ROME, MAY 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Togo will soon be the latest country to abolish the death penalty, its minister of justice affirmed at a congress on capital punishment in Rome.
The announcement was made Monday at the IV International Congress of Justice Ministers on Monday, hosted by the Community Sant’Egidio and attended by ministers, government officials and policy advisers from around the world.
The congress was titled “From the Moratorium to the Abolition of Capital Punishment: No Justice Without Life.”
A press release from the community reported that Kokou Biossey Koné, Togo’s justice minister, affirmed that the West African country’s decision to abolish the death penalty came about due to the friendship that unites his country with Sant’Egidio.
Although Togo proposed the abolishment last December, the legislation is set to pass this week.
Koné said the Sant’Egidio community had been in close contact with the government about this decision for over a few years.
Representatives from 23 countries took part in the congress in Rome, which brought together parties on both sides of the issue of capital punishment.
The community’s president, Marco Impagliazzo, affirmed that this congress shows that the abolition of the death penalty represents a “new moral level” that will be even more difficult to ignore in the international scope.
He noted that these congresses have helped many countries understand the necessary steps in order to move from maintaining capital punishment to abolishing it.
At the beginning of the 20th century only three countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Today, they are 93.
Impagliazzo noted that Europe is the “first continent in the world without the death penalty. Today, no country can join the European Union if the death penalty is not abolished from its legal system.”
In Africa, he said that progress is being made, “where more and more countries are abolishing the death penalty.” He noted the abolishment of capital punishment in Rwanda, Gabon, Burundi and Togo.
The Sant’Egidio president said that the majority of Asian countries maintain the death penalty, as well as most states in the United States.
Impagliazzo added, however, the progress being made in the United States, noting that New Mexico abolished capital punishment in March.
New Jersey abolished the death penalty two years ago, and similar laws are under discussion in Nebraska, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Montana.