Sunday, 4 November 2007

72 countries push for UN moratorium on death penalty

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 09:07am (Mla time) 11/02/2007

UNITED NATIONS -- More than 70 countries have co-sponsored a draft resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for a moratorium on executions with the ultimate goal of abolishing the practice, a diplomat said Thursday.

Giuseppe Manzo, a counselor at Italy's UN mission, said 72 countries were co-sponsoring the draft which was circulated Thursday in the Assembly's human rights committee.

He said the text, which states that the death penalty "undermines human dignity" and that there is no evidence of its "deterrent value", was expected to be put to a vote before the committee in the second half of this month ahead of a vote by the full 192-member assembly.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by Agence France-Presse, calls on all states which still maintain the death penalty "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."

It also urges them "to restrict its use and reduce the number of offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed" and to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of those facing execution.

Italy, which joined the Security Council in January, then pledged to use its two-year tenure to push for a moratorium resolution.

The 27-member European Union as a whole is also committed to securing adoption of a resolution banning the death penalty.

Two previous attempts to secure adoption of such a resolution in the General Assembly failed in 1994 and 1999.

According to Amnesty International, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, while 64 countries and territories retain and use capital punishment, although the number of countries which actually execute prisoners in any one year is much smaller.

In an open letter to UN member states last month, Irene Khan, secretary general of the London-based human rights group, appealed for support for a global moratorium on executions.

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