Today is the World Day Against the Death Penalty. We, the Ambassadors of the European Union, its Member States and Norway to Afghanistan, reiterate our strong and principled opposition to the death penalty as a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.
Seventy years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, worldwide abolition of the death penalty is closer than ever to becoming a reality. Three quarters (142 countries) of the world, representing 74% of the UN member states, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In 2018, no executions took place in 174 countries, which constitutes 90% of the 194 UN Member States.
This positive trend makes even more obvious the possible flaws of justice in the execution of capital punishment. No legal system can claim to be perfect; any error in the carrying out of the death penalty represents an irreversible loss of human life. This is something that global experiences have amply demonstrated in cases where people are proven innocent after decades of imprisonment in view of new evidence.
Numerous studies show that the death penalty does not deter serious crimes more effectively than other punishments. And its abolition does not lead to an increase in crime. It is also socially unjust, since it disproportionately affects those who have less access to proper legal representation.
In this context, we commend the February 2018 revised Penal Code of Afghanistan which has significantly reduced the number of crimes where the death penalty is applicable. Accordingly, no time should be spared by the Government to complete the review of cases of prisoners on the death row.
Afghanistan has not carried out any executions since February 2018 and it can now take the next step. We call on the Government to observe a de facto moratorium on executions prior to the final abolishment of the death penalty. This would demonstrate a firm commitment to promoting human rights. Neither the prevailing climate of violence, nor cultural or practical justifications, can possibly legitimate the death penalty.
The EU has a strong and unequivocal opposition to the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. As the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogherini, recently said in Brussels at the World Congress Against the Death Penalty: ''Little by little – but not too slowly – we can get closer to our common goal, of a world where crime is met with justice, not with vengeance, and where human life is finally a universal value, respected and protected.''