European Union External Action

Mogherini: We moved beyond the idea of 'an eye for an eye' - we believe in justice, not revenge

28/02/2019 - 15:26
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Randy Steidl was sentenced to death in Illinois in the 1980s. He spent 12 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. In 2003, the Governor of Illinois commuted all death sentences into life sentences, and only after that, Randy managed to prove his innocence and to be released. As a free man, he campaigned for a complete abolition of the death penalty in his State, and success arrived just a few years later. "We need to tell and to listen to these stories, and through them, we need to work to change the culture and the mind-set of those who still support the death penalty," said EU High Representative Federica Mogherini during her opening speech at the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty.

“It is an honour for the European Union to host the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty and, we Europeans, we in the European Union, are proud to be the world's largest space that is free from death penalty,” Mogherini claimed.

“We believe that the response to a crime must never be another crime. We have moved beyond the idea of 'an eye for an eye'. We believe in justice, not in revenge,” she continued.

The World Congress against the Death Penalty is an essential meeting of abolitionist activists, which encourages countries to make concrete commitments, mobilizes public opinion and helps to develop common strategies. The 7th edition of the Congress is currently being held in Brussels between 26 February and 1March. It is organised by ECPM in partnership with the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and supported by the European Union.

"I am proud to represent the European Union today," the EU High Represenative said. "We Europeans have agreed together that capital punishment is incompatible with who we are. It goes against our fundamental values and beliefs. No country that still foresees the death penalty can become a member of the European Union."

The story of the World Congress is the best proof that change is indeed happening and possible. The 1st World Congress against the Death Penalty took place in another capital of the European Union in 2001, in Strasbourg. Since then, 31 new countries have decided to abolish the capital punishment.

More and more people around the world are realising that death penalty is never the right choice. More and more governments are taking action.

Last year showed that hope is on the horizon. In January 2018, The Gambia's President [Adama Barrow] declared a moratorium. In May last year, Burkina Faso abolished death penalty in law. In June last year, Benin scraped death penalty from the penal code, and the Palestinian Authority acceded to the UN protocol against death penalty. In August last year, the Catholic Church declared death penalty inadmissible in all circumstances, with no exception, sending in this way a very powerful message to Catholic believers all around the world. In October, the State of Washington became the 20th abolitionist State in the US. Last but not least, in December, the UN Resolution calling for the universal moratorium on executions was voted by the largest ever majority of countries. 2018 was a positive year, almost every single month, we had good and encouraging news. "Let us try to have a 2019 that is even better than 2018 in terms of positive results!" Federica Mogherini urged.

The High Representative explained that the occasion of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty is not only about governments or International Organisations. It is about individuals who are still suffering in death rows. It is about those who survived, and are now telling the world about the injustice of capital punishment.

"Today is about all of us, all of you – Civil Society Organisations and Human Rights Defenders – who are engaged every single day to make death penalty a memory of the past. You know that you can constantly count on the support of the European Union," Mogherini assured.

"Today we are here to make your voice, our voice heard. I am convinced that, little by little - but not too slowly - we can get closer to our common goal, of a world where crime is met with justice, not with vengeance, and where human life is finally a universal value, universally respected and protected," High Represenative Mogherini concluded.