Mr. Ambassador, Excellencies,
Allow me first to thank Argentina for the initiative to organize this side event. We welcome this opportunity to exchange views on how to promote abolition of the death penalty. Norway attaches high priority to the fight against the death penalty and we oppose it in all circumstances. We must keep this issue high on our agenda in order to take advantage of the positive trends towards abolition.
Opposition to the death penalty is not exclusive to any particular region, political system, religion, culture or tradition. It is now a global concern supported by states from all regions. Today, abolitionist states are the overwhelming majority and according to the United Nations, more than 150 states have abolished the death penalty or do not carry out executions.
Despite the positive international trend, there is no room for complacency as long as some states continue to use the death penalty.
Norway abolished the death penalty in 1902 for crimes committed in peacetime and in 1979 for crimes committed in times of war. The last execution for a crime committed in peacetime was in 1876. The last execution on Norwegian soil was carried out in 1948 as a result of the trials in the aftermath of the Second World War.
We actively encourage countries to move towards abolition, by using several different approaches. We include the death penalty in our political and human rights dialogues; we raise individual cases where the minimum standards are not being met (e.g. if executions involve minors, pregnant women, persons who have become insane, or if death sentences are imposed for crimes which are not of a particularly grave nature). In these dialogues, references are made to studies showing that the death penalty is not more effective at deterring serious crimes than lengthy terms of imprisonment.
Furthermore, we pursue common action in international fora such as the UN. It is encouraging that we were able to once again secure record support for the moratorium resolution in the GA in December 2012 (with 111 votes in favour). New votes in favour included Central African Republic, Chad, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tunisia.
It is for governments and parliaments to lead domestic debate. The death penalty has never been abolished as a result of public pressure. The reverse is true: it is usually done in the face of public opposition. But when governments do take a lead, the public in the vast majority of these countries has quickly accepted the abolition of the death penalty.
Our aim is the universal abolition of the death penalty. However, in order to reach this goal we have to be prepared to go step by step.
One such step is to achieve more transparency on the use of the death penalty. There are still a large number of cases involving use of the death penalty that go unreported. Therefore we must call on states to show greater transparency with regard to their use of the death penalty. In the long term, this could foster an open debate based on facts.
We must also call on states to reduce the number of death eligible crimes.
We have issued guidelines intended to set out what we can do to systematise and strengthen the efforts of the Norwegian Foreign Service to promote the abolition of the death penalty. The guidelines describe a range of possible approaches. To ensure that our efforts are as effective as possible, these must always be adapted to local circumstances. The guidelines are available in several languages and we are happy to share them with all interested parties.