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October 16 2010 | GUYANA


Parliament abolishes death penalty, with some exceptions

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Guyana abolishes death penalty

October 16, 2010

Guyana's parliament has voted to abolish the mandatory death penalty for people convicted of murder unless they have killed members of the security forces or the judiciary.

Lawyers for some 40 death row inmates on Friday appealed to officials to commute their sentences after Thursday's National Assembly vote in the South American nation.

"We are asking for them, in light of what they have just done, to look at those prisoners there and remove their sentences, to remove them from death row," opposition spokeswoman for legal affairs Clarissa Riehl told reporters.

The 65-seat assembly agreed to retain a mandatory death penalty for people convicted of murdering law enforcement officials, prison officers, and members of the judiciary.

Riehl, from the opposition People's National Congress Reform, said those who have been waiting on death row for more than 10 years should have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

"Give them a life-term or see how many years they have been on death row and give them a number of years and then let them out of the prison," said Riehl, a practicing lawyer.

Several leading Western nations have called on the former British colony to abolish the death penalty and scrap laws against homosexuality and corporal punishment.

The mandatory death penalty for murder and treason had been inherited from Britain at the time of independence in 1966 and had remained law for more than 100 years in Guyana.

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