European Union calls for abolition of Death Penalty in Pakistan


Today, we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the World Day against the Death Penalty. The abolition of the death penalty is a major objective of the European Union’s human rights policy. And the EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, who visited Pakistan in June this year, has made a worldwide abolition of the death penalty one of her main priorities. Today is also a good occasion to remind ourselves of the positive trend towards abolition of the capital punishment and reaffirm our commitment to do more.

A number of countries have officially abolished the death penalty over the past decade. Several countries have ended it in practice, either by declaring an official moratorium or by refraining from carrying out executions. Others have taken steps to narrow the scope of the death penalty. Today 141 countries have abolished the death penalty either in law or in practice. And the number of countries still retaining the death penalty are dwindling every year. Twenty one countries still recorded official executions in 2011, less than a third of the countries carrying out executions ten years ago. However, a more grim side of the statistics is that in 2011 alone at least 1,923 people were sentenced to death and another 18,750 men and women were on death row awaiting execution.

The European Union holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty: We consider it a cruel, inhuman and an irreversible punishment. The EU believes that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the application of the death penalty represents an irreparable and irreversible loss of human life.

No legal system is immune from error. Article 2 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights provides that no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed under any circumstances. All 27 European Union Member States are fully committed to this provision. The EU is firmly opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances, regardless of the crimes committed. The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. In our view, capital punishment does not serve as an effective deterrent to criminal behaviour. Countries who still practice the death penalty are not seeing a reduction in violent crime or overall levels of violence – on the contrary.

The abolition of the death penalty is essential for the progressive realization of human rights. Historically, we have arrived at this conclusion step by step. In the aftermath of World War II, which saw some of the most violent crimes recorded in human history, the call for a world wide abolition began to take momentum. In the 1970s, a series of notorious miscarriages of justice in some EU Member States occurred, resulting in wrongful executions and an increased awareness that the death penalty does not prevent an increase in violent crime. In fact, there is no evidence that maintaining the death penalty leads to less violent crime, or reduces overall levels of violence in a society.

The EU highly appreciates the fact that no sentences under the death penalty have been carried out in Pakistan since 2008. This is a progressive and important step taken by Pakistan. The death penalty is a blunt instrument that can also be misused against political foes. Yet, 27 crimes in Pakistan still carries the death sentence, including the blasphemy laws, and approximately 8,000 Pakistani men and women are today on death row.

As a major partner and friend of Pakistan, the European Union would like to use this day to encourage Pakistan to maintain its current moratorium and progressively restrict the scope of the application of the death penalty in your laws – with the ultimate objective to suspend all executions and the imposition of any death sentences. The European Union looks forward to Pakistan joining the growing circle of nations that have done away completely with this inhumane practice.

Lars-Gunnar Wigemark

Ambassador, Head of the European Union Delegation to Pakistan

Published in Dawn, 10/10/2012

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Dernière modification : 25/09/2014

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