EVER SINCE the first British settlers colonised Barbados in 1625 the coral island's sweep of fine sandy beaches and warm blue waters has been known as one of the world's most desirable locations.
But what is now attracting a very different kind of international attention is the record on capital punishment of Barbados and neighbouring Caribbean states.
The last executions in Barbados took place in 1984 and the last hangings in Jamaica were carried out in 1988.
But Barbados has changed its constitution to allow hangings to take place as quickly as possible after the exhaustion of domestic appeals. That decision could have repercussions for the 17 convicts on death row in Barbados.
And other former British colonies in the region, confronted by a rising tide of violent crime, are taking steps to stop what they see as meddling by the UK's Privy Council in their right to put convicted criminals to death.
This week, Percival James Patterson, the Prime Minister of Jamaica (which had more than 1,000 murders last year and has 52 inmates on Death Row), pledged his commitment to amending the island's constitution to allow the resumption of hanging after a 1993 Privy Council decision had put a stop to executions.
Through hundreds of years of Commonwealth and judicial links the Privy Council, made up of members of the House of Lords, still performs the function of the final court of appeal for much of the English-speaking Caribbean.
In Jamaica's case the Privy Council's judicial committee had ruled it was inhumane to hang anyone who had been in prison for more than five years. The conditions on Death Row were also cited as a factor in the Privy Council decision.
Now the Caribbean Community (Caricom), a 15-nation grouping of Caribbean governments, is moving towards creating a Caribbean Court of Justice which would end the right of appeal of Death Row inmates in former British Caribbean territories to the judicial committee of the Privy Council.
Barbados and Jamaica are already working to introduce domestic legislation aimed at circumventing rulings by the Privy Council.
Human rights groups led by Amnesty International are appalled. Amnesty recently intervened in the case of four inmates whose planned executions had been fast-tracked through the Barbados courts.
The convicted murderers Michael McDonald Huggins, 27, Frederick Benjamin Atkins, 31, Lennox Ricardo Boyce, 25, and Jeffrey Joseph, 27, were all due to hang in July before they had exhausted their avenues of appeal.
Death warrants were read to the four men on 26 June, after the rejection of their petitions for clemency by the country's Mercy Committee.
Since then international pressure has been brought to bear and the Barbados government has withdrawn the death warrants, although the men remain on Death Row.
The Caricom initiative has raised fears that the new court will become "a hanging court". …