Press release - 725(2009)

“The death penalty is a fallacious idea of justice” says Commissioner Hammarberg

Strasbourg, 05.10.2009 – “Europe is today close to being a death penalty free zone. However, more must be done not only to abolish it, but also to persuade public opinion of the need to protect the right to life in any circumstances” said Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Viewpoint published today.

“Our position on the death penalty indicates the kind of society we want to build. When the State itself kills a human being under its jurisdiction, it sends a message that legitimises extreme violence. The death penalty has a brutalising effect in society.”

The Commissioner stresses that there is evidence that the death penalty is ineffective in deterring criminal actions, and highlights several arguments against it, including the real risk of executing an innocent person, and the clear tendency for executions to be applied more often against poor people and minorities.

Reminding that any talks of accession of Belarus to the Council of Europe are conditioned upon the abolition of the death penalty, the Commissioner also stresses that the observer status of Japan and the United States is questioned because of their position on this issue.

“The international community must strengthen efforts worldwide. The successful diplomatic initiatives in the United Nations should continue and countries should be more active in exposing the fallacy behind the idea that killing by the state helps justice.”

Published fortnightly in English, French and Russian, Viewpoints can be used without prior consent, provided that the text is not modified and the original source is indicated in the following way: “Also available at the Commissioner’s website at”.

Press contacts in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37;

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Communication Unit

Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 35 38
Fax:+33 (0)3 90 21 50 53