The 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty 2016: Global Calls to Abolish the Death Penalty

Disagreement towards the practice of capital punishment, as one of the olden form of punishment, was no longer heard recently. The refusal towards this punishment on the basis of human rights is undeniable. Meanwhile on the other sides, practice in several nations, including Indonesia, Chad, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran, showed the contrary. These countries have revived and still maintained such cruel practices in contravention with the values of humanity. The association ECPM (Together Against the Death Penalty) organised the 6th World Congress Against Death Penalty held in Oslo, Norway from 21 to 23 June 2016.

As a movement of the international abolitionist campaign, this Congress has successfully gathered thousands of key actors from more than 90 countries to fight against the death penalty in five continents, including 30 ministers and 300 diplomats, civil societies actors, experts, journalists, lawyers, business holders and others. Not only that, this Congress is also equipped with 80 speakers and witnesses that share their experience and knowledge on the practice of death penalty.

At the Opening Ceremony of the Congress that was taken in the Oslo Opera House and attended by various ministers from Norway, France, Switzerland, Malaysia, Central African Republic, Palestine, Lebanon, Cambodia, Australia, Sri Lanka, Spain and Italy, seen how big the commitment from certain countries, such as Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mongolia, that will support the UN resolution on the moratorium of death penalty. Other commitment to abolish capital punishment also shown by other nation from the Africa continent, Guinea, which will promulgate their criminal legal system without death penalty for all crimes on July 1, 2016. These practices demonstrate the enormity of the international community’s initiative to work hand-in-hand in abolishing the death penalty.

In fact at that Opening Ceremony, Pope Francis also addressing his message through a video, which affirms that “the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminals.” On this basis, he then invited “all parties to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated.”

During the two-days of discussion panels, there are a lot of issues raised as topic discussions. In a plenary discussion moderated by Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Thailand Representative for AICHR, it 20160623_Kongres Menentang Hukuman Mati1shows how the Asia region faced a setback in the context of death penalty implementation. From Pakistan and Indonesia that reviving the death penalty to the plan of the elected Philippines government that will activate capital punishment in practice.

Another discussion panel that are being raised in the Congress is relating to the political necessity in certain countries – such as China, Egypt, Chad and Tunisia that currently just revised their Anti-Terrorism Law – to utilise death penalty as a step to combat terrorism. The speakers that are comprised of the lawyers from Tunisia, Chad and Pakistan, as well as civil societies representatives has affirmed that there is no deterrent effect that may come from death penalty to fight against terrorism.

Other problems that become the topic of discussion is regarding the strategy to tackle the practical challenges for person with disabilities, migrants and other minority groups that received death sentences. Moreover, the notion on the necessity to provide alternative form of punishment apart of death penalty also emerged in the discussion with Prof. William A. Schabas, Summer Verma, Prof. George F. Kain and James Scott.

Not only critical discussions, this Congress also filled with side-events, such as workshop to build strategies in the movement for the abolition of death penalty, including the communication with the executive and legislative, media, lawyers, and young generation.

In the end, this Congress is officially closed in June 23, 2016 at Oslo City Hall and followed by the global march against the death penalty. In the Closing Ceremony, it was reached a global consensus among the Congress participants in a form of Final Declaration which invites the intergovernmental organisations, international organisations, States representatives attended the Congress, retentionist and abolitionist countries, parliamentarians, national human rights institutions, business and cultural holders, and civil societies actors to jointly take step and move towards total and universal abolition of death penalty.

Writter: Ruben Sumigar