Puerto Rico hosts a week of World Coalition events


on 16 February 2011

The World Coalition’s quarterly Steering Committee meeting took place the 4th and 5th of February in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was arranged in cooperation with both the Puerto Rican Bar Association and the Puerto Rican Coalition Against the Death Penalty (PRCADP).
It served as the focus for a week of events in Puerto Rico, all designed to raise awareness about the death penalty and to highlight what the three organizations are doing in Puerto Rico and elsewhere to further the cause of abolition.
Alongside the meeting itself, which saw two full days of discussion about the WCADP and its plans for the future, a series of local media interviews with Coalition Coordinator Maria Donatelli and ECPM Director Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan sought to raise public awareness. A presentation at Academia Maria Reina School focused on informing students about the death penalty and the World Coalition’s work around the globe.
World Coalition representatives also held meetings with the local authorities, in order to show their support for Puerto Rico’s work towards abolition.
They also held talks with the Consul of the Dominican Republic regarding the UN Protocol to abolish the death penalty. The Dominican Republic is one of the World Coalition’s targets in its campaign to promote ratification of the protocol.

Calls to reinstate the death penalty

Due to recent increases in drug- and gang-related violence in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Bar and PRCAD groups have been faced with calls from the public to reinstate the death penalty. The meeting gave the groups a chance to stand together in responding to these calls.
In particular, an event addressing the rights of families of murder victims was organised, with a message of sympathy and solidarity. Kevin Rivera Medina from the Puerto Rican Bar clarified to all present that “as a movement, the World Coalition must recognize the importance of victims’ rights. We are against the death penalty, but we also are against impunity.”

US federal executions

Although it has been abolished locally, Puerto Ricans are still subject to American federal law which permits the death penalty. There are federal executions at times. The work of local groups has been key in educating the community about the death penalty and in providing legal representation to condemned prisoners.
The chairman of the Puerto Rico Bar Association’s Commission on the Death Penalty, Juan Matos, said his organisation was proud to host the February World Coalition event, and saw it as an opportunity to “show our continued concern for the project, to show the world that Puerto Rico is very much an active participant, and to show Puerto Ricans that the world is concerned.”
The next General Assembly of the World Coalition will take place in Morocco in June, while the next Steering Committee meeting will be held in Rome, Italy in early April.

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