EDITO – Death Row Investigations: ECPM Expertise

27 June 2019

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ECPM's expertise in death row investigations has been in place for many years around the world. Our investigation in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2005 had already received the French Republic Human Rights Prize. The one in Rwanda, carried out in 2007, was cited by the Kagame government as one of the reasons for abolishing the death penalty in 2008.

After a survey in the USA, Morocco and Tunisia, this year we are releasing two new publications from our "Fact-finding Mission" series (three others will follow: in Lebanon, Indonesia and the DRC).

For the first time, we are documenting prisons and death row in Mauritania and Cameroon. "Le Bagne au pays des sables" and Condamnés à l'oubli" remind us of the harsh reality of capital punishment, even when it is not carried out. Because that is what we are talking about: conditions of detention, oblivion and isolation.

Should we talk about death row? This is not necessarily justified in every country; however, wherever our teams and partners have investigated, the same observations return: extreme isolation, death row syndrome, marginalization, sword of Damocles over the heads of prisoners, madness and mental illness, and finally, a sense of abandonment and exclusion from human society.

Our ambition, as always, is to provide a detailed and precise knowledge of the different situations in order to enable the institutions and governments of these countries to make informed progress.  It now remains for the Mauritanian and Cameroonian governments to open the debate with ECPM and its partners. We are ready for them to grasp the openness to dialogue that we are proposing.

In another vein, but always with the aim of providing as much didactic information as possible to help us understand the world, reason, dignity and human rights, ECPM is preparing for the publication, at the beginning of July, of a reference document entitled "10 questions and answers to better understand the situation of French citizens sentenced to death in Iraq". Because fear cannot be the only adviser and because the principles of human rights, of which the French are heirs through the exemplarity of the "Enlightenment", France must address post-conflict management in Syria and Iraq, and the many death sentences of its nationals, otherwise.

Finally, as every year for the past 15 years, the ECPM tank will march during the "Marche des Pride" in Paris to proclaim loud and clear that "Love is not a crime", as part of our campaign "The death penalty is homophobic". Come and meet us in Paris, this Saturday June 29th!


Raphael Chenuil-Hazan, Executive Director, ECPM