World Day Against the Death Penalty: Son of McCarthy-Era Execution Victims Equates Death Sentence with Torture

October 12, 2011, Paris, France – Today, Robert Meeropol, Executive Director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, outspoken opponent of the death penalty, and the younger son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, spoke regarding his parents’ execution and, more broadly, the current status of the death penalty in the United States. October 10, 2011 marked the ninth annual World Day Against the Death Penalty and today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in France, Mr. Meeropol also presented a paper on behalf of the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) arguing that the death penalty is tantamount to torture. A roundtable marking these events was held between 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Maison du Barreau de Paris, 2-4 rue Harley, 75001, Paris.
Robert Meeropol explains, “If we wish to eradicate the death penalty in the United States, rather than just reduce it, we must convince the American courts and educate the American public to view capital punishment as a human rights abuse. The conditions on death rows in the United States engender the internationally recognized ‘death row phenomenon’: those slated to die spend an average of 14 years in isolation and sensory deprivation while facing their impending though uncertain extermination. As one lower court in the United States found in 1972, ‘the process of carrying out a verdict of death is often so degrading and brutalizing to the human spirit as to constitute psychological torture.’”
The position paper, entitled “The United States Tortures Before It Kills: An Examination of the Death Row Experience from a Human Rights Perspective,” argues that the extreme conditions on death row in the United States qualify the sentence as torture, as defined by the UN Convention Against Torture, ratified by the United States in 1994. These conditions include extremely restricted access to visits, phones, reading materials, educational programming, showers, and exercise; sensory deprivation; solitary confinement usually for 23 hours a day; and forms of mock execution. American death penalty prisoners are frequently subjected to these conditions for decades. The paper was co-authored by CCR staff attorneys Rachel Meeropol (Robert Meeropol’s daughter) and Katherine Gallagher.
Copies of the paper are available at:
Robert is the younger son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed when Robert was six years old, for “conspiring to steal the secret of the atomic bomb.” In 1990, Robert founded the U.S.-based Rosenberg Fund for Children, which provides for the education and emotional needs of targeted youth activists and children whose parents have been harassed, injured, jailed, lost jobs, or died in the course of their progressive activities.

FIDH, the International Federation of Human Rights, is an international NGO defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It acts in the legal and political field for the creation and reinforcement of international instruments for the protection of Human Rights and for their implementation. Founded in 1921, FIDH is composed of 164 member organisations. Visit FIDH at:

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

October 12, 2011