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Human Rights Commissioner to mark the World Day against the Death Penalty

10.10.2016

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (10 October) to mark the World Day against the Death Penalty:

For me, the World Day against the Death Penalty is an opportunity to express my respect for all the very many human rights defenders who work throughout the world for the abolition of this cruel and inhumane punishment. In many countries their work has been made more difficult in recent years as a result of new legislation and state repression.

Despite the difficulties and risks activists face through their work to abolish the death penalty, their efforts are not in vain. We can discern a global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment, only a minority of states still carry out death sentences, and the vast majority of executions take place in just a few countries: China, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Europe and South America each have only one country that imposes the death penalty; in Oceania capital punishment has been abolished in most states – most recently in Nauru. In the United States, too, only a few states still carry out executions. Furthermore, there are countries which impose capital punishment, but where the issue is the subject of public debate, such as Japan, as well as Belarus.

In view of this global move away from the death penalty, it is all the more sobering that in some states, such as the Philippines and Maldives, a return to capital punishment seems possible.

Death sentences are often passed following questionable convictions based on confessions obtained through torture. This increases the risk of miscarriages of justice. New technology shows that a large number of people have been wrongly convicted – which is another reason to call the death penalty into question. A life taken cannot be given back.

That is why I categorically reject the death penalty as an inhumane and cruel punishment. I appeal to all countries in which capital punishment still takes place to abolish this form of punishment or at least to impose a moratorium on its use. I will continue to work towards this goal in cooperation with civil society and our partners in the EU.

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