Tonga overturns 'cruel' whipping sentence on teens

14th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Tonga's Appeal Court on Wednesday overturned a flogging sentence imposed on two 17-year-olds by a British judge serving on the island, describing it as a "cruel and inhumane" punishment.

The teenagers, who pleaded guilty to multiple burglary and escaping from prison, were sentenced to six lashes and a total of 13 years in jail by a Commonwealth high court judge from Britain who was appointed to Tonga in 2008.

However, the appeal court found the prison terms "and the sentence of whipping were excessive" and instead sentenced the youths to a total of six years in jail.

"This is the first time in almost 30 years that a judge in Tonga has ordered prisoners to be whipped," the judgment said.

In light of international conventions "it might be argued that the whipping provision is now unconstitutional," it said.

"We note too that various human rights bodies... and the European Court of Human Rights have all described whipping or flogging as cruel inhumane and degrading."

Flogging was introduced in Tonga by the British and is still legal on the islands although it has not been used as a punishment since the 1980s.

© 2010 AFP

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