High level panel on death penalty

Press release
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Mr. President,

FIDH welcomes the organization of this High Level Panel Discussion, as well as the findings of the last report of the Secretary-General on the question of the death penalty (A/HRC/24/18), which feature the continuation of the global trend towards abolition. Today, more than three fourths of states in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Others, such as Singapore, have recently restricted its scope or abolished mandatory death penalty for certain crimes under certain circumstances.

As of 2013, the Parliament of the Plurinational State of Bolivia authorized the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In the United States of America, the State of Maryland recently abolished capital punishment and, as of last month, the State of Washington imposed a moratorium. We also welcome the positive developments towards the abolition of the death penalty in Africa, and in particular encourage the adoption of the forthcoming covenant to the African Charter.

However, many challenges remain. Prison conditions for prisoners on death row often amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture, including in California and Louisiana, where FIDH and its member organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), recently conducted a mission. Stark racial disparities in charging, sentencing, and imposing death sentences persist.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the change of administration and taking of office by a new president on 3 August 2013 has not brought any change as far as the death penalty is concerned. Iran continues to apply the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the threshold of “most serious”, including for drug-related and sexual offenses, and to execute persons who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing the crime.

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the death penalty remains an essential part of the totalitarian system in place. Accused persons are completely denied fair trial guarantees. As a result, the border between executions resulting from the death penalty and extrajudicial executions is close to nonexistent.

Mr. President,

As reported by the Secretary-General, the lack of data on the number of executions or individuals on death row is a serious impediment to meaningful debate at all levels. We therefore call on states to publish all information with regard to their use of the death penalty.

Despite global progress and international recognition that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty (UNGA resolution 67/176 of 20 December 2012), steps back are possible, as demonstrated in Nigeria where a de facto moratorium was put to an end, or in Tunisia where it has not prevented lawmakers from inscribing capital punishment in the new Constitution. Several parliamentary democracies, such as Japan, Taiwan and India, continue to impose the death penalty.

FIDH considers that the death penalty is inherently a violation of the right to life. In practice, its imposition contravenes non-discrimination standards, equality before the courts and tribunals, the rights of the defense, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

We call for the establishment of an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to total, definitive and universal abolition; the ratification by all states of the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR; and the adoption of regional instruments prohibiting the death penalty under all circumstances.

Thank you for your attention.

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