At UN, French minister meets with ex-death row inmate

September 27, 2012 AFP

NEW YORK — France’s foreign minister met Thursday with a former US death row inmate as he launched a campaign at the United Nations calling for a universal ban on executions.

Laurent Fabius spoke for half an hour with Kirk Bloodsworth, an American sentenced to death for the murder of a young girl before being the first to be exonerated by a DNA test after nine years behind bars.

The minister praised the courage of the wrongfully convicted man, who has campaigned against capital punishment since his 1993 release.

“It’s an issue dear to our hearts because the death penalty is inefficient, irreversible and inhumane,” Fabius said.

“There’s no better place than the United Nations to launch this fight.”

He spoke after meeting with his counterpart from Benin, Nassirou Arifari Bako, as well as some 50 countries on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly to convince them of the need to abolish the death penalty.

Other international gatherings are planned in the context of the campaign, including one in Paris on October 9 followed by others in Rabat and Madrid, according to Fabius.

France, which abolished capital punishment in 1981, is a major proponent of abolishing the death penalty, with media regularly reporting about executions. During their meeting, Bloodsworth thanked Fabius for the country’s efforts.

In a recent interview with AFP in his small apartment in Mount Rainer, near the northeastern city of Baltimore, Kirksworth spoke of nightmares that still haunt him to this day.

“I used to have very bad dreams, sweating, screaming,” he said. “I’d wake up thinking they’d drag me to the gas chamber.”

After being pardoned by the governor of Maryland and receiving $300,000 for his lost years — a sum he said that constituted about $3.72 an hour — Bloodsworth now takes his message to schools, universities and even to the world stage at the United Nations.

“Obviously my biggest reason for ending the death penalty is that we could execute an innocent person, we’ve already done that,” he said. “I believe in punishment but the death penalty is not right, not in a country that has so many different ways to take care of prisoners.”

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