France will seek a global end to the death penalty as part of its upcoming EU presidency, President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.
On the 40th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in France, Macron said he would convene a summit in 2022 to promote the moratorium.
The conference will take place in Paris as France will take over the rotating EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2022.
“As part of the French EU Council Presidency, we will … organize a meeting in Paris at the highest level, at which members of civil society from countries where the death penalty still applies,” Macron is quoted by the French 24 broadcaster as saying.
He said the aim is to convince national leaders of the importance and urgency of abolishing the death penalty.
France split on the death penalty
France, a country once known for its infamous guillotine executions, abolished the death penalty in 1981 – when over 60% of its population still supported the execution of criminals.
It was the 35th country in the world to abolish this practice and introduce an article in its constitution that “no one should be sentenced to death”.
Today, about half of France want to reintroduce the penalty, polls show.
Macron spoke next to Robert Badinter, the justice minister who steered the abolition under President Francois Mitterand and campaigned for a worldwide abolition.
“I would like to share with you my absolute conviction that the death penalty must disappear from all over the world because it is a disgrace to humanity,” said Badinter. “The death penalty does not protect society, it dishonors it.”
The French Foreign Ministry also published an anniversary declaration and described the death penalty as a “violation of human rights”.
A global decline
While a total of 54 countries around the world continue to impose the death penalty either in law or in practice, the number of annual executions has steadily declined over the past decade.
The French head of state described the sentence as an “atrocity” and noted with regret that in 2020 “483, certainly an underestimated number, executions” had taken place worldwide.
China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia carried out the most executions in 2020, according to Amnesty International.
In the EU, all Member States have abolished the death penalty in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. In Europe, Belarus is the last remaining country to continue to carry out executions.
Reuters contributed to this report.