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The Role of Identity in Pistorius Verdict; Medical Breakthrough Fuels Hope; Negotiating with Kidnappers; Imagine a World
Aired October 21, 2014 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: five years behind bars. Oscar Pistorius sentenced for killing his girlfriend.
So is justice served in South Africa and beyond?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN STEVENSON, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE: . our system here in the U.S. -- and I think in many parts of
the world -- frequently treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Also ahead, as North Korea frees an American hostage an insider's view into the secretive world of hostage negotiations.
And he hasn't risen from the dead, but he has been raised to his feet again, a medical breakthrough fuels hope.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
In South Africa today Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius capped his fall from grace with a five-year prison sentence for killing his girlfriend,
Reeva Steenkamp, ending a case that laid bare the country's still fraught racial tensions and the often unfair justice system.
After the judge handed down her sentence, Steenkamp's family said they were satisfied. Pistorius' uncle suggested that he would not appeal and
the Paralympic committee said they would ban Pistorius for all five years of his sentence whether or not he gets early release.
Now the case had divided South Africa, a country awash in guns and racial disharmony. Many asked what would have happened had a poor black
man been on trial instead of a rich white national hero.
And these are the very same questions that plagued the world's richest democracy, the United States of America, most recently demonstrated by the
police shooting of an unarmed black teenager this summer in Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters remain in the streets to this day, carrying
signs that state, "We Are Human," and showing just how the U.S. still is grappling with its identity.
And that's where my guest tonight comes in. Bryan Stevenson has fought his whole life under the simple belief the opposite of poverty is
not wealth, it is justice. He's worked tirelessly to get innocent people off death row and he's railed against trying children as adults.
And in his new book, a memoir that's called "Just Mercy," he joined me earlier from New York to discuss Pistorius and America's plague of
AMANPOUR: Bryan Stevenson, welcome back to our program.
STEVENSON: Thank you. Glad to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first and foremost, given your experience in court, what do you make of the verdict handed down in South Africa today
against Oscar Pistorius?
STEVENSON: Well, it's a dynamic that we see frequently. When people come into the criminal courts with another identity, with another status,
they tend to fare much better.
This young man was a respected Olympian, an athlete who was well respected and adored and that meant that he was going to get the
presumption of innocence that we offer, that we say we give to everybody, but that not everybody gets.
AMANPOUR: Despite what you say about his identity and the sentence associated with it, doesn't it just blow your mind to see a township black
judge handing down a sentence, presiding over a case against a rich white national hero?
STEVENSON: Well, I think that's one of the remarkable things, is that in South Africa, you have seen this transformation. And it is a remarkable
thing to witness, people of color in decision-making roles, people being called into court who are privileged and previously would not have had the
same experience, and I think that's exciting.
I think it is gratifying for those of us who have long wanted a free South Africa. And I do think that's one of the more impressive and
admirable aspects of this whole proceeding.
AMANPOUR: Let's now turn to the United States, which is the subject of your book and where you have spoken out and done so much about what you
call the fundamental injustice.
How do you describe it? You use a very loaded quote to describe the situation in the United States.
STEVENSON: Well, I say that our system treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. And that's because
wealth, not culpability, tends to shape outcomes. I mean, we have a system that's adversarial in structure, but it requires you to have the resources
to prove your case.
I talk about, in my book, a man who was wrongly convicted, sentenced to death, put on death row for 15 months before the trial took place, had
no evidence to support his conviction but he didn't have the wealth and resources to make the people in that community respond to his innocence.
And that's the difficulty with our system.
AMANPOUR: Now you got him off, basically, got him out of jail. You defended him and got him out of jail. You have said the death penalty is
riddled with error. It's all about error.
What do you mean by that?
STEVENSON: Well, I mean that, you know, for me the question of the death penalty isn't do people deserve to die for the crimes that they
commit. I think you have to ask a different question.
I think the question is: do we deserve to kill?
When we have a system where for every 10 people who've been executed, we've identified one innocent person, that's a shocking error rate. It's
an error rate that we would not tolerate in most aspects of public life. If for every 10 planes that took off one crashed, we would not fly. We
would demand a change, a radical change in aviation.
But in our criminal justice system, we continue to tolerate that kind of error.
That makes me ask the question: do we deserve to kill? And I'd say no.
AMANPOUR: One of the outrages that you correctly outline is children, obviously mostly black children, who are tried as adults.
STEVENSON: It's true. I sometimes get frustrated when I hear people talking about these children as if they're adults. I mean, in our country,
we don't let kids drink. We don't let them smoke. We don't let them vote. We protect child status in virtually every area of life. But in our
criminal courts, we act as if there are no differences between children and adults.
And for me, this is a kind of fantasy; when I sit in the jail with these young kids, they are children. When I look and listen to them, they
are children. And yet we prosecute them as if they are adults and sometimes I do get frustrated about that.
And I did have a case where I filed a motion, where I was saying to the judge, you know, if you've got the magical ability to turn my young
child into an adult client, then maybe I should ask you to give that child the identity that I think he would have.
And I did file this motion asking the court to try this young 14-year- old poor black child as a 75-year-old privileged white corporate adult. And the court denied that motion.
But I think what I'm really interested in is getting us to understand that protecting children means protecting all children. The U.S. is the
only country in the world that has condemned 13- and 14-year-old children to die in prison.
We have 3,000 kids that have been sentenced to life without parole. We have 10,000 children on any given day that are in adult jails or
prisons, where they might be assaulted or abused.
The United States and Somalia are the only two countries that have refused to sign a covenant on the rights of a child. And I think that's
AMANPOUR: People also are treated to this spectacle in the U.S., like what's happening in Ferguson, Missouri, that since the summer, these
protests -- and they continue in the streets because of a young unarmed black boy who was shot six times and obviously killed by the police.
How is this kind of situation going to be resolved?
STEVENSON: Well, I think we've got to be more honest about our history. There is a legacy of racial inequality in this country that we've
never confronted, that we've never talked about.
I live in Montgomery, Alabama, where you see all kinds of markers and monuments to the Confederacy. We romanticize that era. We don't talk
about the legacy of slavery. We don't talk about the decades of terrorism that shaped the lives of African Americans between Reconstruction and World
We're dismissive when it comes to civil rights. We just want to celebrate that era without dealing with the trauma and humiliation that
African Americans experienced in this country.
I grew up in a community where black children couldn't go to the public schools. I started my education in the colored school. And we
haven't talked about it. We didn't do what South Africa did and commit ourselves to a process of truth and reconciliation.
AMANPOUR: And on that note, incredibly important insight about the United States on this day, where in South Africa, as you point out, there
has been this sentence handed down.
Bryan Stevenson, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
STEVENSON: You're very welcome.
AMANPOUR: So as we just heard, poverty defines justice but it also defines disease because look who's suffering most from Ebola, poor, war-
torn African nations.
But after all the grim news coming from that continent, from another, a medical miracle. Doctors in Poland, using a British scientific
discovery, have raised a paralyzed man to his feet with pioneering surgery that amazingly transplanted cells from his nose into his spinal cord.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFFREY RAISMAN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON: You are making history now. To me, this is more impressive than a man walking on
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Truly amazing. And imagine the millions of spinal cord injuries that could be cured once the technique is further
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And coming up next, we turn to the complex and harrowing world of hostage negotiations. The father of James Foley ,brutally murdered by
ISIS, and a veteran U.N. negotiator joined me live after a break.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
An American citizen arrested in North Korea in May has just been freed. It's not yet clear whether the U.S. government was involved in
Jeffrey Foley's release, but it says he's now on a plane home.
The negotiation process surrounding a citizen's release can be an extremely sensitive and complex one. Take the situation with ISIS. Just
witness what's happened to our captured colleagues and aid workers, publicly beheaded, the shocking videos posted online.
Along with this appalling reality, a new debate is gathering steam now over how to cover and deal with the kidnappings in this and other
conflicts. For the most part, governments ask desperate families to stay quiet and trust them to get their sons and daughters back.
But is that the right way?
Tonight we ask the deeply bereaved John Foley, whose son James was killed by ISIS militants in August, joins me now from Manchester in the
United States in the state of New Hampshire.
And the former negotiator, the U.N.'s Giandomenico Picco, joins me from Geneva.
Gentlemen, thank you very much, both, for joining me.
First to you, Mr. Foley and of course all, all our sympathies and condolences are with you.
What were you told when James was missing?
What were you told by the government to do?
JOHN FOLEY, FATHER OF JAMES FOLEY: Well, we were initially asked to be silent and we, in fact, were. But by the early part of the new year in
2013, we had heard nothing and became frantic, as we did not know whether James was alive and certainly we did not know his whereabouts.
AMANPOUR: And did you get the impression -- were you told that there were some kind of efforts or negotiations or reachout to try to get him
FOLEY: Yes. We were told that James' situation was a very high priority, that everything possible was being done but that we could not --
the government could not give us more details as the information was classified.
And this was the response for basically a year and a half.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to come back to you and ask you about why you now think you made a mistake and you regret staying silent.
But at this point I want to turn to Mr. Picco.
You have conducted many, many high-profile hostage negotiations starting, I think, with those who were taken by Hezbollah and Iran in
Beirut in the '80s.
Is it your views that citizens, that the bereaved, that families should stay quiet and that that could help in any way?
GIANDOMENICO PICCO, FORMER U.N. HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Well, let me tell you that, first of all, if the kidnapping of anybody by anybody is one of
the most despicable acts that a human person can do, I really felt for every single man that I see -- or a woman -- who are taken with no specific
reason and even if there was a reason, this is not the way to proceed.
But let me just make one point about hostage taking: as you can imagine, every hostage taken, every negotiation is different. And there
are not many elements in common because the reality of the time and the place changes so continuously.
But one point perhaps even in this debate, which of course has followed the tragedy of Mr. Foley and others, what perhaps has happened is
that we are put in the same position, those who have taken the hostage and those who are single approval (ph), who can negotiate or release.
Sometimes those who take the hostage is not in a position to negotiate the release. And this is, I think, a fundamental step of difference.
AMANPOUR: Well, that brings me to the question, then, when you were dealing and negotiating, were you negotiating with a government or a
PICCO: Well, I dealt with both, actually. I dealt with both actually. If you're referring to the Western hostages in Beirut, which
was, of course, a most well-known case of the four cases I dealt with in my experience so far, of course I first went to the president of Islamic
Republic of Iran and Mr. Rafsanjani and I made a deal with him on a different issue, on a different component altogether. It would give me the
freedom of -- to give an example, the freedom of the American Western hostages, will you help me with that, and I will actually tell the truth to
And as you know, what I called my negotiation for the Western hostages the truth for freedom deal. The freedom was evident; the freedom of the
hostages, the truth was the only document ever written which indicates that Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1979.
AMANPOUR: Well, so that was huge geopolitics and strategy.
Mr. Foley, you now say and your wife says and a gathering group of people who are in the same terrible situation as you that they regret
taking the advice to remain silent.
What do you think should have happened or might have happened if you had not?
FOLEY: Well, I mean, that's a very difficult question to answer. But Diane and I do regret having remained silent.
In this country, we feel that citizen pressure may have pushed our government to become more aggressive at a much earlier point in time, which
may or may not have helped Jim and the other American and British, I feel, heroes and the hostages.
In addition, I think there is -- there are other issues. I think in the future we would look to -- enable the press to be a more cohesive force
in aiding families such as ours, to exert pressure on our government to use any and all means at their disposal to try to obtain the release of these
young aid workers and journalists who are fighting to protect the freedom of speech as well as mitigate unspeakable pain and suffering in these war-
AMANPOUR: And, Mr. Foley, did they ever reach out to you?
Did you ever have any contact from the captors?
As you know, there is yet another British, John Cancle (ph), who's still in captivity and his sister is desperate for the captors to reach out
and contact, ask for something.
Did they ever do that with you?
FOLEY: Yes, they did, Christiane, and early 2013 between the end of December and the end of January, we received proof of life and several
emails from the captors. We passed those on to the FBI immediately. They helped us craft a response. But this was a response based on a single
family trying to intercede for their son's safety. The requests were undoable in terms of a family that requested 100 million euros and release
of all Muslim prisoners, which is certainly not anything that an individual family could do. And I believe -- I believe that they were interested in,
at that point, negotiating with our government.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Picco, these ISIS militants are very different than the president of the Islamic Republic. In other words, you were able to talk
to a government head in the case of the hostages in Beirut.
Is the dramatic truth that who -- or is there anybody in this militant structure that even if you wanted to negotiate with, you couldn't?
What would you do, in other words, if you were asked to help someone whose child or relative is held by ISIS now?
PICCO: Let me correct, you have misunderstood. I negotiated first with the president of Iran on something. That opens me the door to
negotiate with Hezbollah, who found that the only way they could negotiate with me was to take me hostage, which they did four times, blindfolded me
and drove me away and every few weeks. And disappearing in the night of Beirut. So I did negotiate with them.
It was a different negotiation -- or rather it was further negotiation and in -- to complete the picture of that famous negotiation, I also
negotiated with another government and with their intelligence in a different -- at the same time. And the three negotiations were three
separate negotiations for three separate matters.
And it was done individually and I had to accept to be taken hostage a number of times. The situation, however, as you know more than I do,
Christiane, is that I was dealing with a fear government in Iran and a fear group, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
Now I said before I think what is happening is that the group or the person that takes the hostage may not be able to negotiate their release.
I repeat this: because they took the hostage doesn't mean they're able to release him. And that is the drama of the situation.
AMANPOUR: Well, what would you do?
PICCO: There's a reason why --
AMANPOUR: What would you do if you ask for help for ISIS?
PICCO: -- I -- allow me to tell you. Two issues that I would like to just put on the table. The first thing I would -- I would really have a
very, as I said, conversation, so to speak, or call it whatever you like it, with somebody in Saudi Arabia and second, equally important, I believe
is that one is when you speak about ISIS, I think we're very general. There are -- there is a military arm in ISIS which is actually led by the
deputy of President Saddam. And I would actually attempt to focus my attention on that group of individuals rather than on Mr. Baghdadi and
company, who may, as I said, may have been able to catch the hostages, but may be unable to negotiate their release.
AMANPOUR: Do you mean President Assad? Do you mean in Syria? Right?
PICCO: No --
AMANPOUR: -- in Saddam? You said Saddam.
PICCO: No, he was -- I said the vice president of Saddam --
PICCO: -- military strength of ISIS.
AMANPOUR: All right. All right. Let me just ask one last question to Mr. Foley.
Obviously the issue of ransom is a huge one and many, including David Rhode, also a colleague of ours who was kidnapped by the Taliban, said that
this needs to be publicly debated.
Do you believe, Mr. Foley, that ransom should have been paid?
FOLEY: Well, this is a key question and, number one, I think it's an international question. This is not a United States problem or a British
problem. This is a world community problem. And certainly the playing field right now is not level. I frankly would want everything humanly
possible to be done to secure the release of these heroes.
And I'm well aware of the risks taken by men and women in our armed forces to bring these people home. But in the end, I feel that the small
amount, relative small amount of money involved in a ransom certainly is justifiable to bring these wonderful people home.
AMANPOUR: I'm afraid we have to leave it there.
FOLEY: I do think that an international dialogue must be developed.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, this will obviously continue to remain in the spotlight and we appreciate both of you for being with us, John Foley,
of course, and Giandomenico Picco. Thank you very much for joining me tonight.
And after a break, imagine a world without bicycles in Amsterdam or tuk-tuks in New Delhi or Black Cabs in London. It's impossible, right?
Now Rome is losing its va-va-voom. We'll explain next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world without scooters zipping through the center of the Eternal City. Impossible, you say?
After all, didn't this make Rome irresistible and famous? Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck zipping around town in a 1950s film, "Roman Holiday."
And it cemented Rome's romance with the two-wheeler. But like so many romances, it seems this one has hit a speed bump. Scooters have now been
barred from the heart of the city center, an area which is known as the living room of Rome. So are cars and trucks, but scooters were exempt
Don't expect to see Vespas and Lambrettas zooming past high-end fashion houses on the Via del Corso or pass the Spanish Steps, the city
says it's trying to help restore its Roman Holiday image by reducing congestion. And to be precise, licensed residents of this area will still
be allowed to zip and scoot around, but everyone else is in a state.
How else will they get around now? And they're mad as hell about having to park outside and walk into the city center because where is this
army of scooters going to park?
Oh, to be back when for Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, all of this was just a Roman Holiday.
That's it for our program tonight. And remember you can always see the show online at amanpour.com, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.