This Saturday, 10th December, marks the 68th anniversary of the adoption of theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The UDHR affirms the inherent dignity and worth of human life, and declares that all people are entitled to certain rights, simply as a consequence of being human.
This International Human Rights Day the UN is asking people to stand up for someone else’s rights. We are reminded that the treatment and protections we expect to be afforded to us may not be available to others, and that certain people, because of their background, their status or their circumstances, are especially vulnerable to human rights abuses.
Our experience has shown us that it is frequently the most disadvantaged and ill-equipped to defend themselves that end up facing the harshest penalties under the law. Through our legal work and advocacy the Death Penalty Project works to protect the rights of individuals who are most in need of support.
For instance, over the past year we have continued to support foreign nationals on death row in Malaysia, working closely with local lawyers and the diplomatic community to ensure these prisoners are not left without proper legal representation. We have also acted on behalf of juvenile offenders, recognising the right of children to special treatment and protection. In October 2016, the murder conviction of Bahamian juvenile Shavargo Mcphee was overturned following concerns about his treatment in police custody. Aged 17 at the time, McPhee confessed after he had been denied food, received no legal advice and prevented from speaking to a parent for over 31 hours.
In 2016 we also continued to promote better understanding of mental health issues in sentencing and to uphold the rights of those with mental illness. In May we took the case of two Trinidadian prisoners Lester Pitman and Neil Hernandez to the Privy Council to challenge the imposition of the death sentence on those with an intellectual disability.
In the coming year we will carry on acting on behalf of those who are least able to protect themselves and continue our work to restrict the use of the death penalty around the world.