Jeremy Browne writes: World Day Against the Death Penalty

Jeremy Browne with Eastlea Amnesty Youth Group

Today I met with a group of students, activists and academics to mark the eighth anniversary of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, and the fourth anniversary of the European Day Against the Death Penalty.

It has been a longstanding policy for the UK to oppose the death penalty in any and all circumstances as a matter of principle. As an individual, as a Liberal Democrat and as a Minister, I have always worked hard to push for the abolition of Capital Punishment across the world and to oppose any reinstatement here at home.

There is a growing international momentum towards abolition of the death penalty and in the past two decades we have seen a significant rise in the number of countries becoming abolitionist. Last year, I launched the Government’s Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty. This strategy includes three overarching goals:

  1. To further increase the number of abolitionist countries, or countries with a moratorium on the use of the death penalty
  2. Further restrictions on the use of the death penalty in retentionist countries and reductions in the numbers of executions
  3. To ensure EU minimum standards are met in countries which retain the death penalty.

Recently, there have been several positive developments. At the end of last year, there was record support achieved at the United Nations General Assembly with an increase in the number of countries voting in favour of the Resolution on the Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty. This year, we have seen China reduce the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty from 68 to 55, and Trinidad and Tobago ruled the mandatory death penalty for felony murder unconstitutional.

However, our work is far from done. In recent months there have been a number of high profile cases of individuals who have been fighting to stay their executions. The UK Government is absolutely committed to its efforts to achieve its objective of global abolition of the death penalty. Through our bilateral relationships as well as in European and international institutions we will continue to call on all retentionist states to formally establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to abolition.

If you are interested in finding out more about our activities to support World Day Against the Death Penalty, please follow our news coverage of the event, as well as blogs from Foreign Office staff around the world. A podcast has also been recorded, chaired by the FCO’s Head of Human Rights. The podcast is a panel of academics and campaigners focusing on the theme of minimum standards on the use of the death penalty. As always, you can also follow the FCO Human Rights Department on Twitter: @FCOHumanRights.

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