On the occasion of the World Day against the Death Penalty (10 October), PACE President Rik Daems made the following statement:
“To date more than two-thirds of countries worldwide, 142 countries, have abolished the death penalty in law or no longer apply it, whereas 56 countries continue to use it. I deplore the fact that several States or entities associated with the Council of Europe – the United States, Japan, Jordan and Morocco and Palestine, as well as Belarus – continue to hand down death sentences or carry out executions. I reiterate the Assembly’s appeal to them to stop applying the death penalty and ultimately to abolish it in law.
I am also concerned by the political discourse in some Council of Europe member States, where there have been calls for capital punishment to be reinstated. I invite these States to abide by their legal commitments and, if they have not yet done so, to sign and ratify Protocols Nos. 6 and 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
I also urge my fellow parliamentarians to raise the issue of abolition of the death penalty in their working relations with States that continue to use it, and to press these countries to honour their international commitments regarding the right to legal assistance in criminal proceedings.
The Council of Europe is today a death-penalty-free area and we are resolutely committed to achieving the universal abolition of capital punishment.”
This year’s World Day against the Death Penalty focuses on access to lawyers. Even though most national legal systems and international human rights treaties safeguard the right to legal assistance during criminal proceedings, suspects or defendants do not always enjoy appropriate legal representation. In countries where the death penalty remains in force, access to a qualified and committed defence lawyer may be a matter of life and death.