Portugal marks human rights milestone

This weekend, Portugal marks the 150th anniversary since the nation pioneered the abolition of the death penalty. Several initiatives will be held across the country this weekend as Portugal celebrates becoming the first sovereign nation in Europe to cease capital punishment and also one of the first in the world to do so.
Portugal marks human rights milestone

The death penalty suffered its first reform in Portugal in 1852 when it was abolished for political crimes. This was followed in 1867 when civil crimes were no longer subject to capital punishment.

This Saturday, 1 July, marks the 150th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Portugal, with many towns and cities staging commemorative events.
Lisbon will be unveiling a tombstone which evokes the final execution in the capital back in 1842.

Lagos will also be staging a special session, as the Algarve city was the final venue for a civilian to be sentenced to death.

Portugal has long been a front-runner in its calls for the abolition of the death penalty. Earlier this year, it used an opportunity to address the United Nations to call on countries that still have the death penalty to implement a ‘de facto’ moratorium as a first step towards “total abolition” of the death penalty.

According to the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Augusto Santos Silva, Portugal rejects all the reasons and arguments that attempt to justify the application of the death penalty.
He added that the country calls on all countries that still execute its citizens to establish a moratorium as a first step towards a world without the death penalty.

He stressed the importance that Portugal gives to the “evolution of the death penalty” as the country was a front-runner in abolishing it “precisely 150 years ago.”

At a conference to debate the death penalty earlier this month, Justice Minister Francisco Van Dunem lamented that executions still take place in 23 countries 150 years after Portugal led the way in abolishing capital punishment.

“The death penalty is a cruelty and the non-violation of human life is a value that should be preserved. Human rights are universal rights. Portugal has done justice to its humanist past by consistently stating its position against the death penalty on the international stage”, the Justice Minister said.

According to Amnesty International, just over a thousand people were executed across the globe in 2016.

The organisation has been extremely vocal in supporting nations such as Portugal in its calls to eliminate the death penalty, arguing that since 1973, a total of 150 prisoners in the United States who were sent to death row were later exonerated.