Resolution 1349 (2003)1
of the death penalty in Council of Europe Observer states
1. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe refers to
Resolution 1253 (2001)
(2001) on the abolition of the death
penalty in Council of Europe Observer states.
2. The Assembly once more reaffirms its
complete opposition to capital punishment, which has no legitimate place in
the penal systems of modern civilised societies. The Assembly considers that
its application constitutes torture and inhuman and degrading punishment and
is thus a severe violation of universally recognised human rights.
3. Under Statutory Resolution (93) 26 of the
Committee of Ministers on Observer status, a state wishing to become a Council
of Europe Observer has to be willing to accept the principles of democracy,
the rule of law, and the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of
human rights and fundamental freedoms. Japan and the United States of America
(both granted Observer status in 1996) keep the death penalty on their statute
books and carry out executions. For this reason, the Assembly found Japan and
the United States in violation of their obligations under Statutory Resolution
(93) 26 in Resolution 1253 (adopted on 25 June 2001).
4. In that resolution, the Assembly
consequently required Japan and the United States to institute without delay a
moratorium on executions and take the necessary steps to abolish the death
penalty. At the same time, it resolved to take all necessary measures to
assist Japan and the United States in their endeavours, in particular by
promoting parliamentary dialogue in all forms. In Recommendation 1522, the
Assembly recommended that the Committee of Ministers proceed in the same way
at governmental level.
5. The Assembly has been successful in
initiating a dialogue with Japanese parliamentarians, in particular with the
Diet members League for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. In May 2002, the
Assemblys Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, in co-operation with
the league, organised a conference on Justice and Human Rights in Council of
Europe Observer States, in Tokyo, which took the abolition debate to the
highest levels of Japanese politics. Unfortunately, while the dialogue with
Japanese parliamentarians is fruitful and ongoing, Japan has not yet abolished
the death penalty and has carried out five executions since June 2001. An
abolition bill, while gaining growing support, has not yet mustered the votes
needed to pass the Diet.
6. In contrast, the Assembly has largely
failed in its efforts to promote transatlantic parliamentary dialogue. A
conference in the United States on Justice and Human Rights in Council of
Europe Observer States organised by the Assemblys Committee on Legal Affairs
and Human Rights in April 2003 attracted few Illinois state parliamentarians
in Springfield (despite the valued support of the Illinois State Senate
President and prominent abolitionist politicians), and none in Washington,
D.C. The number of abolitionist American jurisdictions has remained low at
thirteen, while Illinois remains the only jurisdiction applying a moratorium
on executions. Since June 2001, 137 executions have been carried out in
seventeen American jurisdictions, including at federal level.
7. The Assembly thus regrets having to find
Japan and the United States, once more, in violation of their fundamental
obligation to respect human rights under Statutory Resolution (93) 26, due to
their continued application of the death penalty.
8. The Assembly thus requires Japan and the
United States to make more of an effort to take the necessary steps to
institute a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death
9. The Assembly asks the Japanese Parliament
and Government to continue and deepen its constructive dialogue with the
Council of Europe on this issue. In the meantime, it reiterates its demands
that the conditions on death row be immediately improved, that the secrecy
surrounding executions be ended and that access to post-conviction and
post-appeal judicial review be broadened for death row inmates, and supports
the Japanese political and NGO movement working towards these aims and towards
the establishment of a moratorium on executions.
10. The Assembly asks the United States
Congress and Government, at federal and state level to enter into a more
constructive dialogue with the Council of Europe on this issue. It encourages
American politicians to create abolitionist caucuses in their respective
parliamentary assemblies, and to continue to engage opponents of abolition in
11. The Assembly supports the American
political and NGO movement aimed at putting into place moratoria on executions
and restricting the application of the death penalty (in particular, against
juvenile defendants and foreign nationals), as well as efforts to reinforce
legal guarantees and due process in these cases.
12. The Assembly thus decides to intensify
its dialogue with parliamentarians from Japan with a view to encouraging rapid
progress on the institution of a moratorium on executions and the abolition of
the death penalty, and to continue its efforts to enter into a dialogue with
parliamentarians from the United States (both state and federal) with a view
to supporting them in their endeavours to institute moratoria on executions
and abolish the death penalty. To this end, the Assembly will invite
parliamentarians from both countries to a parliamentary conference to be held
in 2004 on effective criminal justice in a human rights framework.
13. The Assembly resolves to debate the
abolition of the death penalty in Council of Europe member and Observer states
whenever the necessity arises, on the decision of the Bureau, and, in any
case, at the latest in the year 2005.
Assembly debate on 1 October 2003 (30th Sitting) (see
report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mrs
Text adopted by the
on 1 October 2003 (30th Sitting).