International law - Regional body

Promotion by Council of Europe member states of an international moratorium on the death penalty

By Council of Europe / M. Pietro MARCENARO, on 1 January 2007

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights confirms its strong opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances. It takes pride in its decisive contribution to making the member states of the Council of Europe a de facto death penalty-free zone. It notes with satisfaction that the death penalty is on the decline world-wide, as shown by a 25% decrease in executions and death sentences between 2005 and 2006. More than 90% of known executions in 2006 took place in only six countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, and the United States of America – an observer state of the Council of Europe.The small number of countries that still resort to executions on a significant scale is becoming increasingly isolated in the international community. Between 1977 and 2006, the number of abolitionist countries rose from 16 to 89. This number increases to 129 if one includes those countries which have not carried out anyexecutions for the past 10 years or more.A moratorium is an important step as it saves lives at once and has the potential of demonstrating to the public in retentionist countries that an end to state-sponsored killings does not lead to any increase in violent crime. On the contrary, a moratorium on executions can bring about a change of atmosphere in society fostering greater respect for the sanctity of human life, and thus contribute to reversing the trend towards ever-increasing hate and violence.