Countries renew commitment to ending death penalty worldwide

Other News Materials 21 November 2008 05:26 (UTC +04:00)

In a step to renewing the United Nation's moratorium on the death penalty, a UN panel Thursday voted 105-48 to once again submit a resolution to the General Assembly, dpa reported.

Last year, the General Assembly for the first time ever voted to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, acting on an initiative in the human rights committee that was headed by Italy.

The vote appears headed to becoming an annual event as Italy and other opponents of the death penalty try to increase the margin of passage and convince holdouts like the United States and Arab and Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Yemen, Pakistan and Egypt.

Asian countries voting against the moratorium included China, Japan, North Korea and Singapore.

In Thursday's vote in the human rights committee, the US was one of 48 countries voting against the measure. The moratorium passed the committee with 105 votes this year, better than last year's committee vote of 99-52.

The outcome was greeted by Italy's UN Ambassador Guilio Terzi, who said the vote confirmed the global trend toward the abolition of the death penalty.

"This year's increase in the number of votes cast in favour of the resolution reaching the unprecendented figure of 105 shows the growing support among the membership on an issue to which Italy and its European partners attach a great deal of importance," Terzi said.

The resolution adopted by the human rights committee, known also as the Third Committee, welcomed the increasing number of countries that decided "to apply the moratorium on executions and the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty."

The moratorium resolution will be sent to the 192-nation assembly for a final vote. In December 2007, the Assembly backed the moratorium in a 104-54 vote.

The moratorium has received strong support from the EU and many human rights groups, which gathered a petition with some 5 million signatures that was handed over to the president of the UN General Assembly in October.

According to Amnesty International, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty or stopped carrying out executions, and only 64 countries and territories use the death penalty.

During 2007, 24 countries executed 1,252 people compared to 1,591 in 2006.