The death penalty has almost disappeared, with 160 countries which have formally abolished it or have stopped carrying it out. Nevertheless, the 38 countries where the death penalty is still carried out to varying degrees and with varying frequency include a democratic country that is often one of Switzerland's partners specifically in the field of human rights: the United States. It is therefore perfectly natural for Switzerland to seek to engage in dialogue with the United States about this issue. While the death penalty is an issue with which every country must grapple on its own, it is also addressed in international discussions, for example in efforts to find the best ways to prevent terrorism, crime and illegal trafficking, including in the fight against drug trafficking. The fact is that a majority of countries and the majority of experts on the issue, including most criminologists, think that at best the death penalty creates the illusion of tackling the most horrendous crimes; in reality, however, the death penalty has no proven preventative or deterrent effect. On the other hand, once the death penalty is carried out, it is irreversible, and in every country where it still exists, it allows the execution of innocent, vulnerable and undesirable persons. Switzerland therefore believes that the death penalty is not only a punishment that is outmoded but also one that is contrary to the logic of a justice system that aspires to afford every citizen the most fair and equal treatment under the law. Switzerland did not reach this conclusion hastily: here too there were many discussions and debates before the death penalty was abolished, first for ordinary crimes (in 1942) and later for crimes under military law (in 1992). Switzerland's efforts to abolish the death penalty around the world are founded on respect and understanding: each society must debate the death penalty for itself, and how long this debate takes depends on the country and the context.
This exhibition, which aims to contribute to the American and the global debates on the death penalty, is first and foremost an invitation for more dialogue, in whatever form and wherever possible. The form chosen here may seem somewhat incongruous given the seriousness of the issue, but the discussions it stimulates are anything but.
Exposition in Geneva (fr)
Exposition in Morges (fr)
Switzerland's commitment on the universal abolition of the death penalty
Windows on Death Row
Death Penalty Information Center
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