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Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA  02140




Message from the Executive Director

"We hope to reframe the public debate about the death penalty from one that takes place in a criminal justice context to one that takes place in a human rights context.  In articulating a victim-centered opposition to the death penalty, we hope to find common ground with others concerned about victims and promote efforts to meet victims' needs in harmony with human rights."

Renny Cushing, Executive Director, MVFHR,
son of murder victim, Robert Cushing

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A Message from Renny Cushing, Executive Director

Dear Friend:

I had an extraordinary conversation a couple of years ago during a visit to Japan.  In the midst of a hectic series of public talks, I stopped to have a personal conversation with a man named Masaharu Harada, whose brother was murdered a few years ago.  Until we met, Mr. Harada had never spoken with another murder victim’s family member who opposed the death penalty as he did. 

 Mr. Harada told me about his decision to speak out publicly against the execution of his brother’s murderer, even though he had never known anyone else who had expressed such a view.  I told Mr. Harada that he wasn’t alone – that all over the world there were survivors of murder victims who felt as he does.  I showed him some of our pictures, told him some of our stories.  I told him that we’ve all felt isolated at times, and that joining together in shared pain and shared belief makes all the difference.

I don’t know Japanese and Mr. Harada doesn’t know English, but some of what we had to say to each other didn’t need to be translated.  Even before the interpreter’s words reached us, we were understanding each other through the expressions on our faces and the tears that filled our eyes.

Speaking with Mr. Harada across the barrier of language and culture, feeling our shared grief and shared aversion to responding to that grief with more violence, I knew that the issue of victims and the death penalty transcends national borders.  I knew that the death penalty is more than a political issue and more than a criminal justice issue.  It is a human rights issue, and what group has greater moral authority to call for a consistent human rights ethic in responding to violence than victims’ family members, who know exactly how devastating it is when the most basic human right is violated. 

Out of this realization, a new organization was born.  On December 10, 2004, International Human Rights Day, several long-time victim abolitionists and I came together to form a new international organization called Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.  This is an organization of family members of victims of individual homicide, execution, terrorist killings, extrajudicial assassinations, and “disappearances,” all of whom oppose the death penalty. 

All are welcome to join us as we work toward a world that upholds, rather than denies, the value of human life.  Together, we can show Mr. Harada and others like him that there are victims all across the globe who have suffered the loss of a family member to murder or execution and share the belief that the death penalty is not the answer.  Together we can pledge to end the death penalty in the United States and around the world.

In solidarity, 

Renny Cushing

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