The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 15 December1989, provides for the definitive abolition of the death penalty.
87 states are parties to this Optional Protocol.
On 1 August 2007, the French Parliament authorized the ratification of this Second Optional Protocol. France acceded to it on 2 October 2007. Although it authorizes States Parties to apply this punishment during wartime if they have expressed a reservation to this effect, France did not express any such reservation when it ratified the Protocol.
This legally binding text is supplemented by resolutions on the death penalty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council:
- at the UNGA, for example, a resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the use of the death penalty was adopted in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2018 with an increasingly large majority each time. In 2018, 121 States voted for it, 35 voted against it and 32 abstained. Compared to 2016, there were 8 more votes in favor of the resolution and 2 fewer votes against the resolution. This is notable progress and largely the result of the growing support of African countries.
- At the Human Rights Council, a resolution was adopted in June 2014, on France’s initiative. This resolution is the first United Nations text to condemn the grave human rights violations arising from the use of the death penalty; it provides for the organization of a high-level panel meeting on this subject at the Human Rights Council every two years. New resolutions, also brought forth by France and its partners, were adopted in October 2015 and September 2017, maintaining the momentum at the Human Rights Council for the abolition of the death penalty.
- The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms protects everyone’s right to life (Article 2). However, exceptionally, it authorizes the execution of a death sentence delivered by a court following conviction for a crime for which this penalty is provided by law. The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was ratified by France on 3 May 1974.
- Protocol No. 6 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted in April 1983, concerns the abolition of the death penalty in peace time. It allows States Parties to make provision in their law for the death penalty in respect of acts committed “in time of war or of imminent threat of war”. France ratified Protocol No.6 on 1 March 1986.
- Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted in May 2002, concerns the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, including in time of war or of imminent threat of war. Its aim is to “take the final step in order to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances”. This text entered into force with regard to France on 1 February 2008.
All EU candidate countries have acceded to Protocol No. 6 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty, which is now a prerequisite for accession to the European Union.
Furthermore, all EU Member States are signatories to Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, adopted in May 2002.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights, in Article 2, prohibits the death penalty and the expulsion or extradition of a person to a state where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty.
In 1998, the European Union adopted guidelines 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.
Updated : 2 October 2018