UN vote shows growing support of death penalty ban
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press, 21 Nov 08
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee voted Thursday for the second year in a row to urge a global moratorium on the death penalty.
The United States sided with countries such as Iran, China and Syria in opposing the resolution.
The 105-48 vote marked a slight change from the 104-54 vote in the full General Assembly last December. About 30 nations abstained.
Supporters of the ban argue there's no conclusive evidence that the death penalty serves as a meaningful deterrent to crime and the risk of injustice is too high. Nations opposing the ban say the death penalty is effective in discouraging most serious crimes and remains legal under international law.
The vote in the human rights committee, though it includes all U.N. members, is not the final vote. Next month, the General Assembly will hold a final vote on the measure and the committee's vote is almost certain to be closely replicated there.
Though not legally binding, the voting does carry moral weight coming from the 192-nation world body that serves as a unique forum for debate and barometer of international opinion.
Amnesty International, which has been campaigning for the resolution, noted rising acceptance of a moratorium. In the 1990s, it was voted on twice in the General Assembly and failed.
On Thursday, the committee vote picked up one more nation than last year and six fewer opponents.
As of November, some 137 nations had abolished the death penalty in law or practice, compared with about 80 in 1988, according to Amnesty International figures.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been encouraged by the trend in many areas of the world toward ultimately abolishing the death penalty, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.
Last year there were at least 1,252 people put to death by 24 nations and 3,347 others sentenced to death in 51 countries, according to Amnesty International.
Terlingen (Yvonne Terlingen heads Amnesty International's United Nations office in New York) urged nations such as Japan that increased the rate of executions in the past year to "take immediate steps to implement the resolution."
The resolution has been spearheaded by Italy and supported by the Vatican, a leading opponent of capital punishment. Also leading the campaign has been the European Union, which requires its 27 members to outlaw capital punishment.
Countries renew commitment to ending death penalty worldwide
DPA, 21 Nov 08
In a step to renewing the United Nation's moratorium on the death penalty, a UN panel Thursday voted 105-48 to once again submit a resolution to the General Assembly, dpa reported.
Last year, the General Assembly for the first time ever voted to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, acting on an initiative in the human rights committee that was headed by Italy.
The vote appears headed to becoming an annual event as Italy and other opponents of the death penalty try to increase the margin of passage and convince holdouts like the United States and Arab and Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Yemen, Pakistan and Egypt.
Asian countries voting against the moratorium included China, Japan, North Korea and Singapore.
In Thursday's vote in the human rights committee, the US was one of 48 countries voting against the measure. The moratorium passed the committee with 105 votes this year, better than last year's committee vote of 99-52.
The outcome was greeted by Italy's UN Ambassador Guilio Terzi, who said the vote confirmed the global trend toward the abolition of the death penalty.
"This year's increase in the number of votes cast in favour of the resolution reaching the unprecendented figure of 105 shows the growing support among the membership on an issue to which Italy and its European partners attach a great deal of importance," Terzi said.
The resolution adopted by the human rights committee, known also as the Third Committee, welcomed the increasing number of countries that decided "to apply the moratorium on executions and the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty."
The moratorium resolution will be sent to the 192-nation assembly for a final vote. In December 2007, the Assembly backed the moratorium in a 104-54 vote.
The moratorium has received strong support from the EU and many human rights groups, which gathered a petition with some 5 million signatures that was handed over to the president of the UN General Assembly in October.
According to Amnesty International, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty or stopped carrying out executions, and only 64 countries and territories use the death penalty.
During 2007, 24 countries executed 1,252 people compared to 1,591 in 2006.
UN reinforces call to end executions
Amnesty International, 20 Nov 08
A record number of countries have given their support to the campaign to end capital punishment.
On Thursday, a large majority of states from all regions adopted a second United Nations resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
Amnesty International has welcomed the breakthrough for the resolution, which was adopted in the UN General Assembly (Third Committee). The number of co-sponsors has risen to 89, two more than last year.
The increased support for this resolution is yet further evidence of the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.
105 countries voted in favour of the draft resolution, 48 voted against and 31 abstained. A range of amendments proposed by a small minority of pro-death penalty countries were overwhelmingly defeated.
“We urge all states that still carry out executions to take immediate steps to implement the resolution and establish a moratorium on executions," says Amnesty International's Yvonne Terlingen,
137 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, as of November 2008. During 2007, at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries. At least 3,347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries.
The decrease in countries carrying out executions is dramatic. In 1989, executions were carried out in 100 states. In 2007, Amnesty International recorded executions in 24 countries.
The draft resolution adopted on Thursday by the Third Committee of the General Assembly has still to be adopted by the General Assembly sitting in plenary in December.
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