Informative campaigns to promote the moratorium on executions

Jerome Mallett, by Oliviero Toscani for the "We, on Death Row" AD campaign

13 May 2017 :

  • "New York, New York". In autumn 1994, the New York, New York campaign was launched in Italy at the same time that Member States were being asked at the UN to cosponsor the resolution for the moratorium on executions. The signatures of thousands of citizens and over 300 million lire were collected to finance to informative advertisements in The New York Times. On 23 November, the signatures were presented by a delegation of parliamentarians and abolitionist activists to the then Secretary-general Boutros-Ghali at the UN office in Rome.
  • "Cento città contro la pena di morte" ("One Hundred Cities against the Death Penalty"). At the end of July 1995, exponents from Hands off Cain travelled the length and breadth of Italy in a camper to meet with the mayors of numerous cities. Many local institutions - Municipalities, Regions, Provinces - decided to join Hands off Cain and to support the campaign for a moratorium on executions.
  • "Stacca la spina" ("Unplug!"). On 26 December 1995, Hands off Cain organised a concert against the death penalty, in Rome. Twenty singers and groups took part in the event. The proceeds went to Hands off Cain, and the concert was broadcast on New Year´s Eve by RAI Channel 3.
  • Visits to Death Row
    • In February 1996, Hands off Cain visited death row inmates at Angola Prison in Louisiana, which became known all over the world through the book Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean on which the film with the same title was based, for which Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for Best Actress in 1995. A video was made on the visit and aired in Italy on Cronaca in diretta, a RAI current affairs programme, and a reportage appeared in the Italian news weekly Panorama. While the moratorium on executions was actually being discussed at the UN, Hands Off Cain and former European Commissioner Emma Bonino, visited condemned prisoners in the penitentiaries of Texas, Illinois and Florida, with a view to relating the stories of inmates and their human and legal experiences, in order to involve public opinion. These visits to death rows were covered by leading European news teams.
    • In November 1999, while the EU Resolution for a moratorium on executions was actually being discussed at the UN, Hands Off Cain and former European Commissioner the Hon. Emma Bonino, has visited condemned prisoners in the penitentiaries of Texas, Illinois and Florida, with a view to relating the stories of inmates and their human and legal experiences, in order to involve public opinion. These visits to death rows were covered by leading European news teams.
  • "The Journey of Hope". In June 1998, Hands off Cain met with Governor George W. Bush´s General Adviser and presented him with EP and UN resolutions for the moratorium on executions and for the reform of Texas legislation on clemency, granted only when the condemned prisoner is proved innocent. This meeting was followed by: a visit to death row inmates at Huntsville; the publication of a full-page abolitionist advertisement in the Austin American-Statesman, the capital´s leading daily; the first big protest march through the streets of Austin in many years, promoted by Journey of Hope, the association of victims´ relatives who have said "no" to the death penalty.
  • Nobel laureates´ appeal. On 19 November 1998, Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking, and Tim Robbins, who directed the film based on the book, led the delegation from Hands off Cain which presented UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan with an appeal for a moratorium on executions launched by Nobel prize winners and internationally famous personalities, including the Dalai Lama, Rita Levi Montalcini, Desmond Tutu, Dario Fo, Nadine Gordimer, José Saramago, Mario Cuomo and Emma Bonino. The appeal appeared in the form of an advertisement in the International Herald Tribune and the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that same day.
  • "We, on death row". Between 1999 and 2000, Hands off Cain promoted the Benetton Group´s campaign "We, on death row" and collaborated on its realisation, putting at Benetton´s disposal the association´s contacts for entering various maximum security prisons in the United States. The images and words of the death-row inmates who had agreed to be the testimonials were talked about the world over, causing a sensation and, at times, fierce controversy. On account of this campaign, the Benetton Group was denounced and boycotted in the United States.
  • "The Coliseum Illuminates Life". Hands off Cain, together with Amnesty International and the Sant´Egidio Community, promoted the initiative "The Coliseum Illuminates Life." Throughout 2000 the ancient monument synonymous with Rome will be lit up every time a State decides to impose a moratorium on executions or abolish the death penalty, or when an execution is suspended or a death sentence commuted. The initiative was inaugurated on 12 December 1999, and has been taken up by the international media.  
  • “Stop the death penalty through Internet”
    • Italy. On March 15, 2001, HOC launched its online campaign to raise awareness of the death penalty and gather support for a worldwide moratorium through a GA resolution. The campaign was created after the EU’s decision to withdraw the resolution at the 1999 GA. The launch of Stop the death penalty through Internet” took place in Rome’s biggest Internet café, EasyEverything. This activity attracted the support of well-known entertainers, sports personalities and intellectuals, music bands and singers, actors, actresses and journalists. The biggest result was gathering 10,000 signatures in a single day. Over 200 websites that displayed the campaign banner, contributed to this success. The event got huge media coverage.
    • Spain. The campaign then moved on to Spain, where one of Madrid’s major Internet cafes, BBIGG, hosted the second edition on March 16, 2002. This event was timed to urge, and assist efforts for, more support for the death penalty resolution the Spanish EU presidency was presenting at the CHR session just underway. Results included: the adhesion of the main protagonists of the Spanish entertainment, political and other public scenes; support from major Spanish websites including El, MTV Espana e; huge media coverage and 10,000 signatures in a single day.
    • 2002 – 2004: European cities. Similar events to those in Rome and Madrid were organised in Nuremberg (October 29, 2002), Stockholm (November 6, 2002), Athens (April 15, 2003), Paris (September 24, 2003), Milan (May 27, 2004) and London (December 12, 2004). All the events were targeted at raising public awareness to reinforce the EU’s resolution on the death penalty at the CHR and then the GA and were realised through a project financed by the EU.
  • "Thought is forbidden: the face of repression in Cuba", an exhibition by Oliviero Toscani for Hands Off Cain. It represents the 75 dissidents - many of whom supporters of the 'Varela project' that aims to gather signatures for a referendum to propose the introduction of a multi-party system in Cuba - arrested by Castro's regime on March 18, 2003. A few days later they were given jail terms ranging from 6 to 28 years in jail on charges such as treason or political conspiracy under the Law for the Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba, a gag law better known as Law No. 88. Rivero, ailing economist Martha Beatriz Roque, trade unionist Pedro Pablo Alvarez and journalist Ricardo Conzalez were among those jailed. Hot on the heels of these arrests, the Cuban government executed three men who had hijacked a ferry-boat in a failed bid to cross the straits to Florida. Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Barbaro Leodan Sevilla Garcia and Jorge Luis Martinez Isaac were prosecuted and condemned for "very grave acts of terrorism" on April 8. They were shot at dawn on April 11. Their deaths brought to an end three years of de facto moratorium on executions on the island. The exhibition was held in Florence (July 4th, 2004), Rome (October 11, 2004) and Turin (November 12, 2004).
  • December 2006-June 2007: The Non-Violent Initiatives from “Hands Off Saddam” to the Universal Moratorium
    • The hunger and thirst strike of Marco Pannella. On December 26, 2006, following the confirmation of the death sentence against former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Marco Pannella began a hunger and thirst strike in support of the initiative “Hands Off Saddam” directed at stopping the execution. An appeal to that end had already been launched by Hands Off Cain in June of 2006 and gathered the support of more than 200 members of Italian Parliament, 3 Nobel Prize winners and numerous international celebrities.
      On December 30th, after the execution of Saddam Hussein, Marco Pannella continued his hunger and thirst strike to focus attention on the more general goal of a resolution on a universal moratorium on capital punishment.
      With his non-violent initiative, Pannella calls upon the Italian Government, to formalize its commitment in presenting a resolution for a universal moratorium on executions to the current U.N. General Assembly.
      On January 2nd 2007, in response to the initiative of Pannella and in fulfilment of the unanimous mandate of the Italian Parliament, the Council of Ministers publicly declares that “the President of the Council of Ministers and the Government are committed to formally proceeding, involving, firstly, the undersigned countries of the Declaration of December, to place on the formal agenda of the General Assembly of the United Nations the question of a universal moratorium on the death penalty.”
      On June 3rd, after 8 days without water, Pannella interrupts his thirst strike, but continues his hunger strike until January 15th.
      On March 21st, Marco Pannella begins another hunger strike that lasts until April 14th to keep pressure on the commitments made by the various Parliaments and Governments, above all those of Italy, in putting forth the presentation of a resolution on a universal moratorium on the death penalty at the current U.N. General Assembly.
    • All-out Hunger Strike. On April 16th 2007, after a two-day suspension of his hunger-strike, the non-violent initiative of Marco Pannella, underway since March 21st, becomes an “all-out” hunger-strike “because it is unacceptable, after thirteen years, to postpone until next year the goal of a universal moratorium on the death penalty.” In this new, intensified phase of the struggle, Pannella is joined by six other members of the Radical Party: Sergio D’Elia, Valter Vecellio, Guido Biancardi, Claudia Sterzi, Lucio Bertè and Michele Rana.
      The strike goes forward with only two brief interruptions until June 18th 2007, the day on which the European Union makes the decision to present the pro-moratorium resolution at the General Assembly of the U.N. starting next September.
    • The Occupation of RAI Television
       On June 1st 2007, eight members of Parliament and TRP leaders – Marco Cappato, Marco Beltrandi, Sergio D’Elia, Bruno Mellano, Maurizio Turco, Rita Bernardini, Maria Antonietta, Farina Coscioni and Sergio Stanzani – occupy the administrative offices of RAI Television on Viale Mazzini “to affirm the right of Italian citizens to be informed, in particular, of the boycott against the proposal for a moratorium on capital executions, and to allow public opinion to be involved and instrumental in a historical endeavour of civility and human rights.”
      After five days and five nights, the “occupants” decide to end their action, despite the fact that RAI has offered an all but useless plan of communication to inform the public about the struggles of the pro-moratorium resolution.
    • The Appeal by Nobel Prize Winners
      On June 7th 2007, the Radical Party and Hands Off Cain launch an appeal to President of the Council of Ministers Romano Prodi asking that Italy deposit “at the current U.N. General Assembly the project for a resolution for a universal moratorium on the death penalty.”
      Within days, the appeal includes 55 Nobel Laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Michail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu and Lech Walesa; former heads of State like Inder Kumar Gujral, Moustapha Niasse, Michel Rocard, Majco Pandeli and Mark Eyskens; more than 500 parliamentarians from around the world including all the party leaders from the Italian Parliament (except Roberto Castelli of Lega Nord), all the Italian Life-time Senators and all the party leaders of the European Parliament, including representatives from the extreme rightwing. Among the international celebrities are Israeli writer David Grossman, Spanish writer Fernando Savater, and Director Bernardo Bertolucci.
      “After years of postponements and searching to build a unanimous European consensus, requests are no longer necessary, the time for action at the U.N. in New York has arrived,” states the appeal to Prodi with 1,848 signatures of important figures from 101 countries or territories.