Joint appeal for the abolition of the death penalty by Foreign Ministers Guido Westerwelle (Germany), Laurent Fabius (France), Giulio Terzi (Italy), Michael Spindelegger (Austria), Aurelia Frick (Liechtenstein) and Didier Burkhalter (Switzerland) to mark World Day against the Death Penalty. Published in the Frankfurter Rundschau, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and other publications on 10 October 2012.
There are struggles that cannot be won single-handedly. One of these is the fight against capital punishment. A lone warrior could not have succeeded in convincing so many countries to eliminate the death penalty. But through the combined efforts of many countries, international organizations, and civil society, working together to put an end to executions, we have succeeded. Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland have been at the forefront of this campaign for the complete abolition of the death penalty. It is a movement for the preservation of human dignity.
Today, October 10th, we celebrate the World Day Against the Death Penalty for the tenth consecutive year. On the occasion of this World Day we reaffirm our categorical rejection of capital punishment. As representatives of countries that uphold the same shared values, we join together in a united appeal for the abolition of the death penalty – a practice for which there can no longer be any justification in the 21st century.
Over the past twenty years, more than 50 countries have turned their backs on capital punishment. More than 130 countries have abolished or placed a moratorium on the death penalty. There are now only some 50 countries left that still use the death penalty. These numbers are encouraging, and show that the initiatives and efforts undertaken until now have borne fruit. But we have not yet attained our goal, so that we must now redouble our commitment. As long as capital punishment still exists we will continue to fight against it. The notion of killing in the name of justice is contrary to the fundamental values for which our countries stand. We intend to work together, with determination and perseverance, to ensure that the number of executions continues to decline, that judicial proceedings are made more transparent, and that further countries renounce the death penalty until this inhumane form of punishment has disappeared entirely.
The death penalty cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights and human dignity. It is in contradiction with the right of all human beings not to be exposed to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or humiliating treatment. What is more, executions are sometimes carried out as a result of discriminatory practices. And because they are final, there is no possibility of revising the sentence. In some cases, innocent people lose their lives. The risk that an innocent person could be executed is, in and of itself, reason enough to deny the death penalty any legitimacy. Executions also do nothing to prevent crimes from being committed, and they do not make society any safer. For the families of crime victims, they provide neither justice nor relief.
These reflections seem obvious to us, living in countries where the death penalty was abolished many years ago. In order to achieve the complete elimination of capital punishment in all countries of the world, however, it will take a strong and unwavering commitment. Change does not come overnight. It is a process of many small steps. The progress we have made until now is nevertheless substantial, and we must make sure that it continues. We will work for the abolition of the death penalty also in the future, for only a resolute political commitment can ensure that this form of punishment one day disappears. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by a vote of 109 to 41 a third resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty. This resolution, which reaffirmed earlier versions adopted in 2007 and 2008, was introduced by our countries, the European Union, and numerous other countries from all regions of the world. In the current year this resolution will be put before the General Assembly once again for a vote. Our countries are making every effort to secure an even greater majority in its favour. This resolution underscores the progress that has been made, and signals that the worldwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty is now irreversible.
Public opinion plays a central role in the struggle against capital punishment. All peoples throughout the world must have access to information and the possibility of expressing their opinions freely. It is only in this way that a reasoned decision is possible. Here, civil society and non-governmental organizations have a key role to play.
It is our intention to continue to work together in our opposition to the death penalty. This is a duty we share, born of our common values and the pursuit of an ideal that allows all human beings to live in dignity. We call on all countries to join us in this declaration.
This Call for the Abolition of the Death Penalty has been signed by the following Ministers of Foreign Affairs: Didier Burkhalter (Switzerland), Guido Westerwelle (Germany), Aurelia Frick (Liechtenstein), Michael Spindelegger (Austria), Giulio Terzi (Italy) und Laurent Fabius (France).