HRC 52 – EU Intervention: Biannual High-level Panel on the Question of the Death Penalty Human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to limiting the death penalty to the most serious crimes

Mr. High Commissioner,

I would first like to congratulate Armenia and Kazakhstan for ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), since this panel was last convened, as well as Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan Papua New Guinea and Zambia for abolishing the death penalty.

These developments once again confirm the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. The accelerated pace at which countries have abolished the death penalty in recent decades is encouraging. So is the record level of support for the resolution on the moratorium of the death penalty adopted in UNGA this fall.

The European Union strongly and unequivocally opposes the death penalty in all times and in all circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, incompatible with the inalienable right to life and with human dignity. We will continue to use all tools available to us to advance worldwide abolition.

Mr. High Commissioner,

One of the counter arguments that we often hear is that States have the sovereign right to determine their own laws and that capital punishment is not prohibited under international law.

However, under the ICCPR, where death penalty is not yet abolished, it should be strictly limited to the “most serious crimes”, a concept that covers only crimes of extreme gravity that involve intentional killing.

Too often however, governments instrumentalise the death penalty to intimidate and repress opposition. Persons are executed for having expressed an opinion, for having exercised their right to peaceful assembly, because they are a member of the LGBTI community or as a sanction for drug offences or against adultery, blasphemy and apostasy – while in fact none of these meet the threshold of “most serious crimes”. I also want to stress its discriminatory use against the poor and most marginalized, who are often not in a position to defend themselves.

Mr. High Commissioner,

Allow me to state once again that the abolition of the death penalty is not a matter of “culture” or “tradition”. States from all regions of the world, with different legal systems, traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds, have abolished the death penalty. It is purely a question of political will.

The EU calls upon those who have not yet joined the movement to show true leadership and turn their backs on this cruel, inhumane and degrading practice. The death penalty has no place in the 21st century.

Thank you.