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No to the death penalty, because it can not be governed by fear

From the Ministers of Justice Rome meeting reflections and concrete commitments to a world without the death penalty Texts and video of the Congress

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"Justice and life are two words that stand or fall together, there is not one without the other, if you take one, the other falls, if you take away life, justice falls, is a balance, firm, for reflection, but also a program of action and a political commitment". It was stated by Italian Justice Minister Paola Severino, opening this morning the work of the VII International Congress of Ministers of Justice "For a world without the death penalty", organized by the Sant'Egidio Community with the support of the European Commission and of the Swiss Confederation.



During the meeting, opened by the President of the Sant'Egidio Community, Marco Impagliazzo, the Minister Severino thanked the organization founded by Andrea Riccardi because "it combines concrete commitment with theoretical reflection", and promised that even beyond its ministerial commitment, "as long as there is only one sentenced to death, we will stand firmly to this practice".

Robert Badinter, the French Minister of Justice in the Mitterrand era, the man who in 1981 presented to the National Assembly the bill for the abolition of the guillotine, recalled the great strides that have been made in the fight against the death penalty. "When France abolished the death penalty, he said,there were 37 countries to do so. Today there are over 150 countries that have abolished or suspended the death penalty, and the abolition became majority option ". Badinter also stated that "a State can not plead champion of human rights if it practices in its home the death penalty", and added that “ there cannot be any justice that kills, because the death penalty is the place where the worst poisons of justice, such as racism and discrimination, are shown”.I've never seen - he added - a son of a banker or a great lawyer end up on the death row ".

Mario Marazziti,  Sant'Egidio spokesman and vice president of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, reminded that "when the state kills in the name of the community lowers the whole community to the level of the slayer".In order to demonstrate how the death penalty has very little to do with the justice he has pointed out  that a recent U.S. survey has shown that of the 15.978 death sentences, executed in the history of the United States, only 30 have involved whites who had killed blacks, while in all the other cases, 15.948 executions have concerned members of various ethnic communities for killing whites.



From the USA came the testimony of George Kain, a law professor at the State University of Connecticut and director of its State police. He said he was happy that Connecticut is one of the five U.S. States to have abolished the "barbarism of the death penalty for years", denouncing that even in the very advanced United States the justice system can make terrible mistakes, and that when the error involves an innocent man put to death the error is irreparable.


Good news came from Africa, the continent most responsive to the campaign launched by Sant'Egidio in recent years. The Interior Minister of Zimbabwe, Theresa Makone, stated that in her country, abolitionist de facto because no executions in the last 32 years, the time is ripe for a constitutional amendment that will lead to the abolition de jure. "My prime minister – Makone told, referring to Morgan Tsvangirai, opponent of Mugabe, who risked being sentenced to death for treason - protests both publicly and privately that continuing to practice an eye for an eye Zimbabwethreatens to become a country of the blind ".


The representative of the Central African Republic, Dominique Said Panguindji, pointed out the contradiction between the constitution of his country where in the first two articles declares the sanctity of life and the absolute prohibition of torture and violence, with the recent Penal Code that still provides for execution for the murder and rape. But he also announced the formation of a committee to carry forward the struggle for the abolition de jure in Central Africa as well.


"No exception to the right to life and then the rejection of the death penalty is a most absolute right among absolute rights",stated the former President of the Constitutional Court, Valerio Onida; according to him  one of the reasons for refusal of the death penalty is that it is not the principle of re-socialization that in itself is not compatible with the death penalty.


The Marat Rakhmanov’s testimony has stirred the Congress up:Russian, 28 years, finds himself in the death row accused of double murder in Uzbekistan: "I would have never thought of being inside a hallucinatory experience worse than any nightmare". He had gone to visit his sister who had asked him the favour, at the end of the evening, to accompany a friend with her son at home. The next day the police arrest him because the two had been found dead. Eight years on the death row, victim of violence of all kinds and then the unexpected liberation thanks to the efforts of a courageous woman, Tamara Chikunova and of the Sant'Egidio Community who were able to prove that he was not involved in the double murder.



"Conjugate concrete commitment and theoretical reflection in favour of the fight against the death penalty: the today Assembly is a demonstration of this commitment",concluded Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Sant'Egidio Community. He picked up again some key issues from the morning interventions : the death penalty is anachronistic tool, inhuman, and it is the focus of all the values ??of injustice. It’s racial discrimination.It responds to a desire for revenge, but there is a steady progress in the world in order to abolish the death penalty. In such a way, Marco Impagliazzo has sent an appeal to the world of politics and culture:  mobilization shall grow. The world is taken by many fears, but the world shall not be governed by fear. Finally we must not forget the prison, a place of suffering and discrimination, that day by day becomes more and more unbearable.

October 25 2016


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