In 2014 the number of people sentenced with the death penalty increased by 28 %. According to the UN the penalties were imposed for terrorism and drug charges.
In 2014, there had unfortunately been a 28 % increase in the number of people condemned to death, according to data presented by the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic.
The increase in death sentences, "represents an overall increase in Member States resorting to death penalty to prevent terrorism or drug related offences," the UN official explained.
Simonovic spoke at a press conference in the UN Headquarters in New York, and said that according to the book, Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Arguments, Trends and Perspectives, in 1975, about 97 % of countries were executing criminals, but in 2015, only 27 % of countries resorted to the death penalty. However, the UN official warned that even though there is a drop in the number of documented executions, there is a possibility of several executions being conducted which are not registered or reported accurately.
The UN official stressed that while it is instinctive for some people to stand against death penalty, there is a large group of people who need arguments that can convince them that the practice must end.
Simonovic said that one of the biggest drawbacks of death penalties is the "wrongful conviction" of suspects. He added that advancement in the field of investigation, such as DNA testing, has shown evidence that wrongful convictions do happen "as there is no perfect justice system."
He said that the biggest challenge of death penalty is its finality; as there is no way of rectifying the verdict even after the person is found innocent after execution.
Moreover, Simonovic said that according to several studies, there is no convincing evidence of any deterring effect death penalty has on crimes committed. "However, there is conclusive evidence that there is a correlation between death penalty and discrimination and unequal treatment against vulnerable groups," he added.
The UN official also said that in most cases, people who end up getting executed are poor, belong to vulnerable groups or socially disadvantaged minority groups or have mental disabilities.
Further, he addressed the issue of certain Member States that still sentence people to death for apostasy or homosexuality and questioned the legitimacy of such verdicts.
At the same time, Simonovic said that his Office will hold a joint meeting with the Ministers of Justice of the African Union on 12 November, about "moving away from death penalty."
He said that out of 54 African Union (AU) countries, 18 have abolished death penalty and nearly 19 are de facto not executing, totalling 2/3 of the AU choosing to end death penalty as a verdict. The UN official expressed hope that the rest of the continent could learn from these countries and put an end to death penalty in judicial systems.
Source: neurope.eu, November 5, 2015