LI group has begun focus on prison sentence and death penalty reduction, and recent work seems to be catalyzing momentum, say activists..
The death penalty should be abolished
We were distressed when we opened the July 3 issue of the Stabroek News and saw the faces of the three young men who have been condemned to death. How can killing these three young men counteract the violence of the gold dealer’s death? It makes Guyana more violent than the murderers. Most civilized countries in the world have long since done away with the death penalty. It has been demonstrated that it is not a deterrent to crime. Our hearts go out to the family of the dealer who died. Certainly it is true that these young men committed a horrible crime and should be punished. But when we look at those young faces, it is obvious that a life sentence could keep them in prison for 50, 60 maybe 70 years. To them, death might be preferable to that possibility.
The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the International Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International describes the death penalty as “the ultimate denial of human rights … the premeditated and cold blooded killing of a human being by the state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice.”
There has not been a hanging in Guyana for many years, for which we are indeed grateful. It seems that no one wants to be responsible for the execution. It is also known that capital punishment takes a terrible toll on those who have to execute it. Why doesn’t the country abolish this law? God has told us, “Do not kill.” Forgiveness is very difficult, especially for those who have lost a loved one. But God also calls us to forgive. These men are young, too young to have become hardened criminals unable to change. If they could change their lives and be rehabilitated, they would have the potential to make a significant contribution to this country. But that means that the prison system must also be radically changed. Instead of just punishing offenders, it must include more programmes to help prisoners to alter their lives, to support them, give them a sense of self-respect and a hope for their future.
Can you picture these three young men hanging from the gallows? How would that affect the citizens of this country? What message would it send to the rest of the world about Guyana? We call on all those who are opposed to the death penalty to speak up and request the President to abolish the death penalty as the law of this very special, peace-loving country. Write, call, protest, make your voices heard. Let the law of the land reflect the wishes and the values of its citizens.
With confidence and hope in the wonderful people of this beautiful country.
Sister Mary Judith-Schmelz. RSM
For The Sisters of Mercy
Meadow Brook Convent