A Speech of the Italian Prime Minister, Mr Matteo Renzi, on the Death Penalty

UN MEETING “MOVING AWAY FROM THE DEATH PENALTY: NATIONAL LEADERSHIP”, NEW YORK, 25 SEPTEMBER 2014.

On 25 September 2014, at a High-level event of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights together with Italy and other three States, the Italian Prime Minister, Mr Matteo Renzi, delivered a speech on the death penalty and on the need to support a moratorium to stop it and eventually to abolish it. After mentioning Italy’s leading role in the abolitionist campaign (with the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II, having renounced to capital punishment already in 1786), he said that Italians

are deeply convinced that the universal abolition of the capital punishment would be a crucial achievement in the promotion of human dignity and rights around the world and our action is coherent with that.

Then, he briefly recalled the various steps of the moratorium:

The first Resolution on this issue was tabled at the Third Committee by Italy in 1994. It failed to be approved only by a handful of votes. Italy’s active role was instrumental, in close cooperation with the EU partners and the other Members of the Cross-regional coalition, in the successful process that led, in 2007, to the adoption by the General Assembly of the first historic Resolution on a moratorium on the use of the capital punishment. The constant increase of votes in favor of the successive three resolutions of 2008, 2010 and 2012 shows the existence of a clear international trend against the death penalty. This trend was also underlined by the Secretary General in his most recent report on the implementation of the Resolution. The adoption of these resolutions represents an extraordinary result for the International Community. They also highlight the ongoing debate on the death penalty in a high number of countries.

However, State practice is not fully consistent yet:

Some worrying developments took place after the encouraging vote on the fourth Resolution on the universal moratorium in December 2012, with a record tally of 111 countries in favor.  A number of countries, which had adopted a de facto moratorium, resumed executions and their tribunals inflicted new death sentences. We should not underestimate the signal given by countries which previously abstained in 2010 and backtracked in 2012, voting no. On the bright side, there is also a new trend by some retentionist countries to show some restraint in the use of the death penalty. All considered, we should keep up working hard in our campaign for the moratorium to avoid any involution during this fall’s vote.

In order to advance the process of the complete abolition of the death penalty – Mr Renzi continued – no approach or strategy can be considered more successful than another. And although political leadership is necessary, also participatory practices are to be taken into account:

In stressing the importance of campaigns of awareness – both at national and at international level – I would like to draw again your attention to the need to fully engage with Civil Society and NGOs. In this regard, I believe that Italy’s experience can supply a useful example of a positive drive towards a good synergy between the Government and the Civil Society.

He concluded his speech by classifying capital punishment as a inhuman treatment:

Let me conclude quoting the words of the UN Secretary General, whom I know is a strong advocate of the issue: “The death penalty has no place in the 21st Century. Together, we can finally end this cruel and inhumane practice everywhere around the world”.

The full text of the Permanent Representative’s speech can be found at:

http://www.italyun.esteri.it/Rappresentanza_ONU/Menu/Comunicazione/Archivio_News/2014_09_25_Renzi_Death+Penalty.htm

(download here)

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