International campaign for the universal abolition of the death penalty

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The action of France at the international and European levels

International action

France has shown constant resolute commitment to universal abolition of the death penalty. This is one of its human rights priorities at international level. It is also a common action priority for the European Union.

France and its European partners therefore fought hard to prevent the ad hoc international criminal courts and the International Criminal Court from being able to issue death sentences.

Since 2010, France has been a member of the Support Group of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, which is made up of high-profile figures renowned for their commitment to universal abolition.

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

Laurent Fabius, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has decided to develop this action further by mobilizing France’s diplomatic network worldwide to support a campaign for abolition, launched in October 2012, involving action at all levels.

Every year, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs marks the World Day against the Death Penalty by organizing an event in Paris:

  • in 2012, the campaign launch was an opportunity to bring together non-governmental organizations, intellectuals, lawyers and students;
  • in 2013, a parliamentary seminar, bringing together representatives of North Africa and the Middle East, was held in partnership with the National Assembly and the Senate;
  • in 2014, the event “Young People and Abolition” was attended by around one hundred schoolchildren, students and other young people from France, as well as young activists from abroad.
  • in 2015, the finale of the competition for young francophone lawyers allowed the finalists to also participate in training seminars and exchanges of experience with French lawyers;
  • in 2016, the winners of the competition for francophone students in journalism participated in the event "Journalists and Abolition" in the presence of the Minister.

Several competitions focusing on abolition of the death penalty have also been held, including a national speech-writing competition (in French) in 2013, and a slogan competition (in French), open to young French-speakers all over the world, in 2014.

On the ground, French embassies are mobilized.

  • They take general steps, or action in support of individual cases, to emphasize France’s opposition to the death penalty, regardless of place or circumstances.
  • They hold events, conferences, screenings and debates, in all places where the death penalty is still used, in order to move the campaign forward and support those who are pushing for abolition.

France works alongside civil society.

Our action everywhere complements that of the foundations and NGOs working against the death penalty. By looking beyond the moratorium and seeking universal abolition of the death penalty, France is showing great ambition in terms of human rights in its external action.

France sponsored the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty (Oslo, June 2016), as it did for each of edition of this congress since its launch in Strasbourg in 2001. France has also co-organized a large number of international meetings between key figures committed to the cause (parliamentarians, journalists, legal professionals, activists). France supports associations seeking to raise young people’s awareness of the subject (Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of the Congo).

France advocates abolition in multilateral forums.

At the United Nations General Assembly, France, alongside its European partners, actively contributed to the adoption of the resolution calling for a universal moratorium, in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. The growing support for this resolution (117 votes for, 40 against and 31 abstentions in 2016) is evidence of a global trend towards abolition.

On our initiative in 2012 and 2013, high-level events on the death penalty were held during the ministerial week of the United Nations General Assembly. The Foreign Affairs minister also participated at such events in 2014, 2014, and 2016.

At the Human Rights Council, France seizes every opportunity to urge all states using the death penalty to abolish it, particularly in the context of the Universal Periodic Review. France initiated the organization of a high-level panel discussion (in French) on the issue of the death penalty at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council (March 2014). In addition, along with its abolitionist partners, France enabled the adoption by the Human Rights Council in June 2014 and then in October 2015 of resolutions on the death penalty which would help to maintain the momentum in favor of abolition.

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A priority for the European Union

In 1998, the European Union adopted guidelines(PDF) on the death penalty, with the aim of coordinating action by EU Member States on this issue, and made it a human rights priority for the EU. The EU runs global awareness campaigns on a regular basis to persuade states of the need to abolish this practice, which violates human dignity.

In accordance with these guidelines, France and its European partners regularly encourage the countries concerned to ratify international instruments such as the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

More generally, France and its European partners take action with regard to these states to encourage them to abolish the death penalty or, failing that, to establish a moratorium on it, as a first step towards definitive abolition. Steps are also taken to support individuals who have been sentenced to death.

Lastly, France and the EU offer their support to human rights defenders campaigning for abolition.

Updated: May 2017