Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Optimism on UN death penalty vote

By Web Editor. Filed under General, News from Italy on November 13th, 2007

Italian campaigner stresses Europe’s key role - The battle against the death penalty could score a significant victory this week, thanks to a global initiative at the United Nations, a leading Italian campaigner said on Monday.

Addressing a press conference in Rome, Mario Marazziti, co-founder of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, said there was widespread, solid support for a resolution against capital punishment. “This is a feeling that embraces all cultures, bringing together many religious and numerous secular representatives,” said Marazziti.

He also stressed that the draft resolution, which calls for a universal moratorium on the death penalty, enjoyed cross-regional support.

Drafted by the 27-member European Union, some have dismissed the initiative as a mainly European affair. But Marazziti, while admitting that Europe had played a “historic role” in the move towards abolishing the death penalty in the past, pointed out this latest drive was supported by 75 countries, from different regions around the globe. The draft resolution will initially be debated and voted on in the UN’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, also called the Third Committee. If it is approved at this stage, the General Assembly will vote on the text in mid-December. All the UN’s 192 member states are represented on the committee, where the pattern of voting is usually an accurate prediction of the General Assembly’s response. The vote in the Third Committee, scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday, “will not be binding but would have great moral value,” said Marazziti, who is also a spokesman for the Rome-based Catholic organization, the Sant’Egidio Community.

However, the outcome of the vote is still uncertain, with a number of states still undecided and many others remaining firmly opposed to the resolution. The latter group mainly includes members of the Organization of Islamic Countries, the League of Arab States, China and several Caribbean and Asian countries. Marazziti visited the UN complex in New York last week, where he presented the president of the UN General Assembly Srgjan Kerim with a petition supporting the moratorium. The list contained over five million signatures, collected in 152 countries around the world since 1998. Marazziti also presented Kerim with four video statements by figures opposed to the death penalty: the head of the Church of England Rowan Williams, the Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, the Muslim theologian Siti Musdah Muliva, and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace.

In his comment, the cardinal said: “You cannot punish one crime with another crime, and the death penalty is murder”. According to the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International, 130 of 192 member states have already abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Furthermore, only 25 countries carried out executions in 2006, while over 50 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes since 1990.

The UN General Assembly has adopted two past resolutions on capital punishment, both of which strongly pushed for by Italy. These resolutions, approved in 1971 and 1977, said it was “desirable” that the death penalty be abolished in all countries.

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