(Communication No.611/1995, U.N.Doc. CCPR/C/64/D/647/1995 (3 DECEMBER 1998)
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Region: Africa
Year: 1998
Court: Human Rights Committee

The author was on 22 February 1983 convicted and sentenced for murder of one Ernest Stephens. He was sentenced to death on 4 October 1984. His appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal of Jamaica. On 15 December 1987, the author’s petition for special leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was dismissed. The author got a reprieve in 14 December 1989 when his sentence was commuted to life sentence. The author was tried on account of the evidence of an eye-witness and a deposition from a second witness who died before the trial took place. The author had gone to the police station to report the matter when he was apprehended and charged for the murder.

The author claimed that prior to his trial, he was remanded for 3 days before being charged, contrary to the provisions of Articles 9, paragraphs 2, 3 and 4; and 14 paragraph 3(a) of the Convention. Further, the author alleges that there was a one month delay between the time of arrest and appearing before a judicial officer.

Counsel for the author also stated that the treatment of the victim was in violation of Article 14 paragraph 1 because the Court of Appeal failed to remedy the trial judge’s mis-directions to the jury on the issue of provocation, in a clear denial of justice as this would have made the author be charged with a lesser offense of manslaughter. The author also alleges that he was subjected to inhumane and cruel treatment while in prison, including the denial of proper medical attention, as attested to by the delegation from Amnesty International that visited him in prison. Counsel suggests that the author did not pursue these claims for fear of reprisals as was common for those questioning the system.

The Committee decided that the communication was admissible as the author had exhausted under the Optional Protocol. It observed that the author had filed a petition for special leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council since the case of his co-defendant was dismissed. The committee considered that there was no infringement on the right to fair trial as this claim was unsubstantiated.

The Committee resolved that the right to fair trial was violated simply because the author was held for 3 days before being formally charged. The committee however found that a one month delay before presentation before a judge was in violation of Article 9, Paragraph 3 of the Convention. Further, the author’s treatment by the police was inhumane and violated Articles 7 and 10, paragraph 1 of the Convention. Moreover, the degrading conditions under which he was held violated Article 10, paragraph 1 of the Convention.

The Committee also found that in the absence of an explanation from the state for the author’s holding in death row for two weeks, this action violated Article 7 of the Convention. Accordingly, the state was ordered to compensate the author for the inhumane treatment and offer early release to the author, making him eligible for parole in December 1996.