Death sentences fail to deter drug trafficking and retentionist countries should introduce alternatives to the death penalty for drug offences, say MEPs in a resolution voted on Thursday two days ahead the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty. The abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a prerequisite for EU financial and technical assistance to third countries, they added during the debate on an oral question tabled to the Council on Tuesday evening.
In a resolution adopted by 569 votes to 38 with 54 abstentions two days ahead of the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October, MEPs reaffirm their condemnation of the use of the death penalty which they say is an "ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, violating the right to life". They strongly support the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty, as a step towards abolition.
Resurgence of death penalty for drug-related crimes
2015 Day Against the Death Penalty aims to raise awareness around the application of the death penalty for drug-related offences. Currently 33 states apply the death penalty for such crimes and the last 12 months have seen a global resurgence in the use of the capital punishment for drug offences.
"Incompatible with values such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality", the death penalty fails "to deter drug trafficking or to prevent individuals from falling victim to drug abuse", says the resolution.
Abolition as a precondition for EU support
MEPs have called EU leaders when visiting heads of countries where death penalty is applied to not only talk about economic interests but also about human rights. "The abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a precondition for financial and technical assistance, capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement policy", says the text. "European aid and assistance cannot facilitate law enforcement operations which lead to death sentences and executions of those arrested", it adds.
Note to editors
Amnesty International recorded executions in 22 countries in 2014, the same number as in 2013. At least 607 executions were carried out worldwide, a reduction of almost 22% compared with 2013. As in previous years, this figure does not include the number of people executed in China, where data on the death penalty is treated as a state secret.
At least 2,466 people are known to have been sentenced to death in 2014, an increase of 28% compared with 2013. This increase was largely due to sharp spikes in death sentences in Egypt and Nigeria, where courts imposed mass sentences against scores of people in some cases.
According to Amnesty International, the death penalty was imposed or carried out for drug-related offences in countries that included China, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, UAE and Vietnam. About 8% of all recorded executions in China were carried out for drug-related crimes.
Experts at a Human Rights Subcommittee hearing on 22 September urged MEPs to pass a "resolution which will clearly set up Europe's position that EU funds should not be spent on such operations".