Posts Tagged ‘World Day Against the Death Penalty’


Report on Amnesty Death penalty discussion

On 10 October 2020, the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty hosted a discussion with three people who are closely connected with the campaign to end the practice.  They were Kim Manning Cooper; Dr Bharat Malkani and Chiara Sangiorgio.  It was chaired by Paul Bridges.  It was a fascinating talk in which they discussed different aspects of how the death penalty works in the USA.  Amnesty has maintained a consistent policy of condemning the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.  It is fundamentally about human dignity.

Amnesty is also opposed to life sentences without the chance of parole.

USA

Much of the discussion focused on the miscarriages of justice in the USA.  The death penalty does not do what its proponents claim it does.  It does not deter violent crime.  States who do not use the penalty have some of the lowest murder rates in the Union.  It is expensive, with 724 people on death row in California alone, which has cost the state $4bn since 1978.  Mistakes are common and of course cannot be put right.  Since 1973, 170 prisoners on death row have been exonerated, a quite staggering level of error.  The One for Ten movement was referred to, which notes that for every ten people executed in the US, one has been exonerated and released, having spent, on average, ten years on death row.

Dr Malkani’s talk explored the effects on innocent people.  Following arrest for a crime they did not commit, there is a feeling of a sheer sense of disbelief.  Their first concern is for their loved ones.  How would they cope without them and if they have children, how will they handle school when everyone will know that their parent has been arrested for murder?  He mentioned the ‘ripple effect’ which results in trauma being felt among a wide community of individuals, not just the immediate family.

There follows a sense of hopelessness, realising that the might of the State is trying to kill you.  Next comes anger when you know you are innocent.  (No reference was made to the fact that that the US does not have the equivalent of PACE,  which requires evidence indicating innocence to be disclosed to the defence.  This evidence is often not disclosed with the aim of  a securing a conviction.)

Release

Dr Malkani went on to discuss the effects on people released after a long period of captivity.  Understandably, they want to return to their previous life, but they find this impossible as so much has changed both in society and in their families.  Their children have grown up without knowing them. It is also difficult to achieve a personal identity having spent the many years in captivity as just a number.  Now free, they are always described as someone who was on death row.

Because they were on death row, they received no training or attempts at rehabilitation since they were destined for execution.  The pace of modern technology meant the world was a completely different place.  There were no support systems in place.  There was also relationship breakdown after such long periods of separation.  Sadly, many die quite soon after their release.

Troy Davis

Kim Manning-Cooper spoke of the infamous Troy Davis case.  An off-duty policeman was murdered and a witness came forward claiming that Troy was the killer.  It now appears possible that the witness himself may have been the culprit.  There are too many irregularities to list but include witnesses who were threatened with being charged themselves, police statements signed by people who could not read or write, some witnesses were threatened by the police, no forensic or DNA evidence was submitted, and no gun was ever found.  An evidentiary hearing was held by the Supreme Court but ,despite the multiple failings in the prosecution case and some misgivings, the appeal failed and Davis was executed in September 2011.  His sister had campaigned tirelessly in his support.  Amnesty International campaigned for justice in the Davis case, a cause the Salisbury group took part in.

Kim said people often say ‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’.

‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’

This theme was developed by Dr Malkani.  The issue of race was built into the legal system in the USA he said.  It

Screenshot: Dr Bharat Malkani

dates back to the 13th amendment of the US Constitution which abolished slavery ‘except as a punishment for a crime’.  When lynchings ended in the 1920’s, executions skyrocketed, as evidenced by the  Death Penalty Information Center.  The bias extended to the prosecution process, with district attorneys unwilling to prosecute a black person murdered by a white but all too willing to prosecute the other way around.   Some members of juries in the state of Georgia are quoted as saying ‘black people have no souls’.  Many murders of black people remain unsolved.  Only 21 white people have been executed for killing a black person but 296 black people for killing a white person.

Finally, he said the effects on wardens and prison guards can also be profound as was shown in the award winning film Clemency.

Forensic evidence

The question was posed ‘could the justice system ever be error proof?’  This was related to things like the use of DNA.  The answer was that no system could be error proof, DNA was not infallible and was not a silver bullet, although sometimes evidence is found years later.  The justice system could not be used to solve issues of bad housing, drug addiction and social problems generally.  We needed to advocate for prison reform as well as ending the death penalty and life sentences without the prospect of parole.

Campaigning

In addition to Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Urgent Actions, the work of Reprieve was highlighted, and writing to people on death row organised by Lifelines.

Comment

This was a most interesting discussion.  There is a slow decline in the number of executions and Americans themselves are increasingly wanting the practice ended.  The role of Black Lives Matter is likely to have an effect.  There are other countries in the world with far worse records –  Saudi Arabia, and Iran – but especially China.  The numbers executed in China run into thousands but details are a state secret.

For American readers: PACE – the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides a range of protections to people arrested in the UK one of which is the defense must see all the evidence collected by the police, not just that which indicates possible guilt. 


Today (10 October 2020) is the 18th World and European Day Against the Death Penalty

Amnesty is opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and we have campaigned for many years against the practice.  There has been a gradual decline but still there are too many countries which continue the barbaric practice.  It is neither humane nor effective.  It does not deter violent crime or murder and studies in America have shown that there is no difference in murder rates between those states which retain the penalty and those that don’t.

While working towards the total and complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes, it is crucial to alert civil society and the international community to the necessity that, at all stages of the legal proceedings, those facing the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment of execution should at least have access to effective legal representation.  Such legal aid can provide the basic protection of either avoiding the sentence or appealing the verdict.

Statement by the Secretary General of the EU.

 


The death penalty in Saudi Arabia: Salisbury group action
Thursday 10th October 2019 will be the 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty so we are writing to invite you to take part in our Group Action.
This year we are focusing on the practice of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.  A report by Baroness Kennedy, presented to the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, has highlighted the ‘alarming’ rise in state executions, including crucifixions.  It states that more than 134 people have been executed this year, with at least 24 more prisoners at imminent risk, including three children.
We are asking supporters to write to John Glen MP on 10th October, drawing his attention to the report, and calling on him to make representations to the Government to support its recommendations and to condemn Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty.
I have attached a copy of a suggested letter to Mr Glen (the member of parliament for Salisbury), which you are welcome to use, or to adapt into your own words.  The letter contains a link to Baroness Kennedy’s report.
If you are able to help, many thanks.

 


Programme of forthcoming group events

We have a number of events planned in the period between now and Christmas so these are listed below.  Please note that some are yet to be fully confirmed and dates may change for one or two so please check here or on our Facebook or Twitter pages for updates.

7 September   Coffee morning at St Thomas’s church in Salisbury.  After an absence of several years we are pleased to be able to host this event again in this church.  It would be a good time to make yourself known if wish to join us.  We hope to show a looped film.

8 October   THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED   Author and journalist Paul Mason is coming to speak at the Salisbury Methodist church starting at 7:30.  Paul has written a book Clear Bright Future and the issue of human rights in the modern age is discussed.   We are awaiting confirmation from his agent over the date.  Note this event is postponed from June hence the link text saying it was ‘cancelled’.

10 October  World Day Against the Death Penalty.  Details of any event nearer the time.  See our latest DP report.

24 October   As part of schools Citizenship programme, we shall be giving a presentation at Bishops Wordsworth.  We rather regret few schools take part in this so if any teacher in the Salisbury area is reading this and would like a presentation in their school, please get in touch.

December   Evensong at the Cathedral.  Date to be agreed.  All welcome.  Photo shows the Amnesty candle in the Cathedral.

13 November   Film at the Arts Centre.  The film is Nae Pasaran about a group of Scottish workers refusing to repair aircraft engines destined for the Chilean government after the coup which took place there.

17 December   Our annual carol singing event in the Victoria Road, College Street, Marlborough Road area with members of the Farrant Singers.  This is a popular event and several families come into the street to listen to a selection of carols properly sung by this choir.

We look forward to seeing you at one or more of these events.

 

Carol singing in 2018


The death penalty report for September/October 2017 is attached thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.

China remains the world’s largest executioner of its citizens but the statistics are a state secret.

Report (Word)


World Day Against the Death Penalty

The World Day Against the Death Penalty was created in Rome on 13th May 2002, with 10th October No to the death penaltyestablished as the date for its annual commemoration in 2003.  The World Coalition against the Death Penalty has 158 member organisations, made up of NGO’s, Bar Associations, local bodies and Unions.

Amnesty International is a member of the Coalition.  It has been working to end executions since 1977, when only 15 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.  That number has now risen to 140.

Since that date –

  • By the end of 2015, 102 Countries had completely abolished the death penalty.
  • 1,634 executions were carried out in 2015 (excluding China – figures unknown) – an increase of 54% over 2014
  • 89% of executions in the course of the year took place in three countries – China, Iran and Iraq – often after unfair trial

The United Nations Moratorium on the Death Penalty calls for States maintaining the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use, with a view to abolition, and in the meantime to restrict the number of offences punishable by execution, and to respects the rights of those on death row.  It also calls on States that have abolished the death penalty not to reinstate it.  (Note: UN resolutions are not binding).

Amnesty International is calling for:

  • Countries that still use the death penalty to halt all executions immediately
  • Countries that have stopped executing prisoners to remove the death penalty from their legal books, for all crimes, permanently
  • All death sentences to be commuted to terms of imprisonment

The Salisbury Group have included the abolition of the death penalty in its campaigns from the

Members of the group at the NWR conference

Members of the group at the NWR conference

beginning.  It is currently focusing on the sentencing to death and execution of juveniles, in particular in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

For this year’s World Day, Amnesty are highlighting the case of the Japanese prisoner, Matsumoto Kenji.  The Salisbury Group manned a stall at the NWR Conference on Saturday, (see photo) in the course of which they collected 50 signatures on cards calling on the Minister of Justice to halt the execution, to end the use of solitary confinement for death row prisoners and to end the use of the death penalty in Japan.

Matsumoto Kenji factsheet (pdf)

 

 

 


 

Sources:        World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Wikipedia,  Amnesty International