Access to counsel : a matter of life or death

5 October 2020

The 18th World Day against the Death Penalty will be held on 10 October 2020. A much-anticipated event for abolitionist organisations around the world, it will be devoted to the right to effective legal representation from the moment of arrest to the end of the judicial process. Various activities will take place during this week; another opportunity to publicly oppose the use of this inhuman, cruel and degrading punishment and to support those fighting for its abolition around the world.


The right to effective legal assistance: enshrined in texts but little applied in practice 

This access to a lawyer in a case where the death penalty is involved makes the difference between life and death. This day will be a time to raise public awareness of this issue and to celebrate the ever-increasing victories of the global abolitionist movement. Today, 142 countries are abolitionist in law or practice, two-thirds of the countries in the world.

"At the trial, there was no one from the coroner's office. At the second session, only the victim's relatives and my father were present. I didn't have a lawyer at the first session. In the second session I had a public defender, but  I don't know whether they paid him or not, whether they talked to him or not. I don't know. I haven't met him anywhere, not even in prison. He just showed up at the second session, talked a little bit, and I had the feeling he was speaking for the judges. He didn't say anything on my behalf. "

Mohammadreza Haddadi,

who was sentenced to death in 2003 at the age of 15  and is still imprisoned in Iran.


October 06, Tuesday

  • Webinar "Death penalty in Moroco : Le droit et la pratique" • 16h-18h (rabat local time) • See the program and speakers  • Inscription needed by Following this link  • Organised by la Coalition marocaine contre la peine de mort, le Conseil national des droits de l’homme, ECPM, le Réseau des parlementaires contre la peine de mort, le Réseau des avocats contre la peine de mort, le Réseau des journalistes contre la peine de mort

October 7, Wednesday


  • Webinar "Access to justice : le rôle de la défense pour les personnes passibles de la peine de mort, des Etats-Unis à l'Afrique : expériences et témoignages" • 17h-19h • Online • Organisé par ECPM, le Barreau de Paris et le Conseil national des Barreaux (CNB)

Open the program →

October 9, Friday


  • Inauguration Ceremony of La Chaise Vide de la Liberté, Sculpture by Wang Keping dedicated to Liu Xiaobo, who died in detention in China on 13 July 2017 • at 14h30 in the Théâtre du Soleil – Cartoucherie – 75012 Paris. Show the invite. • registration required by phone : 01 43 74 87 63



  • Douala (Cameroon) - Conference "Access to a lawyer: a matter of life or death" organised by the association droits et paix in partnership with ECPM

October 10, Saturday


  • Launch of ECPM's interactive map "The Death Penalty in the World" - Online from 10am on


  • Launch of the 5th edition of the international poster competition "Draw me Abolition" as part of ECPM's Educating project, a competition aimed at young people aged 14 to 18 around the world


  • Screening of the film Lindy Lou, juror n°2, followed by a debate moderated by ECPM - Espace Théodore Monod, 76, rue de la Barre, Dieppe • Show the invite


  • Kinshasa (DRC) - Conference "The right to effective legal representation; Respect for the right to a Council for those facing the death penalty in the DRC". - organised by the association Culture for Peace and Justice in partnership with ECPM

While various activities are organised in France, ECPM also supports numerous projects set up by its partners in its countries of action: Morocco, Tunisia, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malaysia.

Tunisia: Film festival organised by the CTCPM at the Cinematheque de Tunis, from 9 to 10 October, as well as an exhibition of drawings at the Cinematheque.
Morocco: Awareness-raising activities on the death penalty implemented by associations supported by ECPM


The right to a lawyer is a fundamental right enshrined at the international level, as it is in most countries. However, retentionist countries are not good examples. In practice, this right is often undermined: lack of time for lawyers to work on the case before the trial, the difficulty is more serious for court-appointed lawyers who have little time to talk to their clients, their remuneration is low...

Vincent Soligbo
Vincent Soligbo

Expert opinion: Vincent Soligbo, defence lawyer during capital crimes in Kaduna.

"I found that a large percentage of inmates in many prisons were actually awaiting trial and the other percentage could not afford a lawyer to appeal their conviction. This usually leads the State to order their execution by hanging without notification. I have found, through contact with several people on death row, that many of them have never had adequate legal representation, either during their trial or after their conviction. This is a constitutional right. Indeed, inadequate representation leads to convictions based solely on confessions obtained under torture. This is a widespread trend. Inadequate legal representation leads to more people on death row."


Vincent Soligbo, defence lawyer in capital crimes in Kaduna. 

Testimony provided by Avocats Sans Frontières France.

Act now

You therefore have a role to play in alerting civil society and the international community to the absolute necessity of having access to legal representation worthy of the name throughout the procedure, in order to avoid arbitral awards.

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