Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

HRC 40 - EU Intervention - High-level Panel on the Death Penalty (res. 36/17) Human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality

Geneva, 26/02/2019 - 16:24, UNIQUE ID: 190226_24
Statements on behalf of the EU

40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, 25 February – 22 March 2019 EU Intervention - High-level Panel on the Death Penalty (res. 36/17) Human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality

The EU has an unambiguous position of strong and absolute opposition to capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances. 

Capital punishment is inhumane and unnecessary. The EU considers capital punishment fails to provide deterrence to criminal behaviour and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity. Any miscarriage of justice – which is inevitable in any legal system – is irreversible and may lead to the killing of an innocent person by state authorities.

In relation to the use of the death penalty, besides considerations on whether the state should kill, the risk of executing innocent people and the ethics of its existence, another fundamental problem is the ethics of its application. Frequently, people with socio-economic disadvantages, foreign nationals, human rights defenders and persons belonging to religious or ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented among those sentenced to the death penalty. The existence of gender bias in the criminal legal system and its implications on capital sentencing should also be considered. Nowhere are transgressions of the social norms of gender behaviour punished more severely than in a capital trial.

Justice systems in the countries still using this penalty are not immune to prejudice and discrimination. Aggravating factors are corrupt systems fuelled by bribes and nepotism. There is little chance for justice when money and influence are more important than guilt or innocence. That's why the say: "capital punishment is the punishment for those without capital".

For the few governments that resist and persist in the use of the death penalty, the EU calls for compliance with international standards that guarantee equality before and by the law, ensure fair trials, and restrict the use of the death penalty. States' immediate obligation to ensure equality entails taking effective measures to eliminate gender, racial, ethnic, religious, economic and other forms of discrimination and bias in legislation and its application. But only abolition will effectively terminate the unjust and cruel effect of the death penalty.

The 7th World Congress against death penalty will take place in Belgium from 27 February to 1 March 2019. This major abolitionist event is a catalyst for the eradication of death penalty in the World.

The EU Guidelines on death penalty emphasize the need to address any type of discrimination in its application. With this in mind, we would be interested in the distinguished panellists' recommendations on how to effectively address gender bias in the application of the death penalty?

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