(Communication No.798/1998, U.N.Doc. CCPR/C/79/D/798/1998(2003)
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Court: Human Rights Committee

The author of the Petition, Howell, was arrested and charged with 7 counts of murder. He was convicted on all the counts and sentenced to death on 27 October, 1993 by the Home Circuit in Kingston, Jamaica. The author appealed his sentence to the Court of Jamaica and on 20 November 1995, the appellate court quashed 3 out of the 7 convictions. After conviction, the author was confined to death row at St. Catherine’s District Prison in Jamaica. On 15 October 1996, the author petitioned the Privy Council in London for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence.

For the time the author remained in confinement, he kept complaining about his treatment in custody, a fact he recounted through a letter dated 21 March 1997 to his counsel. Particularly, the author recounted an incident on 5 March 1997, when during a break-out attempt initiated by four inmates, the author and other inmates were brutally beaten by two groups of 20 and 60 wardens. The author was severely beaten and was hospitalized for 16 days. In addition, his appeal documents were burned. The author alleges that this was a well-coordinated action by both the Commissioner and Prison Superintendent. Besides, his family was barred from seeing him after the incident when they came calling on 10 March 1997, a matter that proceeded till 12 June 1997.


The applicant alleged in particular that his rights under Articles 7 and 10(1) because of the violent treatment by prison authorities and the general conditions of detention of the prison.

The court declared the complaints concerning the applicant’s civil and political rights were admissible. The court held that there has been a violation of Article 5 paragraph 1 of the Convention in its substantive aspect on account of the national authorities’ inhumane treatment of the author while in confinement. Further the burning of the author’s court papers violated Article 10(1) of the Convention. The author’s rights under Article 10(1) and (4) were also violated on the failure of the state to provide adequate medical care to the author after the beatings and while in confinement.

However, the court rejected the claim under mental distress on account of prolonged detention before execution as this claim was unsubstantiated.

The court held that there has been a violation of Article 2, paragraph 3 of the Convention and the author is entitled to compensation including appropriate treatment and compensation.