Record number of UN member states back call for global end to executions
A record number of countries yesterday threw their weight behind a key UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally, Amnesty International said. 117 of the UN’s 193 member states voted in favour of the resolution at the UNGA plenary session in New York, while 38 voted against and 34 abstained. This was the fifth time a resolution on this issue has been voted on by the UNGA – at the last vote in December 2012, 111 states voted in favour, 41 against and 34 abstained. “The record vote in favour is yet another indication that global support for the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past. This vote sends an important signal that more and more countries are willing to take steps to end the use of the death penalty once and for all,” said Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty Expert at Amnesty International. “The strong cross-regional support evident in today’s vote shows that ending the use of capital punishment is a truly global goal issue. The international community recognizes the death penalty as a human rights issue, and has opened up space for new dialogues on the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.” Since 2007 there have been five resolutions calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty at the UNGA, with support increasing each time. Six more countries supported today’s resolution compared to last time a similar vote took place in 2012. New votes in favour came from Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Niger and Suriname. In a further positive sign, Bahrain, Myanmar, Tonga and Uganda moved from opposition to abstention. Regrettably, Papua New Guinea went from abstention to a vote against the resolution. Although UNGA resolutions are not legally binding, they carry significant moral and political weight. “This result is also a wake-up call for those 38 countries that still voted against the resolution. They are increasingly isolated in their support for this horrendous punishment. The death penalty does not serve any legitimate purpose and is a stain on their human rights records,” said Chiara Sangiorgio. Amnesty International urges all countries that still retain the death penalty to immediately establish a moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences and abolish the death penalty for all crimes. Background When the UN was founded in 1945 only eight of the then 51 UN member states had abolished the death penalty. Today, 95 of the UN’s 193 member states have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and, in total, 137 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The UNGA resolution was first adopted as a draft by the Third Committee of the UNGA on 21 November 2014 with 114 votes in favour, 36 against and 34 abstentions. The adoption of five resolutions since 2007 on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty has generated momentum to renew the commitment to the abolition of the death penalty. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.