“Let’s rekindle the abolitionist flame!”: The 8th World Congress against the death penalty is only one year from now!

23 November 2021

The countdown is on! In one year's time, from November 15th to 18th, 2022, the 8th edition of the World Congress against the Death Penalty will be held in Berlin. Ramla Liatouji, the coordinator of this large-scale event, lifts the veil on the first major issues that will be explored in the German capital.

After a career in corporate events, Ramla Liatouji has put her expertise at the service of committed causes and, in particular, the universal abolition of the death penalty. A first congress in Oslo as head of logistical production took her up into the coordination of the African Congress against the death penalty in Abidjan in 2018, followed by the 7th World Congress in Brussels in 2019. Today, she looks back on her experience and her ambitions for the 8th World Congress planned in Berlin in November 2022.

Ramla Liatouji, you were in charge of the logistical production at the 6th World Congress in Oslo, and the coordinator of the 7th World Congress against the Death Penalty in Brussels; how did things evolve from one congress to the other?

My first collaboration with ECPM was a revelation as I understood that there was a lot to do regarding the cohesion of the different audiences, and this, on an international scale. That's how the adventure with ECPM started in 2016 with the Oslo congress! I was feeling a little cramped in operational management and was very eager to get involved in program coordination. So in 2018, I came back to ECPM to coordinate the regional congress in Abidjan, where I had a lot of fun working with the ECPM teams and all its partners.

For me, it was interesting to see the concrete results in terms of advocacy leading to abolition, and the Abidjan Congress allowed for a decisive progress in West Africa, notably with the abolition of the death penalty in Chad. The 7th World Congress in Brussels, which followed in 2019, allowed ECPM to establish its legitimacy on a global scale, thanks to the active cooperation of States, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs orchestrated by ECPM. The attendance was important and the political mobilization very successful. Measuring this dimension of progress was a real source of satisfaction for me, and reinforced my decision to stick to my abolitionist commitment.

Little did we know about the difficulties we would have to face in the context of a global health crisis, regarding the organization of the next World congress hosted by Germany. This situation obviously requires much more vigilance and effort to bring together and galvanize the abolitionist community. Our partners in the Global South have suffered a sharp slowdown in their actions in this new and deleterious context for international trade. In my opinion, the challenge in Berlin will be to strengthen the cohesion of the international abolitionist community and to make Berlin 2022 our first major post-Covid event. This work brings together the permanent teams of ECPM and the congress teams, which join the association to be able to co-construct with our partners this event which has become essential for all activists involved in our cause. It is essential to revive this momentum to further the fight for abolition in a world that is punctually disconcerted by a pandemic that further weakens the issue of fundamental rights such as the death penalty.

In July you went to Berlin, the city that will host the next Congress, where are we in the preparations?

Indeed, we had a very productive mission in Berlin around mid-July with Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan (Executive Director of ECPM) and Nicolas Perron (Director of Programs). All three of us were really taken by a venue we targeted to host the 3 days of conferences and meetings, which is very different from what we had known until then.

It is a place that reflects our values, meets the expectations of the general public and truly represent the city of Berlin, which is a cultural city, responsible, at the forefront of current prerogatives in terms of respect for the environment and rights. Likewise, Berlin is in a process of valuing the youth that is recurrent and rising in our congress themes.

The 8th World Congress Against the Death Penalty will therefore take place from 16 to 18 November 2022 at the Radial System-V, with the opening ceremony in the prestigious Pierre Boulez Hall, and the closing ceremony in the Berlin City Hall. I encourage you to come, because it will be really good!

What are your ambitions for the 8th World Congress against the Death Penalty in Berlin?

There are many ambitions: first, we would like to rekindle the abolitionist flame after a period of mistrust. I want to give all the stakeholders the desire to continue with even more vigor and conviction.

Then there is the theme of youth, which will be treated in an unprecedented way for our organization: beyond the mission of education and awareness-raising of ECPM, I wanted to propose an innovative approach. With just over a year to go before the next congress, we are launching the "Abolition Now Tour"! A consultation with young adults to open a new dialogue, in a very inclusive way. The objective is to go to 6 retentionist countries to gather the voices and proposals of young people who will participate in workshops designed to stimulate collective intelligence. The aime is to develop a strategic action plan, to further the abolitionist cause locally.

The 6 countries are Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Indonesia, Lebanon, and the United States. These young people will form abolitionist delegations that will be invited to the Berlin Congress to present their work, talk about their vision, exchange the best practices, and stimulate the senior community... In short, to breathe new life into the community and engage in new strategic approaches in line with our times and our means of interaction (activation of social networks, innovative mobilization techniques, CSR inclusion...). This is a project that is intended to spread to other retentionist regions. 


"I want to give all the stakeholders the desire to continue with even more vigor and conviction"

A look back at the 7th World Congress against the Death Penalty (Brussels, 2019) :

Why is this kind of big meeting still necessary?

I sincerely believe it is still necessary, indeed. What I found very attractive from my first congress in Oslo was to witness the cohesion between the different bodies of society, be it political leaders, economic actors (because the question of "business and human rights" is at the heart of the theme of the Berlin congress) or civil society. We are also always integrating the intersectionality and LGBTQIA+, which involves and increasingly diversified audience.

This desire to reconcile efforts between political, institutional and civil society leaders was for a long time a kind of utopia for me. I didn't see how we could make our ambitions a reality - except through smooth, optimistic, but unrealistic words and speeches.  By living the congresses from the inside, I saw that this participative approach, of listening and mutual work between the authorities and the various publics, all generations and corporations overall, on an international scale, was possible and of an undeniable necessity.

We are still in the early stages of this trend to include all stakeholders in order to move forward faster, further, and in a concerted manner. Today it is a reality, and ECPM does it every day. It is in this perspective that we are working and inviting as many people as possible to meet us in Berlin.

Reminder: this democratic event is free and open to all those who wish to contribute to a process of societal progress through the protection of fundamental rights, beyond borders and cultures.