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October 10 marks the 20th European and World Day against the Death Penalty. The past 20 years have heralded significant progress: two-thirds of all countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or in fact. Of the 55 countries or territories that still retain the death penalty in their criminal law, only 18 countries effectively carried out executions in 2021. So 175 out of 193 United Nations (UN) member states were execution-free last year. Yet this is not enough. The goal of Belgium and the European Union is a complete and global abolition of the death penalty for all crimes.
This year's World Day theme is ‘death penalty and torture’. Not only does the death penalty violate the right to life, but also other human rights, such as the right not to be subjected to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Some years ago, our country was already behind a UN Human Rights Council resolution that explores the relationship between death penalty and torture.
As part of its candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, Belgium committed to continuing to put the issue of the death penalty on the agenda of this multilateral body.
However, the Belgian commitment is not limited to one day or one institution. Achieving global abolition of the death penalty requires long-term commitment, on multiple fronts and with various partners.
As such, our country will actively support the adoption later this year by the UN General Assembly of a new resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Belgium - as a member of the 'Group of Friends of the Second Optional Protocol' - will also continue to push for the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that provides for the abolition of death penalty.
Belgium also continues to cooperate with NGOs active in the fight against the death penalty, such as the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, the International Commission against the Death Penalty, and "Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort", the driving force behind the triennial World Congresses against the Death Penalty, the next of which will take place in Berlin in November. In addition, Belgium supports capacity building of civil society to promote the abolition of the death penalty, where necessary.
Foreign Minister, Hadja Lahbib: "I look forward to the triennial meeting of death penalty opponents in Berlin in November, which will provide an opportunity for inspiring meetings and consultations. Indeed, I share Albert Camus' conviction that "neither in the hearts of people nor in the morals of society will lasting peace dwell until death is outlawed."
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