A universal tool with regional equivalents


By Aurélie Plaçais, on 2 April 2013

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is the only universal international treaty that prohibits executions and provides essential mechanisms to entrench the abolition of the death penalty in the world.

As of the 15th January 2017, 84 States out of the 169 State parties to the ICCPR and out of the 141 abolitionist States in law or in practice have ratified the Second Optional Protocol (Azerbaijan, Brazil, Chile, Salvador, and Greece with a reservation) and 3 States (Angola, Madagascar and Sao Tome and Principe) have signed the Protocol but have not ratified it yet. 

The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR is the only universal instrument aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, but there are also regional protocols for which the World Coalition is also campaigning:
   – Protocol 6 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) concerning the Abolition of the Death Penalty is the first regional abolitionist treaty. It has been signed by all 47 Member States of the Council of Europe and ratified by 46 of them. This text provides for the abolition of the death penalty, but still allows States to maintain it for crimes committed in time of war or of imminent threat of war;
   – Protocol 13 to the ECHR, adopted in May 2002, ratified by 44 of the 47 States and signed by an additional State, abolishes the death penalty in all circumstances and without possible reservations. Thus it goes beyond the range of the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR
  – The Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty was adopted in 1990 by the Organisation of the American States (OAS). Like the Second Optional Protocol, it aims at abolishing capital punishment, with the same possibility for States “to apply the death penalty in wartime in accordance with international law, for extremely serious crimes of a military nature”. It has been ratified to date by 13 out of the 23 State parties to the ACHR among the 35 Member States of the OAS.

The UN Protocol and the regional Protocols are key mechanisms that share the same objective: strengthen and entrench the abolition of the death penalty in the world.

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