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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in Holy See

9th October 2013

Protect Life: End the Death Penalty

10 October is the 11th World Day against the Death Penalty. The campaign represents an alliance of 145 NGOs, bar associations, unions and other bodies – including Catholic organisations like the Community of Sant’Egidio – that was set up in Rome on 13 May 2002.The United Kingdom, which supports its work, campaigns for worldwide abolition of the death penalty because we believe it undermines human dignity, there is no evidence that it works as a deterrent (despite popular myth), and because any error in its application is irreversible – the horrible possibility that the state could, and in the past has, taken innocent life through judicial processes designed to protect that life.

21 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes since 2002. Yet 21 countries still carried out executions in 2012, and some countries including India and Pakistan resumed executions after a lengthy moratorium. Only 100 countries have definitively removed the death penalty from their statute books.

Many of the countries that retain the death penalty in their legislation, and a number that still carry out the death penalty, have significant Catholic populations, including many countries in the Caribbean and central Africa, the United States (where 30 states retain the death penalty), Lebanon, even an overwhelmingly Catholic country like Guatemala. Yet the teaching of successive Popes against the death penalty is very clear, and the Vatican itself has symbolically abolished the death penalty. The Cardinal Secretary of State, in the name of Pope Francis, recently spoke of “the inalienable dignity of human life, in its immeasurable value”.

The Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain, Archbishop Joseph Harris, was the latest Church leader to argue against the death penalty in an eloquent and powerful message at a conference held at the University of West Indies on 1 October. “As a churchman and a person of Faith”, he said, “I cannot endorse the violence perpetrated on individuals in the name of justice. Pope Francis teaches us very clearly that Faith and violence are incompatible”. There is no room for equivocation. The more faith leaders like Archbishop Joseph can speak out, the stronger the collective voice against the death penalty will be.

2 comments on “Protect Life: End the Death Penalty

  1. What did Jesus say? It is no less true now than it was then!!! The people are not different.

  2. Sir, this is an hopeless compaign. think about the deceased and not about the criminals. No mercy for the criminals. this is against mankind. thnx

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About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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