A resolution for a global moratorium on executions was passed on Nov. 15 by the UN General Assembly's Third (Human Rights) Committee by a vote of 99-52, with 33 abstentions.
The General Assembly is expected to endorse the decision in a plenary session in December. Similar resolutions were introduced in 1994 and 1999 but were either narrowly defeated or withdrawn.
The resolutions calls on countries to:
Progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offenses for which it may be imposed;
Establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;
and calls upon States which have abolished the death penalty not to reintroduce it.
United States and European representatives had different reactions to the resolution. "This is a good day for human rights and the European goal of achieving the abolition of the death penalty all over the world," said Commissioner for External Relations of the European Union Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
"Based on this broad coalition we will continue our efforts to reach this objective in the interest of humanity."However, Robert Hagan, the U.S.'s representative in the committee, said, "The United States recognizes that the supporters of this resolution have principled positions on the issue of the death penalty. But nonetheless it is important to recognize that international law does not prohibit capital punishment."(The Guardian, Nov. 16, 2007).
Global Moratorium Resolution
99 States in Favor of Resolution
52 States Against Resolution
- Sponsored by 87 States
The resolution carries considerable moral and political weight, although it is not legally binding on states. 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Only 25 countries actually carried out executions in 2006. In 2006, 91% of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the USA.
Amnesty International's statistics also show an overall decline in the number of executions in 2006 - a recorded 1,591 executions, compared to 2,148 in 2005, though many executions are unrecorded.