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Abolition now! Hundreds march to demand end to death penalty

Published:Friday | March 1, 2019 | 12:00 AM
A journalist captures the abolitionists on his cellphone during their march against the death penalty - Damion Mitchell photo

BRUSSELS, Belgium:
They chanted in languages the world understands: “Abolition now! Abolition now!”

And with that, hundreds of people from across the globe marched through the streets of central Brussels Friday evening carrying placards and helium balloons calling for an end to capital punishment.

The march culminated the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty held in the Belgian capital and came 12 hours after Billie Wayne Coble, a 70-year-old Texas man became the United States’ third citizen to be put to death since the start of the year.

Twenty-five others were executed last year.


Coble had been on death row for 29 years after he was convicted for the 1989 slayings of his ex-wife’s parents and her brother.


Before the march, participants supported a declaration for several measures to intensify the lobby against the death penalty.

The United States came in for special mention and would again feature as Henriette Geiger of the Directorate General for Development and Cooperation of the European Commission made her remarks.

"It is unacceptable that more than 2,400 people remain on death row in the United States and that the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China, the world’s top executioner, is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret," she said.

Geiger said the European Union remains the international actor to fight the death penalty worldwide, pumping more than 15 million Euros into abolition efforts in places like the United States, China, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Kenya.

Two days earlier, the vice president of the European Parliament, Pavel Telička, told The Gleaner that Europe could step up the pressure on Jamaica to abolish the death penalty.


There has been no execution in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries for up to 30 years in some instances but the law remain on their books.


READ: Death-penalty pressure to grow

In a 1993 ruling in the Pratt & Morgan case, the United Kingdom-based Privy Council ruled that it was inhumane to have a convict on death row for more than five years.

This essentially makes executions impossible in the Caribbean since it would take more than five years before all the appeals by a convict may be exhausted.

Meanwhile, Geiger said the EU’s anti-death-penalty efforts were reaping success as last October, Washington became the 20th American state to abolish capital punishment.

"The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, it does not deter crime or improve public safety and it should be ended once and for all,” she said.

Geiger also cited the Washington Supreme Court ruling abolishing the death penalty saying it was imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.

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