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Political mobilisation

Since its first edition in 2001, one of the priorities of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty has been to bring together and unite political actors from around the world to advance the cause of the universal abolition of the death penalty. The 8th edition of the Congress was undoubtedly one of the most successful, as it led to an unprecedented political mobilization.

Opening ceremony

During the opening ceremony, the main political segment of the Congress featured no fewer than 15 ministers, three state secretaries, dozens of ambassadors, and high representatives from intergovernmental organizations, all present at the Pierre Boulez Saal. Official speeches and panel discussions alternated in this prestigious setting. The ceremony was also marked by numerous encouraging announcements and punctuated by musical interludes, as well as contributions from the young members of the Abolition Now Tour program.

Zambia announces the abolition of the death penalty!

On 23 December 2022, just a few weeks after the Minister of Justice announced at the Opening Ceremony of the Berlin Congress that he had tabled bills in the National Assembly to amend the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure with a view to abolishing the death penalty, Zambia became the 25th country in Africa to abolish capital punishment. “[We] promised to amend laws that inhibit democracy, human rights, good governance and basic freedoms. Promises delivered”, tweeted President Hakainde Hichilema, after also striking down a law prohibiting citizens from defaming their head of state. In February 2023, the President commuted the death sentences of 390 prisoners, including 11 women, to life imprisonment. According to the Minister of Home Affairs, there are no longer any prisoners on death row in Zambia

Closing ceremony

The closing ceremony, held in the Rotes Rathaus, Berlin’s historic city hall, was an opportunity to honour those whose commitment, work and dedication advance the abolitionist cause every day. Speeches, tributes and an awards ceremony took place in a spirit of emotion and solidarity, accompanied by the piano melodies of Albert Marquès and the words of Keith LaMar, who joined the closing ceremony by telephone, live from death row in the United States, in an exceptional moment of communion with the Congress participants. The presence of many former death row prisoners in the room, such as Hsieh Chih-Hung, who was attending the World Congress for the first time after an appeal was launched for his release at the 7th Congress in Brussels and who was recently acquitted, made this ceremony an unprecedented moment of unity and hope for the abolitionist community.

Nestor Toko Monkam is a lawyer at the Cameroon Bar and President of RACOPEM, which won the Legal Representation Award at the closing ceremony of the Congress. He is also the founder of Droits et paix, which works to create a society that respects human rights and is fairer and more peaceful, through advocacy, public awareness-raising, legal action and assistance to victims.

Christiane Taubira, ambassador of the abolition

Christiane Taubira (Photo Ⓒ Christophe Meireis)

“We need to deploy a wealth of diplomacy and pressure in order to change a number of intolerable and untenable practices.”

Christiane Taubira, former French Minister of Justice, accompanied ECPM for the four days of this key abolition event.