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Today, on 10th October the European Union (EU) joins many partners across the world to commemorate the 15th World Day against the Death Penalty. Despite a positive trend towards abolition and restriction of the use of capital punishment in most countries, we have seen worrying evidence of serious violations of international norms and standards where it’s applied including the non-limitation of execution to the most serious crimes, the non-exclusion of juvenile offenders, the execution of mentally ill persons and the lack of guarantees for access to justice and a fair trial for all.
While the death penalty is still considered constitutional in Pakistan, it is very encouraging and promising to see a decline in executions from 333 in 2015 to 87 in 2016, and 44 until today in 2017. However it is still too many. Indeed, arguments can be made of the difficult security situation and the brutal and cowardly attack on the Army School in Peshawar, which led to the decision to lift the moratorium. I can appreciate and understand the strong call for retribution which it prompted. In the European Union we are also facing terrorist attacks; however, people are keeping their commitment against the death penalty.
Evidence around the world continues to highlight that death penalty is a discriminatory practice and that at every stage of criminal proceedings, social and economic inequalities affect access to justice for those who face the death penalty. Lawmakers and practices still have not taken adequate steps to ensure that the death penalty is applied evenly across a society, or to guard against wrongful convictions based on errant identifications of witnesses or mistakes at forensic laboratories. False testimonies or forced confessions and prosecutorial missteps are still alarmingly common. Taking of a human life is irreversible and it does not make any society safer. Evidences around the world conclusively show that death penalty does not deter crime more effectively than other punishments.
The European Union is firmly committed to the eradication of death penalty, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and remains among the strongest advocates for worldwide abolition of the death penalty. As a sign of its strong commitment against the death penalty, the EU and Belgium have agreed to co-host the 7th World congress against the death penalty, in Brussels from 27 February to March 2019. This commitment also includes the regional congress, which will take place in the Ivory Coast, in April 2018. The World Congress is a major triennial event drawing together over 1500 high level participants from around the world. I sincerely hope that Pakistan will be in position to attend as a country having reinstated the moratorium on death penalty.
At these conferences we will reiterate our strong opposition to the death penalty. There, we will also reiterate that we have since long done away with the capital punishment on our territory. Because we believe that it can never be morally justified for any state to take a life. Because there is no evidence that capital punishment has any deterrent effects on the level of violent crime in a society. Because no justice system is immune of mistakes, and executions make it impossible to reverse miscarriages of justice. And finally, because experiences show that death penalty is deeply socially biased, affecting mostly the poor.
A true search of justice implies the abolition of death penalty.
Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan