Sinthesis of the debates and conclusions of the Congress CICG – Geneva - By Mario Marazziti
It is almost impossible to summarize what has been discussed, suggested, offered to be a common felling and plan of action over these days. None of us has had the chance to attend all the roundtable and workshops, but has come out is that the grassroots movement and the institutional level have found channels of communication and positive interaction, that local organizations and international organizations can work side by side and that now it can become a pattern to give others the tools that have been refined in a specific context to be used in a proper way elsewhere.
It is one of the successes of this Congress: the consolidation of the World Coalition and the chance that a World Coalition is for each individual actor in the battle against the death penalty: additional energy, a chance for networking, empowering, creating new tools, a positive umbrella to reinforce what each organization is capable to do by itself and with others, and a chance to promote what is necessary to speak aloud, frequently and in new ways with the civil societies, public opinions, administrations and governments, also in retentionist countries. The action plan will be presented in a few minutes, but for sure the appointments of the World Day, October 10th, that has become the European Day Against the Death Penalty, and the International Day Cities for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty, on November 30th each year, on the anniversary of the Abolition by Tuscany of torture and the death penalty in 1786, that my organization, the Community of Sant’Egidio, and the World Coalition have worked hard to make a toll in the hands of activists and civil society to speak to institutions and governments, are now, more than ever, a world chance and a responsibility of each organization here, as well as to continue the battle for the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol and a steady growing trend to be sealed by the new Resolution at the UNGA next Autumn.
In the panels and workshops have been reaffirmed many reasons to be against the death penalty, as a gift for societies, under any culture. Because the death penalty is never a deterrent, because it legitimizes a culture of death at the highest level, because it is based on destruction and not on building up a new way of living together, because it is often stained by social, racial, religious , ethnic, political bias and discrimination, because it is obviously flawed by mistakes and opaque judicial systems, because it creates new victims and does not accompany the victims’ families in a proper way, because there is no room for a restorative justice while grows the sense of revenge and retaliation, because in evolved democracies the judicial and financial system is going bankrupt and put in stand by at the highest levels in the attempt – often too shy and too expensive - to provide fair trials and appeals.
Because it looks life a tool of justice still rooted in a childish and primitive state of humanity, based more on instinct . Because it is the only punishment without amendment since life cannot be given back. Because even at the very roots of the main religious traditions, even among difficulties, there is a strong call to respect the sacredness of any human life and of any life, and, as well, there is always the preference for alternative punishments, from Islam to Judaism, from Christianity to Buddhism and Hinduism. A new perspective also on the role of religions in this issue has come out, showing how religions are not just the holy books, but also contemporaneity and how the “moratorium” instrument must be presented and offered not as a challenge but as a bridge also to retentionist countries and societies, while a re-thinking and re-shaping of the flawed judicial systems and of society itself take place, being on the same page of the majority of nowadays world.
The role of public opinions in the fight against the death penalty has come out in many panels and round tables. Under the golden rule that the abolitionist movement must find all the possible allies, a more refined thinking of how to deliver key messages to different public opinion is a key issue. It has been requested more respect for the cartoonist and for the satyrical instrument to talk to societies, as a creative and effective way, but it has also been stressed how this can often touch themes “broulant”, burning. If censorship is not the main road to be pursued, a sense of responsibility and self control must be taken into account, because sometimes consequences for civil population and minorities can be a disaster, causing growing gaping between worlds and cultures.
For sure education, involvement of children, studente, opinion leaders and teachers, rulers and judges, people in charge of security and law enforcement are an important tool to be cultivated and spread all over, to create a positive cross impollination of good practises and of a new generation of people that mark a distance with the habit to think of the death penalty as normal: it must be stressed, actually, that only over the last 30 years the world has changed its mind on this issue, at large, and that we have to help grow the first generation with a new thinking.
International agreements have been pointed out as powerful tools to promote a better international judicial system, reducing bilateral agreements, including transitional justice programs, being more imaginative in proposing approaches that include more compensation programs for the victims and society than just the death penalty.
It has been stressed how in many areas of the world in which the death penalty is still popular and applied there is lack of internal debate as if it was a taboo issue, how ignorance of facts and figures and procedures is normal among the general population and more often the use of it is well related to political reasons, often through the appeal to traditional and religious thinking. Nevertheless, globalization and more visual media available, more networking to support individuals and groups active on the round to support human rights seem the right way to proceed, as well as to create an international side of visibility and support – always listening to the necessities and risks of the people on the round. In the same direction the growth of lager coalitions and regional coalitions seems an unavoidable way to make the whole campaign grow in retentionist countries.
In conclusion, part of the importance of this Congress has been the chance to listen to and to be side by side with many activists and scholars that have to deal every day with societies that still retain the death penalty as normal.
It has been encouraging to many to see how Central Asia and Africa have taken a fast road to abolition and how the issue of “waiting for a full change of polls and public opinions” before abolishing the death penalty or declare a moratorium is not a mantra any more, since a strong appeal to enlightened ruling classes can be even more effective as a first step to a deeper change of the feelings of the public opinion, as it happened in countries like Canada or France. It has been reinforced the alliance and sinergy between grassroots initiatives and international bodies and initiatives: the new chance of the next General Assembly at the UN imposes a multilateral approach and a large cross-regional approach, and the world ONGs are ready to provide themselves and institutions strategies, contents, contacts, imaginative approaches in a new sinergy.
Let me conclude by saying: we would like to give this gift to the new generations and our societies and soon: a world without the death penalty. From this Congress comes a good piece of news: the death penalty is sick, is not well at all, is weaker. Well, it is good news.