Breaking the dreadful doctrine of revenge – 12 June 2013

Archbishop Tutu’s statement to the 5th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, in Madrid: 12 June 2013

Breaking the dreadful doctrine of revenge

I am a prisoner of hope. My hope is rooted in the tremendous power of human beings to forgive, and ultimately, to do what is right.

I know that human beings are fallible but they are never irreparable to the point of being irreversibly excluded from the right to live.

I know that global sentiment against the death penalty will continue to grow until it is universally eradicated.

Over the past year, of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 21 applied capital punishment. Although this is 21 countries too many, the fact that most countries in theworld are no longer applying the death penalty is due to your continued efforts. We thank God for that!

There is no justice in killing in the name of justice, and no godliness in exacting vengeance. No human beings involved in the process are spared. It is a ghastly punishment that leaves a swathe of collateral damage in its wake, from the condemned persons and their families and communities to the victim of the crime’s families and communities, the defense lawyers, juries, death row wardens, guards and execution teams.

It is our duty to bring an irreversible end to this living hell for all concerned, to break the dreadful cycle of violence and the doctrine of revenge.

Some people accuse abolitionists of interfering in their business, and their rights to carry out the punishments their legal systems permit. We say: Yes. We are interfering and rightly so.

Political systems may slow us down, but we are on the side of righteousness. Good will prevail in the end.

I am very proud to associate myself with you, members of the international human rights community. I wish you well as you collectively ponder the challenges of our time and the strategies that will inform this very worthy cause over the months and years ahead.

I reiterate my unequivocal support for all that you do and for all that has yet to be accomplished to eradicate state-sanctioned murder.

Every life lost to capital punishment motivates us to multiply our efforts, to be more creative, to leave our differences aside.

Universal abolition of the death penalty is not a pipe dream. It is a necessity.

Hope is our strength and tolerance and forgiveness are our goals.

Thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of all people.

God bless you.