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Death in the Western Hemisphere A mnesty International unconditionally Araopposes the death penalty, calling it “cruel, arbitrary, and irrevocable.” Following is a summary of the North, Central and South American countries’ records on the death penalty. Countries which use the death penalty and extrajudicial execution extensively include Brazil. Colombia and Guatemala, where government-supported extrajudicial executions number in the hundreds. In El Salvador and Nicaragua, suspected illegal executions go uninvestigated. In Peru, military directives advised troops to practice extrajudicial execution, according to AI. The United States, with 2,500 death sentences, by far had the greatest number of people on death row in the world. Its rate of execution also was the highest: 14 deaths in 1991. \(Only South Africa, with 420 on death row, had a higher per-capita number of death sentences in the industrialized world, the nation with five executions in 1991 \(a world-beating pace of one execution for every 3.4 million in population, compared with the Star State is ready to execute a woman this year, the first such case since 1863. A handicapped Texas inmate also was executed. The AI report noted, “Jerry Bird suffered a stroke eight days before he was executed in Texas in June. He was treated in hospital but accord ing to reports was still partially paralysed at the time of his execution. Appeals to commute the death sentence or postpone the execution on humanitarian grounds were rejected.” Florida ranked second among the states, with two executions in 1991. Among other countries with active death sentences, Cuba executed two people in 1991 and may extend the scope of its death penalty. Antigua executed one prisoner. Argentina, Bolivia, Honduras and Venezuela all had at least three extrajudicial executions in 1991; Venezuela led with 29 deaths suspected to be illegal executions. Jamaica has 270 inmates on death row but executed no one in 1991. St. Vincent executed one prisoner; it can legally execute juveniles. Countries with dormant death penalties include Belize, Chile, Grenada and Trinidad, which commuted death sentences last year; Grenada led with 22 commutations. The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Grenada and Trinidad have forgone execution for at least six years; Bermuda has had a 15-year moratorium. Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay had no death sentences for 1991. Canada Mexico have no official death penalties; Argentina’s President Menem is seeking to reinstate the death penalty in Argentina. He is meeting opposition within his own cabinet, however, and according to the AI report has postponed a decision until 1993. Paula George were held for up to seven months without charge or trial; other political prisoners apparently received unfair trials. Five people were apparently summarily executed in July. Following a violent military coup in September, security forces shot and killed hundreds of unarmed civilians. More than 300 people, including many prisoners of conscience, were arrested arbitrarily, and many of them were detained without charge for longer than the constitutional maximum of 48 hours. Many detainees were tortured or ill-treated. Prison conditions continued to be harsh. Dominican Republic Two detainees died after reported beatings by the security forces. One political prisoner remained in prison despite two judicial orders in 1989 for his release. Jamaica Death warrants were issued for two prisoners but they were granted a stay of execution. The courts imposed at least 30 death sentences. At least 15 death sentences were commuted or overturned on appeal. Around 270 prisoners were on death row at the end of the year. The last executions were carried out in 1988. The Human Rights Committee, which supervises implementation of the International Covenant the view that there had been violations of the ICCPR in the cases of four prisoners under sentence of death. Barbados One woman and three men were sentenced to death and 13 prisoners remained under sentence of death. There were no executions; the last hanging took place in 1984. Sentences of corporal punishment continued to be imposed and at least two were carried out. Grenada Twenty-two people, including four former military and government officials in the People’s death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. One person was sentenced to death and four people remained under sentence of death at the end of the year. No executions had been carried out since 1978. At least six people were sentenced to be flogged, a cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. Trinidad and Tobago A preliminary inquiry into the cases of 114 people charged with treason was held. There were over 100 prisoners under sentence of death. There were no executions during the year; the last hanging was carried out in 1979. At least one flogging sentence was imposed. South America Colombia Several hundred people were executed extrajudicially by members of the armed forces or paramilitary groups working with their support or acquiescence. In urban areas scores of people, including suspected delinquents and “street children,” were killed by “death squads” linked to the National Police. Over 150 people were reported to have “disappeared,” Little progress was made in bringing to justice members of the security forces responsible for human rights violations. Twelve civilian paramilitary members were convicted in absentia for a series of massacres in 1988. Venezuela There were further allegations of torture and illtreatment, in some cases leading to death. Prison conditions remained harsh. At least 29 people were killed by security forces in circumstances suggesting that at least some of them may have been extrajudicially executed. The body of a person who “disappeared” in 1990 was found. Most investigations into reported human rights violations by members of the security forces made little progress. Guyana Several people were reportedly tortured or illtreated in police custody. A human rights worker was reportedly kidnapped briefly and threatened by unidentified men. At least four people were sentenced to death for murder and around 22 people were under sentence of death at the end of the year. However, no executions were carried out. Brazil Hundreds of children and adults were killed by death squads. Members and leaders of rural trade unions and their advisers were killed or threatened with death; in the vast majority of such cases the Brazilian authorities persistently failed to take effective action to prevent the crimes. Investigations were not completed into the 1990 killings of three members of indigenous communities in the state of Pernambuco. Torture and ill-treatment of people in police custody continued to be reported. Twenty-four inmates of a prison in Rio de Janeiro died as a result of a fire allegedly started by prison officers. Evidence emerged about human rights violations under previous governments. A proposal to reintroduce the death penalty for certain crimes were under consideration by Congress. Ecuador An official commission of inquiry found a branch of the National Police responsible for the “disappearance” of two brothers in 1988 and Continued on pg. 20 14 AUGUST 7, 1992