Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey has called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, saying it was one of Switzerland's human rights priorities.
Calmy-Rey made the appeal in a message to mark Wednesday's World Day Against The Death Penalty. This year also sees the first such European day.
"Capital punishment is not justifiable because its deterrent effect is not proved. It is also inhuman because a juridical error can never be completely ruled out, " she said.
Calmy-Rey, who is also Swiss foreign minister, added that by carrying out capital punishment, the state risked becoming a murderer.
"For these reasons the death penalty should be abolished. The right to life is a universal value, a right that should be protected by all governments."
She also asked how a state could remain credible as a guarantor of human security if it had the right to decide between life and death.
List of priorities
"The fight against the death penalty is one of our human rights priorities," she added.
Switzerland actively takes part in debate against the death penalty in international organisations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It also supports non-governmental organisations that are campaigning against it.
Many NGOs, which have formed a coalition, launched an appeal on Wednesday calling on all governments to support a moratorium on the death penalty.
More than five million people worldwide have signed a petition demanding the moratorium, according to the World Coalition Against The Death Penalty, which is based in France.
The UN General Assembly is set to vote on such a moratorium later this month.
The Coalition includes more than 60 organisations, including Amnesty International, the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture and Lifespark, the Swiss-based organisation that arranges penpals for people on death row.
Last year at least 1,591 executions were counted in 25 countries. Nine out of ten took place in six countries – China, the United States, Iran, Irak, Pakistan and Sudan.
A total of 3,861 people were condemned to death in 55 countries in 2006.
However, organisers of the day say there is a "real dynamic in favour of the abolition of the death penalty."
At the UN, 133 of its members have abolished it by law or in practice. The death penalty is not carried out in Europe, with the exception of Belarus.
The Coalition notes that executions took place in only six African countries last year.
The United States is the only country on the American continent to have carried out executions since 2003. However, there has been a slowdown in their number, with 53 carried out in 2006, the lowest in ten years.
In Asia, the Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006, while in China the number declined somewhat, the organisers of the day said.
swissinfo with agencies
World Coalition Against The Death Penalty
Wednesday marks the fifth International Day Against The Death Penalty and the first European Day Against The Death Penalty. In 2003 the Coalition established October 10 as World Day Against the Death Penalty.
The Coalition, which was founded in Rome in May 2002, has more than 60 member organisations.
They have diverse backgrounds - NGOs, bar associations, local authorities and trade unions.
The Coalition brings together abolitionist organisations committed to working together in line with a common charter.
It is financed by contributions from its members and the European Union.