1401st meeting of the Committee of Ministers on 14 April 2021
The European Union and its Member States welcome this regular thematic debate on the death penalty, an opportunity to address continuing concerns in this field as well as to express support for the leading role the Council of Europe plays in promoting our common vision of Europe as a death penalty-free continent.
Our position is well known: We oppose 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 deterrent effect on crime.
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 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 on Human Rights. We would like to appeal to Member States that have not yet done so to ratify it as a matter of priority.
The EU and its Member States regret that there is one European country that still applies the death penalty, Belarus. While we welcome that no execution was carried out in 2020, we deeply regret that another death sentence was imposed on 15 January 2021, during the retrial of Viktar Skrundzik by the Minsk Regional Court.
We repeat our strong call on the authorities of Belarus to abolish the death penalty or to establish a formal moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition, 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, both for establishing a formal moratorium and for the necessary constitutional reforms.
Regarding the United States of America, while we deeply regret that 13 federal executions were carried out between July 2020 and January 2021, we welcome President Biden’s intention to abolish the death penalty at the federal level and encourage his administration to re-establish a moratorium on federal executions, as a first step in this direction.
We note the slow but steady decrease in the numbers of executions at the US State level, a sign that the perception of capital punishment by the American public and justice system is changing. We welcome the signature by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia of the bill to abolish the death penalty on 24 March, making Virginia the 23rd US State to abolish capital punishment. We urge other US States which still apply the death penalty to follow this example.
No executions took place in Japan in 2020, which is a very positive sign. However, we deeply regret the death sentences delivered to Tomohiro Iwakura, on 11 December 2020, and to Takahiro Shiraishi, on 15 December 2020, by the Kagoshima District Court and the Tokyo District Court respectively. The EU urges Japan to follow up on the appeals recently made by several Japanese bar associations asking the government to put an end to capital punishment.
In addition, the EU notes with great satisfaction the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, by Armenia on 18 March 2021.
We also note with satisfaction that the 2020 North-South Prize of the Council of Europe was awarded to the International Commission against the Death Penalty in acknowledgement of its contribution to the global trend against this practice and its role in the international movement that advocates for its abolition.
We welcome the recent adoption of the Committee of Minister’s Recommendation on measures against the trade in goods used for the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We consider it as an important step towards combatting torture globally and consolidating Council of Europe area as a death penalty-free zone. We call on Member States of the Council of Europe to make full use of the Recommendation when reviewing relevant national legislation and practice and taking effective measures to prevent their involvement, however indirect, in the use of the death penalty by third countries.
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, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Republic of North Macedonia, Norway, San Marino, Serbia and Ukraine