Thursday, 22 September 2011

Troy Davis…and the road from Georgia

There is very little to say about the execution of Troy Davis that has not already been said.  In the end the State of Georgia authorities went ahead- and they did it with the whole world watching.

Troy Davis murderedIn a final cruel twist, Troy was given a temporary reprieve at the moment he was scheduled to be executed.  Few who watched the footage of celebrations outside the prison and of Amnesty Director Larry Cox breaking away mid-interview in euphoric disbelief, will ever forget the excitement and relief of that moment.  Nor will we forget the crushing horror when just hours later news broke that Troy was being strapped to a table and killed.

Seconds before he was injected with drugs to destroy his organs, he calmly proclaimed his innocence once more.  The most shocking aspect of this whole saga is that he may well have been telling the truth. 

With no physical evidence linking him to the 1989 murder of which he was accused, seven out of nine witness testimonies retracted, clear signs of police corruption and credible suggestions that another man (one of the two remaining witnesses) was is fact the real killer- all combine to make Troy’s innocence distinctly credible.  At the very least they cast too much doubt on his supposed guilt to justify keeping him in detention without a retrial, let alone taking his life.

The judges, prosecutors and parole board have put to death a man who may well have done nothing wrong.  They will have to live with that.  As will Barak Obama- the flailing president who has gone from disappointment to disappointment but has scraped new lows by remaining silent as one of his citizens was killed in what resembled nothing more than a twenty-first century lynching. 

He will also have to face up to the legacy that his government and the Georgian State authorities have left for future American presidents and politicians who try to speak out against executions in China, Iran or Somalia.  The CCP, Ayatollah’s and Al-Shabab can simply answer any criticism of brutality or rigged justice with two words: Troy Davis.

In this context, it is worth recalling the particularly dark moments on the final day of Troy’s life when Georgia’s parole board first blocked all e-mails sent via the Amnesty International Website, then blocked incoming correspondence altogether.  Such was the perverse lust for blood, that they were willing to side-line the people’s democratic right to speak out against the decision.

Yet while the road to that death chamber in Georgia was paved with corruption, savagery, incompetence and a callous disregard for human rights, the road onwards will be built by the very people who tried so hard to get their message across – right up until the moment when Troy took his last breath. 

As those hell-bent on killing Troy regardless of his potential innocence rubbed their hands at his impending execution, thousands upon thousands more throughout the world took a stand.  Protests were held at US embassies, #troydavis #toomuchdoubt and #theworldiswatching took over twitter and the Amnesty International website crashed under the weight of supporters flooding on.

People who had never before been involved in human rights activism have come out in defiance against this most shameful moment in US history.  People who have been involved for years have been reinvigorated by the passion and support shown from London to Sydney and from Paris to New York. 

On the morning of his execution Troy Davis stated The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davis’s who came before me and all the ones who will come after me.” That means Reggie Clemons and the other death-row inmates in the USA who’s ‘guilt’ is just a tenuous as Troy’s was.  That means the Iranian men and women sent to the gallows for being gay.  That means the Tibetans put before firing squad for protesting against the occupation of their land.  

The road from Georgia will be a long and hard one, but at the end of the road is the prize worth fighting for: the end of the death penalty…everywhere and forever.

Troy Davis

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