FDFA strategy 2013-2016 on the universal abolition of the death penalty

Bern, 10.10.2013 - The Federal Council was presented with the strategy of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on the universal abolition of the death penalty during its meeting of 9 October 2013. This action plan targets the global abolition of capital punishment by the year 2025. Some 58 states and territories have still not removed this sentence from their legislation.

Switzerland is opposed to the death sentence in all circumstances. This punishment is incompatible with respect for human rights as it constitutes a violation of the right to life. The majority of states are opposed to capital punishment and the global tendency confirms this trend. The circumstances surrounding the death penalty violate human dignity and the right of every human being not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. In short, capital punishment constitutes the definitive and irreversible negation of all rights.

Often a reflection of discrimination, the death penalty can also strike the innocent. Moreover, it has no more of a dissuasive effect than do other heavy sentences. It does not provide any improvement in security, nor does it serve the cause of justice or provide redress for the families of the victims.

Four subsidiary objectives

The primary goal of the FDFA strategy is the worldwide abolition of the death penalty by the year 2025. To this end, it envisages four subsidiary objectives adapted to a variety of concrete situations that currently exist in the world. First, the states and territories that still apply capital punishment are encouraged to establish a moratorium de jure – or as an initial step de facto – with a view to complete abolition. Second, Switzerland intends to undertake initiatives for retentionist states and territories to reduce to a minimum the number of offences punishable by the death sentence or, in a general manner, the number of death sentences pronounced. Third, Switzerland will encourage these countries to respect the minimum norms with respect to human rights in applying the death penalty. Finally, the strategy seeks to strengthen the existing regulatory framework by working at the multilateral level to encourage the states to ratify the relevant international instruments applicable.

To reach these objectives, Switzerland plans to step up its involvement at the multilateral level (UN General Assembly, Human Rights Council, OSCE, and Council of Europe). It also intends to enhance its bilateral action by establishing a policy for launching diplomatic initiatives related to the death penalty on a more regular basis. Finally, it plans to step up its efforts to support civil society in its campaign to raise public awareness through specific projects, and to capitalise to the maximum on the potential synergies existing between the different stakeholders engaged in the fight for abolition, i.e., NGOs, parliamentary networks, and other intergovernmental partners such as the International Commission against the Death Penalty, whose Secretariat is in Geneva and whose members include former Federal Councillor Ruth Dreifuss.

Joint appeal

The publication of this strategy 2013-2016 coincides with the 11th World Day against the Death Penalty, celebrated on 10 October 2013. As in 2012, Switzerland and its five neighbouring countries met once again this year to formulate a joint appeal published in several newspapers in Switzerland and abroad. This year’s appeal differs from that launched last year in that it brings together 42 co-signatory ministers of foreign affairs representing states members of the Council of Europe that have ratified Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the Protocol concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances. In the future, Switzerland intends to continue and enlarge the geographic scope of these 10 October joint appeals so as to involve even more countries and individuals in the campaign against the death penalty until it has been fully abolished all over the world.

Address for enquiries

Information FDFA
+41 (0)31 322 31 53


The Federal Council

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs