Amnesty may pursue death row case at UN

AMNESTY International is considering raising with the United Nations the hanging of a Trinidadian that took place on Thursday morning despite a Privy Council order for stay of execution.

Glen Ashby was hanged on Thursday morning, 15 minutes before an order issued by the Privy Council was being dictated to be faxed to Port of Spain. He had served just one month short of five years on death row; the Privy Council - which acts as the ultimate court of appeal for Trinidad and many other Commonwealth countries - last year introduced a standard whereby the execution of a death sentence after more than five years on death row was to be considered inhumane and should therefore not be carried out. Trinidad appears to have deliberately rushed through the hanging to beat the five-year mark.

There are 25 prisoners in Trinidad now approaching five years on death row. Dina Coloma, the Amnesty officer for Trinidad, told the Independent that the human rights body was 'looking at all possibilities' to take action against the authorities in Trinidad. These included raising the issue with the UN special rapporteur for summary executions and with the Inter-American court of human rights, as well as demanding an investigation by the Trinidadian government itself.

Ms Coloma said she was convinced the authorities had rushed through the execution to impress voters. The Minister of National Security, Russell Huggins, had practically declared open season on the defence lawyers of prisoners on death row. Ashby's lawyers had since been subjected to threats.

'If lawyers become too concerned to take cases like this in future, there will be whole strings of inmates on death row undefended,' she added.