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‘The death penalty is a relic of the past, a barbaric and inhuman practice that has no place in modern society’, says PACE General Rapporteur

Death row

On the eve of the 21st World Day against the Death Penalty (10 October), PACE General Rapporteur on the abolition of the death penalty Aleksandar Nikoloski (North Macedonia, EPP/CD) made the following statement:

“As stated in the Preamble to Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, ‘everyone’s right to life is a basic value in a democratic society and […] the abolition of the death penalty is essential for the protection of this right and for the full recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings’. Our Heads of State and Government at the Reykjavik Summit this year stressed that Europe must continue to be a death-penalty-free zone and that the Council of Europe should pursue the fight in favour of its universal abolition.

In this context, I applaud the recent ratification of Protocol No. 13 to the ECHR by the Armenian Parliament, as well as Azerbaijan’s signing of that instrument. I hope that the ratification process in Azerbaijan will follow promptly, making the absolute abolition of the death penalty a ratified international obligation for all 46 of our member States.

At the same time, I am deeply alarmed by recent expressions of support for the reintroduction of this inhuman form of punishment by top government officials in some European countries. I call on all European leaders to refrain from such comments and proposals.

It is also deplorable that two observer States of the Council of Europe – Japan and the United States – continue to impose and carry out death sentences. In the United States, some states, such as Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma, consider using nitrogen hypoxia – a method considered unacceptable by veterinarians as a form of euthanasia for animals – as an alternative means of execution, potentially contributing to an even greater degree of pain and suffering. In Uganda, a man became the first person charged with ‘aggravated homosexuality’, an offence punishable by death under a new law targeting LGBTI persons. I am also concerned that Israel- State with observer status with the Assembly – is considering a bill that would introduce mandatory capital punishment for specific crimes. These unfortunate setbacks must keep us even more determined in our efforts to eradicate the death penalty from all societies.

On the other hand, I am pleased to note some positive developments across the globe. Zambia decided to officially abolish the death penalty, Ghana removed it in almost all cases and Malaysia abolished the mandatory capital punishment.

The European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that even in the most difficult circumstances, such as the fight against terrorism and organised crime, and regardless of the nature of the offence committed, the Convention prohibits in absolute terms torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the conduct of the person concerned. We must double down on our efforts to eradicate the death penalty, which is a relic of the past, a barbaric and inhuman practice that has no place in modern society.”