Speech/statement | Date: 2016-06-21 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende held the speech at the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty opening ceremony .
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- Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen,
- Welcome to Norway and to this sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty.
- I am pleased to see such an impressive gathering of representatives from civil society, academia, governments, parliaments and human rights institutions.
- Even some Nobel laureates are present.
- Among us we also have people who have been personally affected by capital punishment:
- people who have been sentenced to death
- their family members
- and people who provided legal representation.
- Thank you for coming to Oslo to share your experiences – to tell your stories.
The death penalty
- At all times, we must remember that – contrary to what many people think – the death penalty is not exclusive to any particular region, political system, religion, culture or tradition.
- The death penalty has been – and still is – being practised in all corners of the world.
- On my way to the Opera House earlier today, I passed by Oslo Pride.
- This reminded me that the death penalty is not only used for the most serious of crimes.
- Even in 2016, people can be sentenced to death just because of whom they love.
- The death penalty is used disproportionately against members of minority communities.
- This is a serious obstacle in their efforts to seek recognition of their human rights.
- When anyone is sentenced to death, that person's inherent human dignity is undermined.
- As we have learned time and again, no justice system is perfect. There are numerous cases of innocent people serving time. Death row is no exception.
- The death penalty is absolute.
- The death penalty is irreversible.
- The death penalty is irreparable.
- There will always be a risk that an innocent person can be sentenced to death.
- That is a risk we cannot accept.
- As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated, "We have a duty to prevent innocent people from paying the ultimate price for miscarriages of justice. The most sensible way is to end the death penalty."
Norway and the death penalty
- The Norwegian position on the death penalty stands firm: Norway opposes the death penalty under all circumstances.
- This is a matter of principle.
- The Norwegian constitution sets out that, "Every human being has a right to live. Nobody can be sentenced to death."
- The abolition of the death penalty in Norway – in times of peace and war – is reflected in our commitment to global abolition.
- However, this has not always been the case. The death penalty was once an integral part of our penal system.
- After World War II, 37 people were sentence to death and executed for treason and war crimes.
- The last execution in Norway was carried out three years after the war ended.
- Despite the long occupation and the brutal war, many people wanted to show mercy and compassion instead of vengeance.
- Some 700 priests called for clemency.
- The death sentence was carried out, but the cries for compassion were not ignored.
- The execution in 1948 was Norway's last.
Global trends and development
- Much work remains to be done. Nonetheless there are reasons for optimism in our struggle towards global abolition.
- Never before have so few countries practised the death penalty.
- In 1945, only eight states had abolished the death penalty.
- Then, as now, there were strong voices in favour of the death penalty. Many people believed that terrible crimes called for the ultimate punishment.
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who is here today, recently said that, "We must not allow even the most atrocious acts to strip us of our fundamental humanity".
- As we move forward, we should not judge, but seek to understand.
- This way, states with and without the death penalty can work together towards global abolition.
- Previously, when policy-makers discussed the death penalty and its effect on crime, decisions were based on assumptions and beliefs, not knowledge and facts.
- Thanks to ground-breaking research, we now know that the death penalty does not deter crime any more than long prison sentences.
- Twenty-five years ago, only a quarter of UN Member States had abolished the death penalty.
- Today, more than four out of five countries — some 160 Member States — have either abolished the death penalty or no longer use it.
- Universal abolition is certainly within reach.
- We have already come a long way.
- This reflects greater international recognition of the sanctity of human rights.
- Many of you here this evening know better than most how abolition can be achieved.
- You have fought tirelessly against the death penalty for many years.
- I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you have done.
- The most effective way to reduce the number of states, that still apply the death penalty is to bring people together and facilitate an open dialogue:
- based on respect
- supported by facts
- free of judgement and prejudice
- In an arena where we can meet each other with open minds.
- The World Congress is just such an arena.
- Let us embrace this opportunity. We need to make the most of the next three days.
- The goal should be to take concrete steps towards the abolition of the death penalty.
- Finally, allow me to express my gratitude to the conference organisers, Ensemble contre la peine de mort and the World Coalition against the Death Penalty.
- I would also like to thank our fellow members of the Core Group of countries working against the death penalty.
- Your tireless efforts are an inspiration for us all.