Åpningsinnlegg på Verdenskongressen mot dødsstraff

Oslo, 21. juni 2016

Utenriksminister Børge Brende holdt åpningsinnlegget under den sjette Verdenskongressen mot dødsstraff i Oslo 21. juni.

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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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

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