Simms v. Jamaica

Communication No. 541/1993
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Simms (S) was awaiting execution following his conviction for murder in 1988 which was based on identification evidence. S complained about weaknesses in the identification evidence, the failure of the judge to direct the jury properly about that evidence, the inadequacy of the representation provided by his legal aid lawyer, the absence of an opportunity to communicate with his lawyer prior to the appeal hearing, the imposition of the death sentence without a fair trial, the time that had elapsed since he was sentenced to death, the conditions in prison, and the beating he allegedly received by the police after his arrest. His claims were brought under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”).

[Adapted from INTERIGHTS summary, with permission]

The Committee held that it had not been shown that the trial judge's instructions were clearly arbitrary or amounted to a denial of justice and this claim was inadmissible under Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Article 3; that there was insufficient substantiation of the claim regarding the preparation of his defense at the trial and the appeal and it was inadmissible under Optional Protocol, Article 2; that, as the claim about the beating by the police had not been raised previously, the claim was inadmissible for failing to exhaust domestic remedies; and that no special circumstances in addition to the length of his detention on death row had been substantiated in order to raise an issue under Article 7 (prohibition on cruel and inhuman treatment).

[Adapted from INTERIGHTS summary, with permission]

"The Committee next turns to the author's claim that his prolonged detention on death row amounts to a violation of article 7 of the Covenant. Although some national courts of last resort have held that prolonged detention on death row for a period of five years or more violates their constitutions or laws, the jurisprudence of this Committee remains that detention for any specific period would not be a violation of article 7 of the Covenant in the absence of some further compelling circumstances. The Committee observes that the author has not substantiated, for purposes of admissibility, any specific circumstances of his case that would raise an issue under article 7 of the Covenant. This part of the communication is therefore inadmissible under article 2 of the Optional Protocol." Para. 6.5.

INTERIGHTS Comment: The Committee has maintained its view that prolonged detention on death row does not in itself amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and such a claim will require additional factors. Neither R nor S had advanced these, while problems of substantiation also undermined the latter's Art 14 claims.