Thursday, December 20, 2007

UN Assembly calls for death penalty ban

New York (dpa) - 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

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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