Death penalty: record number of countries call for moratorium


NEW YORK, DECEMBER 17 – A record number of countries today supported a key UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. 121 of the UN’s 193 member states voted in favour of the seventh resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the UNGA plenary session in New York, while 35 voted against and 32 abstained. 117 had done so in December 2016. This resolution was proposed by Brazil on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of member states and co-sponsored by 83 states.

For the first time, Dominica, Libya, Malaysia and Pakistan changed their vote to support the resolution, while Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and South Sudan moved from opposition to abstention. Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Mauritius, Niger, and Rwanda once again voted in favour of the call for a moratorium on executions, having not done so in 2016.

When the UN was founded in 1945 only eight of the then 51 UN member states had abolished the death penalty. Today, 103 of 193 member states have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and 139 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In 2017 executions were reported in 22 UN member states, 11% of the total. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.

The resolution on the moratorium was introduced for the first time in 2007 by the European Union. Italy was one off the main co-sponsors. Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Expert Chiara Sangiorgio said that fact that more countries than ever before have voted to end executions shows that global abolition of the death penalty is becoming an inevitable reality: “A death penalty-free world is closer than ever”.

Today Pope Francis criticized the death penalty as “an inhumane form of punishment that ignores the primacy of mercy in the name of justice”. Meeting a delegation from the International Commission against the Death Penalty Dec. 17, the pope set aside his prepared remarks and spoke off the cuff, the Vatican said.

The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Enzo Moavero Milanesi said that “today’s vote at the UN confirms a deep Italian conviction: it is possible to work so that there is no longer a place in the world for the the use of the death penalty, both as a supreme sanction and as an alleged deterrent”. Milanesi added that “the message of the International Community is very important, because it reiterates the will of proceed in this direction even in an era of strong tensions and violence”. (@OnuItalia)