Editorial – Oslo: The Next Step Towards Abolition

18 June 2016

What could be better than knowing we are going to see each other again or, for some of us, meet for the first time to draw up future strategies for universal abolition?

For the last 15 years and 6 World Congresses, the abolitionist journey has inevitably included this essential get-together. I know how much you have been waiting and hoping for this event over the last 3 years of expectation and preparation. I know how much the World Congress is a breath of fresh air for many of you who can feel isolated, or even in difficulty, in your day-to-day struggle. Once again you will be there because we are expecting more than 1,500 participants in Oslo.

Oslo: a city of symbols of the Nobel Peace Prize, many of which will be present with us. Norway: since the Madrid Congress, a fully engaged country in international lobbying alongside the other sponsors of the Congress, France and Australia. Because what is new at this Congress is, first and foremost, the extraordinary political mobilisation at all levels. We have never received such enthusiastic feedback from ministries (Foreign Affairs and Justice) which want to find out more about the Congress and the abolitionist movement. Ministers and official delegations will be present in Oslo but so will all those who found out about the event during the energetic two-year campaign, in partnership with the World Congress Support Group which brings together more than 14 abolitionist diplomatic services which are particularly committed to combating the death penalty. We are expecting more than 30 ministers of state which will give this Congress an unrivalled political dimension.

The political dimension also takes other forms, particularly through the mobilisation of parliamentarians from across the world who will be present, they too actors for change at a national level. This inevitably brings us back to the words of Robert Badinter, ECPM’s Honorary President and former French Minister of Justice who brought forward the law on abolition 35 years ago in 1981. His speech to the National Assembly on 17 and 18 September 1981 perfectly illustrates the weight and political role of parliamentarians.

Moreover, Oslo will be the first to see the National Human Rights Institutions from more than 30 countries discuss and highlight the increasingly important role they play in national human rights mechanisms and in national abolition procedures. Once again, the World Congress is an impetus for innovation and change.

Finally, Asia will be to the fore (continuing the theme of the Regional Congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2015) via a number of debates and a specific plenary session, the presence of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) and the commitments we hope to conclude for this fundamental region in the struggle for abolition. All the more so as the situation is worrying – I am thinking in particular of the vague desires displayed by the new President of the Philippines to reintroduce the death penalty in total opposition to all the treaties signed by his country. I am thinking too of the resumption of executions in Pakistan and Indonesia which make these two countries subjects of concern for the present and the future.

I believe in the strength of our debates and our discussions in Oslo which alone will provide the momentum for abolition and change. It is through dialogue that we will manage to convince the governments which are still reticent about moving towards abolition.

A Chinese proverb says that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Let us all light candles in Oslo in the hope of universal abolition.

Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan ECPM Director