In 2001, ECPM organised the first World Congress against the death penalty in Paris. Since then, the World Congresses have been held on a three-year cycle. In 2012 the first Regional Congress was held in Rabat. Since then, a Regional Congress precedes each World Congress by one year, thus focusing attention on one region of the world.
Initiated and organised by ECPM (Together Against the Death Penalty) since 2001, the World Congresses Against the Death Penalty mark the high point of the worldwide abolitionist campaign every three years. Eighteen years after the First World Congress was held in Strasbourg, it is in Brussels, in February 2019, that abolitionists from all over the world have met in ever-increasing numbers.
The World Congresses pursue general objectives: strengthening local actors, developing common strategies, encouraging States to make concrete commitments, mobilising public opinion. While the aim is to take stock of the progress made and the difficulties encountered on the road to universal abolition, they are also intended to bring together abolitionists who, at local, regional and international level, are in a position to make an effective contribution to removing the death penalty from the judicial and legislative arsenal.
A Congress is a unique opportunity to bring together activists from associations, lawyers involved in the defence of death row inmates, political leaders or diplomats, parliamentarians, former death row inmates or families of victims, so that they can share their analyses, identify levers for action and take ownership of them.
The United States was at the centre of the 1st World Congress Against the Death Penalty. The United States, claiming to be one of the world's leading human rights advocates, was one of the world's biggest executors.
For the 2nd World Congress, 64 countries gathered for a cross reflection on the development of regional approaches and criminal policy issues.
1,000 people and 150 speakers took part in the 3rd Congress, with the support of the European Union, Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama. The focus of this third edition was China.
It was at the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations, that more than 1,300 delegates discussed the development of links between civil society and intergovernmental organisations.
The 5th World Congress was for the first time preceded by a Regional Congress held in Rabat, Morocco, to guide discussions towards objectives specific to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
1,500 people from more than 120 countries had gathered. The focus was on the Asian continent and the work of lawyers, a topic prepared thanks to the holding of the Regional Congress in Malaysia in 2015.
This Congress was articulated around two objectives: to accompany the African continent towards abolition (in continuation of the work begun at the regional Congress in Abidjan in 2018) and to promote the involvement of new allies, such as private companies, in the global abolitionist movement.
While the federation of abolitionists is an unavoidable task, it remains essential to occupy the ground in countries that still practise the death penalty. Since 2012, ECPM has therefore been organising regional congresses on capital punishment in strategic areas (Morocco in 2012 for the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region, Malaysia in 2015 for Asia).
These events specifically aim to bring together abolitionists from the same region to develop new strategies that are directly relevant to the local context. By organising regional congresses, ECPM also ensures, for a few days, the installation of a debate on capital punishment where it is still in use.
Rabat, Morocco: 18-20 October 2012
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 11-12 June 2015
Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire: 9-10 April 2018