Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Moving towards an inter-Arab coalition against the death penalty

Moving towards an inter-Arab coalition
against the death penalty

As of today, no country in North Africa and the Middle-East has yet abolished the death penalty. However, there are positive signs that the region is now ready to debate the issue - as can be seen from the profusion of discussions and exchanges that took place during the 3 rd World Congress against the Death Penalty.

During a roundtable discussion, experts from the region sketched out proposals for a regional strategy towards abolition.

Both speakers and participants insisted on the importance of uniting abolitionists from the region to give their work more resonance, bring together isolated voices and ensure mutual support in the defence of individual cases. However, it seems that the conditions are not yet in place for establishing an inter-Arab Coalition. Firstly, there is currently no stable movement in support of abolition in the Arab world: the death penalty is not a priority, even for human rights organisations. When action is taken, it is mainly in reaction to executions, death sentences or specific circumstances. What is more, arguments for abolition mainly refer to the universality of human rights without taking into account regional idiosyncrasies. Last but not least, the Arab world is far from being a homogenous and monolithic entity.

Towards national and sub-regional coalitions
Participants in the roundtable discussions identified a number of preliminary conditions for the creation of an inter–Arab coalition: to begin with, political, juridical, religious and sociological arguments in support of abolition need to be developed, based on accurate figures; NGOs must be encouraged to include the question of the death penalty in their national political agendas; the abolitionist strategy should be developed in two directions: towards political parties, leaders, decision-makers and the media on one hand, and civil society and public opinion on the other to support the emergence of a civic movement in support of abolition.

Participants also returned to the importance of making the fight against the death penalty part of a wider campaign for developing a democratic culture in the region, and one that values life, breaking with institutional crimes, such as the stoning of women convicted of adultery, committed in the name of a so-called cultural identity.

In conclusion, they called for the creation of national and sub-regional coalitions which would favour the emergence of an inter-Arab coalition against the death penalty in the long term.

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