International efforts to combat the death penalty

The right to life is enshrined in both global and regional human rights conventions. The right to life and respect for human dignity and inviolability are the underlying principles on which all other human rights and the fundamental principles of the rule of law are based. The use of the death penalty is a violation of these principles, and is in itself inhumane.

Norway is playing a leading role in international efforts to abolish the death penalty. These efforts are given high priority and are an integrated part of the Government’s human rights policy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes active use of a broad range of tools in addressing this issue in international and regional organisations, as well as when engaging directly with individual countries.

Norway urges the authorities in countries where the death penalty is still practised to introduce an immediate moratorium, and to abolish the death penalty both in legislation and in practice. We also insist that international minimum standards are complied with. When the death penalty is carried out in a particularly inhumane way or used against minors, pregnant women or persons who cannot be deemed criminally responsible, this is a clear violation of international law. So too is the use of the death penalty in cases where proper legal protection has not been ensured during the legal process, or in cases where it is used for actions that cannot be considered as the most serious crimes. When we learn of such cases, we make our views known to the responsible authorities, either alone or together with the EU and other like-minded countries.

The global trend is towards abolition of the death penalty. In 1945, when the UN was established, only eight states had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. By 1977, this figure had risen to 16, and today approximately 140 of the 193 UN member states have abolished the death penalty either by law or in practice, according to Amnesty International.  This is also reflected in the UN’s work. Norway, together with a broad alliance of countries, has ensured extensive and increasing support for the UN General Assembly resolution urging all states to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a step towards full abolition.

Norway is also actively engaged in the cross-regional Support Group of the International Commission against the Death Penalty. The Commission is made up of independent members of high standing in the field of human rights . Norway will also host the sixth World Congress against the Death Penalty taking place in Oslo  21-23 June 2016. We strongly believe in cooperation of this kind, to which individual states, the UN, civil society organisations, various experts, and committed individuals can all bring their experience, knowledge, networks and ability to exert an influence.

Norway’s priorities:

  • seek to ensure that all countries abolish the death penalty by law or introduce a moratorium on executions, and become party to an international prohibition of the death penalty;
  • host the sixth World Congress against the Death Penalty 21-23 June 2016. 

Guidelines for the Foreign Service:

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