Thursday, June 13, 2013

Swiss Minister calls for 'world without death penalty'

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has highlighted Switzerland's commitment to the abolition of capital punishment at the opening of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty in Madrid.

"Switzerland aims to ensure that those countries which have not as yet abolished the death penalty at least place a moratorium on its use," he said in a statement released by the foreign ministry.

In it, he added that capital punishment was incompatible with the values represented by Switzerland and had an impact on the country's other obligations such as the prohibition of discrimination.

The death penalty was abolished from Swiss federal criminal law in 1942, but remained available in military criminal law until 1992.

Together with Spain, France and Norway, Switzerland is patron of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty which is hosting around 1,500 delegates from over 90 states in Madrid until Saturday.

Today, 140 of the world's 198 states have renounced the use of capital punishment, but a quarter still retain the death penalty. Executions continue to take place every year in around 20 states - mainly China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

In 2012, various states (Botswana, Gambia, India, Japan, Pakistan and Kuwait) reapplied the death penalty after years of de facto moratorium, according to the foreign ministry.

Bilateral talks

Prior to the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, Didier Burkhalter held bilateral talks with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo y Marfil.

Topics set to be discussed included the OSCE chairmanship which will be taken over by Switzerland in 2014, the situation in Europe, youth unemployment and bilateral issues.

"Step-by-step progress"

The stated Swiss goal is a "world without the death penalty" as capital punishment cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights and, in particular, violates the right to life, said the foreign ministry statement.

"Switzerland strives for step-by-step progress with this goal in mind. It advocates for a moratorium or at least certain limitations to be placed on the use of capital punishment in states which continue to employ the death penalty through lobbying at both the multilateral and bilateral level."

The foreign ministry also calls for compliance with international standards concerning withholding the death penalty for minors and non-enforcement of capital punishment for pregnant women or mentally disabled persons.

In this regard, Switzerland supports, among others, the work of the International Commission against the Death Penalty which was launched at the 4th World Congress in Geneva in 2010.

Source: Swissinfo.ch, June 12, 2013