Message on the World Day against the Death Penalty
10 October 2016
The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane practice. It has no place in the 21st century.
This year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty focuses on terrorism-related offenses. Around the world, 65 countries retain the death penalty for such crimes. To be legitimate and effective, counter-terror measures, like all security operations, must be anchored in respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Yet death sentences for terrorism are often handed down after unfair and speedy trials by military or special courts. Confessions are often obtained under duress or in other ways in which the right to appeal is not respected. Some States even seek to criminalize the legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms by including vague definitions in counter-terrorism legislation.
Let us be clear: participation in peaceful protests and criticism of a government – whether in private, on the Internet or in the media – are neither crimes nor terrorist acts. The threat or use of the death penalty in such cases is an egregious violation of human rights.
Some may argue that capital punishment will diminish terrorism. This is not true. Experience has shown that putting terrorists to death serves as propaganda for their movements by creating perceived martyrs and making their macabre recruiting campaigns more effective.
Maintaining the rule of law and respect for human rights – even in the face of terrorism and violent extremism – is an obligation that will boost society’s ability to address terrorist threats.
Let us continue our work to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances and places. Let our actions always be guided by the moral compass of human rights – the most effective route to a safer, more just and secure world.