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October 10, 2012

France Calls for Death Penalty Moratorium

by Lisa Bryant

Activists are marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty, and France has joined the movement. More than 50 countries continue to execute people, including the United States.

Speaking this week from the French capital, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for the international community to endorse a United Nations moratorium on the death penalty.

Fabius says France joins nations like Benin, Switzerland and Norway in a coalition of more than 50 countries who share the initiative.  The objective, he says, is to assemble the biggest group possible supporting the abolitionist cause.

The anti-death penalty movement has gained traction in recent decades.  The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty estimates 141 countries have abolished it either in law or in practice.  That includes France, which abolished the death penalty in 1981.

But Raphael Cheneuil-Hazan, a senior member of the coalition, points to sobering exceptions.

"The last one was in Gambia, in Africa, which had a moratorium for 27 years.  But last August...they executed nine people, including one woman," said cheneuil-Hazan.

A report by Amnesty International found only 10 percent of countries carried out executions last year.  In some cases, as in the Middle East, Amnesty said the rate of executions increased dramatically in 2011.

But others, like the United States, saw a drop in executions.  While Cheneuil-Hazan says it is unfortunate the United States counts among the few democratic countries carrying out executions, he notes U.S. states are phasing them out.

"Now the fight against the death penalty is a global fight.  Many, many countries in the world, not only from Europe, but also Latin America, from Africa, from Asia who are abolitionist countries take this issue as a real issue of human rights," he said.

In December, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on the latest resolution for a moratorium against using the death penalty.