One month before… The 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty: Focus on the rights of children of parents sentenced to death

19 September 2019

On 10 October, the 17th World Day against the Death Penalty will be held, devoted to the children of parents sentenced to death. On this occasion, ECPM and its partners will be involved in numerous events in France and abroad.

The theme.... "Children: Unseen Victims of the Death Penalty"


Often forgotten, the children of parents sentenced to death or executed carry a heavy emotional and psychological burden that can severely affect their rights.

Such trauma can occur at any stage of a parent's death sentence: arrest, trial, sentencing, death row, date of execution, execution and its consequences. At each of these stages, the child is caught in permanent cycles of hope and despair that can have a very long-term impact, even in adulthood. Stigmatization by the group or society to which he or she belongs and the loss of a parent from the hands of the State make his or her daily life particularly unstable.

In connection with the 30th anniversary of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted on 20 November 1989, this year's World Day focuses on children and their human rights.

A theme addressed at the 7th World Congress against the Death Penalty

How can the abolitionist movement address the twin issues of the right to life and the right of children? This reflection was conducted beforehand at the World Congress in Brussels. The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, ECPM's partner in organizing the 7th Congress, returned in an article on the debate "Children of parents sentenced to death or executed: protecting their rights and limiting the use of the death penalty", organized by the Quaker United Nations Office at the Palais d'Egmont in Brussels on 26 February.

The death penalty never condemns only one individual

Driven by a strong desire for revenge, the death penalty deeply affects the lives of the convicted person's immediate family, his or her family and first and foremost children. This was the conclusion of the workshop on persons sentenced to death and their families and the witnesses' evening. Innocent and yet condemned to a heavy toll in the name of their filiation alone, the children of death row inmates see their lives turned upside down. Sabine Atlaoui, whose husband Serge Atlaoui is currently waiting on death row in Indonesia, gave a poignant testimony to the Coalition's working group organizing the World Day. Their son, born during Serge Atlaoui's detention, faces the questions of his classmates in France and the propaganda messages broadcast in Indonesia against his father.

Threatened, stigmatized and discriminated against, children are excluded from the rest of society and their fundamental rights are violated. Hedad Bentaoui and his children fled Saudi Arabia where Raef Bentoui was convicted for committing, according to the regime, a crime of apostasy. Hedad's children in Canada have only fragmentary information about their father, whose sentence has been commuted to a prison sentence and 1000 lashes, with a 10-year ban on leaving the country. The conviction of a parent, the waiting and retaliation against their family, and sometimes the secrecy surrounding the execution and place of burial, constitute real torture that denies their right to health and to be protected from mental violence. Their right to education is often not respected, even though its exercise is necessary for the enjoyment of all others.

Acting for the rights of all children

The Human Rights Committee or the Committee on the Rights of the Child encourage the remaining retentionist States to make more limited use of the death penalty, taking into account in particular its effects on children. In the name of the best interests of the child, which are enshrined not only in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child but also in the conclusions of various international and regional human rights institutions, major reforms appear necessary.

For years, the Quaker United Nations Office, a party to the World Congress, has been working to promote children's rights. Their latest report, Protection of the Rights of Children of Parents Sentenced to Death or Executed: An Expert Legal Analysis, provides a high-level analysis of children's rights in international human rights law. And to recall that beyond an infringement of their right, the death penalty compromises their well-being. Their previous report, entitled "Children of sentenced or executed parents", explores the avenues of work. In addition to maintaining calls for the universal and unconditional abolition of the death penalty, it is crucial, for example, to better train prison staff, work with teachers and provide social services with the means to care for children.

The program.... Numerous actions in France and abroad

A day of action around the world to innovate together

At the international, national or local level, ECPM and its partners will be mobilized on October 10 through various activities. Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Paris, of course, but also Strasbourg... We will tell you more about it shortly.

In the meantime, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty has put together an interactive map of events organized by abolitionists around the world! Explore it below.

The resources to act...

You can find more information about the World Day in this toolkit made available by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

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