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Last updated: 19 June, 2006 - Published 10:42 GMT
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CCJ faces key test on death penalty
The CCJ logo
The CCJ will face one of their most controversial cases yet.
Pratt and Morgan has been the linchpin of murder defence cases in the Caribbean for 13 years.

Now the Barbados government is questioning this landmark 1993 ruling at the new regional final appeal court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Pratt and Morgan had been a ruling by the British Privy Council requiring executions to take place within five years of conviction.

The Barbados government will ask the CCJ on Tuesday to overturn the Pratt and Morgan ruling.

The Barbadian authorities will bring the test case to the CCJ by asking to hang two men convicted in 1999 of beating another man to death.

Amnesty international symbol
Amnesty International has been a long-term campaigner against the death penalty in the Caribbean.

Jeffrey Joseph and Lennox Boyce had been sentenced to hang for the 1999 murder of Marquelle Hippolyte. They had beaten him to death with stones and planks of wood after an argument.

Death warrants have been read to Joseph and Boyce before.

Early in June, the sentences were commuted to life because of the five-year ruling on the key Pratt and Morgan case.

This ruling by Britain's Privy Council had stated that it was "cruel and inhumane" to hang someone five years after conviction.

Last Caribbean executions
Bahamas - 2000
Trinidad and Tobago - 1999

The Barbadian legal team will ask the CCJ to look at the timeframe in commuting the death sentences and the time it had taken for the Boyce and Joseph cases to go to the Privy Council.

Human rights groups had expressed fears that the new CCJ could be used by Caribbean governments to resume hanging once the influence of the Privy Council waned.

Several Caribbean governments have argued that the death penalty is the only way to bring down rising crime rates.

Given the Caribbean's lengthy court systems, alon with the possibility for defence lawyers to also take further appeals to the British final appeal court, this had virtually ruled out the death penalty in the Caribbean.

Now the region has its own final appeal court.

CCJ role

The Caribbean Court of Justice, the CCJ, was set up last year to replace Britain's Privy Council as the final appeal court. Two countries, Barbados and Guyana have put in place the national legislation to give the CCJ status as the final appeal court.

Other countries which signed up to the CCJ are still putting legislation through.

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