Doc. 9494

19 June 2002

Abolition of the death penalty in Council of Europe observer states

Recommendation 1522 (2001)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 799th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (12 June 2002)

1.       The Committee of Ministers has carefully studied Recommendation 1522 (2001) on the abolition of the death penalty in Council of Europe observer states.

2.       Before adopting its reply, the Committee of Ministers held on 20 March 2002 an exchange of views with Mrs Renate Wohlwend, Rapporteur for the recommendation. Participants in this exchange of views also included representatives of observer states, viz. the Holy See, Japan, Mexico and the United States of America.

3.       In reply to the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers wishes to make the following points:

      First, the Committee of Ministers reiterates its unconditional rejection of the death penalty. It considers that this type of punishment is contrary to human rights and that it has no place in a civilised society. This position was recently given its most concrete expression yet in the adoption, in February 2002, of Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights on the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, which was opened for signature at the Committee’s 110th Session (Vilnius, 2-3 May 2002). The Committee pays tribute to the pioneering work of the Parliamentary Assembly in this area.

4.       With regard to the proposals made in the recommendation, the Committee reminds the Assembly that, in the criteria for the granting of observer status with the Council of Europe which it adopted on 7 July 1999, an additional requirement has been formulated to the effect that such states should “share Council of Europe values, as reaffirmed in particular in the Final Declaration of the Strasbourg Summit (10-11 October 1997)”. This criterion refers, inter alia, to the appeal for the universal abolition of the death penalty which was made in that Final Declaration. The Committee shares the Assembly’s view that it is regrettable that both Japan and the USA still have recourse to the death penalty. It also believes, in light of the development of law and practice at European and member state level in recent years, that this continuing recourse to the death penalty is a matter of growing concern.

5.       Against this background, the Committee of Ministers cannot but welcome and encourage any steps that aim at establishing moratoria on executions with a view to the future abolition of the death penalty in Japan and the USA that these countries might consider. It is of course open to a dialogue with these countries on such issues, drawing on the extensive experience of the Council of Europe in this area. Such a dialogue would be important also with a view to overcoming what today appears to be a possible “value gap”.

6.       In this connection, the Committee notes that, in both countries, there is a growing public debate on the continued use of the death penalty. It also notes that the Council of Europe already contributes in various ways to promoting awareness about issues surrounding the death penalty also in Observer states. The booklet “Death is not Justice” was published and translated in several languages, including Japanese; the Secretary General regularly intervenes in individual death penalty cases, notably in the USA, and has made the Council of Europe’s position on the death penalty known to the media in the United States and Japan. Last but not least, the Parliamentary Assembly itself undertakes important activities with a view to raising awareness among parliamentarians in these two countries, notably through parliamentary seminars. All these efforts have the full support of the Committee.