Too absolute, too irreversible

On 3 July 2012, United Nations Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon today called on Member States which use the death penalty to abolish this practice. Mr. Ban spoke at a panel organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on ‘Moving away from the death penalty – Lessons from national experiences’ at UN Headquarters in New York.

“The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process,” Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban lifted up a number of signs of the growing international movement away from the death penalty.

There are now 74 Parties to the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

More than 150 States have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.

In 2011, only 20 Member States conducted executions.

In the United States, Illinois and Connecticut became the 16th and 17th states to reject death as a punishment.

Mr. Ban acknowledged that 32 UN Member States retain the death penalty for drug-related offenses. He voiced his concern that “some countries still allow juvenile offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offence to be sentenced to death and executed.”

But he lifted up international efforts to abolish the death penalty:

  • The United Nations system has long advocated for abolition.
  • The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution “calling for a global moratorium on executions with a view to eventually abolishing the death penalty entirely” in 2007. In the years since, Argentina, Burundi, Gabon, Latvia, Togo and Uzbekistan have abolished the death penalty.
  •  International and hybrid criminal tribunals for Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Rwanda and Sierra Leone do not provide for capital punishment.
  • The International Criminal Court does not provide for capital punishment.
  • The Guidance Note of 2008 on the UN Approach to Rule of Law Assistance (by Mr. Ban) stated that “the UN will not establish or directly participate in any tribunal that allows for capital punishment.”

Mr. Ban closed with an appeal that Member States “do our utmost to put a final end to this practice.”

May it be so.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

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