On its 10th anniversary, the International Commission against the Death Penalty criticizes the lack of transparency in the executions committed and the “lightness” with which, on many occasions, the electric chair is sentenced
Joaquín José Martínez spent three years on death row for a double murder that he did not commit. He was 24, a nice car, a beach house, and money. “He had fulfilled the American dream,” he says from Valencia, his current residence. Everything seemed to roll until he was arrested in Tampa, Florida, in 1996. The woman he was divorcing then accused him and contributed an inaudible video in which, supposedly, he confessed guilty to the crime. That was enough to sentence him to the electric chair.
“It was a case that was getting a lot of press attention and they needed to find a culprit soon. I was Hispanic, you know, right? ”, He narrates. On June 6, 2001, they proved his innocence and since then he has combined raising his seven children and three grandchildren, his work as a computer scientist and activism against capital punishment, which is still legal in 90 countries and regularly practiced in 18. ” Running alone leads to revenge. In addition, the judicial system has many flaws, as was shown in my case. This sentence takes many innocents, the majority of different ethnic groups, ”, summarizes a couple of days before the World Day against the Death Penalty, which is commemorated this Saturday.
Although most countries have abolished capital punishment (107), another 90 still maintain it in force in their legislation —including Palestine and Taiwan—, although 46 nations of this category have not sentenced to death in the last 10 years and in Brazil , Burkina Faso, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Israel, Kazakhstan and Peru this punishment is reserved exclusively for exceptional crimes such as those committed during military regimes. In other words, in 36 countries this sentence is de facto practiced for the perpetrators of ordinary crimes such as murders. Among them: China, Japan, the United States, India and Thailand. Half of these executed prisoners in 2019.
There were 32 in Egypt, 22 in the United States, three in Japan and another long list of estimates in Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Iran, where “at least” a hundred people were executed per country in the last year. The case of China is invaluable. The International Commission Against the Death Penalty (ICDP) estimates that “thousands” of Chinese are awaiting their sentence. But these figures are classified as a state secret and, therefore, it is practically impossible to access an accurate number. Except for China, an estimated 546 people were executed in 19 countries in the previous year. And according to data from International Amnesty, 26,604 inmates await lethal injection worldwide.
Transparency is key, but it is in short supply. “China is the country where the most executions are carried out,” Narayan says, “and although we have been in dialogue with the relevant authorities for years, the lack of independent organizations that carry out the count makes everything very difficult.” Like the Asian giant, North Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya and Syria are among the least transparent. That is why the press plays a fundamental role. “The media should emphasize exceptional situations caused by arbitrariness, as happens in the United States. Many of the seven men executed by federal authorities [de julio a octubre] they had many reasons to stay alive ”.
In the American country, the death penalty depends on each of the states. So far this year there have been 14 executions, most in Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Montana and Alabama. But in July, the Supreme Court authorized the first federal executions in the last 17 years. And as of October, there are already seven, according to ICDP. The Madrid-based organization this week celebrates its tenth anniversary in the fight against “the most unjustifiable way of doing justice”, in the words of its members.
Martinez became the first European to leave the US death row, and after him, at least 170 other people proved their innocence months or even years after being convicted. Most belong to minority or foreign groups. A pattern that squeaks Rajiv Narayan, ICDP Policy Director: “Many cannot afford a good defense or are not even aware of their rights. And this does not happen only in the North American country, it is a generalized dynamic ”. And he adds: “The fact that the United States, which claims to have a rigorous judicial system, accumulates so many cases of people unfairly sent to the corridor worries us. There may be many more ”.
Martínez has been telling his story for almost 20 years: how he lost faith in everything after his conviction, how he went from defending the death penalty to becoming an activist, how he cursed American laws … And yet there is something that is still being done to him lump in the throat: the visits to his companions in the corridor. The children of the prisoners by measuring how much they miss them, the broken voice of the parents and their promises to find a good lawyer. “The death penalty is a punishment for many. Not only for the condemned ”, he laments,“ It is unjustifiable, whatever the case and you place yourself on the side of the victim or the executioner ”.
He affirms it from experience. Two years after his release, his father, Joaquín, was killed by a motorcycle. The driver was a 17-year-old “going too fast.” When they gave him their condolences in the hospital, anger washed over him. “My Superman had been taken from me and I couldn’t forgive him,” he recalls painfully. “I got so angry that I started yelling at my mother that I would kill him, that she was going to look for him to kill him.” She grabbed him by the face and said: “Have you not learned anything?” “Nothing was going to take away my grief. But the death of that young man, less ”, ditch.