“Human” – About the Death Penalty


Abolish the death penalty for drug-related offenses

Human is a documentary including is a collection of testimonies from people on the whole planet about their life situations. The director has based on interviews with more than 2000 people in 65 countries. During film editing, 110 interviews were selected. Topics include among others love, agriculture, homosexuality or immigration.

I don’t believe that we should be killing. I recall one of the first cases I ever worked on, where the man was executed. He was a man we jumped in at the last minute. He couldn’t find a lawyer. I tried to stop the execution but every court I went to said it was too late. The night the man was scheduled to be executed I went down to be with him. I’ve never forgotten our conversation.

He said to me: “It’s been such a strange day, Brian” and he said it over and over again. “When I woke up this morning, the guard said to me: “What do you want for breakfast?”. At midday, they came to me and said: “What do you want for lunch?”, and in the evening they said: “What do you want for dinner?” “All day long people have been saying: “what can I do to help you”? “Can I get you stamps to write your letters?”, “Can I get you water, can I get you coffee?”… And I’ll never forget this man saying to me, in those last few minutes. He said: “Brian, more people have said: what can I do to help you in the last 14 hours of my life than they ever did in the first 19 years of my life. »

Call for the abolition of drug-related death penalty

Countries that are still carrying out executions for drug offenses do not register significant shifts in either supply or demand. The death penalty has failed to deter drug-related crime. Yet, thousands of people languish on death row for drug-related crimes across the Middle-East, Asia and part of Africa. The global drug control system is partly responsible, since treaties promoting severe punishments for drug-related offenses have opened the door to such responses.

The objectives of drug control have to be clear: the health and welfare of humankind, including harm reduction, prevention, treatment and care as well as social rehabilitation. This is why, along with human rights organisations, we call for the abolition of the death penalty in addition to proportionate sentencing and alternatives to incarceration.

“And holding his hand I couldn’t help but think: “Where were they when you were 3 years old being physically abused? Where were they when you were 7, being sexually abused?  Where were they when you were 9 and 10 experimenting with drugs? Where were they when you were 14, homeless and roaming the streets with no place to go?”

“And with those questions that were resonating in my mind, this man was pulled away, the hair was shaved off his body, he was strapped in the electric chair and he was executed. There is no question in my mind that we did something profoundly immoral, profoundly unjust and profoundly at odds with human dignity and human rights when we executed that man”.

“For me the death penalty is really about overcoming impulses, that are bad, negative, destructive. We could elevate those impulses within all of us, that recognize compassion, redemption and restauration. The death penalty is a distraction from an important human journey that gets us closer to each other, to human compassion and understanding. And eliminating it would eliminate one more roadblock between us and the destination we have to get to, which is more justice, more mercy and more compassion.”