The following is a report by Lily Hughes on her recent Madrid trip to participate in the World Congress Against the Death Penalty.
Over the last few days the Campaign to End the Death Penalty has been represented at the 5th Annual World Congress Against the Death Penalty
Madrid, Spain. Myself and CEDP board member Delia Perez Meyer (sister
of TX death row prisoner Louis Castro Perez) arrived in Madrid on the
morning of June 12th and attended the opening ceremonies for the the
Congress that very evening! The conference opened with various
government officials from all over the world speaking. Lots of
politicians attended the whole conference, which was a unique experience
Throughout the week we have met some incredible individuals and organizations in the fight against abolition worldwide.
were former death row prisoners from around the world at the
conference. We spent a lot of time with two of them: Kirk Bloodsworth
from Witness to Innocence
, a former death row prisoner from the U.S., and Edward Edmary Mpagi
a former death row prisoner from Uganda who was freed after it was
proven that the person he was supposed to have murdered was alive!
Edward worked with the African Journey of Hope in 2011.
also met Tanya Ibar, the wife of Pablo Ibar, a Spanish national who has
been on Florida's death row since 1994 . Pablo Ibar's co-defendant was
already released based on evidence of innocence which should have
applied to both men.
had a great time hanging out with Will Francome, whose story was the
basis for the movie In Prison My Whole Life focusing on Mumia. His new
project is called One for Ten
is a series of ten short films about former death row prisoners that
focuses on the different ways innocent people are convicted. I attended
a session where I saw three of these fantastic short films!
Delia was so happy to connect with the Sant' Edigio Communit
a Catholic organization based in Rome that has supported death row
prisoners around the world through penpal relationships. We also were
able to meet several folks from the British organization Reprieve
that has been responsible for the brilliant campaign to persuade
European drug companies to not sell their products for use in
There were many interesting panel
discussions throughout the weekend. Delia's highlights were a sessions
called Victim's Families: an international action network.
Bill Pelke, a murder victim family member and the founder of Journey of Hope,
here about how the young woman who murdered his grandmother is being
released from prison next week in Indiana, and about his relationship
with her over the years, including writing letters and putting her
through school - he is traveling straight from Madrid to Indiana to meet
her upon her release. Her other favorite session was one on innocence
and abolition - the meeting featured Alvaro Corcuera, a Spanish
journalist and Kirk Bloodsworth from WTI, and focused on how to use
innocence and judicial errors as an important part of abolition
strategy, without penalizing defense attorneys.
favorite session of the whole conference focused on alternative
sentencing. Several amazing speakers discussed the reasons
abolitionists should oppose life without parole (LWOP) as an alternative
the death penalty. One of the speakers represented Penal Reform International
a fantastic group working on penal and criminal justice reform
worldwide. Constance de la Vega, a professor from San Francisco even
quoted me at the end of her remarks, not knowing that I was in the room!
I spoke during this session about the CEDP's stance against promoting
LWOP as a just alternative to the death penalty and my comments were
very well received.
In general there were very
few U.S. groups represented at the conference. The U.S. roundtable
discussion featured Richard Dieter from the Death Penalty Information Center
and Elizabeth Zitrin from Death Penalty Focus
There was a lot of good information presented here about the state of
the death penalty in America today, but I felt that only one strategy
for changing public opinion was discussed from the floor - the more
conservative strategy focusing on cost, promoting LWOP and partnering
with law enforcement that was employed most recently in California. I
also spoke from the floor here and raised some debates, including a
point about the huge impact the movements around individual cases like
Troy Davis and Stan Tookie Williams have had on how people think about
the death penalty.
The CEDP was able to
participate in the conference in a few formal ways. We submitted a
poster to display during an informal "poster session" which Delia had
created. The poster featured Delia's brother Louis and focused on our
strategy of working on individual cases. Our poster was displayed
alongside several others and we stood around it and discussed it with
the different folks that came by. I was called upon to help translate
the final statement of the Congress into English from French - kind of a
On the final day of the
Congress, today, there was a huge march against the death penalty
through the streets of Madrid. It was truly incredible to march
alongside people from all over the world and hear chants in all
different languages. We carried a big banner like picture of Louis
during the march and had our picture taken a lot! Delia was interviewed
by journalists from all over throughout the weekend and at the march.
We'll be posting pictures on our Facebook page very soon.
are so grateful to the World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
(WCADP) and the French abolition group Together Against the Death
Penalty (ECPM) for making this trip possible. We have had an amazing
four days and met so many incredible people. It has truly been an