Local EU Statement on the death penalty delivered during the 1356th Meeting of the Committee of Ministers (9 October 2019)
1. The European Union and its Member States welcome this regular thematic debate on the death penalty, an issue where all Council of Europe Member States share a common position, common values and common ideals, and where this Organization has been playing and continues to play a pioneering and leading role.
2. Our position on the death penalty is well known, yet still needs to be reiterated. The European Union and its Member-States oppose the capital punishment in all times and under all circumstances. The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity. It makes any miscarriage of justice irreversible. Furthermore, the death penalty does not have any proven deterrent effect.
3. Abolition of death penalty is an explicit and absolute condition to become a Member of the European Union and also a prerequisite for membership to the Council of Europe. It represents a distinctive achievement of our continent. This is a policy area where there is a strong consensus within the European Union and it constitutes a priority of the EU’s external action.
4. The large majority of the Council of Europe's Member States, including all members of the European Union have reaffirmed their commitment to the abolition of the capital punishment in all circumstances, including also in time of war or of imminent threat of war, by ratifying Protocol no.6 and Protocol no.13 to the European Convention of Human Rights. We would like to appeal to member countries that have not yet done so to ratify it as a matter of priority, and we urge all member states of the Council of Europe to uphold and ensure compliance with the legal and political obligations inherent to their membership status.
5. The EU and its member states regret that there is one European country that still applies the death penalty, Belarus. We deplore that one secret execution was carried out since our last debate and we condemn the death sentence imposed on Viktar Paulau by the Vitebsk Regional Court on 30 July. We repeat our strong call on the authorities of Belarus to establish a formal moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty, to apply the alternative punishment provided for in the Belarusian criminal legislation and to commute the death sentences which have been imposed. Dialogue is indispensable to ensure progress and we restate our willingness to provide the authorities of Belarus with the assistance they may need for such a formal moratorium to be introduced, including for raising public awareness, possibly in the framework of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Belarus, and also in co-operation with the Council of Europe Information Point in Minsk. We welcome the holding of a conference on abolition of the death penalty and public opinion in Minsk on 27 August 2019. Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal human rights, including on death penalty, will remain key for the shaping of the EU's future policy towards Belarus.
6. Likewise, we also regret the continued application of this punishment in some states of the United States of America and in Japan, both observer States of the Council of Europe. The EU expresses deep regret at the decision of the US Government announced by the Department of Justice on 25 July to resume capital punishment after a de facto moratorium of 16 years. Five executions have been scheduled for December 2019 and January 2020. This decision contradicts the growing worldwide trend to eliminate capital punishment: only 20 countries in the world and 7 states in the USA executed people last year.
7. Furthermore, the EU strongly condemns the executions carried out by the Japanese government on 2 August of death row inmates Koichi Shoji and Yasunori Suzuki. We welcome the public debate in Japan on the matter and the declaration by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations which calls for the abolition of the death penalty by 2020. In April 2020, Kyoto will host the Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The EU stresses the importance of addressing the use of the death penalty in Japan and globally in this forum.
8. We would also call on Member States of the Council of Europe to continue taking effective measures to prevent their involvement , however indirect, in the use of death penalty by third countries, for instance by adopting measures that prevent the trade in goods that could subsequently be used to carry out executions.
9. Only a coordinated and continued action of each and every relevant actor, by means of all available instruments in all suitable fora, can ensure the success of our common goal: the universal abolition of capital punishment.
The following countries align with this statement: Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Republic of North Macedonia, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Ukraine.