Abolitionist co-operation at all levels kick-started in Geneva
This credo was developed by Ruth Dreifuss, former member of the Swiss Federal Council, during the introduction of the first plenary assembly. Addressing a full room, she insisted on the main goal, that of outlawing the death penalty as a fundamental violation of human rights. She stated that the fight for a moratorium on the use of capital punishment is just a step; the date of 2015 is set for the abolition and global suppression of death penalty.
An advance presentation of a United Nations report emphasised the positive trend in the number of abolitionist country in law and in practice. This evolution shows that once a country starts thinking about abolition, change happens quickly. Despite these encouraging results, however, two regions show worrying trends: Asia and the Middle-East. Civil society is more and more active, yet isolated and threatened there, e.g. in Iran or China. That is the reason why states, the UN, International Governmental Organizations and NGOs must work together to convince retentionist countries.
Common strategies should include sensitization targeting retentionist countries, but also abolitionist ones to accompany those that still use the death penalty towards a moratorium and abolition.
Regional human rights commissions (African and InterAmerican), the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations agree on the main obstacle to abolition: the populist threat.
Ways to unite, coordinate efforts and strategies to act against death penalty will be described and debated during the Congress. Encouraging civil society (for example in China), involving different actors (e.g. supporting companies not to invest in retentionist countries), working for more transparency and working on cultural processes are among the issues to be explored.
After the plenary meeting, Danthong Breen of the Union for Liberty, a Thailand-based human rights organisation, explained why the death penalty is a form of torture at the 2010 World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva.
Watch his interview below