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Statement delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, Hon. Paolo Gentiloni, at the High-level Event on “Moving Away from the Death Penalty: the Voices of Victims”


I would like to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his commitment to advocating for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty worldwide. I am also very grateful to High Commissioner Zeid and Assistant Secretary-General Simonovic for their work in assisting and coordinating activities in support of the campaign.

Today’s event builds on other previous meetings and seminars on the use of the death penalty that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has organised over the past few years. Italy is very proud to have contributed to these initiatives. These events have had a positive impact on the debate on the death penalty.

We meet today at the beginning of a new session of the General Assembly. This autumn a new resolution on the moratorium of the death penalty will be introduced for the sixth time by a wide cross-regional coalition of States, in which Italy plays an active role.

Over the years, the number of countries that have supported the UNGA resolutions has increased. In 2014 the resolution was approved with the highest number ever of votes in favour [117], including from countries that have not yet fully abolished the death penalty, but wanted to reaffirm their commitment to pursue it at the UN.

Italy remains fully engaged in working together with all partners to consolidate the results of the past and to ensure the widest possible support for the next resolution.
The UNGA resolutions have reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to work together. We can say today that there exists a clear international trend in favour of the moratorium. In 2004 there were 79 abolitionist countries compared to 70 countries in 1999. Today, the countries that have abolished the death penalty are 107 .

Italy is fully aware that abolishing the death penalty is a complex political and legislative endeavour. We welcome the efforts of those countries that have decided to introduce a moratorium of capital executions and have observed it for a long time.

The next UNGA resolution will be negotiated in a different international scenario than in 2014. Our countries are increasingly confronted with challenges such as terrorism, as well as violent crimes. There is a growing demand for enhanced public security and for a strong institutional response. Indeed, while the death penalty has been abolished in many countries over the last few years, opposite developments have occurred in others.

Italy is convinced that the death penalty is not the right answer. The threat of terrorism further encourages us to uphold the respect for the rule of law and to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We remain fully committed to working together with all our partners in order to develop effective crime prevention and response strategies, to promote increasingly effective and fair justice systems, to combat impunity and ensure access to justice for the victims.

The campaign for a moratorium will succeed only if we continue working together to foster discussions on the effects of capital executions and to support national-led initiatives and debates on the costs of capital punishments and of alternative measures.

It requires a constant effort to listen to those who hold a different position and to engage with them in order to win their hearts and minds. Awareness-raising campaigns, national public debates, specific educational programmes in schools have a very important role to play in this regard.

Cooperation at national and international level among Governments, Parliaments and civil society organisations is also essential. Italy offers a good example of joint efforts and effective cooperation between Institutions and civil society organisations in promoting a universal moratorium. I would like to recall that the Italian MFA has established a dedicated Task Force with representatives of civil society organisations with the aim to strengthen cooperation in the run up to the vote on the resolutions.

The dialogue between policy makers and civil society organisations reminds us that the campaign is not only about promoting and enacting policies, legislative changes and judicial decisions, but it is first and foremost about people. It is about the offenders who are sentenced to death and the victims of violent crimes, as much as their families and the families of the condemned inmate. There is also a wide range of third parties who are affected by the use of the death penalty. We will hear today some personal stories.

Restorative justice should be an essential part of the debate. Offenders should be given the chance to redress the harm caused and to take full responsibility for it. To this end, it is important that justice and detention systems place emphasis on the rehabilitation of offenders and help them to avoid future offences. Taking care of the victims and allow them to play an active role in this process is also of essence. This is what we call justice. It is something we can all relate to as individuals, not just as policy makers.

Since the adoption of the first UNGA resolution in 2007, we have come a long way in the debate on the use of the death penalty. There has been clear progress and many encouraging signs. Much remains to be done to make the death penalty history.

Allow me to say it once again. We will succeed only if we are able to reach out to those who hold a different position and promote a debate at all levels: between single individuals, within the society and the Institutions, among countries. Italy is fully committed to make this journey towards the abolition of the death penalty together.