(Communication No.732/1997, U.N.Doc. CCPR/C/63/D/732/1987 (1998)
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Region: Africa
Year: 1998
Court: Human Rights Committee

The author of the Petition Beresford Whyte, also known as ‘Billy”, was arrested and taken into custody on 13 January 1992, where he was detained after prior warning that a warrant of arrest had been issued for his alleged involvement in the burglary, robbery and murder of Roy Cockburn in 28 November 1990. The facts of the case were that two men in masks had broken into the room where the deceased was sleeping and attacked him, wherein he succumbed to the injuries later. The two men also took the money the deceased had brought from the store.

The son to the deceased led to the issuance of the warrants of arrest as he claimed to be able to identify the author herein as his mask fell off during the incident and exposed his face. Further, a Mr. Buntin also claimed to have seen the author by means of a nearby street light. Attempts to impugn the evidence of the eye-witnesses were futile. The author was convicted for murder by the Circuit Court and sentenced to death on 17 February 1995. He also filed an appeal which was heard on 26 September 1995 and dismissed on 23 October 1995. His application for special leave to appeal was dismissed on 14 November 1996.

The author made several allegations against the state party for violating his rights under the covenant. He has accused the presiding judge of impropriety in summing up the case by introducing an issue which had not been raised during the trial. Further, the author brings a claim under Article 14, paragraph 3(b) and (d) in the manner his lawyers conducted the case. The lawyers appeared to be not well-prepared and the senior counsels absconded trials oftentimes. The author accuses his advocates of lack of experience and the rushed manner in which the case was conducted. The author also brings a claim under Articles 7 and 10. He claims that the police beat him up using a bat and strips of tyre in order to make him sign a caution statement. The author claims that he lost three teeth in the process but was never taken to a doctor. He claims that he alerted the judge during the trial process but nothing was done about it. The author also states that he was taken before a judge three weeks after his arrest, in clear violation of Article9, paragraphs 3, 3, and 14.

In prison, the author has continued to suffer as he is allergic to paint and dust. Attempts to have him see a doctor have been futile on claims that the prison hospital is understaffed. The warders were also hostile and constantly beat him up for no apparent reason or when he raises a legitimate complain, a matter that was confirmed by the prison doctors. The author also pointed to other incidents where there was beatings such as during the prison riots where sixteen inmates died.

The Human Rights Committee concluded and declared that the conditions for declaring the communication admissible, including the requirement of exhaustion of domestic remedies had been met. The committee also held that the claim to effective legal representation was not substantiated. On the question of brutality from the police and wardens, the Committee found that this claim was inadmissible as the author had not exhausted all the local remedies with this respect. The committee also found that the directives by the judge to the jury was not admissible as it was not substantiated as well as the desire for a pardon from the Governor-General. However, the long detention period before trial was determined to be in violation of his rights under Article 9 and Article 14. Besides, he was ill-treated in detention, including, being lumped up with seven other men, in clear violation of his rights under Articles 7 and 10 of the Convention. Therefore, the Committee recommended that the author is entitled to appropriate remedy, including commutation of sentence and compensation.Beresford Whyte[8200]