International CITIES FOR LIFE Day
"A World Without the Death Penalty ", No Justice Without Life
6th International Congress of the Ministers of Justice
Altieri Palace - Piazza del Gesù, 50 - 9.30 a.m. (LIVE ON THE WEB)
The International "Cities for Life" Day will open in Rome, on 29th November, with the 6th International Congress of the Ministers of Justice: " A World Without the Death Penalty ", organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio.
The participants, in addition to the Italian Minister of Justice, Paola Severino, will be representatives of the European Union, Ministers of Justice from many countries (France, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Lesotho, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Tanzania, Cambodia, Ecuador, Honduras, Norway, Kenya, South Africa, South Sudan, El Salvador) and relevant personalities from Mongolia, Philippines, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Burundi, together with a delegation from Illinois - the last U.S. state to have abolished the death penalty.
Every year since 2004 Sant'Egidio has organized an International Congress of Ministers of Justice, lawyers and members of Supreme Courts, coming both from abolitionist countries and countries still maintaining the death penalty. The aim of these International Conferences is to develop new strategies and a common vision. They benefit from a method of work that continues at all levels, in the civil society, through dialogue with the leadership and political representatives, throughout the year, in all the countries involved. The Congress in Rome is now at its 6th edition.
On 30th November all the participants will be received by the President of the Italian Senate, Renato Schifani.
Marco Impagliazzo (President of the Community of Sant'Egidio)
Minister of Justice - Italy
Minister of Justice - France
Minister of Justice - Niger
Legislative Councillor of the President - Mongolia
Community of Sant’Egidio (TEXT)
Maria Elise Gbedo
Minister of Justice - Benin
Minister of Justice - Guinea
Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou
Minister of Justice - Ivory Coast
Deputy Foreign Minister - Norway
Celina Ompeshi Kombani
Minister of Justice - Tanzania
Joselita C. Mendoza
State Attorney - Philippines
Minister of Justice - Honduras
President of the Coalition Against the Death Penalty - Illinois
Jean Louis Ville
Witness from Texas Death Row
The results of the recent International Days against the Death Penalty:
Less than half of retentionist countries carried out executions. In the last four years less than a third of these countries carried out death sentences.
The following countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes: Bhutan, Greece, Samoa, Senegal and Turkey (in 2004). Liberia and Mexico (2005); Philippines (2006); Albania, Cook Islands, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda and Kazakhstan for ordinary crimes (2007); Uzbekistan and Argentina (2008); Burundi and Togo (2009).
In 2010: Gabon became the 16th abolitionist country in the African Union.
Over the past 10 years, 31 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
In one year (2009-2010) the total number of executions has fallen by a third. In the United States of America in 2010 a third of the capital judgments recorded in the mid-nineties were issued.
In January 2010 the President of Mongolia announced a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
In 2011 Illinois became the 16th U.S. state to abolish capital punishment.
Eleven countries issued death sentences but did not carry out executions: Afghanistan, Brunei Darussalam, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The International Day "Cities for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty" - which is celebrated every 30th November to commemorate the anniversary of the first abolition of the capital punishment at the hands of a European state, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, in 1786 - is an extraordinary initiative that over the years has brought together many local governments and civil societies, to promote this crucial battle for the whole of humanity.
This year, 2011, it involved more than 1,400 cities (500 in Italy), including 66 capitals, in 87 countries and all continents. This represents the largest international mobilization so far to stop all executions in the world.
On the occasion of this 10th edition of "Cities for Life", the cities involved will give rise to cultural and public awareness events supported and organized in collaboration with the Community of Sant'Egidio and other organizations in Italy and other countries.
In these days, important witnesses such as former death row inmates and victims' relatives will be present in Italy.
ANTHONY GRAVES - was released on 27th October 2010, after spending 16 years on death row. He was convicted in 1994 on charges of being an accomplice of a multiple murder, although there was no firm evidence that proved his guilt. In 2006 the Federal Court overturned the sentence of the first trial, after acknowledging that prosecutors had used unreliable or downright false statements. Anthony was the 12th prisoner released from death row in Texas, the 138th in the U.S. since 1973.
DAVE ATWOOD - is one of the most committed men in the fight against the death penalty in the United States. In 1995 he founded the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP). Currently he serves on the board of directors of the organization. He was previously director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) and Pax Christi USA. He is very active in running abolitionist campaigns through frequent lectures in schools, universities and churches in Texas and other states. He frequently visits prisoners on death row since the '90s and met with the Community of Sant'Egidio for the first time when some members of the Catholic Association started to visit Dominique Green, a great mutual friend, who was put to death in 2004.
STEIDL GORDON - was the 114th person sentenced to death and eventually found innocent in the United States (the 18th in Illinois). The judgement came in 1987 with the murder charge of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in 1986. He was released in 2004 after spending 17 years in prison (nearly 12 of which on death row) in Illinois, after a judge found out that in 2000 police investigations had been conducted improperly.
His contribution to the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Illinois has been crucial and this year Illinois became the 16th U.S. state not to contemplate the death penalty in its legislation.
RAIS BHUIYAN - In the days following 11th September 2001, a man determined to seek personal vengeance for the victims of the Twin Towers in New York, with several punitive expeditions. For this reason he began to look for immigrants who might be, in his opinion, Middle Eastern or Muslim. This man seriously wounded Bangladeshi born Rais Bhuiyan in the face, only a few months after his arrival in the United States. Rais lost an eye, but providentially survived.
Rais was not only able to forgive his attacker, but he fought to the last - unfortunately in vain - for him not to be killed by the state, and for the escalation of violence not to end by shedding more blood.
In Rome, on 30th November at 7.00 p.m. at the Coliseum, the final ceremony will take place, with a special lighting up of the Coliseum, a worldwide symbol of the International Day "Cities for Life".