The Irish Cultural Centre in Paris will host a series of debates and events from Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 January 2004, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth in Paris of Sean MacBride, human rights activist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and one of the earliest Presidents of Amnesty International.
A two-day conference on the abolition of capital punishment (MacBride s own father was executed for his participation in the Easter Rebellion), will take place on Thursday 22 January and Friday 23 January. The conference, entitled "Towards the Abolition of the Death Penalty," will be addressed by Professor William Schabas, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway and author of The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law.
"It is appalling that the United States and China continue to practice capital punishment, without even respecting recognised international norms", said Professor William Schabas. "In the United States, for example, juveniles continue to be executed and threatened with capital punishment. In both countries, trials do not respect the high standards that must be honoured when human life is at stake."
A substantial majority of the world s countries have now abolished the death penalty. According to the latest UN figures, approximately 123 countries have abolished capital punishment, while about 70 still retain it (although most of these use it only very occasionally). The statistics indicate a dramatic shift in recent decades, and the trend to abolition appears likely to continue. The death penalty has been ruled out for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, for example. Even Iraq has suspended use of the death penalty, the result of pressure from the United Kingdom, which could be held responsible for human rights violations in that country before the European Court of Human Rights.
Dr Iognáid G. O Muircheartaigh, President of NUI Galway will launch the three-day conference. Other speakers include Tom O'Malley, Dean of NUI Galway's Law Faculty and Dr. Maurice Manning, President of the Irish Human Rights Commission. The conference is co-organised by The Irish Centre for Human Rights, the Irish Cultural Centre and the Human Rights Centre of the Université de Paris II.
The conference will conclude with a morning session on Saturday on MacBride's legacy and his contribution to human rights.