The 2nd World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organized by Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort (Together Against the Death Penalty) and Penal Reform International, with the support of the World Coalition against the death penalty, was hosted in Montreal, Canada, from 6-9 October 2004, in the presence of abolitionists from around the world.
The Congress rejoices that a majority of countries have now abolished the death penalty or have renounced to carry out executions for over 10 years.
The Congress congratulates Turkey, Bhutan, Samoa, and Serbia-Montenegro for having recently abolished the death penalty.
It condemns the resumption of executions in Lebanon, Chad, Indonesia and India and the re-establishment of capital punishment in Afghanistan and Iraq. They deplore the retention of the death penalty on 78 countries, notably in China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Singapore, Guatemala and Cuba.
The Congress is concerned that the fight against the terrorism, necessary though it may be, is too often accompanied by an increasing reliance on the death penalty at a time when international penal jurisdictions are prosecuting the most serious crimes without reverting to capital punishment. Recent death sentences in Morocco and Indonesia, along with cases in the United States against alleged terrorists are both a sign of weakness and a fundamental error.
The Congress supports the Spanish and Turkish people for not demanding the reestablishment of the death penalty despite the tragic attacks, which they experienced.
Now more than ever, the Congress demands the immediate cessation of all executions as a step towards the universal abolition of the death penalty.
Today, the death penalty is recognized as a human rights violation and a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment. The Congress stresses the fundamental importance of ratifying international and regional treatises that prohibit the use of the death penalty. The Congress recalls that the unique deterrent effect of capital punishment has never been demonstrated.
The Congress denounces the racial, sexual, and economic discrimination that affects the imposition and execution of death sentences. It also denounces the increase in the number of offenses now punishable by death.
The Congress reaffirms that executions fail to address the victims’ pain and suffering. It welcomes the fact that more and more victims’ families are now working against the death penalty. The Congress calls on all countries to develop appropriate mechanisms to address their needs.
Sensitizing those who develop penal policies in retentionist countries is a priority. Action at the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice should complement the efforts at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Finally, abolition leads to an in-depth reflection on alternative penalties for the most serious crimes, in an effort to punish the offender while working for his or her rehabilitation.
The Congress adopts four key recommendations:
Death sentences and executions of juvenile offenders must cease. Abolition of the juvenile death penalty is an imperative norm of international law that must apply in all countries.
All members from the political, legal, business, media and sports communities are called on to encourage the Chinese authorities to suspend all executions without delay. Preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games present an opportunity for intensive and continuous international pressure.
As at the Montreal Congress, the abolitionist movement must strengthen and develop new links between American abolitionists and the international community in order to consolidate recent progress on the judicial front and broaden the debate over capital punishment.
Abolitionist countries must not deport and extradite individuals to countries where they risk being sentenced to death
In collaboration with abolitionist countries and with the support of the media, the Congress calls for:
Abolitionists from around the world to join the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, to participate with all citizens in the World Day against the Death Penalty on October 10th of each year, and to support local and national organizations and all those who are working for abolition.
Members of parliament to establish, in their assemblies, information and advocacy groups for the abolition of capital punishment.
Lawyers to increase their support for colleagues who are defending death row inmates and to denounce the conditions in prison and the insufficient due process to which the prisoners have access.
The promotion of regional dynamics for abolition in Asia, the Arab and Muslim world, Latin America and Africa, through conferences and advocacy campaigns.
Cities from around the world to participate in the movement of Cities against the Death Penalty organized by Sant’ Egidio by illuminating symbolic landmarks on November 30th of each year.
Abolitionists in each country to participate in the preparatory conference for the 3rd World Congress against the Death Penalty, to be organized by Together against the Death Penalty in Istanbul in June 2005.
The European Union, all abolitionist countries, and Canada and Turkey in particular, are called upon to support these initiatives.
Finally, all abolitionists are encouraged to continue their relentless efforts to increase public awareness, including in abolitionist countries, of the fundamental reasons for the abolition of the death penalty.
Montreal, October 8, 2004.