Closing Ceremony Of Eighth World Congress Against Death Penalty


Over the last few years, we have seen a growing number of States – from across the world – join the trend towards abolition of the death penalty.

We have honoured these expressions by States, as acts of their own sovereignty and commitment to protect life and human dignity.

We have observed moves to resume the use of the death penalty in some countries and its resurgence in others.

And for the people facing this penalty: they frequently remain out of sight.

I’d like to extend my support and acknowledgment to you – and wider civil society – for your unwavering commitment to defend their right to life and to dignity.

For being the driving force behind the international abolitionist movement.

In support of the inviolability of life and its inherent dignity.

For keeping this issue live on the public agenda and continuing to raise awareness about the reality of this inhuman punishment.

These are difficult times, with new challenges.

With some governments instrumentalizing the death penalty to intimidate and repress opposition.

Amidst an online environment fuelling the spread of misinformation, disinformation, and of radical positions demonising others as responsible for societal ills.

This means we – all of us – have to persevere, with creativity and commitment, to move this important agenda forward.

First, by reaching out to broaden its support base.

Such as new allies like the business community and sports figures as you have done.

And youth across regions – to tap into their energy, innovative spirit and savvy.

To ensure the abolitionist movement can sustain over time.

By reaching out to local cultural and religious leaders, particularly in retentionist States. To highlight the death penalty’s variance with the fundamental tenets of all cultures and sets of belief.

Protecting young leaders, civil society actors, defence lawyers, and journalists and their space to work is crucial.

Second, by convincing hearts and minds.

By shining a light on the human stories of those affected by the death penalty -such as children and other family members – as well as its gendered impact.

By stressing its discriminatory use against the poor and most marginalized, often least able to defend themselves.

By drawing on growing evidence that crime prevention is too complex to fit into one soundbite – in short, that the death penalty just doesn’t work as often claimed.

Investing in our social and justice systems, including rehabilitation, guided by human rights, is part of the puzzle of preventing crime and strengthening societies.

Third, let’s build on recent positive developments (such as in the Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Malaysia, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea and Zambia)

To show that it can be done.

Let’s better understand the elements that led to success in those countries, so we can reach across regions, consolidate networks, and advance national debates towards abolition.

And encourage de facto abolitionist States – the crucial middle – to step forward and join the abolitionist movement.[1]

30 States with current moratoria on executions can be a catalyst: this would have a transformative effect on remaining States wavering on these questions.

Fourth, by maintaining respectful, principled and sustained engagement with retentionist States.

By debunking the myth, with hard evidence, of any deterrent effect on crime.

By incentivising States to publish data, and to be transparent about how public opinion surveys are designed. This, in order to gather accurate views of society.

And, pending abolition, by insisting on full compliance with international obligations of due process and fair trial.

Distinguished participants,

I will work hard throughout my mandate to promote the abolition of the death penalty and support this important movement.

On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have an opportunity for a reset.

In your efforts, I invite you – all of us – to go back to that foundational text which we all share.

To its spirit of justice, dignity and freedom.

Let’s all strive to make the death penalty a relic of the past.

[1] by adopting formal moratoriums and fully abolishing the DP in law (incl ratifying ICCPR-OP2), making commitments in the context of UPR and TB reviews, at the occasion of the world day against the DP (10 October) and the international day of human rights (10 December), and at the high-level segment of the HRC session in March.

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