Greater commitment is needed for the universal abolition of capital punishment

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights today adopted the following statement:

“On the occasion of the 16th World Day against the Death Penalty (10 October 2018), the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights reaffirms its commitment to fighting for the universal abolition of capital punishment, which is cruel, inhuman and degrading.

Although more than two-thirds (142) of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or have no longer applied it for at least 10 years, at least a thousand people are executed every year. The death penalty is still used in more than 50 countries, some of which have co-operation status with the Council of Europe. This year, executions have again been carried out in Belarus, the United States and Japan, and new death sentences have been handed down both in these countries and in the territories administered by the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. The Committee strongly condemns these executions and death sentences.

This year’s World Day against the Death Penalty focuses on the conditions of detention of people sentenced to death, the number of whom is estimated to be at least 22 000 worldwide, with some sources suggesting that the figure may be as high as 40 000. Some spend over 20 or 30 years on death row pending their execution, and their contacts with their lawyers and their families are always restricted. The confinement of individuals sentenced to death leads to physical and mental suffering that may in some situations be likened to cases of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, which are prohibited under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”). According to the settled case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the States Parties may therefore be held liable under the Convention when they hand individuals over to states in which they could be sentenced to death.

The rejection of capital punishment is a basic principle of the Council of Europe, so the Committee asks parliamentarians to increase their commitment in this area, especially in their working relations with states that carry out this penalty. It again calls on those Council of Europe member states which have not yet done so to sign and/or ratify Protocols nos. 6 and 13 to the Convention, which prohibit the death penalty. It appeals to member states not to return or extradite individuals to countries where they might risk being placed on death row.

Finally, the Committee reiterates its appeal to states that have co-operation status with the Council of Europe – the United States, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority – as well as Belarus to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty and ultimately abolish it in law.”