Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1997 - Trinidad and Tobago, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9f81c.html [accessed 5 March 2015]
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At least 36 people were sentenced to death and at least 116 prisoners remained under sentence of death. Five death warrants were signed, but no executions took place. At least nine people received sentences of flogging; these included the first woman sentenced to corporal punishment. On 8 March, death warrants were issued for the execution of five prisoners. All five had been under sentence of death for longer than five years and should therefore have benefited from a 1993 ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London, the final court of appeal for Trinidad and Tobago, which states that any prisoner who has been under sentence of death for longer than five years has suffered "inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment" and should have their death sentence commuted (see Amnesty International Report 1994). The executions were stayed by the Court of Appeals, and in June the death sentences of all five prisoners were commuted to 75 years' imprisonment with hard labour. In May, in an attempt to expedite executions, the Attorney General announced that the government intended to seek a constitutional amendment to nullify the JCPC's ruling. The draft Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 1996 stated that neither the length of time a prisoner waits before execution nor the manner in which the execution is carried out can constitute cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. The Bill had not been presented to parliament by the end of the year. At least nine people were sentenced to corporal punishment. Among them was Myra Bhagwansingh, a mother of four who was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and sentenced in February to 12 years' imprisonment and 10 strokes with the cat-o'-nine-tails (a device consisting of nine knotted cords or thongs of rawhide attached to a handle). She was the first woman to receive a sentence of corporal punishment in Trinidad and Tobago. At the end of the year the conviction was under appeal and the flogging had not been carried out. In March, Amnesty International appealed for clemency for the five prisoners facing execution. In June and October, the organization wrote to the government calling for the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 1996 to be withdrawn and for no further limitations to be placed on the rights of those under sentence of death. In March, Amnesty International appealed for the sentence of corporal punishment imposed on Myra Bhagwansingh not to be carried out.