Greater protection against capital punishment for people with mental disorders

09/10/2014
Press release
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Although forbidden in international law, the death penalty is still applied against persons with mental health problems in a number of countries denounced FIDH today, on the occasion of the the 12th World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Mental health problems resulting from sickness or handicaps may justify the reduction or exclusion of responsibility but many countries like Japan and the United States do not take account of this situation. Consulting expert psychiatrists, who sometimes lack adequate training, is highly insufficient and leaves the accused without proper defence. In some cases the die is cast before the trial even gets underway.

An alleged culprit who suffers from mental disorders cannot be judged in the same way as other people. They should be protected even more against the death sentence, said Florence Bellivier, FIDH Deputy Secretary General and member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. It is very important to advocate for the adoption of better measures to protect the detained and convicted persons against being sent to death row, she added.

Interview with Florence Bellivier
World coalition against death penalty

Beyond those suffering from mental illness, the application of the death penalty has also severe implication on the mental health of prisoners, of their families, and even sometimes of their lawyers.

Conditions of detentions on death row, the lengthy wait before being executed, and the uncertainty, may be deemed inhuman and degrading treatment, even torture. Convicts on death row are not given the proper medical care or psychological treatment. In some cases the results are horrendous ; the suicide rate on death row in some states in the United States is alarming.

In Japan, the prisoners are not informed of the date of their execution, nor are their families and lawyers. In Belarus the authorities refuse to return the remains to their families or to tell them where they are. This lack of transparency has devastating psychological effects on the convicted persons and their loved ones.

FIDH urge States to immediately apply international standards in force, prohibiting sentencing to death andexecuting any person with an intellectual handicap or with a documented mental disorders.

FIDH reaffirms its strong opposition to capital punishment for any and all crimes and under all circumstance and is actively working with its member organisations to have it abolished the world over. FIDH has, furthermore, demonstrated that the death penalty is generally issued after an unfair trial and that the application of the death penalty is often discriminatory and even decided on a random basis.

Interviews : Death penalty systems disregard mental health

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