A senior official from the Council of Europe on Thursday urged Armenia, Russia and Turkey – the only members of the influential pan-European organization where capital punishment is legal – "to officially abolish the death penalty from their penal code."
The three nations have observed a moratorium on executions for the last several years. But Walter Schwimmer, who is secretary general of the Strasbourg-based unofficial club of European democracies, said they should formally outlaw the practice, AFP reported.
Armenia undertook to remove an appropriate clause in its criminal code in the next three years as it was accepted into the Council of Europe in January. The Armenian authorities have carried out no executions for more than ten years but are expected to come under strong domestic pressure to put to death the five perpetrators of the 1999 parliament massacre who are currently on trial on charges of high treason and terrorism.
Schwimmer was speaking at the first global conference against the death penalty that opened at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday. It is co-hosted by the EU legislature and national parliaments in Austria, Belgium, the city of Strasbourg, the Council of Europe and Amnesty International.
Schwimmer harshly criticized the United States for carrying out two federal executions in the last ten days. If the death penalty had been effective as an instrument to fight crime, "the United States would be a crime-free country," he said.
The Rome-based non-profit group Hands off Cain said earlier this week that nearly 1,300 people have been executed worldwide so far this year, the vast majority of them in China. The group said 72 countries still apply the death penalty, but 77 others, including the 15 members of the European Union, have completely abolished capital punishment.
"The fight for the universal abolition of the death penalty is essential for our civilization, which should not respond to crime with barbarism," French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said in a statement supporting the conference.