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Baroness Anelay

Foreign Office Minister for Human Rights

Part of FCDO Human Rights

4th August 2015 London, UK

FCO – Abolition of the death penalty remains high priority

There has been much written this week about the UK’s position on the death penalty. Most has been inaccurate and I want to set the record straight. It remains Government policy to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and this has not changed.

Our view is clear. We believe the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity, there is no proof of its deterrent effect and errors are irreversible.

As Foreign Office Minister responsible for human rights, I can provide explicit reassurance that the Government is not abandoning its pledge to fight for the global abolition of capital punishment.

Some of the criticism has emanated from a misinterpretation of our decision to focus our human rights efforts around three broad, overarching themes: democratic values and the rule of law; the rules based international order; and human rights for a stable world.

We took this decision because our previous list of six human rights priorities risked implying a hierarchy of human rights. However, all universal human rights are important and we have a clear commitment to support them internationally.

The world today throws up new challenges and new requests for attention in unpredictable ways, but it certainly doesn’t follow that our death penalty abolition work, or other priorities, including global torture prevention and women’s rights, have become any less important.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to tirelessly promote the global abolition of the death penalty through our extensive contacts with other countries and the United Nations and European Union.

But what does this mean in practice? To give a small sample of activities over the past few years we have:

– spent £600,000 supporting anti-death penalty projects around the world, including funding an abolitionist network in the Commonwealth Caribbean;
– lobbied dozens of governments to vote with us at a key United Nations vote in December which rejected the death penalty by a record margin;
– supported research in Japan which showed that support for the death penalty dropped when people were aware of circumstances leading to capital convictions;
– worked closely with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the abolition of the death penalty, funding targeted lobbying visits to the US, Vietnam and Suriname.

Like many, I am concerned by the increased use of the death penalty in some countries. This Government will continue to campaign vigorously and fund projects on the abolition of the death penalty to end this terrible practice once and for all.

I look forward to communicating more about our human rights priorities on this blog over the coming months.

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