October 10 - 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty Emphasises Importance of Quality Legal Representation

08/10/2020
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On 10 October 2020, people around the world will mobilize to raise awareness of the importance of effective legal representation – a pillar of the right to a fair trial – during all stages of arrest, detention, trial and post-trial in capital punishment cases. As we work toward the universal abolition of the death penalty in all countries, for all crimes, this year’s 18th annual World Day Against the Death Penalty has a special focus on right to counsel and the critical role it plays.

Without access to effective legal representation during all stages – from arrest to post-trial – due process cannot be guaranteed. In a capital case, the consequences arising from a lack of effective legal representation can be nothing less than the difference between life and death.

Most countries’ national legislation provides, in some capacity, the right to legal representation; this right is enshrined in most international and regional human rights instruments.

Unfortunately, this right is frequently violated. All sorts of obstacles can arise: defense lawyers lack sufficient time to confer with their clients or prepare a case before trial; legal aid and prosecution lawyers are overburdened with case work and lack capacity; lawyers work at risk to their own lives in hostile environments; inexperienced lawyers are compelled to represent capital cases; lawyers are paid inadequate sums for their work and lack budget for basic expenses, to name just a few.

These problems pose serious barriers to people’s right to access legal counsel; the importance of a lawyer who has the tools, experience and resources to be effective in a case where her client’s life is on the line cannot be underestimated.

While the total and complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes remains the ultimate goal, the need remains, at all stages of legal proceedings, for those facing the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment of execution to at least have access to effective legal representation. Such legal aid can provide the basic protection of either avoiding the sentence or appealing the verdict.

The death penalty in practice:
106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes
8 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes
28 countries are abolitionist in practice
56 countries are retentionist
20 countries carried out executions in 2019
• In 2019, the top 5 executioners were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.

To read more about the death penalty …
… all over the world: download the facts & figures
… and the right to effective legal representation download the leaflet , and the briefing tools for lawyers , police personnel , and judges.

10 things you can do to end the death penalty:

1 Organize a demonstration
This option must be considered with the utmost care given the Covid-19 pandemic – please use common sense and follow local guidelines if you decide to hold a public demonstration
2 Organize an online gathering
such as a webinar, remote workshop, conversation, a public debate or even a virtual film screening to create awareness
3 Coordinate a letter/email writing campaign
4 Participate in a TV show or community radio program
5 Organize an art exhibition
6 Attend events advocating for the abolition of the death penalty (check out the website of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty for information about planned events)
7 Donate to a group working to end the death penalty
8 Follow the social media campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: #nodeathpenalty
9 Mobilize the media to raise awareness on the issue of the death penalty
10 Participate in the global movement “Cities Against the Death Penalty/Cities for Life” on 30 November 2020
For more details and ideas, download the mobilization kit

*Important note on the Covid-19 Pandemic:

Since the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has influenced how the abolitionist community is able to advocate and defend the abolition of capital punishment. Thousands of those sentenced to death, along with their families and support networks, are left vulnerable as prison and judiciary systems around the world grapple with the implications of the Covid-19 crisis. It is now more important than ever to stay active and vigilant for abolition of the death penalty! With any activity you undertake this year, please make sure it is compatible with your local and/or national government’s regulations regarding public health and safety. Use good sense in planning activities with the aim of reducing transmission rates. This is particularly important as policies and regulations have been changing to adapt to the Covid-19 threat and may continue to change until 10 October.

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