Saturday, 10 October 2009

Europe against the death penalty

The Council of Europe and the European Union work to eradicate the death penalty, elsewhere as already in Europe.

As a reminder this Saturday, 10 October 2009, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the joint statement by these European organisations:



Joint Statement by the Presidency of the European Union and the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe


Recognising the importance of the "World Day Against the Death Penalty", which has taken place on 10 October every year since 2003, the Swedish Presidency of the European Union and the Slovenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe welcome the celebration of the third European Day Against the Death Penalty.

The Presidency of the European Union and the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recall that the death penalty is contrary to the fundamental rights on which the European Union and the Council of Europe are founded.

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. Abolition is a condition which States are required to meet in order to become members of the Council of Europe or the European Union.

The Presidency of the European Union and the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe share the vision of a death penalty-free European continent as a further step towards global abolition and stress the importance of persevering in the pursuit of actions aimed at abolishing the death penalty throughout the world, by making representations to third countries, acting within multilateral arenas and supporting the action of civil society towards this end.

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Council of Europe


Here are two extracts from the Council of Europe’s Factsheet on the death penalty:


The Council of Europe was created to unite Europe around the shared principles of the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy. The European Convention on Human Rights, which was adopted in 1950, states that everyone’s life shall be protected by law and no one shall be deprived of life. However, the Convention did allow the death penalty to be imposed when it was provided for by law.

In the early 1980s, the Council of Europe became a pioneer for the abolition of capital punishment, considering it to be a grave violation of human rights. The organisation’s Parliamentary Assembly gradually persuaded governments to help Europe become the first region in the world to permanently outlaw the death penalty. In 1982, the Council of Europe adopted Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which became the first legally-binding instrument abolishing the death penalty in peacetime. The protocol has today been ratified by 46 of the Council’s 47 member states; the one exception – Russia – has committed itself to ratification.

In 1989, abolition of the death penalty was made a condition of accession for all new member states. Since then, all countries are committed to introducing an immediate moratorium on executions and ratifying Protocol No. 6 when joining the organisation. A number of mechanisms have been set up to monitor the respect of those commitments while assisting governments with their implementation.

In 2002, an important step was taken by the Council to ban the death penalty in all circumstances with the adoption of Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires the complete abolition of capital punishment - even for acts committed in time of war.

As a result, there has not been a single execution in any of the member states of the Council of Europe for 10 years. Across Europe, only Belarus - which is not a member of the organisation - still uses capital punishment. The Parliamentary Assembly now wishes to extend prohibition to countries enjoying observer status with the Council, including Japan and the United States.

A resolution calling for a global moratorium on executions will be introduced at the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, which begins on 18 September 2007. Its adoption would be a milestone towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

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What are the main points of Protocols No. 6 and No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights?

Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights abolishes the death penalty in peacetime. It came into force on 1 March 1985. With Protocol No. 6, Europe’s position changed from tolerating to prohibiting statutory killing. Protocol No. 13, which entered into force on 1 July 2003, bans the death penalty in all circumstances, including for crimes committed in times of war and imminent threat of war.

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Fundamental rights in Europe


The Council of Europe has been a pioneer of human rights in Europe, most notably through the amended European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the European Court of Human Rights. .

The European Union has gradually adopted human rights principle, for instance by adopting the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as a politically binding document on 7 December 2000.

The EU Treaty of Lisbon would make the EU Charter legally binding, and the European Union would accede to the pan-European Convention.



Ralf Grahn