December 12, 2013
October 10: International Day against death penaltyThursday, October 10, 2013
For life, against capital punishment
By Alfonso Diez Torres and Rodolfo Mattarollo
The arguments against capital punishment and the alleged justifications to perpetuate it are well known. Among the first are the irremediable breach of human life, the irreparable judicial error and the petty notion of retributive punishment. Among the alleged justifications is, firstly, the supposed dissuasive effect of the penalty and an undercurrent of cruelty on which a pedagogy of fear is based.
Beyond the technical and legal arguments, the death penalty puts us in a dilemma of society. It is about choosing the world we want to build for ourselves and for the future generations. A world that deepens antagonisms or a world that looks to pacify existence.
Argentina and Latin America have suffered from its origins the worst expressions of institutional cruelty under the form of torture and the arbitrary deprivation of life. But there are also countries in the region which lead the battle against these aberrations, as it happens in Europe where its Council won’t accept member-states which maintain this inhuman and degrading punishment. The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights explicitly bans this sort of punishment. Since 1997, there has not been a capital execution in any part of what now constitutes the European Union.
It is encouraging to note the growing global trend during the last two decades in favour of the abolition of capital punishment as the number of countries that expressly ban it grew from 55 to 99. Currently, 140 countries are abolitionists by law or in practice.
But we shouldn’t be satisfied with the advance of a UN resolution that advocates for a moratorium ahead of the definitive abolition of this punishment. Even more so when this year on October 10th, the day consecrated to the abolition of capital punishment, finds us before big challenges that make ever more necessary the defence of peace and life everywhere.
On the American continent, capital punishment is still in force, especially in (the US and) the Anglophone Caribbean. The instances of de facto abolitionism notwithstanding, this situation requires permanent attention.
The inequality in our societies, both in the north and in the south, call not only for changing the structures but also to implement genuine equal opportunities to eliminate privilege and social injustice.
In the consideration of these huge challenges, it is necessary to recognize that violent crime is a serious problem for citizens’ security and that it requires structural changes and changes in mentality. The relation between violent crime and the socioeconomic crisis is a colossal challenge that will not be solved with capital punishment or “trigger happy” answers. Days of thought and action like October 10th can help build a bridge between our convulsed present and a more fraternal land of peaceful coexistence.
During the last few years there have been important advances in this humanitarian objective that so closely links Argentina and the European Union. A day like today should serve to remind us all that, more than ever, we should never back in our mutual efforts because, as the Fifth Global Conference against the Death Penalty celebrated in Madrid in 2012 acknowledged, a world free of capital punishment is within our reach.
Alfonso Diez Torres is Ambassador for the EU in Argentina. Rodolfo Mattarollo is Ambassador for UNASUR in Haiti and member of the International Commission against the Death Penalty.