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VUB Joins Universities Against the Death Penalty Network

Vrije Universiteit Brussel recently joined the Universities Against the Death Penalty Network. By doing so, VUB acknowledges the contradictions between its humanist values and the absolute and irreversible consequences of capital punishment.

Membership of the Universities Against the Death Penalty Network implies the conscientious application of member universities’ moral and intellectual weight and voice. It is a statement of support for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. Network members lend their name to the struggle.

Additionally, member universities will receive information on possible ways of working against the death penalty in an educational and research context and on initiatives taken by other universities, faculties, and institutes.

The struggle against the death penalty

The number of countries that have abolished the death penalty has risen from 21 in 1970 to 101 as of July 2015. Only seven countries executed ten or more citizens each year during the past decade: China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Yemen, and the USA.

There is significant activity against the death penalty on the political level – through the UN, bilateral dialogues, and national and international NGOs. We believe, however, that this struggle should be strengthened and complemented by struggles on other levels. Universities have a role to play and a responsibility to take.

Taking research seriously

Furthermore, it are exactly these universities that produce the research that overwhelmingly shows there exist no scientific grounds to believe that a codified death penalty has greater effects on, for example, homicide rates than long-term prison sentences. What research has shown, however, is the broad range of collateral damages caused by the institutionalisation of capital punishment.

The results of these various research tracks should be taken seriously. By the universities that produced them, first and foremost.

Protecting academic freedom

In many of the countries that still practice the death penalty, this policy is not open to criticism. In fact, fighting against the death penalty can itself be judged worthy of the death penalty. The struggle against the death penalty is therefore also important for the realisation of academic freedoms and the free speech they entail.