Abolition of the death penalty

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Abolition of the Death Penalty – 30th Anniversary of the Entry Into Force of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (11 July 2021)

On the 30th anniversary of the entry into force of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, France calls on all States to ratify the Protocol, with a view to the universal abolition of the death penalty.

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France is firmly opposed to the death penalty. Through its resolute commitment to universal abolition, France has become recognized as one of the main States involved in combating the death penalty.

The abolition of the death penalty is a highly symbolic cause, which highlights the universality of human rights.
The death penalty is not a useful instrument for combating crime. The loss of life in which it results is irreparable and miscarriages of justice can occur in all legal systems. The death penalty is not simply a criminal justice policy instrument, but a violation of human rights. Its application is forbidden by numerous international texts (in French).

Global support for abolition is increasing on all continents, regardless of political regimes, development levels or cultural legacy.

We are currently observing a downward trend in the number of death sentences and executions worldwide.

Abolition in France

The death penalty was abolished in France under the Act of 9 October 1981 which was born of the commitment of Robert Badinter, Minister of Justice at the time, and his speech before the National Assembly. This Act was a step forward in France’s long-standing campaign to promote human dignity.

Tomorrow, thanks to you, French justice will no longer be a justice that kills. Tomorrow, thanks to you, there will no longer be, to our common shame, stealthy executions, at dawn, under the black canopy, in the prisons of France. Tomorrow, the bloody pages in the history of our justice will have turned.

Extract of the speech given by Robert Badinter, Minister of Justice, on the abolition of the death penalty, before the National Assembly on 17 September 1981 (in French)

Under French law, it is forbidden to transfer people to a country where they could face the death penalty.

The abolition of the death penalty was incorporated into the Constitution of the Fifth Republic by the Constitutional Act of 23 February 2007. The Constitution now stipulates, in Article 66-1, that “no one shall be sentenced to death”.

The death penalty around the world

Interactive map: the death penalty around the world

Download the text transcription of the map “The death penalty around the world” (PDF, in French, 604.5 KB)

Today, over two thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Year after year, we are observing a downward trend in the number of death sentences and executions worldwide. Over the past 20 years, more than 50 states have abolished it in law.

The death penalty around the world: the current situation

To date,
  • 106 States have abolished the death penalty for all crimes,
  • 8 have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes,
  • 50 have introduced a moratorium on executions, whether by law or in practice,
    for a total of 164 States.

However, the death penalty is still applied in 54 states and territories.
In 2020, 18 States carried out executions, compared to 20 in 2019 and 2018. The latest annual report by Amnesty International recorded 483 confirmed executions in 2020, continuing the significant downward trend observed over the last few years (993 executions were recorded in 2017, 1,032 in 2016, and 1,634 in 2015). The number of death sentences recorded in 2018 (2,531) slightly declined compared to 2017 (2,591). It is important to remember that the real figure of total executions is hard to establish given the lack of official statistics in some countries, including China.

List of countries

that continue to apply the death penalty:

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Botswana, China, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, North Korea, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States, Viet Nam, Yemen.

that have introduced a moratorium on executions (in practice if no execution has been carried out for at least ten years or by law if the moratorium follows a decision of the authorities or a court decision):

Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brunei, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

that have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes:

Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Guatemala, Israel, Kazakhstan, Peru, El Salvador.

that have abolished the death penalty:

Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Cabo Verde, Chad, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Norway, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela

Updated: September 2021