IIMA at the high-level panel on the occasion of the 10th International Day against the Death Penalty

On the 10th of October, the European Union together with the
delegations of Mexico, Mongolia and Switzerland organized at the UN in Geneva a
high-level panel discussion gathering UN experts, activists, politicians,
and members of victims’ families from all over the world. The aim was to
reflect together on the issue, highlighting the progresses made, the
experience gained and the challenges remaining for abolition and restriction of
the use of death penalty.

Ms. Kyuing-wha Kang, United Nation Deputy High Commissioner for Human
Rights opened the panel stating that currently 141 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in
practice. However, there are still many challenges to face. She indicated that in 2011, executions
were carried out in at least 20 countries and new death sentences were imposed
in 63 countries.

Ms. Yanjmaa Ravdav, Board Chair of Amnesty
International Mongolia shared her experience about the process of the abolition
of death penalty in her country, which has just
ratified the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights concerning the abolition of the death penalty. She underlined how the most powerful instrument
is the pressure on the Government from public opinion and international
Mr. Rodolfo Mattarollo, Consultant of the
Secretariat of Human Rights of the Argentinean Ministry of Justice said that
many countries continue to apply the death penalty – some of them at an
alarming rate – or resumed executions after many years of a de facto moratorium.
Besides, he clearly declared that abolishing
death penalty in every country is a crucial factor for the development of the
human rights civilization that the International Community is trying to build.
He also recalled the Statute of Rome as a legal instrument for abolishing death
penalty given the fact that it is neither considered as punishment for crimes
against humanity and war crimes.
Ms. Emma Bonino, Vice President of the Italian
Senate spoke about the importance of the moratoria specifying that although
abolition would be the best solution, it is important to be extremely careful
because the process of abolition is long and complicated, often requiring a
substantial modification of national criminal law and criminal procedure law,
if not the Constitution itself. Instead, moratoria remain an effective
instrument, “because it actually means
that people are not executed although death penalty is foreseen in criminal law
She also highlighted that where the death
penalty remains in force, there are serious problems with regard to respect of
international norms and standards in case of its application. For this
reason, it is crucial to change the point of view focusing on which crimes
could deserve death penalty and which Courts have the jurisdictional competence
to sentence people to death.
Mr. Renny Cushing, Executive Director of the
US Association “Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights”, whose father
was murdered in 1988, shared his personal story and expressed his concern for
death penalty being something neither wanted by murder victims’ families, while
many people assume that survivors of murder victims automatically support the
death penalty. He also welcomed the fact that lately the US started to debate
around this issue, which is an epochal change in the American mentality.

 The final outcome of the event was the
recognition that, while celebrating the good results of ten years of joint
effort in the fight against death penalty, numerous challenges remaining ahead
and should be faced with a common strategy. Especially in relation to countries
where death penalty is still applied, it is important to have at least the respect
of transparency and proportion criteria in line with Art. 6 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Right, which allows capital
punishment only in case of murder.