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21st World Day against the Death Penalty: “An Irreversible Torture”

On October 10, 2023, ECPM and all abolitionist actors around the world will mark the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty with a multitude of activities worldwide. To continue the fight against this degrading, cruel, and inhumane treatment, the chosen theme follows last year's theme: "The Death Penalty, an Irreversible Torture."

This year, a diverse range of activists from civil society, parliamentarians, associations, journalists, lawyers, and more are joining forces to advocate for abolition through an intersectional advocacy, linking the death penalty to other forms of torture. They aim to emphasize that this punishment causes physical and psychological harm to the death row prisoner, their family, loved ones, and all those involved in the death penalty process.

“Today, we no longer need to demonstrate to anyone that the death penalty is a sophisticated form of torture, both in the phase of sentencing or investigation (where physical and psychological torture is often used to obtain confessions), where the elements of a fair trial are often unfortunately not met, and during the psychologically unbearable wait for an execution, which hangs over the heads of the condemned like a sword of Damocles. Dostoevsky said on this matter that one is killed twice; in fact, today, we talk about the ‘death row phenomenon’ which has been extensively studied by ECPM in its fact-finding missions. To those who ask me what the most humane method of execution is, I invariably remind them that there has never been any form of humanity in any method of execution. The prisoner is tortured physically and psychologically regardless of the method. Like Dr. Guillotin in 1789, we delude ourselves into believing that we can make an injustice less cruel. The numerous botched executions by lethal injection in the United States are a grim illustration of this.”

Raphaël Chenuil Hazan, ECPM executive director

Since 2022, an increased use of torture has been observed

In 2023, at least 30,000 people are on death row. While abolitionist countries are now a majority, 60% of the world’s population still lives under the threat of a death sentence in the 51 countries where it is still applied. Women, ethnic and religious minorities, and sexual and gender minorities are particularly targeted by death sentences. In 2023, Uganda joined the list of 12 countries sentencing LGBTQIA+ individuals to death.

The top five countries with the highest number of executions in 2022 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United States. Last year, our annual report on the death penalty in Iran, co-authored with Iran Human Rights, documented 582 executions, the highest number since 2015. In October 2023, we have already counted over 520 executions by the country with the highest per capita execution rate. Some countries’ methods of execution are beyond comprehension; some states in the United States are considering using gas chambers as an alternative to lethal injections, which are running low.

Encouraging Progress

Since the last World Day, two countries have joined the abolitionist camp: Zambia, which announced abolition during the 8th World Congress Against the Death Penalty last November, and Ghana, which announced forthcoming abolition in legislation over the summer. Regarding the vote for a universal moratorium against the death penalty, a record number of states voted in favour of the initiative, and positive developments have been observed in most regions of the world: Ghana, Liberia, and Myanmar shifted from abstention to a favorable vote, and Uganda, after opposing the text in 2020, voted in favor in 2022. Two states that were absent from the plenary session in 2020 voted in favor of the text (Solomon Islands and Palau). One state switched from a vote against to an abstention (Papua New Guinea).

ECPM calls on all retentionist countries to initiate a dialogue to begin the abolition process in their countries.

The ECPM team, KontraS, panelists, and participants at the conference “The Death Penalty, an Irreversible Torture” in Jakarta on October 4, 2023.

The programme

France 🇫🇷

Where? Faculty of Law, Evry

With whom? Organized by ECPM in partnership with the Council of Europe and with the support of the Permanent Representation of France to the Council of Europe.

Morocco 🇲🇦

  • October 10th: Sit-in

Where? In front of the Parliament, Rabat

With whom? CMCPM, OMP, Abolition Now Tour youth

Where? CNDH headquarters, Rabat

With whom? OMP, CMCPM, CNDH, ECPM, in collaboration with abolitionist networks: the Parliamentarians Network, Lawyers Network, Journalists Network, and Teachers Network

  • October 25th (to be confirmed): National conference “30 years of moratorium, what perspectives?”


  • Week of October 23rd to 27th: Intervention at the University

Where? University of Fes


  • November 2nd: Screening and discussion of the film7 Winters in Tehran” by Steffi Niederzoll

Where? Rabat, Renaissance Cinema

With whom? OMP, ECPM, in partnership with ARMCDH (Mediterranean Cinema and Human Rights Meetings Association)

Tunisia 🇹🇳

  • October 10, 2023: Press conference in the presence of the families of death row prisoners of Douz (Ain Skhouna Case)

Where? SNJT

With whom? CTCPM and ECPM

  • October 10, 2023: Release of video clips featuring influential personalities in Tunisia advocating for the abolition of the death penalty

Where? Social media

With whom? CTCPM and ECPM

  • October 10, 2023: Signing of a partnership and cooperation protocol with the National Prevention of Torture Authority, the only authority with the prerogative to visit prisons

Where? SNJT

With whom? CTCPM and ECPM

  • October 11, 2023: Opening ceremony of the Abolition Month

Where? Carmen Space

With whom? CTCPM and ECPM

  • From October 11 to 20, 2023: Poster and documentation exhibition

Where? Carmen Space

With whom? CTCPM and ECPM

  • October 11, 2023: Screening of video clips featuring influential personalities followed by a discussion in the presence of the interviewees

Where? Carmen Space

With whom? CTCPM and ECPM

  • Between October 14 and 29, 2023: Six cultural events on the abolition of the death penalty: poster exhibition, film screening (“The Tears of the Executioner”), and discussion

Where? Maison des jeunes Mejez el Beb, Cité Tadhamen Youth Complex, Maison des jeunes Kef, Maison des jeunes Cité Zouhour, Maison des jeunes Cité Sidi Hassine, Maison des jeunes Cité Ibn Kholdoun

With whom? CTCPM and ECPM

Lebanon 🇱🇧

  • October 7th: National conference

Where? Beirut

With whom? LACR, ECPM with AJEM and AUNOHR

  • October 7th: Seminar on the actors in the criminal justice system

Where? Beirut

With whom? LACR, ECPM with AJEM and AUNOHR

  • October 9th: University intervention

Where? St. Joseph University (to be confirmed)

With whom? LACR, ECPM with AJEM and AUNOHR

Algeria 🇩🇿

  • Date to be confirmed: National conference and online training session for criminal justice actors (zoom)

Where? Online

Democratic Republic of Congo 🇨🇩

  • October 10th: Press conference and celebration event for the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty with the sub-theme “The Rise of Death Sentences in DRC.” Notable speeches by Christelle Vuanga, President of the Parliamentary Network Against the Death Penalty in DRC, the Rector of the University of Lubumbashi, the President of the Bar Association in L., and the Governor of Haut Katanga Province. A play will be performed by the members of the Abolition Now Tour DRC.

Where? Lubumbashi

With whom? Culture for Peace and Justice, ECPM

  • October 11th: School intervention with members of the Abolition Now Tour DRC

Where? Lubumbashi

  • October 12th and 13th : Prison visits

Where? Lubumbashi region

Cameroon 🇨🇲

  • October 3: Meetings with the delegation of the European Union and the Deputy Secretary-General of the National Assembly on the upcoming UPR of Cameroon.
    Where? Yaoundé
    With whom? Droits et Paix, ECPM, RACOPEM, Network of parliamentarians against the death penalty
  • October 9th: Press conference

Where ? Yaoundé

With whom? RACOPEM and Droits et Paix

Indonesia 🇮🇩

  • October 2-6:
    Roundtable discussion “The Death Penalty, an Irreversible Torture,” with experts on the topic (lawyers, a former death row inmate, civil society activists).
    Meeting with the Supreme Court
    Meeting with Komnas Ham, the National Human Rights Institution, to explore common work strategies.
    Meeting with new human rights defense organisations to jointly build new abolition strategies.

Malaysia 🇲🇾

  • October 9th: Support for the organization of the first meeting of the network of families of death row inmates (Pertubuhan Kebajikan Keluarga Kasih) and a workshop with families on the process and writing of clemency petitions.

With whom? ADPAN

  • October 10th:
    Engagement meeting with death row families and complaint division of SUHAKAM (Malaysian Human Rights Commission) on the issue of prison conditions
    Inauguration dinner with the launch of the network of families of death row inmates – Pertubuhan Kebajikan Keluarga Kasih, and the launch of collaboration with ADPAN on family narratives, followed by an exchange session between families and lawyers.

With whom? ADPAN

  • October 12th: “How to Save a Life”– Training workshop for students on clemency procedures.