Hanging is an act of revenge not a deterrent to murder

Dear Editor,

Today (10th October), the Justice Institute Guyana joins with billions in celebrating the World Day Against the Death Penalty and condemns without reservation the use of the death penalty.

This is perhaps the worst possible time to make such a statement. We read repeatedly of atrocities perpetrated against vulnerable and innocent people in Guyana. As fellow human beings we grieve for their families. We feel enraged and helpless in the face of their suffering. And yet this nation will not do what it takes to stop this happening again and again.

The single most effective way to stop murder is to catch, convict and punish the murderer. Knowing that you will be caught is the biggest deterrent. Hanging might be a satisfactory act of revenge but we should not pretend that it has a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment.

Successive governments have shown that they cannot keep the ordinary citizen safe.  Whenever there is a heinous crime the death penalty rears its ugly head like a jumbie to frighten children. But we are only fooling ourselves if we think that hanging people is going to make this society safer.

No, we need to call this government to account. We need to demand a better police force and a better court system. We need to see the conviction rates for murder going up. We need to see trials that are fair because we all know that if you are poor, you don’t have the same access to justice as the rich and the well-connected. And we need to take care of the victims’ families. Time and again they are forgotten as the media move on to the next sensation.

In 2013 Guyana’s homicide rate was around 20 murders for every 100,000 citizens. That put us in the top twenty of the most homicidal countries on the planet. The most violent societies are those with drugs, guns, oil and a big gap between rich and poor. Which way are we heading?

No state should execute its citizens. Killing another human being is barbaric whether the killing is done by a psychopath or by the state.  Of the 111 countries that have abolished the death penalty in law, not a single one has brought it back.

Our taxes keep the government safe. What are they going to do to keep us safe?


Yours faithfully,

Melinda Janki


Justice Institute Guyana