Constitutional Provisions

The 1966 Constitution of Barbados (as amended) explicitly protects the right to life in its Section 12, employing language from the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights:

(1) No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law of Barbados of which he has been convicted.

(2) A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section if he dies as the result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably justifiable-

(a) for the defence of any person from violence or for the defence of property ;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny; or
(d) in order lawfully to prevent the commission by that person of a criminal offence,
or if he dies as the result of a lawful act of war.

The Constitution further guarantees that no one "shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment".S. 13(1), 1966 Constitution of Barbados (as amended).

Every person in Barbados is entitled to enjoy the right of freedom of assembly.

Treaty Adherence


Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) Not party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints N/A
CAT Optional Protocol 1 N/A
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party


Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1948 Charter of the Organization of American States State Party
1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights State Party
Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights Yes

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The Royal Barbados Police Force was established under the 1961 Police Act. It was renamed the Barbados Police Service in 2021 after Barbados became a parliamentary republic. Under Section 4 of the Act, the Force "shall be primarily employed for" the following objectives:

(a) the maintenance of law and order;
(b) the preservation of peace;
(c) the protection of life and property;
(d) the prevention and detection of crime; and
(e) the enforcement of all laws and regulations with which it is charged.

Contained within the 1961 Act is the Police Force Disciplinary Code, which makes it a disciplinary offence for a police officer to:

(i) treat any person with whom he may be brought into contact in the execution of his duty in an oppressive manner;
(ii) without good and sufficient cause conduct a search or require a person to submit to any test or procedure, or make any unlawful or unnecessary arrest;
(iii) use any unnecessary violence towards any prisoner or any other person with whom the officer may be brought into contact in the execution of his duty, or improperly threaten that person with violence.S. 32A(1)(h), 1961 Police Act. 

Police officers are not routinely armed but there is an armed "Anti-Gun Unit" within the Barbados Police Service.

Police Oversight

The Police Complaints Authority is the independent police oversight body for the Barbados Police Service. It was created by the 2004 Police Complaints Authority Act of Barbados. Its capacity and effectiveness have, though, been questioned.

The national ombudsman is also empowered to receive complaints about unlawful use of force by the police.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In the Universal Periodic Review, whose Working Group on Barbados reported in April 2018, Jamaica recommended that Barbados:

Continue to work towards reducing the reported incidences of abuse of force by the Police Force, through ongoing training and improved internal investigation techniques.


Boyce and others v. Barbados (2007)

This case concerned the imposition of the mandatory death penalty on Lennox Boyce and four other people in accordance with Section 2 of the 1994 Offences Against the Person Act. The Inter-American Court also find that the prison conditions of the applicants were inhumane, in violation of Article 5 of the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights: 

The Court considers that the combined conditions of detention, particularly the use of a slop-bucket, the lack of adequate lightning and ventilation, and the fact that the alleged victims had to stay in their jail cells for 23 hours of each day for more than four years, as well as the overcrowded conditions, together amount to treatment contrary to the dignity of every human being, and thus constitutes a violation of Articles 5(1) and 5(2) of the American Convention, in conjunction with Article 1 of the same instrument....Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Boyce and others v. Barbados, Judgment (Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations and Costs), 20 November 2007, §94.


In April 2015, Police Constable Everton Randolph Gittens was charged with the murder of Selwyn Knight during the course of an arrest and with recklessly engaging in conduct that put Mr Junior Knight in danger of death or serious bodily harm; and wounding Junior Knight with intent to maim, disfigure or disable. As of writing the case had not come to trial.


1966 Constitution of Barbados (as amended)

1961 Police Act

Universal Periodic Review Report of the Working Group on Barbados (2018)

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Boyce v. Barbados (2007)