At a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of France’s abolition of the death penalty, French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) announced an initiative to advance worldwide abolition of capital punishment. The announcement also coincided with World Day Against the Death Penalty, which is observed annually on October 10.

In January 2022, France will assume the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Macron said, “As part of the French presidency of the European Union, we will organize … a meeting in Paris at the highest level, bringing together civil societies from countries that still apply the death penalty … in order to convince their leaders of the importance and urgency of abolishing it.” Macron spoke of France’s role as a leader in ending the death penalty, saying that, in 1981, it became the 35th nation to abolish capital punishment. Today, he said, “106 states have so far taken this path, while 50 others have a de jure or de facto moratorium on executions.”

Macron lamented that at least 483 executions were carried out worldwide in 2020, describing them as, “483 state killings carried out by 33 regimes that mostly share a taste for despotism, a rejection of the universality of human rights.” Noting that the 483 executions were “almost certainly an underestimate,” he also announced efforts to pass a United Nations resolution requiring countries to report the number of death sentences and executions. Amnesty International reports on death sentences and executions each year, but notes that China, North Korea, and Vietnam consider executions and death sentences to be state secrets and do not release information on their use of the death penalty. China alone is estimated to execute over 1,000 people per year.

Macron spoke alongside Robert Badinter, who served as justice minister in the administration of President François Mitterrand and led the successful effort to end capital punishment in France. Badinter said, “I want to share with you my absolute conviction that the death penalty must disappear from the entire world as it is a shame for humanity. The death penalty does not protect society, it dishonours it.”