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8th World and European Day against the Death Penalty

8th World and European Day against the Death Penalty

Published on October 12, 2010
Statement by Bernard Kouchner, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs

On 10 October 2010 we celebrate the 8th World Day against the Death Penalty, officially recognized by the European Council and the European Union in 2007.

On this occasion, I would like to reaffirm France’s resolute commitment in support of the universal abolition of the death penalty and I urge all countries that continue to apply the death penalty to abolish it, and until that time, to establish a moratorium on executions and death sentences.

I pay tribute in particular to the human rights defenders who fight to tirelessly defend this cause.

In this fight they have the full support of our embassies, which I have asked, within the framework of this day, to mobilize public opinion and the decision-makers. In around 30 States, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, on the European continent and in the Caucasus, our embassies, our cultural institutes have opened their doors or are participating in conferences and round-tables to promote the abolitionist cause.

A new resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty will be presented at the 65th UN General Assembly, at the initiative of the European Union. In 2008, under French presidency of the European Union, 106 States voted in support of this resolution. I urge all States to confirm this encouraging vote and to support this text once again, on an even more massive scale.

France joined with Spain and many other countries to establish the International Commission against the Death Penalty, which consists of “individuals of high moral authority from all regions of the world,” including Mr. Robert Badinter for France. This Commission is tasked with establishing a universal moratorium by 2015, with a view towards complete and definitive abolition.

All of these actions stem from the choice made by France nearly 30 years ago, and then confirmed by the inclusion in its Constitution of the principle according to which “No one can be condemned to death.” Today, 139 States are abolitionists in law or in practice, and every year an increasing number of countries resolutely choose humanity.

The path towards universal abolition is still a long one, since countries continue to apply, sometimes on a massive scale, this punishment. Minors and mentally handicapped persons are still too often executed. These executions are sometimes carried out in public in barbaric and appalling conditions. I am thinking here of Mrs. Sakineh Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, and for whom President Sarkozy and myself are continuing to mobilize our efforts, together with many partners throughout the world.

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