“On behalf of the Government of the Republic, I have the honour to request that the National Assembly abolish the death penalty in France.” It was with these words exactly 35 years ago, on 17th September 1981, that Robert Badinter launched the abolition process in France. 11 days later, the law came before the Senate and it was finally promulgated in the Official Journal on 9th October.
The political courage we owe to Robert Badinter and François Mitterand is unanimously and universally saluted today. Their action is still a source of inspiration and that is why ECPM is very honoured to have been supported by Mr Badinter for more than 15 years. The former Minister of Justice will be present at the events we are organising throughout the month of October to mark 35 years of abolition and the World Day. The fact that he is our Honorary President gives even more symbolic resonance to our organisation. And I can never thank him enough!
Political courage is exactly what is cruelly lacking from many politicians across the world. Over the last few months, we have seen the resumption of executions in Pakistan and Indonesia, and a massive increase in the number of executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Above all, we are witnessing a regression of political words through announcements (as sensational as they are inept) of a desire to resume capital punishment, illustrating the ambient populism and the political irresponsibility of a certain number of leaders. For example, the Maldives regularly announces the resumption of executions (notably for children over the age of 7) as an affirmation of their national identity, governed by Sharia law. Over the last few days, the Minister for the Interior in Sierra Leone confirmed his desire to resume executions (after a moratorium in force since 1998).
And how could we forget the Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, who, as well as sweeping declarations, obscure diplomatic methods for appealing murders and extra-judicial executions, announced his plan to reintroduce the death penalty which was abolished in 2006? He would also like to legalise any murders and assassinations already committed on his behalf in the so-called war on drugs trafficking. And yet, in March in New York the UN and most of its member states (including the USA, Columbia and Mexico) acknowledged the inefficiency of “any repressive action” in the famous policy of “the war on drugs”.
Finally, we must mention our neighbour at the gates of Europe which is using the pretext of a coup d’Etat to launch a vast policy of terror. Turkey, which has been abolitionist in law since 2008 and which supported the last World Congress in Oslo, wants to put the death penalty back on the agenda through a referendum, without acknowledging that it would then have to denounce the numerous international treaties it has signed and would therefore lose all international credibility.
The slightest opportunity, the slightest political turbulence is a pretext for expressing political vengeance as well as sending a clear message by States to their own people: they have the right of life or death over their citizens. Our vigilance and our action take on a particular acuity in this difficult political context and that is why the theme of the 2016 World Day will be terrorism. Please have a look at the tools of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty which have been created for this occasion.
However, don’t forget that, despite these worrying signs, the global trend remains positive towards universal abolition. We are going through stormy weather but we are holding our position and abolition of the death penalty remains our constant battle, more so now than ever.
ECPM Director General