10 December 2016, Brussels – The European Union and its Member States hold a strong and principled position against the death penalty, in all circumstances and for all cases. This position stems from the universal and fundamental right to life. It is also embedded in “human dignity” of every human being, even of someone who has committed the most atrocious crime.
The abolition of the death penalty worldwide is one of the flagship objectives of the EU’s human rights policy and as such one of the top priorities in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019).
In the fight against death penalty, the EU uses constantly its wide set of diplomatic and cooperation assistance tools, such as statements, demarches and Human Rights Dialogues. The EU continues to underline that the Death Penalty is of a cruel and inhumane character; it is incompatible with human dignity and the right to life; it is irreversible in case of miscarriage of justice; it does not deter crime more effectively than other punishments; Abolition of the death penalty does not lead to an increase in crime.
The EU continues to encourage all States to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the most fundamental UN international instrument for the abolition of death penalty. Where the death penalty still exists, the EU calls for its use to be progressively restricted and insists that it be carried out according to internationally-agreed minimum standards.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, has taken an active role for the abolition of the death penalty. He represented the EU at the World Congress against the Death Penalty in Oslo in June this year and gave a key note speech at an event organised in Belarus in March, where he strongly urged Belarus to join all other countries on the European continent in the abolition of the death penalty.
The EU policy against the death penalty is firmly consolidated in the relevant EU Guidelines. The EU is the leading institutional actor and lead donor to the efforts by civil society organizations around the world towards the abolition of the death penalty. The abolition of the death penalty is one of the thematic priorities under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
The EU is also the first regional body to have adopted rules prohibiting the trade in goods used for capital punishment (and torture and ill-treatment), as well as the supply of technical assistance related to such goods.
In multilateral fora, the EU joins forces with other partners in order to ensure the widest support possible for this year’s Resolution on a “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty. In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution with an unprecedented number of 117 votes in favour whereas the number of co-sponsors rose to a record number of 95. The EU wishes to see this support firmly consolidated.
On the World/Europe Day against the Death Penalty, Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative, issued a Declaration on behalf of the EU and the CoE
The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) is planning a number of events for the 14th World Day against the Death Penalty, focusing this year on the death penalty and terrorism. On this day abolitionists will be drawing attention to the application of the death penalty for terrorism-related offences, to reduce death sentences and executions. While opposing the death penalty absolutely, abolitionists are committed to see existing international human rights standards implemented. Among these is the requirement of fair trials.
It will also be a good time to stress the role of parliamentarians with the recent creation of a resource “Parliamentarians and the abolition of the death penalty” (available in English, French and Arabic). Parliamentarians have an essential role in the process of abolition or extension of the scope of the death penalty, including for crimes like terrorism. They are at the heart of the adoption of national legislation and in most countries, the final decision rests with parliament, which must approve the law. Often abolitionist parliamentarians find themselves isolated and facing tensions related to terrorism within their parliament.
The WCADP comprises more than 150 human rights organizations, professional associations and provides materials for the World Day in 7 languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Farsi.
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