The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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October 10, 2014

The Daily Star - The International Day Against the Death Penalty – an opportunity for Lebanon, October 10, 2014

On the European and World Day against the Death Penalty, there is a need to reflect on the great achievements and future priorities for the European Union and for Lebanon.

It has been a decade since Lebanon carried out its last death sentence. In 2011, the Lebanese Parliament approved a bill amending the law on the implementation of sentences, creating a formal status for those “sentenced to death without being executed.”

These are clear signs that within the society and the political leadership there is an increasing determination to allow for dignity and justice to develop. But there are also justified concerns that policymakers in Lebanon are too slow, and even resisting the abolition of the death penalty.

The EU’s firm position on the abolition of the death penalty is often taken for granted, both in Lebanon and worldwide. In reality, it took European states time to reach this point. While the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms proclaimed the Right to Life, it was not until 1983 that the European states enshrined this right in international law through the Protocol No. 6 on the abolition of the death penalty to the Convention.

A vision and a true willingness to make progress were required. At the level of each national constituency, heated debates took place; the political leadership had to take courageous decisions and even political risks to abolish the death penalty. At EU level, the states endeavored to find the best formula to express their attachment to the abolition of the death penalty. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU states in 2007 in its second article that “no one shall be condemned to the death penalty or executed.”

It took more work for all states to decide whether the abolition of the death penalty should be on the foreign policy agenda. Once that was agreed, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton made it her personal goal to ensure that the abolition of the death penalty in partner countries is a top priority.

Concrete actions were soon to follow. In 2012, the EU led an intensive campaign for the U.N. General Assembly resolution on a “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty.” The U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 21, 2012, adopted the resolution with an unprecedented 111 votes in favor, and the number of co-sponsors rose to a record number of 91. To date, the EU is the only international actor that actively pursues the abolition of the death penalty as a clear foreign policy goal.

How has such strong consensus come about? What has driven this steady advance in the past 60 years? The answer lies in a value that we all share – Europeans and Lebanese alike: a strong belief in the inherent dignity of all members of the human family.

Human dignity depends on many factors and it cannot be bestowed on anyone by any treaty, protocol or ruling. But a wrongful execution of an innocent person can never be rectified.

So the EU agreed on the abolition of the death penalty and we decided to promote this objective at international level, but we do not ignore the gravity of actions committed. On the contrary, the EU acts out of a deep concern for finding solutions to problems that have riven societies across the world.

Moreover, these solutions are highly reliable, since EU action is driven by values, rather than national interest, and strategies – such as the human rights strategy that we have developed in most of our partner countries, including Lebanon, based on factual knowledge, rather than emotional considerations.

The death penalty does not deter crime more effectively than do other forms of punishment. Nor does its abolition lead to an increase in crime. Let’s say it again: It is an irreversible punishment that cannot be revoked in cases of miscarriages of justice, inevitable in any legal system. Maintaining the death penalty can create a circle of crime and injustice. Victor Hugo cannot be quoted enough: “Look, examine, reflect. You hold capital punishment up as an example. Why – because of what it teaches? And what is it that you want to teach by means of such an example? That you should not kill. And how do you teach that? By killing?”

Today, on the European and World Day against the Death Penalty, it is high time for Lebanon to take stock of its de facto position and deeply consider taking the next steps to formalize it. At a time of instability and deep suffering across the Middle East, Lebanon can seize this great opportunity. It is a much better option than that of joining the flow of re-emerging extreme voices calling for the application of the death penalty.

Lebanon can be a door opener for the region in showing that the concern for the basic human right to life cannot be overshadowed by any display of violence and extremism.

Angelina Eichhorst is European Union ambassador to Lebanon.

Source & Link: The Daily Star

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