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At the UN Sub-Commission

Dominicans were also active in Geneva at the 2002 session UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The Sub-commission is a key mechanism for NGOs in their work of advocacy on behalf of victims of human rights violations.
One of the major actions of Dominicans was to advocate for a reprieve of the execution of Javier Suàrez Medina. It galvanized the delegation and was supported by Dominicans worldwide. Dominicans for Justice and Peace, in a statement delivered on August 5, 2002, at the meeting UN Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, called on all governments to abolish the death penalty and intervened on behalf of Javier Suàrez Medina, a Mexican national, who was scheduled for execution on August 14, 2002, in Texas. The statement was co-sponsored by Franciscans International and Pax Christi International, in conjunction with the Dominican Justice and Peace Promoters of North America.

Dominicans worldwide oppose the death penalty

The death penalty remains an issue of primary concern for members of the Dominican family. A number of Dominican congregations in the US have adopted a corporate stance against capital punishment and the Dominican Justice and Peace Promoters of North America have called for its abolition. Further, the General Chapter of the Dominicans held in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2001, appealed to all the states of the international community to abolish the death penalty without delay and in all circumstances.

In calling for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, we express our deep concern about its unjust and unequal application. In countries where the death penalty continues to be exacted, it is more likely to be applied in a racist manner, more likely to be applied to minorities and the underclasses in general. Poor people, disabled people and young people are more often subjected to capital punishment. Javier Suàrez Medina is an example of these prejudices.

Javier Suarez Medina’s case

Javier’s case raised serious questions about the application of the death penalty, the fairness of his trial and the ongoing refusal of Texas authorities to respect binding international treaty obligations. He was sentenced to death when he was only 19 years old on the basis of an unproven allegation, also known as an “unadjudicated offense”, which would not be accepted in many states, but it is in Texas. Further, Javier was not notified by US authorities of his right, recognized under international law, to consular assistance from the Mexican Government.

Intervention at the UN

The oral intervention of Dominicans for Justice and Peace at the 2002 UN Sub-Commission resulted in a statement by the Chairperson of the Sub-Commission asking U.S. authorities for a reprieve of the execution of Javier Suarez Medina and for a re-examination of his case. Additionally, the Permanent Delegate of the Order at the UN asked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to intervene and impressed upon the delegation of Mexico the urgency of requesting the President of their country to make a statement on the case. Subsequently, both the UN High Commissioner and the President of Mexico made public statements asking for a reprieve of Javier’s execution.

Regretfully, despite unprecedented and urgent interventions made worldwide on behalf of Javier, he was executed on August 14, 2002 by lethal injection, in Huntsville, Texas and was pronounced dead at 6:13 PM (Texas time). The next day, the President of Mexico, Vicente
Fox canceled his scheduled visit to the United States and publicly denounced the barbarity of capital punishment.

The case of Javier Suàrez Medina continues to raise serious questions and is bound to change the discourse around the lack of fairness, the inhumanity and the injustice of the death penalty. Dominicans for Justice and Peace will continue to advocate at all levels for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.
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