A Message from Renny Cushing, Executive Director
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
victims 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
brothers murderer, even though he had never known anyone else who had
expressed such a view. I told Mr. Harada that he wasnt 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 weve all felt isolated at times, and that joining together
in shared pain and shared belief makes all the difference.
I dont know Japanese and Mr. Harada
doesnt know English, but some of what we had to say to each other didnt
need to be translated. Even before the interpreters words reached us, we
were understanding each other through the expressions on our faces and the
tears that filled our eyes.
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.
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
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.