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Capital Punishment

Volume 476: debated on Thursday 22 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had on the use of the death penalty with the governments of (a) China, (b) Iran, (c) Saudi Arabia, (d) Pakistan and (e) the USA. (204331)

The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and we are committed to working with all EU partners towards universal abolition.

In China, we welcome the Supreme People’s Court’s central review of death penalty cases since 1 January 2007 which has reportedly led to a reduction in executions, but continue to urge the Chinese government to make public statistics and to reduce the scope of the death penalty. We did this most recently at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue at the end of January. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also raised the death penalty with Chinese Premier Wen during his visit to China in January.

We are deeply concerned by the increasing use of the death penalty in Iran and its continued use for juvenile offenders and we regularly raise this with the Iranian authorities in bilateral meetings and through the EU. Most recently, in a meeting with the Iranian ambassador on 1 April, my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East, called on Iran to limit its use of the death penalty and raised concerns about articles of Iran’s draft penal code which would make apostasy punishable by death. We have supported several EU statements and demarches this year about the general use of the death penalty in Iran and individual death penalty cases.

My hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East raised the issue of the death penalty during his visit to Saudi Arabia in February 2008.

The UK delegation to the UN Human Rights Council raised the issue of the death penalty with Pakistan as part of the Universal Periodic Review that Pakistan underwent on 8 May. The UK delegation urged the Government of Pakistan to review the use of the death penalty, with a view to a moratorium and abolition, in order to implement the UN General Assembly resolution adopted in December 2007 calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The UK, with our EU partners, will continue to lobby the Government of Pakistan against the use of capital punishment.

Our officials in the US continue to monitor the use of the death penalty in the US and make representations bilaterally or with EU partners on specific cases where the circumstances warrant them. The EU last took action in the case of Lynd v. Georgia on 2 May 2008, sending a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles appealing for clemency.