This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at

EU must condemn the death penalty, always and everywhere

On the day that Egyptian ex-President Morsi was condemned to death, Human Rights Watch revealed that since 1 January 2015, Saudi Arabia has executed 100 people, in comparison to 'only' 88 in 2014. Worrying developments in countries that some like to see as key strategic partners. While the High Representative, Federica Mogherini joined others in condemning the sentencing of Morsi, the criticism of Saudi Arabia has been a lot more limited. The silence has also been clear when it concerns other countries, like Iran (more than 700 executions in 2014), China (more executions than the rest of the world put together in 2014) and the United States (35 executions in 2014). The abolition of the death penalty is one of the Copenhagen criteria. No EU member state has the death penalty (though Hungary's Orbán has flirted with its reintroduction, receiving hard criticism). The EU also demands from accession countries that they abolish the death penalty. When Turkey threatened to lift its moratorium, the response from the European Union was strong, and rightly so. As a community of values, the EU should enforce human rights and fundamental freedoms across the world. The right to life is the most basic of human rights. The EU cannot be seen to be using different yardstick for different countries. Even though the negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran are crucial, it should not be a reason not to address human rights violations in the country. On the contrary, the close contact should be used to also address this issue, especially since it is closely related to the problem of drug-trafficking which is another topic the EU and Iran could address together. The fact that suspects risk facing the death penalty hinders cooperation in this case. The importance of oil and energy or of trade and investment ties must not be a reason not to engage with Saudi Arabia or China. And while the rate of executions in the United States has been declining, and several states have abolished it, others have chosen to reinstate the firing squad, out of fear that pharmaceutical products that are used in death penalty cases are more difficult to obtain. The credibility of the US as a global player, condemning the death penalty in other places, would increase and as such the US would become a stronger EU partner. It is not only the death penalty we need to be concerned about. Together with 115 fifteen colleagues, I sent a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia to demand the release and pardon of blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for allegedly ´insulting Islam´. Badawi is sadly only one of many who are sentenced to these kinds of punishments across the globe. With the rise of ISIS, we see an increase in similarly barbaric sentencing. Advocacy and dialogue are an important tool in the EU's foreign policy toolbox to work against the death penalty and capital punishment. However, we also use export control policy. In the Parliament we are currently working on the review of a regulation which controls and prohibits the export of goods which can be used for the death penalty, capital punishment and torture. This includes for example gruesome tools like guillotines or electric chairs, but also the medicines which are used for executions in the US. We have seen that this has already led to executions being postponed and recently Nebraska joined the list of American states that have abolished the death penalty. Sadly and worryingly, other states have reverted to more old-fashioned and barbaric forms of executions, such as the firing squad and electric chairs. The death penalty remains a crucial issue that the EU must address in its foreign policy, combining the different instruments and possibilities we have available. The death penalty is never just and it is never proportionate. The EU must condemn it, always and everywhere. Death_Penalty_World_Map.svg A world map showing countries according to their federal law regarding death penalty. Please refer to the description. By Eduardo Sellan III (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.