Capital punishment is not the answer; it only creates more suffering

Press release, 10.10.2016

To mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty, Switzerland has reaffirmed its commitment to the abolition of capital punishment worldwide. In the words of Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, it is not the answer, but instead creates more victims, violence and suffering.

On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, Switzerland reminds the international community that capital punishment is a violation of human rights and shows disregard for human dignity. Although no deterrent effect can be proven, there has been a recent increase in states and individuals declaring that they are in favour of the death penalty as a means of combating crime and terrorism. Switzerland is concerned about this development. It opposes capital punishment in all parts of the world and in all circumstances. It is committed to sustaining the international trend of the past few years, which means that in practice only a quarter of all states now use capital punishment. Three further states – Guinea, Nauru and the Congo – have abolished the death penalty in the past twelve months alone.

"Capital punishment does not heal, but opens new wounds"

At the UN General Assembly in New York in mid-September, Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter called upon all states to recognise the facts, and not to fall prey to the illusion that capital punishment offers a simple solution to complex problems such as crime, violent extremism and terrorism. On the contrary, the death penalty creates new victims. These include individuals who have been wrongly convicted, the children and other relatives of those sentenced to death, and law enforcement personnel who have to deal with the convicted person's suffering. Instead of promoting dialogue and reconciliation, capital punishment can actually encourage and legitimise new violence.

The death penalty is also a blunt weapon in the fight against terrorism. Where it legitimises further violence, it plays right into the hands of the terrorists. In its work to prevent violent extremism, Switzerland is committed to protecting human rights and international humanitarian law, to the rule of law and democracy, to dialogue between all of those concerned, and to creating economic and political prospects for all.

Capital punishment contradicts Switzerland's fundamental values. Its abolition worldwide by 2025 is one of the Swiss government's foreign policy priorities. Switzerland will work towards this target as part of its broader commitment to human rights, peace and security.

Further information:

Switzerland's commitment to a world without capital punishment
Speech by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (The Death Penalty and Victims event)

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs