Thursday, November 8, 2007

UN to vote on death penalty halt

General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but can send a signal

By Laura Trevelyan
BBC News, New York

A resolution calling for a worldwide suspension of the use of the death penalty has been introduced at the United Nations General Assembly.

Eighty-one of the 192 UN members are backing the resolution, which is expected to be voted on next week.

This resolution calls for countries which still have the death penalty to introduce a moratorium or a suspension, with a view to abolishing the practice.

Opponents of the moratorium are led by Singapore.

One-hundred-and-thirty countries have already banned the death penalty, and only 25 nations carried out executions last year.

'Wrecking amendments'

Franklin Makanga of Gabon said there should be a worldwide pause in the use of capital punishment.

"No country, no legal system, even the most advanced one is immune to miscarriages of justice. There are great risks of executing innocent people which is irreversible and irreparable," he said.

There is considerable opposition to suspending the death penalty from those countries that use it the most, led by Singapore.

The island state argues capital punishment is not about human rights but criminal justice and that is for each country to decide on.

Human rights groups say Singapore may try to introduce what are known are "wrecking amendments", changes to the resolution which would have the effect of making it ineffective.

Although General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, a vote calling for a suspension of the death penalty, backed by a majority of countries, will be a significant statement of changing international opinion.

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