EU celebrates World Day Against the Death Penalty

On Monday, October 10, the European Union and its member states celebrated World Day Against the Death Penalty.

“On this important occasion, we recall that the death penalty is a violation of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and call for an end to state-sanctioned capital punishment.”

The European Union’s representatives in the region, which include: Andrew Jacobs – EU Ambassador to the Pacific, Leonidas Tezapsidis – EU Ambassador to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Ioannis Giogkarakis-Argyropoulos – EU Ambassador to Papua New Guinea and Alexandre Leitao – EU Ambassador to Timor-Leste, hold a strong and principled position against the death penalty. Its abolition is a key objective for the Union's human rights policy.

The fight against the death penalty is outlined in the European Union Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019. The EU sees this as an important commitment to the respect of human rights worldwide.

“We are seeing many encouraging signs that the abolitionist movement continues to grow and diversify as States, human rights organisations, civil society organisations and many more join forces to promote the abolition of the death penalty,” the Union said in a statement.

“In June of this year, many of them gathered at the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo and, at its conclusion, adopted a strong and useful Declaration.

“The World Congress Against the Death Penalty provides invaluable opportunities for the global movement towards the abolition of capital punishment to strengthen its resolution, reaffirm its goal, and debate the methods with which to obtain it.”

Important progress has been made in the Pacific recently. In 2015, Fiji abolished the death penalty, prompting hopes that it would trigger similar positive actions in the region.

In May of this year, Nauru followed in its footsteps and abolished the death penalty in its legislation, thus taking an important final step for the country, which has been abolitionist in practice since its independence in 1968.

The actions of Fiji and Nauru to ensure that their legislation reflects their abolitionist stance on the death penalty undoubtedly demonstrate a will to comply with their international commitments and to promote human rights.

The European Union believes that this sends a strong signal to other countries still applying or retaining capital punishment.

In the Pacific, only Tonga and Papua New Guinea currently retain the death penalty in law, with both countries being abolitionist in practice. This status quo is an encouraging sign of the growing strength of the movement towards the formal abolition of capital punishment in the entire region.

“Moving forward, it is essential that the Pacific is able to stand united and show the world that the region is actively involved in the fight to uphold human rights globally,” said the EU.

“Although we are encouraged by the growing momentum towards abolition of capital punishment worldwide, the recent resumption of executions and breaches of decades of moratoria in different parts of the world clearly indicate a need for the European Union to continue its long-standing global campaign against the death penalty.

“Just as in the case of the fight against climate change, the Pacific can be a strong ally to the European Union in promoting the value of life worldwide.”

Therefore the organisation invites the Pacific Island States to work together in supporting the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and encouraging partners to ratify the UN Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The European Union and its Members States are grateful to their global network of partners which seeks to advance human dignity and a global moratorium on the death penalty.

“The abolition of the death penalty lies at the heart of our European values. No state should have the right to decide on the life and death of its citizens.”

Press release