On the occasion of October 10th, 14th world day against the death penalty, the Community of Sant'Egidio, one of the founders of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, which has been fostering the abolitionist battle for years, will hold an international conference in the Japanese parliament (14 October) and a debate in Tokyo's Italian Culture Institute (15 October).
Both events will develop the topic of justice and human rights in Japan's penal system. Filmmakers, MPs, religious leaders and culture representatives will attend, and so will Hideko Hakamada, Iwao Hakamada's sister. Despite being innocent, Mr. Hakamada was sentenced to death and spent 48 years on death row until he was finally released in 2014.
In those very days the Community of Sant'Egidio organises several events in Italian prisons (Avezzano, Sulmona, Paliano, Rebibbia, Regina Coeli, Civitavecchia) on the topic of violence and death penalty. Tamara Chikunova, the corageous Uzbek activist who has contributed to the abolition of the capital punishment in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, will take part in those events.
The Community of Sant'Egidio underlines that, even though the number of countries maintaining the death penalty in their legislations is lower and lower, it is still widely applied, also for less serious crimes to the weakest segments of population (juveniles, mentally handicapped). The 2016 world day wants to draw everyone's attention on the distorted use of the death penalty as a terrorism prevention tool. Some countries have resumed executions after years of moratoria, while others have extended the use of capital punishment to crimes related to terrorism.
However, we see encouraging signs in countries with which the Community of Sant'Egidio has been working for a long time with a view to abolishing the death penalty. The trend in the US, although slow, is still going towards abolition: 20 states have abolished the death penalty and 4 states have a moratorium, while California is preparing for a referendum for the abolition on November 8th. In Guinea, the Parliament has just passed a reform of the penal code which opens the way for the complete abolition of the death penalty. Furthermore, many countries which took part in the IX International Congress of Ministers of Justice organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio (Rome, 22-23 February 2016), have committed themselves to modifying their vote for the universal moratorium of the death penalty, which will be presented and voted at the General Assembly of the United Nations in the following months.