Mai Sato has just been awarded the Young Criminologist Award 2014; congratulations! Please read below about her research and her experience at the Geneva conference "Justice that kills - the death penality in the 21 Century."
To mark the World and Europe Day against the Death Penalty (10 October), the EU Delegation and the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN in Geneva organised an event at the Graduate Institute in Geneva on 9 October 2014 titled "Justice that kills – the death penalty in the 21st century". Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General, opened the event through a video message, calling all states to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The event focused on arguments retentionists countries often use - the deterrence of crime, favourable public opinion, lack of alternatives – and encouraged discussion on whether killing by the State can be justified in today's society. The following experts were invited to share their views:
• Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, • Sir Nigel Rodley, Chairperson, UN Human Rights Committee, • Gil Garcetti, former District Attorney of LA County • Hanne Sophie Greve, Judge, International Commission against the Death Penalty • Dr. Mai Sato, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford
Sir Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee stressed the need for states to view the death penalty as a human rights issue: "We must not forget that the death penalty is a human rights issue, and those are the values and principles at stake." Hanne Sophie Greve, judge and member of the International Commission against the Death Penalty argued that in addition to viewing the death penalty as an infringement to the right to life, we must view it as a matter of human dignity. She stated: "We must opt for a culture of life, enhance human dignity, and upgrade the value of ordinary life for everyone."
Gil Garcetti, former District Attorney of LA County, spoke about the Californian referendum to abolish the death penalty (Proposition 34 in 2012). Although the referendum was unsuccessful, the information about the possibility of of wrongful convictions, the high costs of keeping the death penalty, and the lack of firm evidence concerning deterring effect were key to make people reconsider their position. He also offered his personal story about how he changed from being an retentionist to an abolitionist when he realised how flawed the system was and how costly it was to keep the death penalty in the US.
I presented results from the surveys I carried out in Japan which showed that public opinion is not fixed but fluid and malleable to information. I argued that the current evidence used by retenionists governments on public opinion is weak and if governments want to continue relying on the public opinion, clear and sound evidence is necessary.
Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights at the OHCHR launched the latest OHCHR publication "Moving away from the Death Penalty: Arguments, Trends and Perspectives". For more information about this event please go to: http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/un_geneva/press_corner/focus/events/2014/20141003_death_penalty_en.htm
Lastly, to continue with the death penalty theme, Professor Carolyn Hoyle and I are organising a one day conference on the death penalty and wrongful convictions on 5 November. There will be another entry about the conference!