International

A majority of countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Of the 197 countries in the world, 135 (69%) have abolished the death penalty in law or practice and 62 (31%) continue to use capital punishment.

The death penalty in the United States has contributed to a costly isolation, severely undermining our credibility as a world leader and impeding international efforts to counter terrorism and bring criminals to justice.

In June 2008, the Council of the European Union released a statement on General Affairs and External Relations that contained a restatement of its 1998 Human Rights Guideline on the death penalty. The Council stated that it "reaffirms that working towards universal abolition of the death penalty constitutes an integral objective of the EU’s human rights policy." The Council reasserted the "opposition of the European Union to the death penalty in all cases and in all circumstances. The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights."

The Council commended the "considerable progress [that] has been made worldwide towards the abolition of the death penalty" in the past 10 years. They added that the "adoption by the UN General Assembly last year of a cross-regional initiative calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty is a significant achievement in this regard." At the same time, the Council, "regrets that a number of States still maintain the death penalty. We call on all these states to abolish the death penalty; if necessary with the immediate establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to abolishing it." [1]

In 2006, the Philippines passed a law abolishing the death penalty. The bill overwhelmingly passed the Philippine Senate and House, with no negative votes in the Senate. Even Senators who support the death penalty in theory, voted to abolish it, including Senator Richard Gordon who has lost several family members to murder. In justifying his vote, he said "it is so easy to kill a person to bring him to justice but the lifetime suffering of a nation when it finds out that it has made a mistake is indelible."[2]

More and more countries that do not employ the death penalty including many European countries, Canada and Mexico are refusing to extradite prisoners to the United States who could be charged with the death penalty.

Felix Rohatyn, the Former U.S. Ambassador to France between 1997 and 2001, has stated that during his tenure "no single issue was viewed with as much hostility as our support for the death penalty."


[1] General Affairs and External Relations Press Release, Council of the European Union, Dimitrij Rupel, President, June 16, 2008.

[2] Daily Tribune & InQ7.net, BBC News, Manila, Sarah Toms, June 7, 2006.