Spain’s Commitment to the Abolition of the Death Penalty

The Creation of the International Commission against the Death Penalty


The abolition of the death penalty is a very sensitive issue to which Spain gives an enormous importance.

Spain is a country totally abolitionist. Spain abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in 1978 and for all crimes in 1995. Spain has already ratified all the International Instruments on abolition of the death penalty. In 2009 Spain also became part of the “Group of Friends” promoting the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Spain’s commitment to the fight against the death penalty is reflected in the National Human Rights Plan, adopted by the Government in December 208, which considers the abolition of the death penalty as one of the priorities of the Human Rights foreign Policy.

The National Human Rights Plan also provides for the creation of the International Commission against the Death Penalty. President Rodriguez Zapatero mentioned it on several occasions, the last one at the inaugural ceremony of the 4th World Congress against the Death Penalty that took place in Geneva in February this year.

In the last decades in all regions of the world there has been a clear trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.  Still there are 58 countries that retain the death penalty. According to information received from Amnesty International, seven countries carried out executions in the region of Middle East (and North Africa): Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. 

There are many actions carried out by International and Regional Organisations, NGOs, civil society and governmental representatives including the MENA region to promote the abolition of the death penalty. The International Commission against the Death Penalty will have a complementary mandate over the actions that are already being carried out at international level.

Its added value will consist on, first of all, its high visibility, given the high level of its members; secondly its independence in taking decisions, and finally its broad geographic representation.

The International Commission will be headed by a chairperson and will be integrated by no more than 15 members of high moral authority and international standing and recognized expertise in human rights. It will be backed by a “Support Group”.

The International Commission will have three main objectives:  

   -To promote the establishment of an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty in all regions of the world, aiming to the effective implementation of a universal moratorium on the horizon of 2015, prior to its complete abolition.

   -To promote the abolition of the death penalty in legislation in those carefully considered countries, and in particular in the legislation of the countries that apply a de facto moratoria on the use of the death penalty.

    -To request the halt of executions in cases where international law restricts its application, and in particular in those cases that affect the most vulnerable groups (child offenders, pregnant women and people suffering from any mental or intellectual disabilities).

The International Commission will maintain contacts with representatives from International and Regional Organisations and NGOs working on human rights and the death penalty including those in the Middle East region.

The International Commission against the Death Penalty will be launched in principle on the 7 of October in the framework of the World Day against the Death Penalty.

Asunta Cavaller

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