Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"I owe my life to Amnesty International"

Earlier this month in Yemen, an emotional Hafez Ibrahim greeted Amnesty International researcher Lamri Chirouf, the man he credits with stopping his execution for a crime committed when he was a child.

Now aged 22, Hafez proudly described his determination to make the most of the life that was returned to him. He is in his third year at Sanaa University studying law, and plans to dedicate himself to protecting human rights. His story highlights the additional injustice and cruelty of the death penalty when it comes to juvenile offenders.

Hafez Ibrahim was 16 when he attended a wedding in his home town of Taizz. Everyone was in high spirits and most of the men were armed. At some point, the celebrations boiled over, a struggle broke out, a gun went off and someone was killed.
The first judge sentenced me to death in 2005, he told Amnesty International. Then the case was referred to another judge, who confirmed the death sentence. He was not allowed to appeal.

Two years later and half way across the world in Amnesty Internationals headquarters in London, Lamri received a text on his mobile phone. It read: They are about to execute us. Hafez. Remarkably, Hafez had managed to get hold of a phone in Taizz Central Prison to send his desperate message.
Hafez knew what awaited him. He would be forced to lie face down on the ground inside the prison, and then guards would shoot him through the heart with an automatic rifle. The young man began the cruel countdown to death.

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