Monday, October 13, 2008

EU, CoE join hands against death penalty

The European continent got together on October 10 to reiterate its commitment to work towards the universal abolition of the “Death Penalty” punishment. On the occasion of the World and European day against the death penalty, European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for freedom, justice and security stated, “Europe has created a ‘de facto’ death penalty-free zone stretching from Iceland in the west to Vladivostok in the east and from Norway in the north to the south-east of Turkey – this is one of Europe's greatest achievements.”

"Nevertheless,” the Vice-President continued, "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. This is the reason the European Commission works side by side with NGOs that are active in this field and supports abolitionist actions.”

European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner commented: "I am proud of the EU's leading role in the international efforts to abolish the death penalty. Although over half the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, the global figures for its use remain much too high.”

Recognising the “plight of victims of violent crime,” the Commissioner observed that the “death penalty is not the solution,” adding, “on the contrary, it only serves to aggravate a culture of violence and retribution. The Commission is determined to work towards the universal abolition of the death penalty through all available diplomatic channels and as a leading donor in this field.”

The President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering said: "The European Day against the death penalty is the day on which we remember that the defence of human rights and the necessity of a justice system which is based on the respect of human rights and the dignity of the human being, is an essential part of our common values.”

The death penalty is a breach of fundamental human rights and failure to respect the dignity of the human being and the right to life. The European Parliament will fight against the death penalty under any circumstances everywhere in the world."

Signing a Joint Declaration with the Presidents of the European Parliament, of the Council and of the European Commission, on the EU side, and by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, PACE President Lluís Maria de Puig said, "To die by order of the state, decreed by a judge or a politician as punishment for a crime, is thankfully a thing of the past in Europe.”

"But human dignity demands that we put our arguments to those who still carry out this practice. Once a year, we join with others across the world to press for a global moratorium on executions. The tide is turning and one day, I am sure, the death penalty will pass into history," PACE President added.

Abolition of the death penalty is a condition of membership in the 47-nation Council of Europe, where no executions have taken place since 1997, the statement noted.

During 2007, at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries, and at least 3,347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries. 88 percent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US.

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