Former US executioner signs the petition against the death penalty in Belarus

2013 2013-10-10T12:37:10+0300 2013-10-10T12:37:10+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Photo by

Photo by

Referring to his experience, Jerry Givens, now an activist of the association "Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty" and author of the book "Another Day is Not Promised believes that only a complete refusal of the State from the death penalty can prevent a miscarriage of justice.

Representatives of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus" got acquainted with Jerry Givens at the 5th World Congress against the Death Penalty, which was held this year in Madrid. Their interest to the person of the American abolitionist was called by the frequently quoted speech in which he explained why he is a strong opponent of the capital punishment.

Jerry Givens , who lives in Richmond (Virginia), worked in penitentiary institutions for more than 25 years. He headed prison executioner crews for 17 years, during which 62 executions were conducted: 37 were executed by electric chair, 25 – by lethal injection. As said Givens, his epiphany came in 1993, when one of those sentenced to death was acquitted as a result of DNA tests. (By the way , since the beginning of 1990, thanks to the expertise of DNA in the United States, sentences to 302 people were revised, 18 of whom were to have been punished with death). Givens then asked himself the question: " If I punish an innocent person, then how am I different from those on the death row?". In the future, his personal experience also made him think about the issue of miscarriage of justice: in 1999 he was imprisoned on charges of crimes which, he argues, he did not commit. And then he started thinking that among the 62 people executed by him there could be also some victims of judicial error. Since then, Jerry Givens has been trying to tell the public that only a complete abolition of the death penalty can guarantee that a prisoner would not be deprived on life by mistake.

Talking about
the meeting Jerry Givens, coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus " Andrei Paluda noted that this is not the first case when direct participants of executions publicly speak against the death penalty. Previously, the campaign of the Belarusian human rights activists was supported by Aleh Alkayeu, the author of the controversial book "Firing Squad", who used to head the executioner crew at Minsk remand prison No. 1 in 1996-2001. According to Mr. Alkayeu, during that period 134 prisoners were executed.

"During our conversation with Aleh Alkayeu he voiced the arguments against the death penalty which matched those of Jerry Givens, that an innocent person can be executed”, says Andrei Paluda. “However, according to him the most important argument is that the death penalty is not a measure to prevent serious crimes. He has also repeatedly emphasized that, whatever “trivial” it may sound, Belarus is the last country in Europe to retain the death penalty ..."

The human rights defender emphasizes the fact that these arguments are drawn by the people who directly participated in the execution of the death penalty and know all "ins and outs" of this process.

During our conversation, Aleh Alkayeu said that in each case of the execution of the death penalty he was sure in the guilt of these people. However, there was one case when he understood that the man who was to be shot took the blame out of a sense of solidarity with other accomplices in the crime. The 19 -year-old boy was shot dead by self-incrimination ...," says Andrei Paluda.

Accling everybody to sign the Petition against the Death Penalty in Belarus, the campaign coordinator proposes to the arguments of the former executioners. It is important that these very people tell everyone that this kind of punishment should not be used.