October 9, 2009

ACLU Joins Call To End U.S. Executions To Mark World Day Against The Death Penalty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org      
  
WASHINGTON – As part of a global campaign to end the death penalty, ambassadors of the nations of the European Union (EU) gathered at the Swedish Embassy today to call on all nations to abolish the death penalty. The event was held to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty, observed on Saturday, October 10.

The American Civil Liberties Union urges the Obama administration and all 35 U.S. death penalty states to heed the call of the EU and put a halt to the death penalty in the U.S. criminal justice system. Earlier this month, the ACLU delivered a statement on the flaws of the capital punishment system in the U.S. at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, Poland. Since 1977, over 1,125 people in the U.S. have been executed. 52 people have been executed since October of 2008. As of January 2009, the number of people awaiting execution across the country was approximately 3,300.

The following can be attributed to Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program:

"The European Union today has thrown down the gauntlet to all nations to end capital punishment once and for all. The U.S. should heed domestic and international calls to bring an end to the death penalty. It is time to admit that the use of the death penalty in the U.S. has been a failed experiment with a very high cost in human suffering and inestimable damage to the country's standing and image in the world as a beacon for human rights and democratic values."

The following can be attributed to John Holdridge, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project:

"The need to end this barbaric practice is underscored by the fact that five men were released from death row in 2009 and that new evidence has come forward that a man executed in Texas in 2004 could not have set the lethal fire for which he was condemned to die, meaning that an innocent man almost certainly has been put to death at the hands of the state.

"There are too many incurable problems with the death penalty. It remains arbitrary. There is racial and geographic bias in the decisions to try cases. It continues to be the penalty of the poor. The only way for the U.S. to prevent executing other innocent people is to end the practice of capital punishment."

A statement by the Swedish presidency of the European Union is available at: www.se2009.eu/en/meetings_news/2009/10/8/joint_statement_by_the_eu_presidency_and_the_council_of_europe_chairmanship_on_the_death_penalty  

The ACLU's statement to the OSCE is available at: www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2009/10/40010_en.pdf

More information about the ACLU Capital Punishment Project is available at: www.aclu.org/capital/index.html

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