On the occasion of the European and World Day against the Death Penaltythe European Union (EU) and the European Council firmly reiterate its unequivocal opposition to the death penalty at all times, in all places and in all circumstances. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances. We congratulate all member states of the Council of Europe (including all EU member states) that have abolished the death penalty in all circumstances and call on the last two member states of the Council of Europe that have not yet joined this Protocol: Armenia and Azerbaijan, to do so without delay.
The steady decline around the world in the number of states still applying the death penalty confirms the global trend towards abandoning this cruel, inhuman and ineffective punishment. A minority of 18 states, 9% of the total number of UN member states, still carried out executions in 2021. We call on those states to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards abolition.
The EU and the Council of Europe strongly condemn the recent death sentences issued in the occupied Ukrainian city of Donetsk. We emphasize that these sentences were incompatible with both European human rights law and international law, including the Geneva Conventions, and we welcome the release of those sentenced. Similarly, we deplore the politically motivated amendment to the Belarusian Penal Code, which extends capital punishment to “attempted terrorist acts” with the ultimate goal of targeting political dissidents, and urge the authorities to revoke this decision. We also call on Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries that have recently increased the number of executions to join the global trend and abandon the use of this inhumane punishment.
The EU and the Council of Europe commend Kazakhstan for having ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims to abolish the death penalty worldwide. We also congratulate Papua New Guinea, the Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea for abolishing the death penalty this year. Inhuman and degrading treatment is inherent in the death penalty. Death row contributes to the long-term physical and psychological deterioration of a person’s health. The mental anguish of anticipating execution and the brutal methods of execution used are contrary to Article 3 of the ECHR, long recognized in judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
Finally, the EU and the Council of Europe encourage all states to join the Global Alliance for Torture Free Trade, which was launched in 2017 and currently involves 62 states committed to restricting trade in goods used to carry out torture and capital punishment. The death penalty is inhuman and degrading treatment, contrary to human dignity. It does not serve as a deterrent to crime. No legal system is safe from miscarriage of justice, which can lead to the loss of innocent life. We will not stop advocating until the death penalty is no longer applied.
New book from the Council of Europe on ECHR jurisprudence on the death penalty and extrajudicial execution
Council of Europe and the death penalty