Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

“Global Trends: Getting closer to the Abolition of the Death Penalty” – Speech by Ambassador Silvio Gonzato

New York, 09/10/2020 - 19:24, UNIQUE ID: 201008_17

9 October 2020, New York – Speech by Ambassador Silvio Gonzato, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations on the European Union external strategy in the fight against the death penalty at the side event on Global trends: getting closer to the abolition of the Death Penalty

Remarks by Amb Silvio Gonzato on the Death Penalty

Mr President, distinguished colleagues,

I wish to thank FIACAT and its President, Mr Paul Angaman, for organising today’s meeting with the Delegation of the European Union to the UN. It is an honour to speak and express the support of the European Union for the universal abolition of the death penalty and for the resolution calling upon states to proclaim a moratorium on its application, which is at the agenda of the Third Committee of the General Assembly this year.

I wish to reaffirm the EU position of unambiguous, strong and absolute opposition to capital punishment in all cases and under any circumstances. Capital punishment fails to provide deterrence to criminal behaviour. Mistakes lead to the killing of many innocent people by state authorities, where the death penalty is still in use. Justice systems are run by humans, and are therefore naturally exposed to mistakes, aggravated by influences, social stigma and political pressures, particularly in countries with no real independent justice system, and no functioning system of checks and balances. In addition, Defendants who do not have good lawyer to interrogate the prosecutor allegations are more at risk of ending up on death row.

The EU is actively engaged in the fight for the universal abolition of the death penalty and, in the case of the countries still executing, we are consistently call for compliance with international law and standards. The EU systematically denounces public executions, death sentences for crimes that occurred when the convicted person was below 18 years of age at the time of the crime, executions of people with mental or intellectual disabilities, death sentences pronounced by military courts against civilians, as well as death sentences imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards or based on confessions extracted through torture or other ill-treatment. We also strongly oppose the imposition of the death penalty for economic crimes and against people exercising their freedom of expression as it is the case when the death penalty is imposed for blasphemy.

The EU actively supports civil society organisations actively engages in favour of the adoption resolutions at the UN, and includes this issue in its political and human rights dialogues with all those countries that still have the death penalty and, especially, those that sentence the highest number of people. In 2019, 86% of all reported executions took place in just four countries – excluding China where the number of executions is a state secret, with reasonable reasons to believe that the figure is above 1000 per year. These four countries are Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In Europe, only one country has retained death penalty. That is Belarus - consequently Belarus has not been able to take its place in the Council of Europe.

Mr President,

The EU notes with satisfaction that a large number of states have moved beyond the idea of "an eye for an eye" and are convinced that justice is more important than revenge. Year after year, the number of executions in the world appears to diminish, although some countries, including China and the DPRK, continue to hide figures. The EU applauds Kazakhstan’s ratification, last month, of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which Kazakhstan marks its choice to abolish the death penalty. We very much wish that countries of the region that already apply a moratorium on executions, including the Russian Federation and Tajikistan, will follow suit.

We witness a positive move towards the abolition, in particular on the African continent, with the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe being close to the abolition. However, much remains to be done to see moratoriums proclaimed by governments in the Middle East and in Asia, where some countries have even increased death penalty sentences and executions recently.

The EU is closely engaged and strongly supportive of the UN resolution on a moratorium, adopted every second year by the General Assembly. I sincerely hope that the event today will lead more States to co-sponsor and support this resolution.

I would like to conclude by thanking FIACAT and the other NGOs promoting the abolition of the death penalty for their tireless dedication to the fight for life. Humanity owes you a great deal of gratitude. Thank you!

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