Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The London Declaration

One outcome of Penal Reform International's “Progressing toward abolition of the death penalty and alternative sanctions that respect international human rights standards" conference last month, at which Renny Cushing represented MVFHR, is a document called the London Declaration. The Declaration summarizes the recommendations that the participants agreed upon - participants which included government officials and representatives of civil society and inter-governmental organisations from 31 countries.

MVFHR contributed in particular to the inclusion of recommendations regarding victims' families and families of the executed. See the fourth point in this list of assertions that introduce the Declaration:

- Convinced that the death penalty undermines human dignity and can amount to cruel,inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment;

- Noting that there is no convincing evidence that the death penalty deters criminal behaviour any more effectively than other punishments;

- Recalling that where the death penalty is retained at all, it should only be imposed for the “most serious crimes”, and after a fair trial has been granted to the accused;

- Mindful that the death penalty creates additional victims – the family members of those who have been executed – who are often forgotten, marginalised or stigmatised by society;

- Mindful that the essential aim of the penitentiary system should be the “reformation and social rehabilitation” of prisoners;

And the ninth recommendation of the Declaration says:

In recognition of the suffering of victims of violent crime and their loved ones, call upon states to:

a. ensure that all victims be treated with dignity, respect and equality throughout the criminal process, regardless of their beliefs about or position on the issue of the death penalty;

b. establish a victims’ compensation fund where there is none;

c. address the rights of victims to reconciliation or mitigation with the offender where appropriate, and provide any other psycho-social support.

We were interested to see that an Inter-Press Service article earlier this week focused specifically on the Declaration's urging of the Arab League and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights to consider developing regional protocols on the abolition of the death penalty. The Inter-Press Service article also quotes the portion of the Declaration that refers to families of the executed.

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