On Tuesday (today), Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib is attending the opening of the eighth World Congress against the Death Penalty – which takes place every three years – in the German capital, Berlin.
During four days, the event brings together more than 1,000 opponents of the death penalty from all over the world for discussions, debates and workshops to come up with tangible proposals to advance the global abolition of the death penalty. Currently, 55 countries still maintain the death penalty, in law as well as in practice.
"My participation in the opening ceremony of the World Congress underlines the importance we attach to the abolition of the death penalty," Lahbib said in a press release. "It is a barbaric and inhumane punishment and an affront to human dignity that too many countries still practice, including Iran – as has been demonstrated very recently."
On 10 October this year, the European and World Day Against the Death Penalty, she already reaffirmed Belgium's stance on the issue, stating that "there will be no lasting peace until death is outlawed."
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Now, Lahbib again emphasised that capital punishments are "unacceptable" and added that the ultimate aspiration of Belgium and the European Union is to abolish the death penalty. "Together with our partners, we will put the issue back on the agenda of the Human Rights Council in 2023, where our country will also sit next year."
The 'NGO Ensemble contre la peine de mort' (ECPM) is the driving force behind the organisation of the world congresses, and receives financial support from Belgium for it. Belgium also supports a civil society capacity-building project of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
This coalition also plays a leading role in the 'Group of Friends of the Second Optional Protocol.' The members of this "group of friends" (of which Belgium is a member) advocate for the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for the abolition of the death penalty.
Currently, 90 countries are States Parties to this protocol.