Maybe not everybody knows that on November 30th every year a very important day is celebrated worldwide in order to recognize the right to life and the abolition of the death penalty. To understand better why this celebration takes place in many cities of the world, it is fundamental recall some milestones of our history.
In 1764 one of the greatest Italian Enlightenment writers, Cesare Beccaria, wrote the first full masterpiece on criminal law and penalty called On Crime and Punishment. His work was so notable that it was translated in 22 languages in order to widespread its relevant contents. In it, Beccaria put forth some of the first modern arguments against death penalty. Moreover the book was the first full-scale work to tackle criminal reform and to suggest that criminal justice should comply with rational principles. For that reason Beccaria quoted a significant sentence by Montesquieu, which stated: “every punishment which does not arise from absolute necessity is tyrannical”. Beccaria also argued against torture, believing it was cruel and unnecessary to treat another human being in such a way. As a consequence to the publication of that book, in Italy a pre-unitarian state, the Grand Durchy of Tuscany, was the first to abolish death penalty. Indeed, on 30 November 1786, under the reign of Leopold II, Tuscany was the first civil state in Europe and in the world to ban torture and capital punishment.
In 2002, in memory of this anniversary, the Community of Sant’Egidio started to promote worldwide the initiative Cities for life day with the support of the main international human rights organizations, gathered in the World Coalition Against Death Penalty (i.e. Amnesty International, Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort, International Penal Reform, FIACAT). About 80 cities participated in the first edition in 2002. More than 1,850 cities were listed to participate in 2014 in more than 90 countries on the five continents, including the countries still adopting death penalty. On November 30, the participating cities will illuminate a symbolic monument, such as the Colosseum in Rome, and will organize educational and artistic outdoor events in order to raise public awareness on the right to life. Therefore, the International Day of Cities for Life represents the biggest modern global mobilization in favour of a higher level and more civil form of justice capable to turn down capital punishment once and for all.