25 February 2013

Africa: UN Chief Reaffirms Call for Moratorium On Death Penalty

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated his call for a global moratorium on applying the death penalty, stressing the United Nations' long history of opposing the practice and the growing momentum among the international community to permanently end it.

"A global moratorium is a crucial stepping stone towards full worldwide abolition," Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang.

"Capital punishment is inconsistent with the mission of the United Nations to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person," Ms. Kang read, during an event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva organized by the International Commission against the Death Penalty, an independent body opposed to capital punishment.

The UN General Assembly first voted on a moratorium in 2007, and again in December 2012 with the support of 111 countries, 41 against and 34 abstentions. The resolution called for a progressive restriction on the use of capital punishment and eliminating it entirely for felons below the age of 18 and pregnant women.

Although not legally binding, the UN moratorium on executions carries moral and political weight.

"The United Nations system has long advocated the abolition of the death penalty. International and hybrid tribunals supported by the UN do not provide for capital punishment, nor does the International Criminal Court," Mr. Ban's message noted.

Approximately150 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it, but Mr. Ban noted that some recently reinstated the practice.

Thousands of people are executed each year, "often in violation of international standards, such as the right to fair trial and due process," Mr. Ban said.

He added that the death penalty is still used for a wide range of crimes that do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" and based on information that is not transparent.

In addition, sometimes "wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice" can occur in well-functioning legal systems that sentence and execute persons who have been ultimately proven innocent, Mr. Ban said.

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