Tuesday, 18 December 2007

UN General Assembly adopts death penalty ban

Tue, 18 Dec 2007 17:26:03 GMT

New York - The UN General Assembly on Tuesday voted 104-54 to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, defeating vocal opposition from countries that maintain the practice does not violate human rights. Countries that favour ending the death penalty are a uniformed bloc, arguing the practice "undermines human dignity" and that a moratorium "contributes to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights."

"There is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty's deterrence value and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty's implementation is irreversible and irreparable," the proponents said in the resolution adopted by the 192-nation assembly. There were 29 abstentions.

The resolution submitted by more than 90 countries, including most Europeans nations, voiced concern about the continued use of the death penalty and demanded that the UN "establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."

It called on countries that still apply the death penalty to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the rights of sentenced prisoners and to "progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed."

Countries that opposed the moratorium renewed their criticism before the vote, a replay of the debate last month in the human rights committee of the assembly. Opponents included the block of 13 Caribbean nations and others like Singapore, which accused Europeans of imposing their values on other sovereign nations.

There are 134 countries that have abolished the death penalty.

But countries that continue to use it, like the United States and China, have remained mostly silent during the whole debate.

Despite Washington's official stance on maintaining the death penalty, New Jersey on Monday became the first US state to abolish the sentence in more than 40 years, as Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a measure eliminating it.

New Jersey joined 13 other US states that do not allow executions.

"Today New Jersey evolves," Corzine, a Democrat, said in a statement. "This is a day of progress for us and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder."

Before the final vote in the UN General Assembly Tuesday, the human rights committee voted 99-52, with 33 abstentions, last month to approve the moratorium, and sent the draft to the 192-nation assembly for a final vote.

The issue split the committee into two camps, with the Europeans, led by Italy, on one side against mostly small countries in the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East that said the death penalty is not a human rights issue.

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