Death Penalty: European Leaders Call On US, Japan, Russia To Ban Executions (PICTURES)

European leaders have called on the US, Japan and other nations to "completely abolish" the death penalty, calling the penalty "contrary to the fundamental values for which our countries stand".

Russia, Belarus, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority were also urged to ban the practice completely, rather than simply delay executions.

To mark the tenth anniversary of World Day Against the Death Penalty, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said there was no evidence the death penalty had "deterrent value and any miscarriage of justice is irreversible and irreparable."

She said the UK would continue to support charities and NGOs working for worldwide abolition of the death penalty, and praised the US state of Connecticut for repealing the death penalty in April this year, the 17th US state to do so.

She added: "At the same time I am concerned about the sharp increase in executions during the past twelve months in some of those countries which still apply and implement the death penalty.

"Later this year, the United Nations General Assembly will for the fourth time debate a resolution which advocates a worldwide moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

"I would particularly encourage those states which have a long-standing moratorium in force, to consider joining the growing world trend against the death penalty and to vote in favour of the Resolution."

European foreign ministers from Germany, France, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy attended a conference in Switzerland to mark the day against the Death Penalty.

Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter said the aim was a world free from judicial executions: “Killing in the name of justice is contrary to the fundamental values for which our countries stand."

He said that although 130 countries have abolished or put a moratorium on the death penalty, 50 nations continue to condone a practice “for which there can no longer be any justification in the 21st century.

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Renate Wohlwend, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe named Russia, Belarus, Morocco, the US, Japan and the Palestinian Territories as countries they hoped would begin to take steps towards abolishing the death penalty entirely.

He called on the US and Japan, which hold observer status with the Council of Europe, to "join the tide of history" and "rid the world of this unjust and cruel form of punishment."

He added: "The Council of Europe, by making abolition of the death penalty a condition of membership, has led the way at regional level, but there is still plenty of work for us to do.

“Firstly, we must persuade Russia to keep its promise, made sixteen years ago, to abolish the death penalty in law, in addition to its existing welcome moratorium on executions.

"It is the only country out of the 47 Council of Europe member States which has not taken this step – and it is high time it kept its promise and joined the rest of us.

"Secondly, Belarus continues to be the last European country to carry out executions, and in a particularly cruel way: the condemned are shot in the head, and their families are not told in advance.

"Belarus knows that ending this barbaric practice is one of the essential conditions for joining the Council of Europe.

"The Palestinian Authority continues to apply the moratorium on executions put in place in 2005, and is currently considering a draft law which would abolish the death penalty altogether.

"I urge it to take the plunge, and conclude this law, and urge Hamas to cease the deeply worrying illegal executions it has recently carried out, flouting Palestinian law.

"In Morocco, I hope that the moratorium in force since 1993 will soon be transformed into full abolition.

The European Union also reaffirmed that it was "opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under any circumstances. Its universal abolition is one of the key objectives of EU human rights policy."

Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, said: "Capital punishment is a cruel, inhumane and irreversible action that violates the basic human right to life and dignity.

"In the case of any miscarriage of justice, from which no legal system is immune, it represents a terrible and irreversible loss of human life.

"The death penalty can neither reverse the crime it seeks to punish nor mitigate a victim's loss. It should be a relic of the past."

According to the European Unions, 20 of the 58 countries around the world which still execute criminals, continue to carry out executions "at an alarming rate."