caribbean countries and be recognised at an international level for its leadership on this issue.” (SC)

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