Capital punishment in the British Commonwealth.

 

The British Commonwealth comprises of 54 member countries (Zimbabwe withdrew in 2003 having been previously suspended), with a combined population of nearly 1.8 billion people, representing some 30% of the world’s population. It contains countries with huge populations as well as those with very tiny ones (see below for 2000 population statistics).
Capital punishment is still on the statute book or used by 28 of these countries and has been abolished by 16. A further 9 countries are abolitionist in practice, although they still retain the death penalty in their penal code.
The death penalty is still a fiercely debated subject in the Caribbean, where only Bermuda has abolished it and Grenada is abolitionist in practice. There is considerable international pressure on the Caribbean countries to abolish capital punishment, however.
Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore and Zimbabwe are the only member countries to have had executions in the period 2003 - 2013. India had its first hanging for several years in 2012. Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore used to have frequent executions. 358 people have been hanged in Malaysia in the last 24 years and over 400 in Singapore in the same period, although there has been an unofficial moratorium in both countries in the years 2011 through to mid 2013, while they examine mandatory sentencing provisions for murder and drug offences.

 

Antigua and Barbuda - retentionist.

The last execution was on the 21st of February 1991, when Tyrone Nicholas was hanged for murder.

 

Australia - abolitionist.
128 people were hanged in Australia during the 20th century, the last executions by state were :
New South Wales - John Kelly on August 24th, 1939 in Long Bay Gaol. Several sources claim the last execution here was in 1940.
Northern Territory - Jaroslav Koci and Jan Novotnywere hanged at Darwin on the 7th of August 1952, for the murder of a taxi driver.
Queensland - Ernest Austin was hanged at Brisbane Gaol on September the 22nd, 1913 for the rape and murder of a little girl.
South Australia - Glen Sabre Valance was hanged at Adelaide Gaol on the 24th of November 1964 for the murder of his employer and the rape of his employer’s wife.
Tasmania - Frederick Thompson hanged on February the 14th, 1946 for the rape murder of Evelyn Maugham, aged 8.
Victoria - Ronald Ryan hanged at Pentridge prison on February the 3rd, 1967. Ryan was the last man put to death in Australia and was executed for the murder of George Hodson, a prison warder.
Western Australia - serial killer Eric Cooke was hanged at Fremantle Gaol on October the 26th, 1964.

Federal - No executions were carried out under Federal jurisdiction.

The dates of abolition in Australia are:
Federal: All offences - 1973
New South Wales - Murder - 1955. Treason and military crimes - 1985.
Northern Territory: All offences - 1973.
Queensland - All offences - 1922.
South Australia - All offences - 1976.
Tasmania - All offences - 1968
Victoria - All offences - 1975.

Western Australia - All offences - 1984.

Bahamas - retentionist.

David Mitchell was hanged at 6.30 a.m. on Friday, the 6th of January 2000 for the murders of two German tourists.

 

Bangladesh - retentionist.

The latest execution took place on the 5th of September 2011 when Nistar Ali was hanged for murder. Capital punishment is ongoing here.

 

Barbados - retentionist.

The last executions here were carried out on the 10th of October 1984, when Noel Jordan, Melvin Inniss and Errol Farrell were hanged.

 

Belize - retentionist.

The last execution in Belize was carried out in June 1985, when Kent Bowers was hanged at Hattieville prison for the murder of Robert Codd.

 

Bermuda - abolitionist.
The last executions on Bermuda took place on the 3rd of December 1977 when Erskine Burrows, 33, & Larry Tacklyn, 26, were hanged just before dawn at Casemates Prison for the murders of 5 people. They were
police commissioner, George Duckett, the territorial governor, Sir Richard Sharples and his captain, Hugh Sayers, plus Mark Doe and Victor Rego. Capital punishment was abolished for murder in January 2000.

 

Botswana - retentionist.

The last hanging here took place on the 27th of May 2013 when Orelesitse Modise Thokamolemo was executed in Gaborone Central Prison for murder.


Brunei - retentionist, but not practising.

The last execution was carried out in 1957.

 

Canada - abolitionist.

Shortly after midnight on December the 11th, 1962, Ronald Turpin, 29, and Arthur Lucas, 54, were hanged together in Toronto's Don Jail. They were executed for separate murders of policemen. Canada totally abolished capital punishment in 1998.

 

Cameroon - retentionist.

The last execution was carried out in January 1997 when one unnamed man was hanged in Maroua Central Prison.

 

Cyprus - abolitionist.

The last executions for murder were of Hambis Zacharia, Michael Hiletikos and Lazaris Demetriou who were hanged on the 13th of June 1962 in Nicosia Central Prison.  NIne men were hanged by the British as EOKA terrorists in 1956 and 1957.
The death penalty was abolished for murder on the 15th of December 1983 and totally on the 19th of April 2002.
Protocol No. 6 came into force on the lst of  February 2000. Cyprus is a party to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. 

 

Dominica - retentionist.

On the 8th of August 1986, Frederick Newton became the last man to be hanged for the murder of a police constable during an attack on police headquarters in November 1981, aimed at releasing a number of prisoners.

 

Fiji - abolitionist.

Capital punishment was abolished in 1964. The last execution is thought to have taken place in that year.

 

Gambia - retentionist.

The last executions here was carried out on the 23rd and 24th of August 2012 when 8 men and 1 woman were executed by firing squad for treason and murder.  After an international outcry over these executions, the president of Gambia announced a temporary moratorium on further executions.

 

Ghana - retentionist.

On the 25th of July 1993, 12 men were shot for murder and/or robbery.

 

Grenada - retentionist.

The last execution took place on the 17th of October 1978 when Charles Ferguson was hanged for murder.

 

Guyana - abolitionist.

The last execution here took place in August 1997 when Michael Archer & Peter Adams were hanged for murder.

 

India - retentionist.

Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 42, who had been convicted of raping and killing a schoolgirl, was hanged at 4.30 a.m. on Saturday, the 14th of August 2004, becoming the first person hanged in India in nearly a decade.  It has recently been reported that 14,012 people were hanged in India in the decade 1954– 1963, according to government figures. There have been two executions in 2012 and 2013 (as of end of June 2013) Pakistani terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab was hanged in Pune on the 21st of November 2012 for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and Afzal Guru on the 9th of February 2013 for the December 13th 2001 attack on Parliament. It seems that more executions are imminent.

Jamaica - retentionist.

The last execution in Jamaica was on the 18th of February 1988, when Nathan Foster and Stanford Dinnal were hanged for murder.

 

Kenya - retentionist.

The last executions took place on the 9th of July 1985, when Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu, were hanged at Kamiti Prison for their parts in a plot against the president.  According to a recent book, the British hanged 1,090 Mau Mau terrorists between 1952 and 1958.

 

Kiribati - abolishionist.

The first criminal code of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1965 did not include capital punishment.

 

Lesotho - retentionist.

The last execution took place in 1984.

 

Malawi - retentionist.

The last execution took place on the 26th of September 1992.

 

Malaysia - retentionist.

In February 2005, Malaysia revealed that it executed 358 people in the past 24 years.

 

Maldives - retentionist, but not practising.

The last execution took place in 1952.

 

Malta - abolishionist.

Capital punishment was abolished for murder in 1971. The military criminal code abolished capital punishment on the 21st of March 2000. The last executions took place on the 5th of July 1943, when Karmnu and Guzeppi Zammit were hanged.

 

Mauritius - abolishionist.

Capital punishment was abolished in 1995.

On the 10th of October 1987, Eshan Nayeck, became the last person to be hanged in Beau Bassin prison.

 

Mozambique - abolishionist.

Capital punishment was abolished in 1990, the last executions taking place in May 1986.

 

Namibia - abolishionist.

Capital punishment was abolished in 1990, the last execution took place in May 1988, when Sagarias Ariseb was hanged for the murder of the manager of the estate where he was working.

 

Nauru - retentionist, but not practising.

Since independence in 1968, no executions have taken place.

 

New Zealand - abolitionist.
On the 18th of February 1957, Walter James Bolton (aged 68), became the last person to be hanged at Mount Eden Prison.
84 men and one woman were hanged in New Zealand between 1842 and 1957. The death penalty was abolished in 1961.

 

Nigeria - retentionist.

There had been no executions in Nigeria since 2006, but on the 24th of June 2013, Chima Ejiofor, Daniel Nsofor, Osarenmwinda Aiguokhan and Richard Igagu were hanged in Benin City for murder and armed robbery.

 

Papua-New Guinea - abolishionist.

Capital punishment was abolished for ordinary crimes in 1975 but was retained for crimes of treason and piracy. It was re-introduced in 1991 for the crime of wilful murder, although no executions have been carried out as a result.
The last
execution took place on the 14 of November 1957, when a man named Aro was hanged for the murder of his two wives.  There is considerable pressure on the government in 2013 to restart executions in the wake of some very serious rape and murder cases.

 

Pakistan - retentionist. (Pakistan is currently suspended from membership of the Commonwealth)

The death penalty was to be abolished as all 7600 on death rows in the country were to have their sentences commuted to life in prison in July 2008 by the new government of the Pakistan People’s Party, however this did not happen and instead there was a moratorium placed on executions.  Executions by hanging have continued into mid 2008 and one man, Muhammed Hussain, convicted of murder by a military court was hanged on November the 14th, 2012.  The current situation is unclear as at July 2013. A moratorium on executions has been allowed to expire by the new Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and all prisoners on death row will have their cases examined to see if they should be executed.

 

Samoa - retentionist, but not practising.

The last execution took place on the 1st of April 1952, when a man was hanged for the murder of his wife with an axe.

 

Seychelles - abolitionist.

Capital punishment for treason was abolished in 1993 and for all other crimes before 1980, no execution having taken place in the preceding 50 years.

 

Sierra Leone - retentionist.

On the 19th of October 1998, 24 soldiers, including one woman, were executed by firing squad in public for high treason at the Juba 7th Battalion military barracks a few miles west of Freetown.  They had all been convicted of taking part in a failed coup in 1997.

 

Singapore - retentionist.
It is thought that between 1991 and 2000, some 340 people have been hanged here, the last reported being
Tan Chor Jin who was hanged at Changi prison on the 9th of January 2009 for murder.  Capital punishment is ongoing here, however, executions are seldom reported now.

 

Solomon Islands - abolitionist.

The death penalty was not included in the penal code after independence in 1978.

It is thought that capital punishment was probably abolished in 1966.

 

South Africa - abolitionist.
Solomon Ngobeni was the last person hanged by the state government on November the 14th, 1989, at Pretoria Central Prison where all modern executions were carried out.  A moratorium on executions came into force until the death penalty was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June 1995.

However, there was one further hanging in the Homelands – that of Alpheus Sekoboane in Bophutatswana on the 12th of November 1990. The "homelands" were not recognised in International Law.  It is thought that 1,123 people were hanged in the decade from 1980-1989.
More than 4,200 people were executed in South Africa since 1910 and more than half of this number were hanged between 1967 and 1989, the period of intense resistance to white rule and apartheid although it is thought that only 152 of these were for “political” crimes.

 

Sri Lanka - retentionist, but not practising.

On the 23rd of June 1976, Chardradasa Jayasinghe became the last man to be hanged. Between 1977 and 1987, at least 533 persons were sentenced to death and there are moves afoot to re-start executions. Executions would be carried out at Bogambara and Welikade prisons. The last person to hang in Welikada was Chardradasa Jayasinghe. T. M. Jayawardane was the last person to hang in Bogambara, also in 1976.

 

St. Kitts - retentionist.

The last execution here was on Friday the 19th of December 2008 and was the first in over 10 years.  Charles Elroy Laplace, age about 40, was sentenced to death in February 2006 for killing his wife, and was hanged inside Her Majesty's Prison in Basseterre at around 8 am.  The previous execution took place on the 20th of July 1998, when David Wilson was hanged at Her Majesty's Prison shortly after dawn, for the murder of a security guard at Ottley's Plantation Inn in September 1994. This was the first hanging in St. Kitts since 1981, when Simeon Ible went to the gallows for the murder of a pregnant woman.

 

St. Lucia - retentionist.

The last execution in St. Lucia was on the 17th of October 1995, when Joseph Solomon Vitalis was hanged for murder.

 

St. Vincent and the Grenadines - retentionist.

The last executions here took place on the 13th of February 1995 when Douglas Hamlet, Franklin Thomas, and David Collins were hanged for murder.

 

Swaziland - retentionist, but not practising.

On the 2nd of July 1983, 8 people were hanged for murder, the last being 48 year old Philippa Mdluli, who was executed for the ritual killing of her servant’s 5 year old daughter. They were hanged at Sidwashini Prison in Mbabane, the capital of the country.  The others were Thomas Mahlangu, Piet Mduli, Ncabeni Dlamini, Mvundeni Dube, Timothy Mabuza, Mcoshwa Masilela and Phineas Simelane.

 

Tanzania - retentionist.

In October 1994, 7 men and one woman were secretly executed in Dodoma.

 

Tonga - retentionist, but not practising.

The last execution took place on September the 7th, 1982, when 3 men, Flatoti Sole, Livingi Sole and Fili Esau, were hanged for murder

 

Trinidad & Tobago - retentionist.

Nine men were hanged at the Royal Jail in Port of Spain over 4 days from the 4th to the 7th of June 1999.  They were Dole Chadee, Joey Ramiah and Ramkalawan Singh on the 4th, Singh Ramsingh, Russell Sankeralli and Bhagwandeen Singh on the 5th and Clive Thomas, Robin Gopaul and Stephen Eversley on the 7th.  They were all executed for their roles in the 1994 murder of a couple and their two children.  As at March 2005, the last person hanged here was Anthony Briggs, 31, who was put to death at the Royal Jail in Port of Spain on Wednesday, the 28th of July 1999 for killing a taxi driver.

 

Tuvalu - abolitionist.

The first criminal code of 1965 for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands did not include the death penalty.

 

Uganda - retentionist.

Corporal James Omedio and Private Abdallah Muhammad were executed by firing squad on the 25th of March 2002, for the murders of Fr. Michael O'Toole Declan, his driver Patrick Longoli, and cook, Fidel Longole, during a robbery. The last executions in Uganda took place on the 3rd of March 2003 when Pte. Richard Wigiri was shot for murder and Ptes. Kambacho Ssenyonji and Alfred Okech were shot for triple murder.
28 men were hanged at Luzira, the main prison on the 28th of April 1999.

 

United Kingdom - abolitionist.

The last hangings took place on August the 13th, 1964 when Peter Anthony Allen was executed at Walton Prison Liverpool and Gwynne Owen Evans - real name John Robson Walby, was hanged at Strangeways Prison Manchester for a jointly committed murder.  
On the 8th of November 1965, the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act was passed which effectively abolished capital punishment but provided for another vote on it "within 5 years". Arson in a Royal Dockyard ceased to be a capital crime in 1971. Treason and piracy with violence remained capital crimes up to 1998 when the Criminal Justice Bill abolished the 1795 Treason Act (and previous treason acts dating back to 1351) and thus removed the death penalty completely.  Northern Ireland abolished capital punishment on the 25th of July 1973.

 

Vanuatu - abolitionist.

The first criminal code of the New Hebrides of 1973 did not include the death penalty.

 

Zambia - retentionist.

The last executions in Zambia took place in January 1997, when 8 people were hanged.

They were Abraham Kasongo, Nelson Ngindano, Dennis Chembe, Robert Mulumbi, David Kapunga, John Gombo, Joe Chilada & Christopher Oldfield.

 

Zimbabwe - retentionist.

Mandlekosi aka Never Masina Mandla who was hanged on July 22nd, 2005 was the last murderer to be executed in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has now left the Commonwealth.

 

At a glance :

Country

Population

Retentionist

Abolitionist - year of abolition

Last execution

Method

Antigua & Barbuda

66,000

Y

 

21/02/1991

Hanging

Australia

18,324,000

 

Y - see above

03/02/1967

Hanging

Bahamas

284,000

Y

 

06/01/2000

Hanging

Bangladesh

121,671,000

Y

 

2011 - ongoing

Hanging

Barbados

264,000

Y

 

10/10/1984

Hanging

Belize

222,000

Y

 

??/06/1985

Hanging

Botswana

1,480,000

Y

 

27/05/2013

Hanging

Brunei Darussalam

290,000

Y

P

10/08/1995

Hanging

Cameroon

13,676,000

Y

 

??/01/1997

 

Canada

29,964,000

 

Y - 1998

11/12/1962

Hanging

Cyprus

740,000

 

Y - 2002

13/06/1962

Hanging

Dominica

74,000

Y

 

08/08/1986

Hanging

Fiji

803,000

 

Y - 1979

1964

Hanging

Gambia

1,147,000

Y

P

24/08/2012

Shooting

Ghana

17,522,000

Y

 

25/07/1993

Shooting

Grenada

99,000

 

P

17/10/1978

Hanging

Guyana

839,000

 

2010

??/06/1996

Hanging

India

945,121,000

Y

 

09/02/2013

Hanging

Jamaica

2,547,000

Y

 

18/02/1988

Hanging

Kenya

27,364,000

Y

P

09/07/1985

Hanging

Kiribati

82,000

 

Y

None since independence

 

Lesotho

2,023,000

Y

 

Not known

 

Malawi

10,016,000

Y

 

26/09/1992

Hanging

Malaysia

20,565,000

Y

 

04/08/2006

Hanging

Maldives

256,000

 

P

1952

 

Malta

373,000

 

Y - 2000

1943

 

Mauritius

1,134,000

 

Y - 1995

10/10/1987

 

Mozambique

18,026,000

 

Y - 1990

??/05/1986

 

Namibia

1,584,000

 

Y - 1990

1990

 

Nauru

11,000

 

P

None since independence in 1968

 

New Zealand

3,635,000

 

Y - 1989

18/02/1957

Hanging

Nigeria

114,568,000

Y

 

24/06/2013

Hanging

Pakistan

133,510,000

Y

 

14/11/2012

Hanging

Papua New Guinea

4,401,000

 

P

1957

Hanging

Samoa

172,000

Y

P

1951

Hanging

Seychelles

77,000

 

Y

None since independence

 

Sierra Leone

4,630,000

Y

 

19/10/1998

Shooting

Singapore

3,044,000

Y

 

2009 - ongoing

Hanging

Solomon Islands

389,000

 

Y

None since independence

 

South Africa

37,643,000

 

Y - 1997

See above

Hanging

Sri Lanka

18,300,000

Y

P

23/06/1976

Hanging

St Kitts & Nevis

41,000

Y

 

19/12/2008

Hanging

St Lucia

158,000

Y

 

17/10/1995

Hanging

St Vincent & the Grenadines

112,000

Y

 

13/02/1995

Hanging

Swaziland

926,000

Y

 

02/071983

Hanging

Tanzania

30,494,000

Y

 

??/10/1994

Hanging

Tonga

97,000

Y

P

07/09/1982

Hanging

Trinidad & Tobago

1,297,000

Y

 

28/07/1999

Hanging

Tuvalu

10,000

 

Y

Never

 

Uganda

19,741,000

Y

 

03/03/2003

Shooting or Hanging

United Kingdom

58,782,000

 

Y - 1998

13/08/1964

Hanging

Vanuatu

173,000

 

Y

None since independence

 

Zambia

9,215,000

Y

 

??/01/1997

Hanging

 

P indicates that while the death penalty remains available in theory the country is abolitionist in practice.

 

With special thanks to Christian Schrepper and Matthew Spicer for their help with this article.

 

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