The New Zealand Law Society has joined lawyers’ organisations around the world in calling for the drafting and adoption of standards to ensure better protection for death row prisoners.
The Law Society’s Board has agreed that the Law Society support a resolution which calls on all lawyer organisations to assist in upholding and advocating for measures such as free and competent legal aid, improved access rights and protective measures for prisoners sentenced to death.
The initiative organised by the Paris Bar, Ordre des Avocats at la Cour de Paris, is a side event to the 7th World Congress against the Death Penalty, in Brussels from 26 February until 1 March.
The resolution recognises that professional associations of lawyers have a vital role to play in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of a moratorium on it. Lawyers are one of the main safeguards for ensuring the effectiveness of the rule of law, and the proper administration of justice; and the role of lawyers, as protectors of prisoners’ human rights, is especially important in the case of death penalty prisoners.
The text of the resolution is as follows:
“Call upon Bars and professional lawyers’ organisations from all countries, both abolitionist and retentionist [of the death penalty] to:
“Uphold respect for the minimum judicial and due process guarantees, without discrimination, for all those facing the death penalty. Such guarantees must include, in particular, the categorical rejection of confessions obtained through torture; access to professional and good quality interpretation at all stages of judicial procedure; and the principle of free and competent legal aid services at all stages of judicial procedure.
“Defend respect for detention and treatment conditions for death row inmates that preserve human dignity and fundamental rights; including particularly by ensuring access to medical and health services from the outset of detention; access to the outside world; effective access to consular protection for foreign prisoners; and to address the use of solitary confinement, which should not be automatically and systematically imposed simply by virtue of the imposition of a death penalty.
“Participate in international advocacy for the drafting and adoption of additional and specific standards that can ensure better protection for death row prisoners across the world, and to obtain recognition, in their favour, of specific guarantees related to the specific particular vulnerabilities of death row inmates.”