Death Penalty

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In 2011 at least 1,923 people were sentenced to death and at least 18,750 people were under sentence of death worldwide. At least 58 countries still retain the capital punishment for ordinary crime. The EU considers the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and irreversible punishment which fails to act as a deterrent to criminal behaviour. The abolition of the death penalty is essential for the enhancement of human dignity and for the progressive development of human rights.

The EU strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and works towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, if necessary by lobbying for the immediate establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to/which paves the way for abolition. Where the death penalty still exists, EU calls for its use to be progressively restricted and carried out according to minimum standards. The fight against the death penalty is an integral part of the EU’s human rights policy.

The EU takes political action towards universal abolition in countries where the death penalty situation is still in flux by raising the issue of the death penalty in its dialogue with third countries and through general representations. Individual representations are used in specific cases in which the EU becomes aware of individual death penalty sentences violating international minimum standards. Other initiatives include the encouragement of states to ratify and comply with international human rights instruments relating to the death penalty. EU action against capital punishment is as well intensive at international fora, such as UN and OSCE.

The political commitment of the EU is matched by European Commission funding through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). EIDHR support is aimed at promoting the restrictive use of, the establishment of a moratorium on, and the abolition of the death penalty. The support to civil society organizations targeted/targets, inter alia, raising awareness in retentionist countries through public education, outreach to influence public opinion, studies on how States’ death penalty systems comply with minimum standards, efforts for securing the access of death row inmates to appropriate levels of legal support and training of lawyers.



Key Documents:

  • The death penalty worldwide - Report 2010

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The death penalty worldwide


The death penalty worldwide - Report 2010 is available in three languages:

English PDF version (13.5 MB)
French PDF version (21.9 MB)
Italian PDF version (1.68 MB)