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Judicial CP - November 2012

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Jamaica Observer, Kingston, 15 November 2012

Jamaica to drop flogging of prisoners from law books

By Ingrid Brown
Associate editor - Special assignment

Click to enlarge

JAMAICA is now on its way to abolish flogging and whipping of prisoners as Cabinet recently gave permission for the enactment of legislation to abolish the practice, according to Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding.

The current law allows for the imposition of flogging and whipping as part of the judicial sentencing for certain offences.

Flogging refers to an individual being beaten with a tamarind switch while whipping resorts to the use of a cat-o-nine tail [No, it is the other way round -- C.F.], a practice which dates back to the days of slavery. Abolition of this law, Golding said, will support the country's commitment against torture and international protocols against human rights violation.

The Obeah Amendment Act 2012, the Larceny Amendment Act and the reformation of the Flogging and Whipping Abolition Act 2012 are all intended to end judicial imposition of corporal punishment.

"Flogging and whipping is in breach of our international obligations. Jamaica is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the International Protocol and also the American Convention and these make the imposition of torture and inhumane punishment unlawful," Golding said.

The justice minister was addressing journalists at yesterday's weekly Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston.

Jamaica was placed in the spotlight and forced to discontinue the practice after an inmate, Errol Pryce, was flogged at the end of serving his sentence in 1997.

Pryce was sentenced in 1994 to four years at hard labour and flogging with six strokes of the tamarind switch.

"He was flogged in 1997, the day before his release from prison after his sentence was reduced for good behaviour and so he took the case to the Human Rights Committee which ruled that Jamaica was in violation of international covenant on civil and political rights," Golding said. Since then, Golding said flogging and whipping was no longer carried out in the island's prisons or imposed by the courts, however, the practice remains on the law books, which is preventing Jamaica from ratifying the United Nations Convention against torture and cruel and degrading punishment.

With most civilised countries having already signed on to this convention, Golding said Jamaica would like to follow suit. "Jamaica is reviewed from time to time with our compliance and the human rights committee has pointed out that the fact these laws remain on our law books is a violation of the covenant and we want to clean up as much as possible our compliance," Golding said, adding that the country's non-compliance is taken into account by international development partners.

Golding said the abolition of this "degrading punishment" would also be timely as the country celebrated its 50th year of Independence.

With the legislation prepared and ready to be tabled, Golding said he is hoping that this can be done by next week.

"I am hoping it will be tabled next week in the Senate and passed before December depending on how much Parliamentary time there is between now and the season," Golding said.

Copyright © 2000-2001 Jamaica Observer. All Rights Reserved.

Corpun file 24212 at

Jamaica Observer, Kingston, 19 November 2012

Seaga weighs in on Obeah debate

By Balford Henry

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Three Bills tabled in the Senate Friday to repeal antiquated laws providing for the flogging of criminals, have triggered another debate on whether laws out of sync with modern culture should not all be repealed.

The Bills were -- An Act to Repeal all legislation to make provision for flogging and whipping in judicial sentencing; An Act to Amend the Obeah Act; An Act to Amend the Larceny Act.

They were tabled by Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding, following his disclosure earlier this week, that the Cabinet had approved draft legislation to repeal the Acts, in keeping with modern trends in human rights jurisprudence in relation to corporal punishment.

The Bills seeking to address flogging as a punishment for larceny, especially praedial larceny, have been the focus of attention since the announcement. But, there is growing interest in the Bill seeking to amend the Obeah Act which also provides for flogging as punishment.

The 1898 Obeah Act not only provides for the flogging of persons suspected of practising obeah, a Jamaican form of voodoo but equates the African diasporic ritual, Myal, with the practice of Obeah,.

Section 2 of the Act states: "Obeah shall be deemed to be of one and the same meaning as Myalism".

According to the Obeah Act, any person convicted of participating in these rituals "shall be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a period not exceeding 12 months, and in addition thereto, or in lieu thereof, to whipping: Provided such whipping shall be carried out subject to the provisions of the Flogging Regulation Act".

The Flogging Regulation Act states that no sentence of flogging shall be carried out, except with an instrument approved by the Minister.

The Minister's order requires that the instrument with which sentences of flogging shall be carried out is the cat-o-nine tails, which is a rope whip consisting of a round wooden handle twenty inches long, and one to one and one-half inches in diameter with nine thongs of cotton cord attached to one end of the handle, each thong being thirty inches long and not more than three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, and knotted at the end or whipped at the end with cotton twine.

Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, under whose administration Myal was elevated to national importance as an aspect of Jamaica's African religious heritage during and after slavery, said he had no idea that the law had equated Myal with Obeah.

"If that is so, it is totally wrong, Seaga said. "Myalism was developed during slavery as a means for the slaves to express themselves spiritually, because they didn't have a single language. It is still called Myal in St. Thomas, but it eventually became Zion Revival, in other places".

According to Seaga, Myal was created in Jamaica by African slaves, from a mixture of African religions, cultures and languages.

"Obeah is not a religion, it is a spiritual doctor and it is totally wrong to mix obeah with Myal," he commented.

Jamaican-born Adam McIntyre, programme coordinator for the Department of Community Rehabilitation in the Cayman Islands' prisons and author of the new book, "Understanding the Criminal Mind", thinks that it is outrageous that Jamaica should continuing to beat them for being part of an ancestral religion that has suffered much discrimination.

"I believe all forms of beatings as punishment for crime is [sic] wrong, because it only breeds violence in those who are beaten. They are led to think that violence is the only solution for crime," he said.

Commissioner of Jamaica's Department of Correctional Services, Lt. Colonel Sean Prendergast, refused to comment on the issue of floggings as punishment for crimes. He insisted that his job was to carry out the law.

"As Commissioner of Corrections, it is my responsibility to carry out the orders of the courts," he stated.

Asked when was the last time he had carried out a requirement for flogging an inmate, he said that earlier this year a prisoner who had completed a long sentence for rape was required to be flogged before release.

"I wrote the Attorney General and, based on his instructions, the flogging was not carried out," he said. However, he admitted that there were others in the prisons whose sentences were to end with lashes. However, it now seems highly unlikely for that aspect of their sentences to be executed.

Copyright © 2000-2001 Jamaica Observer. All Rights Reserved.

blob Follow-up: 17 February 2013 - No more flogging: Senate votes to end whipping as a punishment for criminals

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