Sister Helen Prejean, author of the deeply moving best-selling book “Dead Man Walking”, made into an acclaimed motion picture starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, is one of the defenders of the Speak Truth To Power human rights education project.
She has made a lifetime commitment to the abolition of the death penalty. She said: “The death penalty is not a peripheral issue about what to do about a few criminals who have done terrible crimes. It epitomizes the three deepest wounds in our society that we need to attend to and heal. The first wound is racism. The second wound is the assault on the poor. The third wound is our penchant to try to solve social problems through violence.”
According to Amnesty International, as at December 2009, 58 countries and territories retain the death penalty, although many never actually use it.
China executes the most people per year overall. However, in 2009, the country yet again refused to divulge figures on its use of the death penalty. Although media coverage is permitted in selected cases, information on the number of executions is classified as a state secret and individuals disclosing state secrets can be held criminally responsible.
According to the China Daily, China aims to cut back the number of crimes that carry the death penalty, and may also end executions of convicted criminals over 70 years old.
Capital punishment currently applies to 68 offences, of which 44 are not violent.
Technically it can be handed down for corruption cases where defendants have taken a bribe of 100,000 yuan ($14,750) or more, the China Daily said, although in practice it is used only in cases involving much larger sums.
According to the Southern Weekend paper, a draft revision of the criminal law will be submitted to the standing committee of the National People’s Congress in late August.
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