By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Oklahoma chapter of Amnesty International will host a comprehensive workshop on the death penalty on Saturday, July 25, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free training event will be held at Oklahoma City University, in the Walker Center for Arts & Sciences, Room 151. Parking is available at NW 26th and Florida Avenue.
Amnesty International (AI) is a global movement of over 7 million people who fight injustice and advocate for human rights.
The daylong training session will be led by Dr. Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University. Halperin also serves as the Regional Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator of Amnesty International and is former chair of Amnesty USA’s board of directors.
The Embrey Program educates students and concerned people around the world to understand, promote, and defend human rights.
Halperin is a recognized international authority on the death penalty, genocide, slavery, human trafficking, and torture.
He has served on the Board of Directors for several organizations, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Human Rights Initiative, Capital Punishment Investigation and Education Services, Jefferson-Titus Refugee Foundation, Center for Survivors of Torture and the International Rescue Committee.’
The workshop agenda will include a brief history of the death penalty in the United States. It will cover issues such as race, innocence, deterrence, the politics of the death penalty and death row conditions. Oklahoma’s role in lethal injection as a method of state-sponsored executions will also be reviewed.
Participants will be provided with resources from Amnesty International and other groups for advocacy work to abolish the death penalty. Opportunities to join with others to end executions in Oklahoma will be discussed.
“The need for this workshop is especially keen in Oklahoma with our state’s death penalty record, and Oklahoma’s central role in the historical development and continuation of lethal injection as a method of state-sponsored execution,” said AI Oklahoma Death Penalty coordinator Rena Guay.
“The death penalty has been used as a tool in elections, as it will be with the 2016 state question 776. Politicians refuse to responsibly address the many issues in the criminal justice system that regularly cause people to be convicted and sent to death row who are later proven to be innocent,” Guay continued.
“Evidence seems to show that Richard Glossip is one such case, yet Oklahoma is so enamored of its execution spectacle, I fear that no facts will be considered to prevent murdering a possibly innocent man.”
AI opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.
According to the website, the death penalty is the “ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
Halperin once said, “Many people were raised to believe that the death penalty is correct and just and fair. We have little reason to doubt the teachings of our schools, our civic and faith leaders or even our parents. As we grow older and form our own opinions on many issues, including this one, we can learn that, in fact, they were wrong – which is not easy to admit.’