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MEMO/06/369

Brussels, 10 October 2006

International Day against Death penalty

Vice-President Franco Frattini – Commissioner responsible for Freedom, security and Justice – and Mr Terry Davis (Secretary General of the Council of Europe) support the celebration of the World Day against the Death Penalty, which takes place on 10 October since 2003.

What the EU is doing against the death penalty in the world?

The EU is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and systematically upholds this position in its relations with third countries. It is a high profile policy that the EU pursues in international human rights fora and in dialogue with all countries, regardless of the nature of the EU's relationship with them. With respect to developing countries, it is an area where the EU is taking the lead and other donors are less active. Support for abolition of the death penalty includes projects intended to reduce its use, for example by promoting debates at government and civil society level on its ineffectiveness in reducing crime. Therefore, the EU, in particular in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, actively pursues a policy aimed at the universal abolition of the death penalty.

In 1998 the EU decided, as an integral part of its human rights policy, to strengthen its international activities in opposition to the death penalty. It then adopted Guidelines on EU policy towards third countries on the death penalty, which provide the basis for action of the Union.

When did EU Member States abolish the death penalty?

The legal abolition of the death penalty in Europe is laid down trough the Council of Europe's "European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms", in particular, in its Protocols Nr 6 (abolition in peace time) and 13 (abolition also in war time).

All EU Member States have signed and ratified both Protocols (except 5 of them – France, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Spain - which have not yet ratified Protocol Nr 13):


Ratification of Nr 6
Ratification of Nr 13
Austria
5/01/1984
12/01/2004  
Belgium  
10/12/1998
23/6/2003  
Cyprus
19/01/2000
12/3/2003  
Czech Republic  
18/03/1992
2/7/2004  
Denmark  
01/12/1983
28/11/2002
Estonia
17/04/1998
25/2/2004  
Finland  
10/05/1990
29/11/2004  
France  
17/02/1986
3/5/2002 (Only signed)
Germany  
05/07/1989
11/10/2004  
Greece  
08/09/1998
1/2/2005  
Hungary  
05/11/1992
16/7/2003  
Ireland  
24/06/1994  
3/5/2002
Italy  
29/12/1988
3/5/2002 (Only signed)
Latvia  
07/05/1999
3/5/2002 (Only signed)
Lithuania  
08/07/1999
29/1/2004  
Luxembourg  
19/02/1985
21/3/2006  
Malta  
26/03/1991
3/5/2002  
Netherlands  
25/04/1986
10/2/2006  
Poland  
30/10/2000
3/5/2002 (Only signed)
Portugal  
02/10/1986
3/10/2003  
Slovakia  
18/03/1992
18/8/2005  
Slovenia  
28/06/1994
4/12/2003  
Spain  
14/01/1985
3/5/2002 (Only signed)
Sweden  
09/02/1984
22/4/2003  
United Kingdom  
20/05/1999
10/10/2003  

**********************

Bulgaria  
29/09/1999
13/2/2003  
Romania  
20/06/1994
7/4/2003

When did the last execution take place?

The last execution within the 46-country-Council of Europe's area took place in Ukraine on 11th March 1997 when an unnamed man was shot with a single bullet to the back of the head. Abolition for all crimes in Ukraine came on 22nd March 2000. Ukraine ratified Protocol No. 6 of the Council of Europe's "European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms", which came into force on the 1st May 2000.

What would the EU do in case one Member State re-introduces death penalty?

It would be subject to action under Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union, which allows the Council of the European Union to determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of principles mentioned in Article 6(1) of the Treaty of European Union. The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of this Treaty to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council.

Provisions against the death penalty at the EU level

  • Article 6 (1) of the Treaty of the European Union states "The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States "
  • Article 6 (2) specifies that "The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, as general principles of Community law.".
  • Respect and protection of human rights as laid down in the Council of Europe's "European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" includes the abolition of the death penalty, in particular, in its Protocols Nr 6 (abolition in peace time) and 13 (abolition also in war time).
  • Article 2 paragraph 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits death penalty as well in the following terms: "No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed." The Charter thus contains an absolute prohibition of the death penalty. This means that no human being who has been sentenced to death may be executed and that in the future no one shall be condemned to death, both in times of peace and war. It also means that no EU Member State is permitted in the future to re-introduce capital punishment. Finally, Article 19(2) of the Charter prohibits in absolute terms any removal, expulsion or extradition of a person ‘to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty’. The EU Charter, therefore, constitutes a further important step in making Europe a ‘death penalty free zone’

How many executions took place last year

According to Amnesty International’s report for 2005, over 2,100 people were executed worldwide and 5,186 people were sentenced to death in 53 countries in 2005. The vast majority of all known executions occurred in China (at least 1,770 executions). Iran had the second highest number with at least 94 executions, followed by Saudi Arabia with at least 86 and the USA with 60.


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