Sunday, 21 October 2007

Europe against the Death Penalty


Franco Frattini, European Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security: “Europe against the Death Penalty,” Conference "Europe against the Death Penalty" Lisbon, 9 October 2007

Prime Minister, President, Ministers, Representatives of the Council of Europe, Honourable Members of the Portuguese Parliament and of the European Parliament, Representatives of Civil Society.

When promoting human rights, and more specifically the abolition of the death penalty, we must always act with optimism and realism. Realism because we all know that this issue is very emotional in our societies where citizens should be helped to be free from fear of crimes.

Optimism because considerable progress has been made in recent years. A growing number of countries are abolishing the death penalty, even at an accelerating pace: 133 countries had abolished the death penalty in practice or in law in 2007.

I hope today's Conference gives also visibility to the efforts of the many Non-Governmental Organisations and individuals who strive, day after day, towards the universal abolition of the death penalty.

A growing change of minds has taken place in the last 30 years. The whole of Europe has ended capital punishment.

As history proves, this breakthrough should not be taken for granted. Public debates within our societies demonstrate the need to reiterate, time and time again, that the abolition of the death penalty is an essential achievement for the respect for human dignity. And nobody in Europe can even reopen a discussion on this, without going against a pillar of our Treaties.
It is also a basic feature of the European model. In fact, we can say with pride, respect and protection of human life and dignity are basic values.

We want to convey to the world that the whole of Europe is strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. And the whole of Europe supports the promotion of its universal abolition.

We must take advantage of the trend worldwide towards the abolition of the death penalty to call on all "de facto" abolitionist African States to full-fledged legislation ruling out death penalty.
We should also call on those African States which still apply the death penalty to join a universal moratorium as a strategic move towards the abolition of the death penalty in all countries.
The death penalty is a parody of justice. The instinctive desire for revenge by the individual against the aggressor has been transferred to civilised criminal judicial systems.

What was relatively frequent one or two centuries ago in many countries – public executions as a deterrent against crime – is now felt as intolerable. Even by the supporters of the death penalty. This demonstrates that the death penalty is against human dignity.

The Death penalty can produce adverse effects.

In the case of terrorists, for example, the death penalty could transform murderers into martyrs. And encourage future murderers and martyrs.

More horrendous, the death penalty can convert judicial errors into irreversible human tragedies.

European Commission and Governments should also continue to assist civil society groups and NGOs working in favour of this cause.

Never, killing human beings can be an act of Justice.

I look forward to listening to the representatives of government and civil society here today. And explore how we can contribute to their invaluable work for the universal abolition of the death penalty.

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