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Reports 1995-1998 Edited by Dwain C. Epps

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Appeal for clemency for Sarah Balabagan in the United Arab Emirates

Letter to H.E. Sheik Zaid ibn Sultan an Nahayan, President of the United Arab Emirates, 21 September 1995.

Your Excellency,

We are deeply concerned by the decision of the court of United Arab Emirates sentencing Sarah Balabagan, a sixteen-year-old filipina maid, to death in a retrial ordered by Your Excellency. In the earlier trial, the court ruled Sarah Balabagan guilty of manslaughter and a victim of rape.

The circumstances surrounding Ms. Balabagan’s case require serious consideration. Her age, the differing court verdicts and the original court’s ruling that she was a victim of rape and awarding her compensation are factors that call for review of the proceedings that have resulted in imposition of the death penalty.

The World Council of Churches in a policy statement has declared its unconditional opposition to the death penalty as an expression of its commitment to the sanctity of life. It has called upon its member churches, wherever possible in cooperation with people of other faiths to work for the abolition of the death penalty.

In the circumstances we appeal to Your Excellency to demonstrate compassion and humanity by granting clemency to Ms. Balabagan.

Sincerely yours,

Dwain Epps

Coordinator, International Affairs

Appeal to commute the death sentences passed on Ken Saro Wiwa and his co-defendants Nigeria

Letter to General Sani Abacha, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2 November 1995.

Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches expresses its profound concern at the death sentence passed by the Special Military Court on Ken Saro Wiwa and other leaders of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. In May 1994, when it was announced by the Nigerian Authorities that Ken Saro Wiwa would be tried by the Military Court, together with the other leaders, the World Council of Churches wrote to the Attorney General of Nigeria requesting that the trial be conducted by the normal court in accordance with the constitution and due process.

The controversy that has surrounded the proceedings of the case calls for a review of the decision. As there is no right of appeal against the decision of the Special Military Court, the World Council of Churches appeals to your Excellency to exercise clemency and commute the death sentences passed on Ken Saro Wiwa and the other defendants. We make this appeal on the basis of our conviction that all human life is sacred.


Dwain C. Epps

Coordinator, International Relations

Ecumenical appeals for clemency for Mr. Sylvester Adams in the USA

Letter to the Rev. L. Wayne Bryan, Executive Minister of the South Carolina Christian Action Council, 11 August 1995.

Dear Rev. Bryan,

Your efforts to obtain clemency for Mr. Sylvester Adams have come to our attention. I wish to thank you for your concern, and for your efforts as an ecumenical body to come to the aid of this severely impaired individual.

The World Council of Churches has long opposed the application of the death penalty under any circumstance. It is a clear violation of international human rights norms and standards, and of Conventions to which the United States is a party.

The circumstances of this particular case prove the senselessness of the death penalty. There would appear to be substantial reason for this convicted violator to be penalized, perhaps even with a substantial prison term for the time he is deemed to be a threat to society. But society has nothing whatsoever to gain with his execution. We plead with you for clemency.

It is a tragedy that the death penalty exists anywhere in the world today. Virtually every democratic nation in the world has long since abolished it. It is striking and indeed shocking that the public and official appetite for vengeance in the United States had led state after state to restore the death penalty after many had stricken it from their books. The position of the United States as a self-declared defender of human rights around the world is severely weakened by its increasing application of this inhuman form of punishment.

I congratulate the South Carolina Christian Action Council, and its member churches for its forthright stance in this case, and against the travesty of justice which such a penalty represents. May God continue to guide and sustain you in your work for justice and peace.

You are free to share the contents of this letter, should you so wish, with Governor Beasley and with others as appropriate.

Yours in Christ,

Dwain C. Epps


Commission of the Churches

on International Affairs

Appeal for stay of execution of Karla Faye Tucker in the USA

Letter to Mr. John Shattuck, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 3 February 1998.

Dear Mr. Assistant Secretary:

In light of the 23 January Interim Report of the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, which we have read with care and considerable appreciation, I write to you, seeking your urgent intervention with President Clinton or with the other appropriate authority with respect to the tragic case of Karla Faye Tucker who faces execution tonight in the State of Texas.

Your responsibilities, I very much understand, are for United States foreign policy in the field of human rights. I address you in light of the widespread international attention focused on the internal human rights practices of the United States by this case. The credibility of United States Government efforts to deal responsibly and energetically with human rights abuses abroad, including threats to religious freedom, depends substantially on its internal practices.

I do not need to emphasize to you the fact that the United States is the only major Western nation which still applies the death penalty, or that this practice is widely considered to be a violation of fundamental human rights. The World Council of Churches long ago called for the universal abolition of the death penalty, based on both international human rights considerations and on our deep theological concern for the sanctity of human life.

The case of Karla Faye Tucker is a poignant example of all that is wrong with this irreversible penalty. For Christians, it is difficult not to recall in this connection Jesus’s loving forgiveness of the Samaritan woman, a prostitute, to whom Jesus chooses to reveal himself as the Messiah, the wellspring of eternal life. For advocates of victims’ rights, the appeals for clemency on Ms Tucker’s behalf by close relatives of her confessed victims should suffice to show that her execution would only serve to heap pain upon pain, injustice upon injustice. For those who see in the death penalty a deterrent, the clear evidence of Ms Tucker’s sincere repentance and change of life should demonstrate that her execution would defy reason.

Trusting that you more than perhaps any other United States Government official will see the broad international implications of allowing this execution to proceed, I urge you to intervene with the President, pleading with him on behalf of many around the world to use his position to stay this execution.

We are convinced that hearts of stone can be replaced with hearts of flesh, and hold out the sincere hope that the deep-seated American values of justice will prevail in an appeal to the Supreme Court to revisit this case, and to set aside the death penalty in this case. It would be a great tragedy if the possibility of true justice were to be rendered impossible by the execution of this woman.

It is with deep respect for your own sense of justice, and in view of your commitment to international respect for human rights that I address this urgent appeal to you. I pray that you will spare no effort to make your voice heard now when it counts so much. Your recent report states well, “Concretely helping the victims of persecution must be the focal point of all policy.” Here is an opportunity to show the coherence of US human rights policy in both domestic and international affairs.

Respectfully yours,

Mary Ann Lundy

Acting General Secretary

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