Delegation of the European Union to Sierra Leone

17th World Day Against the Death Penalty: the abolitionist trend goes on

10/10/2019 - 17:42
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This year´s campaign focuses on raising awareness on the rights of children whose parents have been sentenced to death or executed.

The death penalty continues a slow path to its own extinction. 142 countries -representing 74% of the UN member states- have already stopped using the capital punishment, by either removing it from their penal code or not carrying out executions for a long time. The number of death sentences and executions keep falling and in 2018, for the first time in History, only 10% of the world´s countries carried out executions. On 10 October, World Day against the Death Penalty, the EU reaffirms its strong opposition to the death penalty.

“The European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe firmly oppose the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment contrary to the right to life. The death penalty means revenge, not justice, and its abolition contributes to the enhancement of human dignity”, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe stressed jointly in a declaration to mark this day

The Council of Europe (CoE) and the EU call those CoE member states which have not yet acceded to Protocols No 6 and 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights to do so without delay, and urge Belarus to abolish the death penalty. They also encourage all countries to join the global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, which currently involves 62 States committed to restricting the trade in goods used to carry out torture and the death penalty. “Global cooperation against the death penalty can trigger change”.

“An ever-growing majority of people and leaders share the view that the death penalty is no better a deterrent to crime than other punishments, and that it does not contribute to public safety”, the Joint Declaration follows. “The death penalty disproportionately affects members of vulnerable groups, who cannot afford experienced defence lawyers, and death row prisoners continue to represent the most marginalised sections of society”.

The unseen victims of the death penalty 

They do not appear on the news about death executions, but suffer their consequences for the rest of their lives. They are the children whose parents are sentenced to death or executed. “The impact of this cruel punishment also affects the relatives of people subjected to the death penalty, first and foremost their children”, reads the Joint Statement. “Denying children and families a burial or cremation violates their human rights, notably their right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Children who have lost parents because of executions suffer deep and lasting grief and trauma”.

This year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty aims at raising awareness on the rights of these frequently forgotten children, who will carry a heavy emotional and psychological burden that can amount to the violation of their human rights.

The death penalty in a nutshell

106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes
8 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes
28 countries are abolitionist in practice
56 countries are retentionist
20 countries carried out executions in 2018
In 2018, the top 10 executioners were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Iraq, Egypt, USA,
Japan, Pakistan and Singapore.

According to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, “this trauma can occur at any and all stages of the capital punishment of a parent, arrest, trial, sentencing, death row stays, execution dates, execution itself, and its aftermath. The repeated cycles of hope and disappointment that can accompany all of these stages can have a long-term impact, occasionally well into adulthood”. On top of that, relatives of people sentenced to death frequently suffer stigmatization within their own communities. 

This year’s focus on children and their human rights is in line with the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted on 20 November 1989. 

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