Brussels, 19 June 2007
The Commission is proposing a draft Joint Declaration to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, to be adopted together with the Council of Europe, regarding the establishment of a European Day against the Death Penalty, on 10 October of each year.
Commissioner Frattini stated that "The death penalty is a violation of the most fundamental of human rights, namely the right to life. Nothing justifies the death penalty, whether it is considered effective in combating crime or not. Such practice is ethically unacceptable, cruel, legally wrong and can all too often lead to innocent people being killed where no redress is possible. There are a growing number of countries abolishing the death penalty. I felt great emotion at Monday's Conference 'Africa for Life', for African Justice Ministers, at the 'Community of Sant'Egidio' and this has renewed my hope and enthusiasm in pursuing the fight against capital punishment. By creating a European Day against the death penalty we are showing our resolve and commitment to not stop fighting this practice until it is abolished worldwide".
The Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, added that "The continued existence and application of the death penalty in many parts of the world remains a serious concern for us. This is why its abolition is a top human rights priority in our relations with third countries and in international fora, like the United Nations. We Europeans are the number one advocate against the death penalty and for its universal abolition. And we will not rest until the death penalty becomes history in every country of the world.”
On the occasion of an International Conference to be held in Lisbon on 9 October 2007, the Joint Declaration would be signed by the European Parliament, the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Council of Europe, in order to support the promotion of universal abolition.
There has been no instance since 1997 of capital punishment in any part of the geographical area made up by the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe, including the European Union Member States. Moreover, abolition of the death penalty is assumed as a natural condition of membership in either of the two European organisations
In the context of the Council of Europe, Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) unconditionally abolishes the death penalty in peacetime. All 27 European Union Member States have ratified Protocol 6. Protocol 13 to the same Convention prohibits the death penalty in all circumstances. Twenty two Member States have ratified Protocol 13; five Member States (France, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Spain) have signed but not yet ratified it.
EU activities around the world to fight death penalty seek to encourage public debate, to strengthen public opposition and to put pressure on retentionist countries to abolish the death penalty. The political commitment of the EU has been matched by substantial financial support for concrete projects under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) in which abolition of the death penalty has been identified as one of the priorities. More than €11 million have been allocated to support civil society projects since 1994 aimed at raising public awareness in retentionist countries through public education, outreach to influence public opinion, studies on how states' death penalty systems comply with international minimum standards, informing and supporting strategies for replacing the death penalty and efforts for securing the access of death row inmates to appropriate levels of legal support and training for lawyers.
Over half the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice:
• 89 countries and territories have abolished the death penalty for all crimes;
• 10 countries have abolished the death penalty for all but exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes;
• 30 countries can be considered abolitionist in practice. They retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any executions for the past 10 years or more and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions.
This makes a total of 129 countries which have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
However, figures of death penalty application around the world still remind worrying. During 2006, at least 1,591 people were executed in 25 countries and at least 3,861 people were sentenced to death in 55 countries. The EU’s action, as the worldwide leader on the fight against death penalty, remains urgent and necessary.
For more information:
ESTABLISHING A "EUROPEAN DAY AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY"
10 October 2007
Recalling that the death penalty is contrary to the fundamental rights on which the European Union and the Council of Europe are founded; that the abolition of the death penalty is enshrined in Protocols Nos 6 and 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and reflected in Article 2 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights;
Recalling that since 1997 there has been no instance of capital execution in any part of the geographical area made up by the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe, including the 27 European Union Member States;
Emphasising that abolition of the death penalty is a condition which States are required to meet in order to become members of the Council of Europe or the European Union;
Inviting Member States of the Council of Europe and the European Union to continue to explain the importance of abolishing the death penalty in Europe for the respect of human dignity;
Recalling the central place held in the European system of human rights by Protocols Nos 6 and 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which respectively abolish the death penalty in peacetime and in all circumstances, and stressing the importance of their ratification by all the Member States of the Council of Europe;
Recalling the importance of the ratification and promotion by the Member States of the Council of Europe and the European Union of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is the principal universal instrument aimed at abolishing the death penalty;
Stressing the importance of persevering in the pursuit of actions aimed at abolishing the death penalty in the world, by making representations to third countries, acting within multilateral arenas and supporting the action of civil society towards this end ;
Inviting European citizens to support the abolition of the death penalty in the world and thereby contribute to the development of fundamental rights and human dignity;
Recognising the importance of the "World Day against the Death Penalty", which has taken place on 10 October every year since 2003, and to strengthen this initiative of non-governmental organisations by the involvement of the European Institutions:
The European Union and the Council of Europe,
approve the establishment of the "European Day against the Death Penalty" on 10 October each year.