Caribbean executions put on hold

English lawyers working for free have helped win a stay of execution for condemned prisoners in Jamaica and Trinidad.

Three prisoners – represented by Allen & Overy, among others – were last week due to hang in Jamaica, despite contrary recommendations by the Human Rights Committee.

They won a reprieve, however, after Law Society president Michael Mathews faxed an eleventh-hour plea for mercy, claiming their cases violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which Jamaica is a signatory.

Patrick Taylor and Anthony McLeod cannot be hanged until the Jamaican appeal court has heard their case. Christopher Brown won a stay of execution until Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a landmark judgment by the Privy Council – the final court of appeal in Trinidad – stated Darrin Thomas and Haniff Hilaire, both represented by Lovell White Durrant and Simmons & Simmons, should not be executed while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was considering the case.

The secretary of Law Society's International Human Rights Working Party, Mel James, says she is “delighted” with both sets of decisions, describing the Privy Council judgment as “the best bit of news for international human rights for a long time”.

Lovell White Durrant's Yasmin Waljee, who has spent weeks working on the Trinidad case, says: “The Privy Council decision means that none of the Caribbean countries which have ratified the covenant on human rights can now proceed to execution without waiting for the decisions of human rights bodies.”

She warns, however, there is still much work to be done.