“Melissa embodies all abolitionist arguments”: a look back at the demonstration in support of Melissa Lucio in Paris
15 April 2022
Under the initiative of the group The Youth with Christiane Taubira, several abolitionist associations, human rights activists, members of civil society and elected representatives from Paris gathered at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville 13 days before Melissa Lucio's scheduled execution date to call on the Texas authorities to reinvestigate the case. Melissa, a working class Latin American woman and mother of fourteen children has been on death row since 2008 despite undeniable evidence of her innocence.
Sabrina Van Tassel’s words, director of the documentary The State of Texas vs Melissa, which triggered the international mobilisation around the case, were reminiscent of the many other wrongly convicted people in the United States who do not receive media attention and are therefore executed in silence, victims of judicial errors and of a political system designed to oppress minorities. These words were echoed by the many voices present last night. Jean-Philippe Gillet (PC) reminded us that in spite of the US calling themselves the world's largest democracy, "the death penalty is carried out by the elites and is lived out over a long period of time, because it is a profoundly political tool against the poor". According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 2,591 people are currently on death row in the US, and 1,524 people have been executed in the US since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976. Over 40% of recorded executions have taken place in Texas, which remains the most executing state.
Geneviève Garrigos, Paris councillor and former president of Amnesty International France: "With the police looking for someone to blame at all costs and this well-oiled political machine, I see Troy Davis in Melissa’s case”. In 2011, ECPM and the international community rallied to prevent the execution of Troy Davis, who had become a symbol of the fight against the death penalty. The Libérons Mumia! collective, which is fighting tirelessly to defend the rights of Mumia Abu Jamal, was also present to denounce the American justice system that kills and keeps Mumia, the first honorary citizen of the city of Paris, within the walls of Greene prison, Pennsylvania, despite him being seriously ill.
"With the police looking for someone to blame at all costs and this well-oiled political machine, I see Troy Davis in Melissa’s case"
Sabrina Van Tassel closed the demonstration with words of hope, reminding everyone that everyone can have an impact: "you can write a letter, make an call. Your mobilisation goes beyond the borders of the internet.” The day before the gathering, Robert Badinter, ECPM's honorary president, spoke out passionately from his office in Paris, joining the action led by ECPM to ask the Texan authorities not to execute Melissa Lucio, who "embodies all abolitionist arguments", according to Nicolas Perron, director of programmes. “I’m asking the Texas authorities for Melissa’s life. To do otherwise would of course be sacrilege, fail the duty of humanity and in her case, a shocking injustice that would add up to social misfortune, which would be contrary to the spirit of generosity and humanity of the State of Texas," Mr Badinter warned. According to the DPCI, at least 187 people wrongly sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973 in the US.