In 2010, Switzerland hosted the 4th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva. We were proud to sponsor that event, which brought together more than 1,500 people for several days of vivid debates in the universal capital of human rights. This year, our country is once again proud to support this major event by co-sponsoring the Congress in Madrid.
We consider the death penalty to be a cruel, inhumane and degrading form of punishment, which we oppose categorically, under any circumstance and at any point in time.
Our opposition to capital punishment is an integral part of our values, based on freedom, equality of dignity and rights, and justice. The right to life – the ultimate right – and the respect of human dignity are at the heart of the Federal Constitution and of our foreign policy.
In 1938, direct democracy allowed the Swiss to adopt a penal code that abolished the death penalty for common law crimes. Although the last executions in our country date back to the Second World War, the clause that sanctioned treason in times of war with the death penalty was removed from the military code in 1992. Switzerland has also ratified the three instruments of the Council of Europe and the United Nations that ban the death penalty on a European and universal level. Therefore, several generations have lived in a country where capital punishment has been outlawed.
At a global level, change does not take place overnight. It is a slow, step-by-step evolution. However, progress is real and we must make sure that it continues. Therefore, we will continue to encourage States that have decided to embark on the road towards abolition and to advocate for it relentlessly. Only strong political commitment will enable us to reach our goal – a world without capital punishment.
Public opinion plays an essential role in this. People must have access to reliable information and be able to debate about this question to make a decision based on full knowledge of the subject. That is why Switzerland supports numerous international and national NGOs that work to make the debate move forward.
The Madrid Congress is an essential step on the road to abolishing capital punishment; it is a platform to expose the positions and achievements of the abolitionist movement. By participating in this event, Switzerland states its dedication to the respect and dignity of each individual loud and clear.
Ambassador Paul Koller
Special Envoy for Human Rights issues
Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Switzerland sponsors the 5th World Congress Against the Death Penalty.