Human dignity and the right to life are indivisible and universal values at the heart of the European Union. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits capital punishment and states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.
These universal principles guide the EU’s actions and policies not only within its borders, but also at the international level in the EU’s work with its partners across the globe.
At a global level, the EU Anti Torture Regulation is one of the key tools in banning trade in goods that can be used for the death penalty, and controlling trade in goods that can be used for torture. In July 2020, the Commission adopted a review report of the Regulation assessing its impact, influence at global level, challenges and opportunities, and outlining further action. As the report highlights, the Regulation has had a positive impact on limiting the trade in goods that can be used for torture and death penalty.The EU continues its fight against torture and the death penalty around the globe with determination.
The EU Regulation serves as a model for global and regional initiatives. It has recently been cited as an example of best practice in a report from the UN Secretary-General to the United Nations General Assembly, under the heading ‘Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards.’ This follows work by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) supported by the European Commission.
The report builds on the input of over 40 UN Member States, most of them members of the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade, which was set up at the impulse of the European Commission As a next step, equally with the European Commission’s support, later this year a group of governmental experts will be set-up at United Nations level to continue to work for more effective international regulation in this area.
The EU is also supporting different initiatives against the capital punishment at local or national level. In Japan, for instance, the EU helped set up the first-ever website dedicated to the death penalty, CrimeInfo, as part of a project funded by the Partnership Instrument, which is managed by the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI). Members of the Japanese Parliament, journalists, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, and others gained access to objective and fact-based information on the death penalty in Japan and were able to engage in public debates to help develop awareness and a common understanding of the abolition of the death penalty.
‘As a Minister of Justice (2011-2012), I tried to promote public debate on the death penalty. However, debate is only possible when citizens have access to accurate information. (..) CrimeInfo has quickly established itself as the first website to provide accurate information on the Japanese death penalty,’ says Hideo Hiraoka, the 88th Minister of Justice & co-founder of the Committee to Abolish Capital Punishment.
EU Anti-torture measures
The Partnership Instrument