The World Congresses Against the Death Penalty: for 18 years they have been an unmissable event for abolitionists around the world!

Initiated and organised by ECPM in 2001, the triennial World Congresses Against the Death Penalty represent a key moment in the global abolitionist campaign. 18 years after the 1st World Congress in Strasbourg, an ever greater number of abolitionists from across the world will meet in Brussels in February 2019.

The World Congresses pursue broad goals: to strengthen local actors, develop joint strategies, encourage States to make concrete commitments and mobilise public opinion. They assess any progress made and difficulties encountered along the road to universal abolition. They also aim to bring together abolition actors who are able to make an effective contribution to removing the death penalty from judicial and legislative arsenals locally, regionally and internationally.

Each Congress is a unique opportunity to bring together NGO activists, lawyers defending prisoners sentenced to death, political or diplomatic leaders, parliamentarians, former death row prisoners and families of victims to share their analysis, identify triggers for action and integrate them.


7 World Congresses: 7 Key Moments

In 2001 in Strasbourg the United States was at the centre of the 1st World Congress Against the Death Penalty. While claiming to be a world leader in the defence of human rights, it actually executed more people than almost any other country in the world.

In 2004 Montreal hosted the 2nd World Congress. 64 countries came together to consider the development of regional approaches and the challenges facing penal policy.

In 2007 in Paris 1,000 people and 150 speakers took part in the 3rd Congress which was supported by the European Union, Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama. This third Congress focused on China.

In 2010 in Geneva more than 1,300 Congress participants came together to consider development of relations between civil society and intergovernmental organisations at the Palace of Nations, the UN’s European headquarters.

In 2013 in Madrid for the first time the 5th World Congress was preceded by a Regional Congress in Rabat, Morocco, where debates focused on goals specific to the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region).

In 2016 in Oslo 1,500 people from 120 countries came together. The Congress focused on Asia and the work of lawyers, a subject prepared at the Regional Congress held in Malaysia in 2015.

In 2019 in Brussels the 7th World Congress will be a key moment for universal abolition! We invite abolitionists from across the world to come together in Belgium from 26 February to 1 March 2019. In May 2018 the Regional Congress was held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, which means that particular focus will be placed on Africa at this next World Congress.

Regional perspective

Although bringing abolitionist countries together is a crucial task, it is still essential to be present in those areas where the death penalty continues to strike. ECPM has therefore organised Regional Congresses since 2012, one before every World Congress, to focus attention on a particular area of the globe: first Morocco in 2012 for the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), then Malaysia in 2015 for Asia. This time, the Regional Congress was held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in April 2018. Seen as the next abolitionist continent, Africa will therefore be at the heart of discussions and debates at the 7th World Congress.

Concrete impact

The World and Regional Congresses have helped develop the international abolitionist movement, give structure to international advocacy campaigns and raise citizens’ awareness through wide media coverage.

Their goals are developed and intensified on each occasion, helping to increase efficiency and observe a real impact on the global abolitionist trend.

In particular, thanks to the Congresses:

  • Universal abolition of the death penalty has been put on the UN agenda;
  • Discussions about ratification of the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (OP2), as well as preparation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), have been revived;
  • States have been able to express their political desire to make progress in this area;
  • National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) have been mobilised.

This 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty awaits you in every greater numbers and with even more motivation!
This XXL Congress expects higher attendance, a bigger political impact and more demanding qualitative requirements than ever before. This really will be the world’s largest abolitionist event!