Roundtable on terrorism at the 6th World Congress against the death penalty

World Congress

By Marion Gauer, on 28 June 2016

The panel of this debate was made of Basma Khalfaoui (Tunisian lawyer and human rights militant, whose husband, politician Chokri Belaid, was murdered in 2013), Guillaume Colin (member of FIACAT who was representing absent Chadian lawyer Solomon Nodjitoloum), Azam Nazeer Tarar (advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan) and Florence Bellivier (member of the FIDH who was replacing FIDH MENA specialist Claire Talon). In the light of their own experiences linked to this matter, they all dealt with the political use of the death penalty to counter terrorism and the most appropriate way to address the arguments for retaining the death penalty in cases of terrorism.

The compatibility of the fights against terrorism and against death penalty in Tunisia

Basma Khalfaoui asserted her strong support to the abolition of the death penalty in her country and elsewhere, despite her husband’s political assassination, which was probably performed by a radicalized Salafist group. She also rightfully reminded that the fight against terrorism isn’t incompatible with the fight against the death penalty, which doesn’t seem obvious in a state that recently adopted a law providing the capital sentence for terrorism-related crimes. Indeed, she declared: “I don’t say ‘I am against terrorism and against the death penalty’ but ‘I am against terrorism, and that’s why I am against the death penalty’”.

A problematic widening of the application of the death penalty for terrorist actions in Chad

Guillaume Colin talked about the problematic and sudden broadening of the death penalty to terrorism-related crimes in Chad. He worried about the unfair measures contained in the Law repressing terrorist acts, passed in July 2015, and about the unfair execution of ten suspected members of Boko Haram shortly after in the name of counterterrorism. He also stressed how difficult it was to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty in a country which predominantly considers this sentence as the fittest to prevent terrorism.

Skyrocketting executions since the end of the moratorium in Pakistan

Azam Nazeer Tarar presented, in a very detailed way, the harmful effects resulting from the lift of the moratorium on executions, which happened after the terrorist attack against a school in Peshawar in December 2014. Among the worrying list of figures which were given by this advocate, only one execution in ten, among the 405 in total between December 2014 and June 2016, was carried out for terrorism. A quite cynical sentence, reportedly said by a state-appointed lawyer to a person accused of terrorism that he was defending, summarizes well the desperate situation of people facing terrorist charges in Pakistan: “No one leaves the antiterrorism court without a death sentence”.

A political unrest resulting in executions of opponents in Egypt

As a conclusion, Florence Bellivier dedicated her presentation to the Egyptian situation and to the use of the death penalty while countering terrorism, recalling that most death sentences in Egypt are passed for political reasons, which can be related to the ban on demonstrations for instance. It mainly resulted into the problematic weakening of civil society and political opponents, including people linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, who are often described as terrorists and may, as such, face a potential death sentence.


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