3rd World Congress Report: a 400-page strategy

World Congress

on 22 April 2008

Abolitionists gathered at the Swiss Embassy in Paris on 15th April, on the invitation of Ambassador Ulrich Lehner (photo), to get the first copies of the Third World Congress Report.
The 400-page publication includes a summary of the Congress’ debates, round-table discussions and plenary sessions in French and English. The congress had attracted “hundreds of opponents to the death penalty: lawyers, legal practitioners, politicians, NGOs, campaigners and citizens”, recalled Shirley Pouget, the book’s editor.
Two chapters are dedicated to the Arab world and China, as these regions were greatly discussed during the debates. They are followed by three thematic parts on the relations between international law and national criminal law, strategies to be used to achieve abolition, and the formation of regional abolitionist coalitions.
Shirley Pouget describes this book as a “guide to abolitionist strategy, a sort of action plan for the next three years”.

Common strategy

The association Together Against the Death Penalty organised the Paris Congress and published the Report. Its general manager, Cécile Thimoreau, stressed the importance of the World Congress in establishing a common strategy against the death penalty in countries as diverse as China, Iran or the United States.
She underlined the impact of this strategy and its implementation by the World Coalition. Since the Third Congress, the UN General Assembly has adopted a historic resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Switzerland and France
against the death penalty
Referring to the protest movement launched by 58 member nations against this resolution, Rudolf Knoblauch, Swiss Ambassador for Human Rights policy, stated: “My county and I personally find it shameful that there are countries who lobby in this direction.” He announced that, on the invitation of the Swiss government, the next World Coalition Against the Death Penalty will take place in Geneva in 2010.
International Human Rights Federation Deputy Secretary General Florence Bellivier represented the World Coalition at the launch of the report. She said that the Coalition’s role was to establish “networking” between abolitionists worldwide in between World Congresses. “It is meant to be a platform for exchanging arguments”, she added. “The Coalition strives to support, strengthen and relay the work of local players and regional coalitions. It is more thant the sum of its members? The death penalty is an issue that ought to be discussed at the international level, but it can only be dealt with by local and regional players.”

Raising awareness about China

Cécile ThimoreauAccording to Cécile Thimoreau, “the exchanges and the debates during the Congress have led to greater awareness of the reality of the death penalty in China, some months before the Olympic Games”. She also mentioned the insertion of abolition in the French constitution and the establishment of 10th October as European Day against the Death Penalty.
Pascal Clément, former French Minister for Justice, who instigated the inserting of abolition into the constitution, described his personal evolution; previously an advocate of capital punishment, he is now convinced of its barbarism and ineffectiveness.
“Human life is inviolable and sacred”, he declared. “This is not negotiable. No woman or man can be reduced to the atrocities that they may have committed. They all have something of humanity that we must protect, support, and sometimes save. Life imprisonment, even if it is reduced to a mandatory minimum sentence, is a terrible hardship for sentenced prisoners and it is enough to instil fear of justice in criminals.”
Those present during the publication of the Report were able to witness at close hand the hell suffered by those sentenced to death by listening to Ashraf El-Hajouj, the Bulgarian doctor of Palestinian origin, who spent eight years on Libya’s death row. Watch his story below.

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