Abolitionist movement turns to parliamentarians
The anti-death penalty community is increasingly focusing on parliamentarians as fundamental actors of abolition. In most countries, abolition is achieved through legislation, and the initiative to present a bill in parliament takes political courage and good knowledge of the issue.
In addition, parliamentarians in both retentionist and abolitionist countries can work to raise public awareness of the growing international movement against executions, introduce legislation to reduce the number of offences punishable by death and conduct parliamentary enquiries to ensure that all trials for capital offences follow the highest standards.
In January 2013, the well-established UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Abolition of the Death Penalty organized a meeting with those working for the abolition of the death penalty and others with experience of parliamentary networks. They discussed what more could and should be done to create a network of abolitionist parliamentarians, and whether such a network would add to the effectiveness of the abolitionist movement.
The World Coalition and several of its members including Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM) and Penal Reform International have continued to work on that issue, leading to two events being held by ECPM in Paris and by the International Commission Against the Death Penalty in Geneva, on the occasion of the 11th World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October, 2013.
French parliament hosts seminar on death penalty in the MENA region
ECPM, in collaboration with the French Senate, the French National Assembly and the French ministry of foreign affairs, organized a two-day seminar on the death penalty in the Middle East and North Africa at the French Parliament on 9 and 10 October.
Forty parliamentarians coming from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Palestinian Territories and Tunisia addressed topics such as the role of parliamentarians in the path towards abolition and the importance of creating a parliamentarian network against the death penalty.
Hopeful signs came from Lebanon, where parliamentarians are working closely with civil society, or Morocco, where a 200-strong national network of abolitionist parliamentarians was launched recently.
In Algeria and Tunisia, the moratorium seems stable but the delegates from those countries pointed to religious arguments used by extremist sides in parliament to delay abolition.
Some hope came from hard-core retentionist Egypt, where the process of drafting the new constitution could introduce consideration for the right to life as a first step towards debating abolition.
During the seminar, the World Coalition presented its project to draft a handbook on the death penalty and examples of successful and failed strategies towards abolition. Several parliamentarians attending the event will be directly involved in the project.
Watch a video interview below with Frank Warburton, an expert on cross-party parliamentary co-operation tasked with drafting the World Coalition’s handbook:
ICDP/IPU joint event for parliamentarians in Geneva
In Geneva, the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union celebrated the World Day against the Death Penalty with a joint event for parliamentarians.
The one-day event considered the global trend towards abolition and the role of parliaments in ending this cruel and barbaric punishment. From the exchange of views there too, it was clear that members of parliament are a critical force in abolishing the death penalty.
Members of parliament from 11 countries heard how States can abolish the death penalty and listened to their peers in Kazakhstan and Morocco explain their role as parliamentarians in furthering abolition.
Photo: ©IPU/I. Décarroux