Abolition of the death penalty
Belgium has not applied the death penalty for a very long time. In 1996, the penalty was legally abolished for all crimes, and in 2005 this abolition was enshrined in the constitution. The abolition in Belgium is absolute and applies to all crimes committed in all situations, including times of war. Belgium ratified both the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty (8 December 1998), Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the abolition of the death penalty in peacetime (10 December 1998) and Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances (13 June 2003).
The fight against the death penalty is a priority for both Belgium and the EU, which has developed guidelines on the death penalty. Belgium and the European Union are always and under all circumstances strong and unequivocal opponents of the death penalty. They believe that the death penalty is a serious violation of human dignity and constitutes a gross violation of human rights. Moreover, it has not been convincingly demonstrated that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime. Furthermore, miscarriages of justice can lead to the execution of an innocent person.
As such, Belgium endeavours to implement the EU guidelines. Together with the EU, our country strives towards the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, and calls for a reduction in the application of the death penalty, wherever it still exists, and urges that it should be carried out with consideration for specific minimum standards and maximum transparency. Despite a growing international trend to abolish the death penalty, or to no longer enforce it, international law does not prohibit the death penalty as such. It establishes minimum standards to limit the carrying out of the death penalty to the most serious crimes. Contrary to this growing international trend, a small number of countries continue to enforce the death penalty. In some of these countries, it is even used in violation of the UN minimimum standards.
Belgium is a member of the support group of the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP), which is made up of around 20 independent persons of international standing working towards the abolition of the death penalty. Our country is also a member of the 'Friends of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'. This is an informal lobbying group bringing together States and civil society organisations working towards the abolition of the death penalty, by promoting the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for the abolition of the death penalty.
Since 2017, Belgium has also been a member of the Global Alliance to end trade in goods for torture and capital punishment, launched by the EU. The objective of the Alliance is to encourage and support countries to adopt legislation to control trade in products that could be used for capital punishment and torture and to exchange legislative and administrative practices by setting up a network of like-minded countries.
Within the United Nations Human Rights Council, Belgium, together with a number of like-minded countries, is the driving force behind a resolution on the death penalty. The aim is to keep the issue of the death penalty on the Human Rights Council's agenda on a regular basis, i.e. every two years, and to approach the issue from a human rights perspective.
In the General Assembly of the United Nations, Belgium is a traditional co-sponsor of the biennial resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
Belgium actively participates at a high level in the triennial World Congress against the Death Penalty, organised by the NGO 'Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort' (ECPM). At the end of February 2019, Belgium and the EU co-hosted the Seventh World Congress against the Death Penalty. This event brought together more than 1,000 opponents of the death penalty from all sections of society around the world, in Brussels.