Human rights in the Commonwealth

Click to follow
The Independent Online
From Professor James S. Read

Sir: In protecting human rights in the Commonwealth, the Privy Council in London plays a vital role but, in her review of the Caribbean "death row" cases ("Life or death, long distance", 25 May), Heather Mills suggests that courts of India and Zimbabwe have followed the Privy Council lead; the reverse is the case. In its celebrated landmark decision of November 1993 - that delay of five years or more before execution made the death penalty inhuman and degrading - the Privy Council invoked a comparable decision in Zimbabwe in June 1993 and Indian judgments more than 10 years earlier.

Another landmark judgment is awaited from the new Constitutional Court of South Africa, currently considering whether the death penalty in itself is a denial of human rights; it has before it judgments from Tanzania, where last year a bold High Court judge refused to impose death sentences as invasions of human rights (although the appeal judges disagreed).

Yours faithfully,


School of Oriental and

African Studies

University of London

London, WC1

25 May

The writer is Joint General Editor of 'Law Reports of the Commonwealth'.