Tag Archives: UN

The Until We Meet Again Tour – 22 August 2016, part 1

Inspired by an idea for a present, the Until We Meet Again Tour made a quick trip to the United Nations gift shop, pausing to check out the view along the way.

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Too absolute, too irreversible

On 3 July 2012, United Nations Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon today called on Member States which use the death penalty to abolish this practice. Mr. Ban spoke at a panel organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on ‘Moving away from the death penalty – Lessons from national experiences’ at UN Headquarters in New York.

“The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process,” Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban lifted up a number of signs of the growing international movement away from the death penalty.

There are now 74 Parties to the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

More than 150 States have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.

In 2011, only 20 Member States conducted executions.

In the United States, Illinois and Connecticut became the 16th and 17th states to reject death as a punishment.

Mr. Ban acknowledged that 32 UN Member States retain the death penalty for drug-related offenses. He voiced his concern that “some countries still allow juvenile offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offence to be sentenced to death and executed.”

But he lifted up international efforts to abolish the death penalty:

  • The United Nations system has long advocated for abolition.
  • The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution “calling for a global moratorium on executions with a view to eventually abolishing the death penalty entirely” in 2007. In the years since, Argentina, Burundi, Gabon, Latvia, Togo and Uzbekistan have abolished the death penalty.
  •  International and hybrid criminal tribunals for Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Rwanda and Sierra Leone do not provide for capital punishment.
  • The International Criminal Court does not provide for capital punishment.
  • The Guidance Note of 2008 on the UN Approach to Rule of Law Assistance (by Mr. Ban) stated that “the UN will not establish or directly participate in any tribunal that allows for capital punishment.”

Mr. Ban closed with an appeal that Member States “do our utmost to put a final end to this practice.”

May it be so.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

A discovery

I discovered a new blog today – Death Penalty News. The author states:

I oppose the death penalty in all cases unconditionally regardless of the method chosen to kill the condemned prisoner.

The blog compiles stories about the death penalty from around the world:

The blog provides action ideas – see the article about Sakineh Mohammadi for ways to speak against her possible execution. In the case of Robert Gattis, who faces a January 20 execution date, two online options are available:

Death Penalty News also identifies resources such as Quest for Justice: Defending the Damned, a book by Defense Attorney Richard Jaffe that will appear in February.

I have subscribed to Death Penalty News and look forward to learning more.

And I have taken action on behalf of Sakineh Mohammadi and Robert Gattis. I invite you to do the same.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Death Penalty

Shooting Dogs

Location map of Rwanda

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight’s movie tears at my soul. Beyond the Gates tells the story of the École Technique Officielle in Rwanda.

As the 1994 genocide , Tutsis began arriving at the school, seeking protection from the 90 Belgian UN peacekeepers stationed there. Eventually 2,000 Rwandans arrived at the school, including 400 children. On April 11, the UN peacekeepers left. The people were massacred shortly afterwards.

A number of Europeans also arrived at the school. They were evacuated a couple of days before the peacekeepers departed. The scene is wrenching. Absolutely wrenching. In the film, two Europeans choose to stay at that point. It makes me wonder – deeply wonder – about the choices I make in relation to the least of my sisters and brothers and in relation to the least within myself. Thanks to my friend Bridgett for that image.

Characters pose a number of questions in the course of the film:

Does God love everyone? Does God even love those men outside on the roads?
Where is God in everything that is happening – in this suffering?
How much pain can a human being take?

And the historical question:

How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?

In an utterly haunting movie, two scenes stand out:

  • The Rwandans hiding in the school ask the departing peacekeepers to shoot them – that they might die quickly.
  • Before the end, children receive their first communion. Did that happen? I do not know. But there is much to ponder about the parallels between Jesus’ crucifixion and genocide.

The film originally carried the title of Shooting Dogs – a reference that, under their mandate, the peacekeepers could shoot scavenging dogs because they might carry disease, but could not act to stop those committing the killing. What a world we have made.

In the last scene, set some five years after the massacre, one of the young women who survived makes here way to England where she talks to one of the Europeans who left. It is a gentle confrontation that ends with the words, given to the survivor:

We are fortunate. All this time we have been given. We must use it well.

Another sleepless night filled with powerful emotions and disturbing thoughts lie ahead.

See you along the Trail.

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Sometimes heroes fail

I am watching a movie about one of my heroes: Shake Hands with the Devil. It is a wrenching and painful movie set during the Rwandan genocide – a time of brutality and horror; a time of failure – failure by the nations, leaders and peoples of the world, failure by the United Nations, failure even by my hero.

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, of Canada, served as Force Commander for UNAMIR the UN peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994. He was there for the 100 days of genocide. Dallaire did not stop the genocide. He did not command perfectly. He made mistakes.

During a scene set in a hospital, a woman says to him: “We’re dying and all you say is there’s nothing you can do.” Did that scene really happen? Perhaps. I would need to re-read his book. But it could have.

He is credited with helping to save thousands. Yet he remains haunted by individuals – hundreds of thousands of individuals – who were not saved – who perished on his watch. As the CBC notes: “After Rwanda, Dallaire blamed himself for everything. He sank deep into despair. He attempted suicide.”

Why then, do I consider Dallaire a hero?

Because he tried. Faced with the situation, so many turned away. Even though they knew – even though Dallaire told them – they world turned its back on Rwanda. In the words of another line from the movie, the world dismissed Rwanda as “just one more African mess.” But Dallaire stayed and tried. He remained faithful – faithful to his charge and faithful to the people.

So for Roméo Dallaire – for the unnamed people of Rwanda and soldiers and medical personnel and journalists and others who stood with him – for all who stand against death and evil – for all who work for life – I give thanks.

See you along the Trail.

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