Universal abolition will happen when four key countries change sides
The second plenary session of the World Congress offered a platform to renowned activists who painted a grim picture of the evolution towards abolition in their home country.
Juveniles put to death in Iran
Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said: “Iran sentences children to death. In my country, the law establishes penal responsibility as early as 9 years of age for girls and 15 for boys.”
She described the methods of execution in use in Iran – hanging, shooting and stoning, insisting that the stones were cut in a way that provoked the longest possible suffering for the person stoned to death.
China holds world execution record
China holds the world record for the number of executions. Although a review of all death sentences by the Supreme Court became compulsory in 2007, it is not fully enforced by a corrupt justice system that organizes organ the trafficking of organs from executed prisoners.
“Half of capital crimes are counter-revolutionary activities opposing the regime, which proves that the government uses the death penalty to stay in power,” said Chinese lawyer Tianyong Jiang.
Joey Lee, a Chinese lawyer with Human Rights in China, denounced the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in his country. “We know that China executes thousands of people, but the government withholds information, which is a major obstacle to the sensitization of public opinion.”
Cost of death penalty debated in the US
Former California State Attorney John Van de Kamp said the cost of the death penalty was six times higher than that of life sentences because of lengthy appeals, jury expenses and expert fees. The cost of keeping 3,300 people on death row in the US is astronomical. “Let’s use this money to prevent new crimes, indemnify victims and solve cold cases,” he said.
Gail Chasey, a New Mexico lawmaker who pushed for the successful abolition of the death penalty, added that it was never a deterrent. “There was one execution in 40 years in New Mexico. One year before that execution, there were 99 crimes. One year later, there were 152,” she said.
Death row inmates driven to insanity in Japan
Japanese death row inmates wait for years in solitary confinement without knowing the date of their execution. Their lawyers say many of them become insane. And, unlike in the US, they cannot make their voice heard outside prison.
Maiko Tagusari, a lawyer and activist with the Center for Prisoners’ Rights, added: “The method of execution by hanging has not changed in 140 years in Japan. That would not happen in a democratic state where public opinion is informed.”