Last Wednesday the French government, in its role as current president of the European Union, held a seminar on the death penalty at the French Embassy in Washington, DC. It was the first seminar of its kind, during which several people familiar with the death penalty in the U.S. briefed delegates from European nations about the U.S. death penalty abolition movement. Renny Cushing represented MVFHR; the other participants were Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn from Amnesty International USA, Dick Dieter from the Death Penalty Information Center, Ginny Sloan from the Constitution Project, Mike Farrell and Elizabeth Zitrin from Death Penalty Focus.
In his presentation, Renny talked about victim opposition to the death penalty and MVFHR's two projects, "No Silence, No Shame," which focuses on families of the executed, and "Prevention, Not Execution," which focuses on mental illness and the death penalty. He urged the European Union delegates to become involved in both these projects, and at their request he is preparing a series of recommendations for them to consider at their next meeting, which will be held in a couple of weeks.
Renny reports that the delegates were interested in learning about how members of the European Union can be more effective in advancing the cause of abolition in the U.S. and worldwide, and many had not been aware of victim opposition to the death penalty until this briefing.