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Guidelines on the Death Penalty

The Guidelines to EU policy towards third countries on the death penalty (Act of the General Affairs Council -- Luxemburg, 29 June 1998) aim to present the obligations and the elements of the policy of the European Union concerning the universal abolition of the death penalty and to assure that, in the case it exists, the death penalty is executed in conformity with the minimum standards.

The Guidelines of EU Policy towards third countries on death penalty are available under:

Conceivable Actions

Where States insist on maintaining the death penalty, the EU considers it important that the following minimum standards should be met:

  • Capital punishment may be imposed only for the most serious deliberate crimes;
  • Capital punishment may be imposed only for a crime for which the death penalty was prescribed at the time of its commission, it being understood that if, subsequent to the commission of the crime, provision is made by law for the imposition of a lighter penalty, the offender shall benefit thereby;
  • Capital punishment may not be imposed on persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of their crime, on pregnant women or new mothers and on persons who have become insane;
  • Capital punishment may be imposed only if the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for alternative explanation of the facts and if it was a fair trial where the accused benefited from adequate legal assistance;
  • An individual appeal has to be possible, a person sentenced to death has to have the right to present a petition having the sentence reduced;
  • Where capital punishment occurs, it shall be carried out with the minimum of possible suffering.

If an individual case of an application of the death penalty does not respect these minimum standards, it is possible to report the situation to the Missions of the EU (Embassies of the EU Member States and the Delegations of the European Commission) in the relevant country.

The delivered information must include succinct indications concerning the supposed committed crime, the criminal proceedings, the exact nature of the violation of the minimal standards, the situation concerning a possible appeal and the scheduled date of the execution if it is known. After coordination, the European Missions initiate every reasonable démarche to avoid the execution. The information about imminent sentences to death has to be reported as soon as possible to the EU Missions.

Last change: 27.11.08 - 22:01