18th World Day Against the Death Penalty: Access to Counsel – A Matter of Life or Death


on 18 September 2020

On 10 October 2020, the World Day Against the Death Penalty will be dedicated to the right to effective legal representation for individuals who may face a death sentence.

Without access to effective legal representation during arrest, detention, trial and post-trial, due process cannot be guaranteed. In a capital case, the consequences that can arise from a lack of effective legal representation can be nothing less than the difference between life and death.

On the national and international levels, the right to legal representation is enshrined in most constitutions and human rights instruments. Unfortunately, justice systems around the world repeatedly violate this right and fail to give those charged with a crime adequate legal representation.

While working towards the total and complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes, it is crucial to alert civil society and the international community to the necessity that, at all stages of the legal proceedings, those facing the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment of execution should at least have access to effective legal representation. Such legal aid can provide the basic protection of either avoiding the sentence or appealing the verdict.

The Death Penalty in Practice

106 countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes;

8 countries abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes only;

28 countries are abolitionist in practice;

56 countries are retentionist;

• In 2019, the 5 countries that carried out most executions were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt.

Find out more about the death penalty all over the world – read our facts & figures sheet.

Take action

  • Organize a demonstration.

  • Organize a gathering

    on a videoconference platform. It can take the shape of a webinar, remote workshop, conversation, a public debate or even a virtual film screening to create awareness.

  • Coordinate a letter/email writing campaign.

  • Participate in a TV show

    or with a community radio station.

  • Organize an art exhibition

    (of artwork made by people sentenced to death, of photographs of death row, of drawings or posters) or a [virtual] theatre performance.

  • Join the events prepared for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

  • Donate to a group working to end the death penalty.

  • Follow the social media campaign

    on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: use #nodeathpenalty or click here to tweet against capital punishment!

  • Mobilize the media to raise awareness on the issue of the death penalty.

  • Participate

    in “Cities Against the Death Penalty/Cities for Life” on 30 November 2020.

  • Share the campaign

    Share the campaign
  • Call for initiatives:
    Wherever you are… in Africa, America, Asia, Europe or Oceania
    Whoever you are… artists, citizens, lawyers, local representatives, parliamentarians, NGOs, religious leaders, reporters, teachers
    Whatever your plans are… debates, concerts, press conferences, demonstrations, petitions, educational and cultural activities….

    Take action against the death penalty, on 10 October 2020!

    Join hundreds of initiatives organized worldwide. Last year, there were over 700 events worldwide!

    *Important note on the COVID-19 Pandemic:
    Since the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has influenced how the abolitionist community is able to advocate and defend the abolition of capital punishment. Thousands of those sentenced to death, along with their families and support networks, are left vulnerable as prison and judiciary systems around the world grapple with the implications of the COVID-19 crisis. It is now more important than ever to stay active and vigilant for abolition of the death penalty! With any activity you undertake this year, please make sure it is compatible with your local and/or national government’s regulations regarding public health and safety. Use good sense in planning activities with the aim of reducing transmission rates. This is particularly important as policies and regulations have been changing to adapt to the COVID-19 threat and may continue to change until 10 October.

    Get in touch with the World Coalition to tell us about events scheduled on 10 October 2020.

    Related document(s)


    : The Right Way: More Republican lawmakers championing death penalty repeal

    By Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, on 8 September 2020


    NGO report

    United States

    More details See the document

    At a press conference in Washington, DC, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty released a new report that shows the surge in the number of Republican lawmakers who sponsored death penalty repeal legislation at the state level. The report – called The Right Way – looked at all death penalty repeal bills filed since 2000, using the increase in sponsorships as a measure for growing Republican leadership on the issue.

    • Document type NGO report
    • Countries list United States
    • Themes list Public opinion, Public debate, Death Penalty, Country/Regional profiles,


    : Waiting for capital punishment

    By Sadegh Souri, on 8 September 2020

    Academic report

    Iran (Islamic Republic of)

    More details See the document

    According to Iranian law, the age when girls are held accountable for criminal punishment is nine years old, while international conventions have banned the death penalty for persons under 18. In Iran, the death penalty for children is used for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, and armed robbery.Pursuant to the passing of new laws in recent years, the Iranian Judiciary System detains children in Juvenile Delinquents Correction Centers after their death sentence verdict, and a large number of them are hanged upon reaching age 18.

    • Document type Academic report
    • Countries list Iran (Islamic Republic of)
    • Themes list Juveniles, Women, Death Row Conditions,


    2009 World Day Report: Teaching Abolition 2009

    By World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, on 1 January 2009



    More details Download [ pdf - 3594 Ko ]

    It presents the theme of 2009 World Day, facts on the death penalty and all the actions and media coveragefor the 2009 World Day on Teaching Abolition.


    10 Steps to Writing a UPR Stakeholder Report

    By The Advocates for Human Rights, on 1 January 2014


    Working with...

    More details See the document

    This four-page document proposes a roadmap for organisations interested in submitting reports to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights.

    • Document type Working with...
    • Themes list International law,