‘No’ To Death Penalty

S R writes :


“International Criminal Court”

Amnesty International has called upon all those Countries that have not signed the Rome Statue of ICC, to do so before the dead line for signature on 31 December 2000. S.R."  


Both democrats and republicans in the United States of America have displayed their brutal unanimity in executing death sententence for the citizens. Both parties have shown their callous disrespect towards international consensus against the death penalty.


Once again the issue of death sentence is snowballing in America as Amnesty International has taken up the cases of Juan Raul ‘Garza and Miguel Flores who will be facing ‘judicious’ killing shortly. AMNESTY has called for clemency both for Juan and Miguel. As the USA waits to crown its 43rd President, the country’s executioners are preparing to carry out their 75th execution of the year.

Since President Clinton took office in 1993, nearly 500 men and women have been put to death in 29 US states. This represents more than 70% of all executions carried out since 1976, when the country’s highest court ruled the death penalty valid and rejected a review petition. Imposing death penalty was the sole jurisdiction of the country’s federal law for capital punishment. But Clinton, inspired by the Court judgement massively expanded it in legislation in 1994 and allowed the killing spree at the state level.


There are over 3,000 prisoners on the states’ death row in USA, having been convicted of violating state capital laws. Some 21 prisoners are under federal sentence of death, convicted of breaking federal capital laws enacted both by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The last person executed under US federal law was victor Feguer, who was hanged in Iowa in 1963. Its now the turn of Juan after Victor. While Juan will be executed as per federal capital laws, Miguel will face his death penalty as per state capital laws. In case of Miguel, the Texas  Governor, George W Bush, now a candidate in US Presidential election, is empowered to call a halt for the death penalty under state capital laws, while their democrat brothers, one of them also a contestant in the fray, can stop this under Presidential power. But both Presidential candidates are unlikely to stop the executions, although the days are numbered both for Juan and Miguel. Amnesty has called upon the international community to react against the degraded punishment.


Opposition to the resumption of federal executions has grown since September when US Justice Department released findings of its review into the federal capital justice system. Several disparties and irregularities in the system was exposed in the findings. In a 43-page memorandum opposing the death penalty, the human rights body urged upon the outgoing President of America that the proposed death sentences should be immediately stopped as it was cruel, brutal and lethaly flawed. The memo also gave case illustrations in which foreign nationals denied their consular  rights. As a Mexican national, Miguel has not been, upon his arrest, informed his right to seek consular assistance. He was denied this international treaty right, a right that USA


expects other countries to respect when US nationals are detained, arrested and punished abroad.


In the first week of November this year, both Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted against clemency, leaving Governor Bush the option of granting the prisoner a 30-day reprieve. Calls for clemency have also come from 15-member European Union, Inter-American Commision on Human Rights, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Poland etc. It is reliably learnt that the State Department of US has written to the Texas Parole Board for careful consideration in view of the growing international pressure.


If Miguel is executed, he would become the 35th prisoner put to death in Texas this year. Amnesty records say that 20 prisoners are already scheduled to be executed in the United States before the end of January next year. Both Presidential candidates however hardly find time to promptly stop these executions instead of assessing their election prospects.


The Rome Statute


Amensty International has considered the action of Spain in ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as positive and it will move the world one step closer to international justice and ending impunity for the worst crimes known to humanity. Spain on 25 October this year has deposited instruments of ratification with the office of the United Nation Secretary General. The World body has called upon the countries to follow the example set by Spain. Mention may be made here that India is one of seven countries including USA, China, Iraq, Libya etc. which has not supported the move and declined to sign the Statute of ICC.


In a historic move, the Rome Statute was adopted on 17th July 1998 in a diplomatic conference in Rome. 120 of the 148 countries present in the conference voted in favour of the Rome Statute and seven countries voted against while 21 countries abstained. In its declaration, the ICC has made it clear that the Court will not act as a substitute for national Courts. The national Courts will always have jurisdiction over such crimes. The Apex body will only exercise its jurisdiction when the national Courts are unable or unwilling to do so. The very existence of the ICC will be only to act as a catalyst and to inspire national legal systems to fulfil their duties and will act as a deterrent to such crimes.


ICC has not yet been effectively established. It can’t be put to operation unless minimum 60 countries ratify the Statute and the process will be completed after 38 remaining countries ratify it. The efforts will demonstrate their commitment to ending impunity for such crimes. As soon as the Court is established, it will have the power to prosecute those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity including murder of civilians, torture, mass rape and war crimes committed both in international and non-international conflicts.


Perpetrators of the crimes against humanity have always acted keeping in mind that they are unlikely to face the consequences of their actions and subsequently the victims have been denied justice due to callous neglect of the national judiciary and other fora. Hence the crimes which by their horrendous nature cast their dark shadow over all of us. The ICC is a crucial oportunity for the world to halt this trend.