EU: ECHR Protocol on absolute ban on the death penalty comes into force


On 1 July 2003 of Protocol no 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances came into force. This Protocol, once ratified, will be binding on all EU member states and all the acceeding states. It is hard to see how this Protocol squares with the EU-US agreement on extradition (signed on 25 June 2003) which gives EU member states the option to refuse extradition, that is they "may" refuse extradition to the USA in a case where the death panelty may result.

1. Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances: Full-text (pdf)
2. Explanatory report (link)

Council of the European union press release: Brussels, 14 July 2003, 11249/03 (Presse 204)

Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union to mark the entry into force of Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances


The European Union welcomes the entry into force on 1 July 2003 of Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances.

This Protocol is banning the death penalty in all circumstances, including for crimes committed in times of war and imminent threat of war. No derogation or reservation will be allowed to Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights. As of today, 41 out of the 45 Member States of the Council of Europe have signed the Protocol, which was opened for signature by member states of the Council of Europe only a little over a year ago, in Vilnius, on 3 May 2002.

The abolition of the death penalty also in respect of acts committed in time of war or of imminent threat of war should be discussed within the wider contest of the global trend towards the universal abolition of the death penalty.

The European Union urges Member States of the Council of Europe, who have not yet done so, to sign Protocol 13 and to ratify Protocol 6 which abolishes the death penalty in times of peace. The European Union also expresses the hope that Japan and the United States, who have observatory status to the Council of Europe, will feel encouraged to consider steps towards the abolition of the death penalty.

The European Union reiterates its longstanding and firm position against the use of the death penalty in all circumstances - a punishment which we believe impairs the human dignity, increases the level of brutality and provides no added value in terms of deterrence. Consequently, all European Union countries have abolished the death penalty. It is worth noting in this respect that the international community has excluded the use of the death penalty in establishing international criminal courts and tribunals competent for the most heinous crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity.

In countries which maintain the death penalty, the EU aims at the progressive restriction of its scope and respect for the strict conditions, set forth in several international human rights instruments, under which the capital punishment may be used, as well as at the establishemnt of a moratorium on executions so as to completely eliminate the death penalty. The EU reiterates its concern about sentencing to death persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime.

The European Union's aspiration is to see the death penalty abolished in law and in practise in every country in the world, in times of peace and war.

The Acceding Countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, the Associated Countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey and the EFTA countries, members of the European Economic Area align themselves with this declaration.



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