Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, is pushing for a global moratorium on capital punishment, and he wants more business leaders to join him.
At a virtual South By Southwest event on Thursday, the 70-year-old British billionaire launched a new initiative to boost money for the abolition of the death penalty.
“I have always thought the death penalty is barbaric, inhumane and that governments should not be in the business of executing their own people,” Branson said during the pre-recorded panel. “Businesses and their leaders must go beyond their companies and be a force for good in society. This must include issues we find unacceptable, including the death penalty.”
Branson has released a declaration to abolish the death penalty, which has now been signed by 19 other influential business leaders, including Ben and Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, as well as Ariana Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post.
Branson has launched a declaration to abolish the death penalty, which has now been signed by 19 other influential business leaders, including Ben and Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, and Ariana Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post.
Branson’s campaign will work for the next seven months to get more global business leaders to sign the declaration and endorse efforts to abolish slavery. On World Day Against the Death Penalty, October 10, an updated list of signees is expected to be released.
Former Tiffany & Co. CEO Alessandro Bogliolo, Mo Ibrahim, CEO of Mobile Systems International, Anna Wojcicki, and Vista Equity Partners are among the other leaders who have signed the declaration.
The declaration states that abolishing the death penalty is a “constitutional obligation that all mankind should embrace.” It defines the practice as a type of punishment that is often discriminatory, inhumane, permanent, and severe.
According to the United Nations, 170 of its 193 member countries have either eliminated or stopped carrying out state-sponsored executions. According to the International Federation for Human Rights, Russia hasn’t carried out an official state execution since 1996.
Despite recent polls suggesting that Americans’ support for ending the practice has reached record highs, the United States remains one of the only UN member countries that has not abolished the death penalty.
While a majority of Americans still support the death penalty for convicted killers, according to a Gallup poll conducted in the fall of 2020, 43 percent of respondents believe it should be abolished, the highest level of opposition to the practice since the 1960s.
Despite diminishing support for the death penalty, the Trump administration reinstated executions of federal death row inmates in 2020.
According to the Associated Press, the federal government executed 10 prisoners during Trump’s final year in office, breaking a 17-year moratorium.
The death penalty, according to Cohen and Greenfield, is a permanent sign of institutional injustice. According to a 2020 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review report, killers of White Americans are 17 times more likely to be sentenced to death than killers of Black Americans.
“The death penalty has a long history of injustice,” the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s wrote in a statement. “It has to come to an end. Now is the time.”