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FIACAT News No. 77 - December 2011

December 2011

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FIACAT.News No. 77 provides information on the activities of FIACAT and ACATs during the second half of 2011.

The abolition of the death penalty, at the heart of FIACAT’s mandate

As happens every year, the members of the FIACAT network devoted themselves energetically to the 9th World Day Against the Death Penalty, whose theme was the cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty. For example, the ACATs organised, or took part in, round tables and debates on the inhuman character of the death penalty (Benin, Madagascar, Luxembourg, Niger, the Central African Republic...), visits to those condemned to death (Burkina Faso), the creation of an “Abolition Village” in Paris (France), or by signing the petition drawn up by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

For FIACAT, to consider the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is not enough. It seems to us essential to declare the death penalty, in itself, as illegal in international law, thus enabling it to be purely and simply banned. Nevertheless, this can, like the moratorium on executions, constitute a step along the road which leads to universal abolition. Over the last few years experience has shown that a policy known as “tiny steps” is often more easily accepted by States; it allows the field for the application of the death penalty to be progressively limited and for public opinion to accept its abolition.

The Synod of African Bishops, held in Rome in 2009 made recommendations of this kind. Among the 57 proposals submitted by this assembly, recommendation 55 pleads for universal abolition of the death penalty. The African Bishops, in fact, affirmed that “A person’s dignity demands that his fundamental rights be respected even if he does not respect the rights of others. Capital punishment prevents this possibility. Sometimes, the death penalty is used to eliminate political opponents. In addition, poor people who cannot defend themselves are more easily subjected to this terminal punishment without the right of appeal. The Synod appeals for the total and universal abolition of the death penalty.”

Pope Benedict XVI repeated this recommendation in his post-synod Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, during his visit to Benin from 18 to 20 November 2010. In it he “draws the attention of the leaders of society to the need to do everything possible to achieve the elimination of capital punishment, and also for the reform of the penal system so that the human dignity of the prisoner may be respected.”

FIACAT can only congratulate itself on the taking up of this position in favour of the abolition of the death penalty and of the abolition of inhuman treatment of prisoners. It therefore invites all the ACATs, as well as the Churches and religious congregations, to take on board these recommendations in order to build up their activities on behalf of the prevention of torture of detainees and in favour of the abolition of the death penalty.

Bernadette Jung
Member of FIACAT’s International Bureau and member of the Administrative Council of ACAT Germany.

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