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ECPM calls on sports organisations to mobilize against the death penalty

While the 2022 Winter Olympics are in full swing in Beijing, the international community keeps pointing out China’s numerous failures to respect human rights.  But figures don’t lie: China ranks first in the states that executes the most death row inmates in the world per year.

Since the World Athletics Championship in Qatar (2019), the Paris-Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia (2020), and the agreement of a soccer club with the Kingdom of Bahrain (2021), ECPM challenges the organisation of major international sporting events in states that still apply the death penalty and invites dialogue in view of the 8th World Congress against the Death Penalty to be held in Berlin in November 2022.


China is ranked as the country that executes the most death row inmates per year, just ahead of Iran and Egypt. Yet the country refuses to disclose its exact data, which is classified as a state secret. According to Amnesty International, China executed at least 483 people in 2020, but this figure does not include the thousands of other executions that are suspected to have taken place the same year.


ECPM also denounces the length of trials: prisoners are sometimes sentenced to death in record time. In the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, China has implemented a crackdown on criminal offences related to coronavirus pandemic measures. At least one person has been sentenced to death and executed  in an extremely short time, under a fast-track procedure (Amnesty International, World Report 2020).

The Olympic Torch Relay, a symbol of peace and friendship between peoples, does not go through death rows. In view of the 8th World Congress against the Death Penalty, Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, Executive Director of ECPM, renews his invitation to the international sports authorities:


“I call on the International Olympic Committee and the international sport governing bodies to update their criteria for selecting states for major sporting events with regards to the respect of human rights and the use of capital punishment.”


In 2022, the sports agenda is full of international events in retentionist countries. This summer, the World Swimming Championships will be held in Japan, a country where death row inmates are given less than two hours’ notice of their execution.

The year will end with the biggest soccer event in the world in Qatar, a country that also violates the most basic of rights, where courts can use sharia law to sentence men to death for homosexual relations.

ECPM encourages the abolitionist community, sports authorities and civil society to join forces. Together, we must defend the interests of those sentenced to death and place sporting events in a context that is consistent with the values promoted by sport. Sports competitions have no place in countries that do not respect human rights.