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FIBGAR / Articles  / World Day Against the Death Penalty: a battle for human rights

World Day Against the Death Penalty: a battle for human rights

October 10 marks a milestone in the ongoing struggle to abolish this controversial practice worldwide. This day not only pays tribute to those who have fought tirelessly against capital punishment, but also reminds us of the urgent need to put an end to this extreme form of punishment.

The origin of this initiative is to be found in the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty a non-governmental organization that works tirelessly to put an end to this practice. The World Day was adopted in 2003 and has been commemorated every year since then. This symbolic date serves as a constant reminder that the death penalty remains a reality in several countries, despite the growing ethical and humanitarian concerns it has raised.

Although statistics and trends show that globally the number of executions has decreased in recent decades, there are still countries where they are frequently applied and even increase from one year to the next.

In this regard, Amnesty International provides us with updated data on the death penalty around the world. According to its annual reports, countries such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States stand out as the main perpetrators of executions, although China’s precise figures are often opaque due to a lack of transparency in its data.

Even so, we find opposition to the death penalty based on a number of ethical, legal and humanitarian arguments. One of the central arguments is that the death penalty violates the fundamental right to life, recognized in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration was signed by all the aforementioned countries except Saudi Arabia, which abstained, and is even signed by most of the countries where this practice exists. Moreover, according to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty itself, the death penalty is not free from errors in judicial processes, which raises serious concerns about the irreversibility of this practice. Irreversibility is also manifested in the non-existence for the convicted person of the option of reintegration, a basic principle of criminal law.

Advances in the legal fieldare fundamental in the fight against the death penalty. International treaties and conventions, such as the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, call on countries to abolish the death penalty. In addition, international courts, such as the International Court of Justice, have issued rulings questioning the legality of this practice.

Regarding the consequences of this practice, the death penalty has profound effects on the condemned persons and their families, as well as on society in general. In many of these cases the families of the convicted often face considerable emotional and financial distress , either because of the stigma created around the family and their jobs or because of the high legal costs in defending them. Moreover, the death penalty can generate a climate of violence and revenge in society instead of promoting justice and reconciliation.

Despite progress, some countries continue to routinely apply the death penalty, and opposition to abolition remains a controversial issue in many parts of the world. The global picture of the death penalty is diverse and complex, varying in causes and mode of application, underscoring the need for continued action for its abolition.

Public figures and entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, celebrities such as Susan Sarandon or Mia Farrow, activists and political or religious leaders such as Kerry Kennedy or Desmond Tutu have used their influence to advocate against the death penalty. In this way, their voices can raise awareness and pressure governments to reconsider their death penalty policy.

Entities such as the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty International, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and Reprieve work tirelessly to promote the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. These organizations conduct awareness campaigns, defend individual cases of people sentenced to death and advocate for legislative changes.

The future of this practice continues to generate debate, and challenges persist, but the trend toward abolition and growing awareness of the problems associated with this practice offer hope for a world without the death penalty. And in this sense, from FIBGAR, we are committed to this struggle and to the defense of the right to life.

Francisco Javier Plaza Sánchez, FIBGAR collaborator.