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General Rapporteur welcomes Virginia’s abolition of the death penalty

Vladimir Vardanyan (Armenia, EPP/CD), General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the abolition of the death penalty, has welcomed the decision of the US state of Virginia to abolish the death penalty, the first of the former “Confederate” states to do so.

“This decision of the state of Virginia, which had America’s second-highest number of executions and has executed nearly 1,400 people since its days as a colony, shows recognition of the inherent injustice of capital punishment and support for the growing abolitionist trend, not only in the United States but around the world. Virginia has now joined the 22 states in the US which have abolished the death penalty de jure and the 13 others which have not applied it in the last ten years or more,” he said.

“The death penalty is always a cruel and inhuman punishment, whatever the crime, and it should no longer be applied in democratic states that respect human rights. I call on the United States, an observer state at the Council of Europe, to make a political reassessment of the possibility of doing away entirely with this sentence at both federal and state level, in line with our shared values as spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant international treaties.”

On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a repeal law which passed the state’s legislature late last month. The sentences of two men still on death row will be changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole.