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Capital punishment in Europe: Wikis


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Europe holds the greatest concentration of abolitionist states

The death penalty has been totally abolished in almost all European countries (48 out of 50[1]). A moratorium on the death penalty is a condition of membership in the Council of Europe and abolition is considered a central value to the European Union. Of all modern European countries, San Marino and Portugal were the first to abolish and only Belarus still practices capital punishment. Latvia has abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes but retains it for crimes during wartime.



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Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union affirms the right to life.

Abolition has been common in European history, but has only been a real trend since the end of the Second World War when human rights became a particular priority. The European Convention on Human Rights was adopted in 1950 but some countries took many years to ratify it. The United Kingdom retained the death penalty for high treason until 1998 (William Joyce was the last person to be put to death for high treason in the UK, on 3 January 1946).

Spain was the latest country (16 December 2009) to ratify protocol 13 in abolishing the penalty for all crimes.[2] Azerbaijan and Russia have not signed protocol 13, while Armenia, Latvia and Poland have signed but not yet ratified.[3] All but Latvia have, however, abolished the death penalty.

A moratorium on death penalty has been in place in Russia until Jan 1, 2010. According to the Nov 19, 2009, decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation the death penalty shall not be practiced in Russia at any time before the ratification of the above mentioned protocol. The Constitutional Court has also clarified that the decision is not an extension of the moratorium, but the abolition of the capital punishment since it will be no longer possible to practice it legally.


European Union

The European Union (EU) has long since been against the death penalty, supporting the European Convention, and its 2000 Charter of Fundamental Rights included a ban on the death penalty. The Charter has been made legally binding by the Treaty of Lisbon as it got fully ratified and effective on December 1, 2009.[4] The treaty also has a provision for the EU to join the Council of Europe and accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. The EU has been an active promoter of abolition worldwide and has been promoting a UN convention against it, however some national governments such as Poland have opposed such moves.

Capital punishment in EU member states

Methods of execution and dates of last actual peacetime use

Note: The table can be sorted alphabetically or chronologically using the Sort none.gif icon.

Country Method Year of use Abolished
 Finland Beheading 1825 1949
 Portugal Hanging 1846 1867
 Belgium Guillotine 1863 1996
 Netherlands Hanging 1860 1870
 Denmark Beheading 1892 1930
 Sweden Guillotine 1910 1921
 Malta Hanging 1943 1971
 Italy Firing Squad 1947 1948
 Germany Guillotine 1949 (1981 in GDR) 1949 (1987 in GDR)
 Austria Hanging 1950 1950
 Ireland Hanging 1954 1990
 Slovenia Hanging 1957 1989
 Cyprus Hanging 1962 1983
 United Kingdom Hanging 1964 1965
 Greece Firing Squad 1972 1993
 Spain Garrotte 1975 1978
 France Guillotine 1977 1981
 Hungary Hanging 1988 1990
 Poland Hanging 1988 1997
 Bulgaria Shooting 1989 1998
 Czech Republic Hanging 1989 1990
 Romania Firing Squad 1989 1990
 Estonia Shooting 1991 1998
 Lithuania Shooting 1995 1996
 Latvia Shooting 1996 1999

Retentionist states

Belarus is the last European country that still uses the death penalty. Russia has signed but not ratified Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights (abolition in peace time). The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation effectively abolished the capital punishment on Nov 19, 2009. Latvia maintains it for crimes committed in war time but is a member of the European Union. It has also signed, but not yet ratified, Protocol No. 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights (total abolition). In addition the two unrecognised states of Transnistria and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have not abolished the death penalty and are blocked from the Council of Europe. However neither has executed anyone to date.

See also


  1. ^ Figure does not include Kosovo, which is not recognised by all UN members, and other partly or unrecognised states.
  2. ^ Italy's ratification
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^

External links


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