As the world marked the international Day against the Death Penalty on Wednesday, seven countries continue to apply the death penalty to the “crime” of homosexuality.

Wednesday was the first time that the Council of Europe commemorated the European Day against the Death Penalty. The Council of Europe (COE) is the only region of the world that is de facto free from the death penalty; all its members have either abolished the death penalty or instituted a moratorium on executions. Belarus (outside the COE) is the only country in Europe that still has the death penalty actively on its books.

While the death penalty is carried out in many other regions of the world, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) has drawn attention this week to the fact that the death penalty is still applied to consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex in seven countries.

These countries are Iran, Mauritania, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Nigeria (where the death penalty applies in 12 Northern provinces with Sharia law).

Philipp Braun, Co-Secretary General of ILGA, noted that, “The value and dignity of every human being is the centre of the universal human rights philosophy. The very existence of the death penalty is in direct contradiction with these principles and completely diminishes the dignity and value of a human being. Sentencing people to death for love or affection towards persons of the same sex is even more barbaric and draconian.”

ILGA called on the United Nations and the European Union to use all their powers and authority to address the matter with the seven countries which sentence people to death for consensual homosexual acts.

In 2003 and 2004, the UN Human Rights Commission voted, as part of its resolution “on the question of the death penalty”, to condemn the death penalty for non-violent acts such as sex between consenting adults.”

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