Cruel people deserve cruel punishments

Welcome to the website of the Federal Foreign Office

Resistance to the death penalty is growing worldwide; The number of states carrying out executions is falling. Nevertheless, death sentences and the execution of people are still part of the practice in many countries around the world. Germany rejects the death penalty for ethical and moral reasons as well as for reasons of legal policy and advocates its abolition worldwide. The federal government is also committed to combating torture and ill-treatment. The aim is the worldwide abolition of torture and the complete rehabilitation of all torture victims.

For the worldwide abolition of the death penalty

The death penalty is not expressly prohibited under international law. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“Civil Pact”) lays down minimum standards that are binding under international law. According to this, death sentences are only permitted for the most serious crimes, provided that the conviction was preceded by a fair trial. The death penalty against minors at the time of the crime and against pregnant women is prohibited. With the ratification of the second optional protocol to the civil pact, 86 states have committed themselves to abolishing the death penalty, including all EU states. In Europe, the 13th Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which came into force in 2003, also obliges the Council of Europe states that have signed and ratified it to completely abolish the death penalty.

Belarus is the last state in Europe to carry out executions. There is also a trend towards the abolition of the death penalty outside of Europe. The death penalty was abolished in almost all Latin American countries, but also in Central Asia, Oceania and many countries in southern Africa. In the United States, too, only a minority of states still use the death penalty. Worldwide, over 130 states have abolished or are not using the death penalty, while around 50 states continue to carry out death sentences.

EU policy to combat the death penalty

The EU has an active policy against the death penalty. The basis for action is the guidelines for a Union policy towards third countries with regard to the death penalty. The guidelines define the fight against the death penalty as a central human rights concern of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP). In addition, principles and criteria of practical commitment are laid down there, for example on the question of when the EU makes public statements or in what form it intervenes with other states. The aim is to prevent the execution of the death penalty in individual cases and to support countries in abolishing the death penalty or suspending its use.

UN Convention against Torture

Germany has been a party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 1990 and the Additional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture since 2009. On the one hand, Germany is therefore subject to strict international control by the UN Subcommittee against Torture, to which the contracting states have to send regular reports in order to give an account of their respective national measures to comply with the Convention. On the other hand, Germany has committed itself to set up a national prevention mechanism provided for in the additional protocol. In Germany this is the National Agency for the Prevention of Torture.

Europe - Tools to Combat Torture

With the adoption in 2001 of the guidelines for the European Union's policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the EU created an instrument to strengthen its commitment to the worldwide abolition of torture. A jointly developed Global Action Plan, which was mainly implemented during the German EU Council Presidency, contained numerous demarches in third countries with which the EU addressed the problem of the use of torture and called for its abolition. In addition, the EU is campaigning against the trade in products that can be used for torture in a joint initiative with Argentina and Mongolia. The abolition of torture is an integral part of the dialogues with third countries that the EU as a whole and the individual Member States conduct on a bilateral basis. The federal government is also committed to the EU guidelines in its actions. The focus is on the use in favor of individual cases.

European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

There is also an anti-torture convention at the level of the Council of Europe: the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which came into force on February 1, 1989. The convention provides for the establishment of a committee of independent experts to review the human rights situation of persons who have been deprived of their liberty in the contracting states. To do this, the committee visits prisons, psychiatric hospitals and other facilities where people are held in custody. The visit reports, which contain specific recommendations for action, are published with the consent of the state concerned.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture

As early as 1985, the then UN Human Rights Commission set up a special rapporteur for all questions relating to torture. His mandate also applies to those countries that have not ratified the UN Convention against Torture. It reports on the situation in individual countries and draws attention to urgent individual cases in a publicly effective manner.