World Day Against the Death Penalty

At the student conference this past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with Vicki Scheiber. Vicki’s daughter was raped and murdered while a student at the Wharton School at the University of Penn. Her journey of forgiveness weaves a tale depicting the multitude of problems in our justice system–including but certainly not limited to the death penalty. The problems she was forced to participate as well as her unwavering devotion to God, lead her to actively seek forgiveness and a non-death penalty sentence for her daughter’s murderer. Vicki is a board member of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights and their executive director Renny Cushing issued the following statement today, on World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights is an organization of family members of homicide victims and family members of people who have been executed. As survivors with a direct stake in the death penalty debate, and as people who believe in the value of basic human rights principles, we join today in the call for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

The most basic of human rights, the right to life, is violated both by homicide and by execution. We call today for a consistent human rights ethic in response to violence: let us not respond to one human rights violation with another human rights violation. Let us recognize that justice for victims is not achieved by taking another life.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was inspired by victims, demanded by victims. It grew out of the suffering of millions of civilians murdered under the brutal regimes of the Second World War, and its adoption on December 10, 1948 was a way to honor the loss of those lives by asserting that such violations are neither moral nor permissible under any nation or regime.

Now, almost sixty years later, let us recognize that violations of human life in the form of the death penalty should not be permissible under any nation or regime. We call for a moratorium on the death penalty because the only way to uphold human rights is to uphold them in all cases, universally.

Today, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, the United Nations General Assembly is considering a resolution that will take us one step closer to fulfilling the aspiration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As victims, we urge the members of the General Assembly to adopt the UN resolution for a universal moratorium on executions.

I get excited when I see institutions such as the United Nations getting involved in this movement. Although the death penalty is a state by state issue and TCASK is focused on abolition and reform in Tennessee, American states, and the entire country itself are not immune to judgment and opinion–no one is immune from that. I think it is always important to know the pulse of those around in order to give validity to the actions being taken. When almost no Western-industrialized nations and none of the European Union nations have the death penalty one must question the purpose it is serving in the United States. Are we so arrogant a people and a nation to ignore what the world thinks of us? Perhaps, but maybe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can change that.

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