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An Open Letter to the American People: Political Responsibility in the Nuclear Age Richard Falk, David Krieger, and Robert Laney


Last Updated: 05/29/2003
Civilization has to begin somewhere…..
Simon Stander

Charity, so the saying goes, begins at home. So does non-violence. One of the ways to begin to stop war is to ensure that the death penalty is abolished worldwide. Campaigning for the eradication of ritualised state violence by national governments at least highlights the fact that if we want a peaceful non-violent world a good starting point would be robbing the state of its power to put people to death. In the chilling Annual Report of Amnesty International (2003), we find horrifying accounts of which countries do what to their unfortunate citizens and others who live within their national boundaries.


Continent by continent the Report gives details of extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, prisoners of conscience, detention without trial, human rights abuses by armed opposition groups…and the operation of the death penalty. For Asia the list goes: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea North and South, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Viet Nam. The African list is almost as long: Burundi, CAR, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, DRC, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia. The list for the Americas and the Caribbean is much shorter: Bahamas, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Santa Lucia and the USA. (Only one country in the Americas actually carried out any executions, and the larger concentration of those was in Texas.)


The Europeans, in the shape of the European Union, will not allow new members to join if their national law allows capital punishment. Europe and Latin America have that in common, at least. No ritualised State executions. That does not say all that much, since in some of these countries the use of force is routine. Amnesty International report, for instance, 703 police killings in Brazil’s Sao Paulo alone. So, ending ritual executions, does not stop the State killing people one way or another, but at least it is a minimal beginning. Civilization has to start somewhere.


The 2003 Amnesty International Annual Report, published 28 May 2003, can be purchased for $21. (