12th World Day against the Death Penalty France committed to universal abolition of capital punishment
rance’s commitment in favour of the universal abolition of the death penalty across the world and in all relevant international fora has been determined and consistent. It constitutes one of France’s priorities with regards to Human Rights at the international level.
The European Union and France consider the death penalty as cruel and inhumane and its abolition contributes to protecting the right to life. No legal system is immune from judicial error, which may lead to the irreparable loss of human life and the death penalty makes no useful contribution to combating crime.
The Abolition of the Death Penalty under French Law driven by the then Justice Minister Robert Badinter’s commitment, the law dated October 9, 1981 abolished the death penalty in France. This law reinforced France’s longstanding efforts to promote human dignity. Since 2007, the French Constitution states, “no one shall be sentenced to the death penalty.” Since February 1, 2008, France has agreed to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances, including in times of war. French law also prohibits the extradition of any person to a country where they risk the death penalty. France has signed all international commitments on abolishing the death penalty.
Within the European Union Framework
All candidates for entry into the European Union have signed Protocol No. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the abolishing of the death penalty, which is now a prerequisite for accession to the European Union. The Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 2, prohibits the death penalty and eviction or extradition of persons to a country where they risk the death penalty.
In accordance with EU guidelines, France regularly encourages states to ratify international instruments such as the United Nations’ Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. France has undertaken, alone or as part of the European Union, to encourage states to abolish or, failing that, to observe a moratorium on executions. France also supports individuals sentenced to death around the world.
In Multilateral Fora
France has argued forcefully that the death penalty should be outlawed from penalties provided by international criminal courts. France has actively contributed to the United Nations General Assembly adopting resolutions calling for establishing a universal moratorium on applying the death penalty in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
On June 26, 2014, in Geneva, on France’s initiative, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a strong resolution on the death penalty. For the first time, a resolution adopted by the UN deplores human rights violations resulting from the use of the death penalty. It ensures that the topic of the death penalty will always be included in the UNHRC’s agenda.
The Death Penalty around the world
There is a downward trend in the number of death sentences and executions around the world. In 20 years, more than fifty countries have become abolitionist by law.
The number of countries carrying out executions is constantly decreasing. Since 2011, only 23 states had carried out executions. To date, 97 states had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, eight have abolished it for ordinary crimes and 36, one of which is Sri Lanka, are observing a moratorium on executions (i.e. 141 states in total). Each year, more countries are abolishing the death penalty:
In Asia, Mongolia abolished the death penalty in March 2012. Many states have been observing a de facto moratoria for several years. In the United States however, 17 states had already abolished death penalty.
In Africa and Sri Lanka no executions had been carried out since 1976 although capital punishment is still present in the Penal Code. Although it is said that more than 400 people are currently awaiting their death sentence in Sri Lankan prisons, in practice, the death penalty sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment with the application of Article 34 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. While there is uncertainty regarding the application of the death penalty and the public opinion is undecided, France encourages Sri Lanka to abolish the death penalty and to ratify all relevant international treaties.
France hopes Sri Lanka will consider turning the 38-year-old moratorium into a bold statement, an engagement for respecting the right to life and human dignity and to join the growing number of countries who have abolished the death penalty. What a strong signal it would give, in the field of Human Rights, in addition to all that has been accomplished in terms of reconciliation in the past four years.