High Commissioner Zeid, Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here today. This high level panel builds on previous seminars and similar events that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has organized in the last few years. These have proved to be very important opportunities for in depth discussions on specific aspects of the debate on the death penalty.
I would like to thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office for the tremendous work they do in advocating and supporting the campaign for a moratorium of the death penalty worldwide. We are very grateful indeed.
In the debate on the death penalty it is also often given for granted that capital executions are the only way to provide justice and satisfy the grief of the victim’s families. This is something that deserves further reflection. Not all victims’ families support the death penalty, and even among those who do, and who desire revenge or closure through it, the death penalty cannot respond to these needs. The witnesses we [will hear] [heard] today help our reflection.
The importance attached to the death penalty by the criminal law system of any given country is often significantly influenced by public opinion. This is particularly true in those cases where attitudes to the death penalty are linked to expectations concerning the guarantee of public security. Statistics are not always sufficient in convincing public opinion of the incorrectness of the assumption that the death penalty reduces crime.
In our view, crimes need answers of a different nature than death penalty. Combating impunity and ensuring access to justice for the victims is essential both for crime prevention and for reconciliation. The promotion of the rule of law is key in this respect. Awareness campaigns focusing on these elements are an important tool for stimulating the public debate on death penalty.
As you are aware, Italy has been at the forefront of the fight for a universal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its complete abolition, since its inception. Since the beginning, the campaign for the moratorium had the unwavering support of all the constituencies of the Italian society: Government, Parliament and the Civil Society.
Italy has promoted together with a wide cross-regional coalition of Countries, the adoption of biannual resolutions by the UN General Assembly. Over the years, these resolutions have enjoyed the support of an increasing number of Countries, including those that implement a de facto moratorium, and we have been very pleased to see that the fifth Resolution was adopted last December with the highest number ever of votes in favour.
As Prime Minister Renzi underlined here one year ago, political leaders have a special responsibility. First and foremost, they can build consensus in favour of a moratorium of the capital executions within the wider political community of their Country. Political leaders are called to constructively engage with Parliaments to facilitate the legal reforms required, so that changes to establish a “de jure” moratorium or amend the criminal codes can be enacted according to a sustainable reform path and within an appropriate timeframe.
In many Countries also religious leaders can play a relevant role in the campaign for the moratorium, in particular where religion and politics are closely intertwined, or for instance the judicial power is held by a religious authority. In some cases such a positive interaction could be more complex, but constructive dialogue is always the best tool for promoting human rights, even in the most difficult context.
Cooperation of international and national Institutions with relevant sectors of civil society is also important in promoting a universal moratorium on death penalty. It is crucial to enhance cooperation with those NGOs that possess a specific expertise on the subject. NGOs can provide a very important support for awareness campaigns, public debates, specific programmes of education in schools. In this regard, I would like to recall Italy’s experience as a useful example of positive synergy between national Governments and Civil Society organizations. Promoting human rights and becoming actors for a positive change means contributing to the advancement of mankind. In this respect we will continue supporting all initiatives aimed at promoting crime prevention and reconciliation safeguarding the respect for the human dignity of everyone.