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The exclusion of child offenders from the death penalty under general international law

Index Number: ACT 50/004/2003

In October 2002 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held that “a norm of international customary law has emerged prohibiting the execution of offenders under the age of 18 years at the time of their crime” and that “this rule has been recognized as being of a sufficiently indelible nature to now constitute a norm of jus cogens”. This paper examines the evidence supporting the conclusion that the use of the death penalty against child offenders (people convicted of crimes committed under the age of 18) is prohibited under customary international law and as a peremptory norm of general international law (jus cogens). This paper covers significant events concerning the death penalty during the year 2002. Other subjects covered in this paper include significant judicial decisions; important studies; the use of the death penalty against the innocent; reductions in the scope of the death penalty; moratoria and commutations; and moves to restrict appeals in capital cases.

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