Death row survivors call for UN to back execution moratorium vote

Three “exonerees” who served 62 years between them speak out, including man sentenced to death for killing man later found alive

Three men sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit this afternoon called on the United Nations to support a global moratorium on executions.

Speaking at an Amnesty International event at the UN headquarters in New York, in advance of a vote on a resolution for a global moratorium on executions next month, the three men highlighted how unfair trials, erroneous decisions or flaws in the judicial system can result in innocent people being executed, and urged governments from around the world to end the death penalty.

Edward Edmary Mpagi, from Uganda, who spent 18 years on death row, only for the man he had “killed” to later be found alive, said:

"I have faced death at the hands of my government and I'm here to tell the international community of the human suffering caused by the death penalty, and to urge them to end this terrible punishment."

Another of the three, Sakae Menda from Japan, served 34 years after his conviction in 1949. Police had tortured a false "confession" to murder out of Mr Menda, who was found guilty and sentenced to death after an unfair trial. Determined to prove his innocence, Menda applied for a retrial six times before finally being acquitted in 1983 - the first Japanese prisoner on death row to be released. He said:

"Living each day knowing that you may be sent to your death at any given month, day or moment is torture. Being on death row dehumanises and has a massive psychological effect on a person. It's an awful penalty to inflict on anyone, and is even more devastating for someone who is innocent."

Executions in Japan are typically held in secret and prisoners are either not warned of their impending execution, or are notified only in the morning of the day of the execution.

Meanwhile, the third man, Ray Krone, was released from prison in Arizona, USA in 2002, becoming the 100th prisoner on death row in the US to be freed and the first to be exonerated after DNA tests proved his innocence. He said:

"It's difficult to describe what it is like to serve time on death row knowing you are innocent. All you know is that what seems like an awful nightmare is now reality, a reality beyond comprehension. The US death penalty system is broken. What happened to me can happen to anyone. And it doesn't have to be that way."

Also speaking at the UN today, Amnesty International's expert on the death penalty Piers Bannister, said:

"These three men provide graphic evidence that the death penalty is administered by flawed systems, whatever the culture and resources of the country concerned. No one knows how many innocent men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have been executed through history.

“But the ever present risk of executing the innocent provides yet another compelling reason why the time has come for a global moratorium of executions."

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