IBAHRI calls for end to forced confessions as World Day against the Death Penalty is marked

Monday 10 October 2022

To mark the 20th World Day against the Death Penalty on Monday 10 October 2022, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls for universal abolition of the death penalty, ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an end to forced confessions, and implementation of the exclusionary rule for torture-tainted evidence, including in capital punishment cases.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘The IBAHRI opposes and condemns the death penalty in all circumstances. It is a barbaric practice that disregards human dignity and has no place in our world. We call on States that retain capital punishment to join the global shift towards abolition by issuing an immediate moratorium on its use and by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Article 1 of which prohibits executions and obliges [States] Parties to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty. Pending this, we call on States to strictly observe the international legal limitations on its application, progressively restrict its imposition and the crimes to which it applies and ensure the right to a fair trial for defendants, including the non-admissibility of forced confessions and access to effective legal representation at all stages of capital cases, without distinction of any kind.’

Death Penalty: A Road Paved with Torture is the themed title of this year’s World Day against the Death Penalty, putting focus on the relationship between the use of the death penalty and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including:

  • torture and ill-treatment during interrogations to elicit a forced confession to capital crimes;
  • harsh conditions that contribute to deterioration in a person’s physical and psychological health;
  • the mental anguish of awaiting capital punishment;
  • particular methods of execution; and
  • the impact of the death penalty on family members, loved ones and closely connected others.

According to the United Nations Secretary General’s 2022 report on the ‘Question of the death penalty’, between July 2020 and June 2022 death sentences were reportedly imposed after, inter alia, torture allegations and a lack of due process and fair trial guarantees, including in the context of implementation of counter-terrorism laws in Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The UN Human Rights Committee held in its General Comment No. 36 that the imposition of the death penalty after violation of fair trial and due process guarantees under Article 14 of the ICCPR would render the sentence arbitrary in nature, constituting a violation of the right to life. This includes a lack of access to effective legal representation and the use of forced confessions. As highlighted by the Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Information Gathering (Méndez Principles), forced confessions are unreliable and lead to wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Mark Stephens CBE, stated: ‘The IBAHRI calls on prosecutors and judges to rigorously respect and implement the exclusionary rule to ensure that torture-tainted evidence is not admitted in court proceedings. We further call on States to guarantee the independence of the legal profession in line with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the IBA Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession to prevent miscarriages of justice with the gravest of consequences and to investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in line with international law and standards, including the updated Istanbul Protocol (2022). Also, the right to effective legal representation must be applicable at all stages of the criminal justice process in capital punishment cases, from initial detention to post-conviction pardon or clemency proceedings.’

Mr Stephens clarified that: ‘International human rights standards include that counsel should be able to meet their clients in private, communicate with them confidentially, and advise and represent the accused in accordance with generally recognised professional ethics without restrictions, influence, pressure or undue interference.’


For further information/interview requests, please send an email to: IBAHRI@int-bar.org

Notes to the Editor

  1. The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, is the only such instrument with worldwide scope. Article 1 prohibits executions and obliges States Parties to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty. Limited reservations are allowed under Article 2, which permits States to reserve the right to apply the death penalty in time of war pursuant to a conviction for a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime. Such a reservation can only be made at the time of ratification.
  2. On 15 May 2008, the IBAHRI Council adopted its Resolution on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which considers, inter alia, the clear trend towards viewing the death penalty as a breach of international human rights standards, as well as committing the IBAHRI to actively promoting the abolition of the death penalty.
  3. Click here to find out more about the IBAHRI’s work on the abolition of the death penalty.
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  5. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
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