A Document for the History of Europe

The symbolic European value

In the European background, the referred document is one of the first examples[1] of the everlasting inclusion of a law about the abolition of the death penalty for civil crimes in a big national legal system.

The panel of experts of the EHL considered that a strong European symbolic value results from:

  • the embodiment of the fundamentals, consolidated in legal regulation, diffused throughout Europe by the end of the 18th century, with the rationalist humanism, and the 19th century;
  • the fact that the discussion about the death penalty is far from ending, which is translated by the growing pressure of the European community amongst some States that still rely on this type of criminal justice,
  • the fact that some of the principles and ideas spread out by the abolitionist movement are still comprised in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU).

The difference between the referential status of this document when compared to initiatives of similar nature in the 18th and 19th-century Europe is that, among the big national European legal systems, the Portuguese one is the one that stayed faithful to the abolition of the death penalty the longest. In fact, Portugal even extended the abolition to the other territories in its colonial empire (Decree of 9th of June 1870).