December 19, 2016: The General Assembly of the United Nations confirmed the demand for an end to the death penalty by the vote of a new resolution calling on states to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the practice. This is the sixth pro-moratorium text adopted since 2007.
The new resolution was adopted with 117 votes in favor (as in 2014), 40 no (two more than the 38 of 2014), while the abstainers were 31 (3 less than in 2014) and 5 absent at the time of vote (one more than in 2014).
Although the text contains an amendment, voted in the Third Committee in November on a proposal of Singapore, referring to the prerogatives of States to decide which type of punishment to impose in the face of the most serious crimes, the positive steps in strengthening the text are definitely more relevant.
As for new votes in favor, coming mostly from the African continent and from countries that abstained before, they were those of Guinea, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, as well as that of the Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka. It casted a vote in favor also Nauru, that in 2014 was absent.
Zimbabwe went from a contrary vote to one of abstention.
Sergio D'Elia, Secretary of Hands Off Cain said: "I want to remind that the votes in favor for the first time in Swaziland and Malawi were the result of a mission of Hands Off Cain, with the support of the Italian Foreign Ministry. The mission was aimed exactly to get a favorable vote in the General Assembly, and in 2014 Zimbabwe had been a target country of our mission."
[S]trengthened the front of no Burundi and South Sudan, previously in favor, and the Maldives, previously abstained.
Passed from a vote in favor to a vote of abstention the Philippines, Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea and Niger, while Lesotho, absent in 2014, abstained this year.
Among the absentees are the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal, both abstained in 2014, and Rwanda, formerly in favor.
This year's resolution has been strengthened in the part that requires states to "make available the relevant information about the use of the death penalty" (among other things, disaggregated by sex, age and race data, and also the number of prisoners on death row, and information about scheduled executions).
The General Assembly for the first time recognized the role that national human rights bodies to support local, national and regional debates on the death penalty. The Assembly for the first time highlighted the need for those who risk the death penalty to be treated with humanity and with respect for their dignity, in accordance with the international law on human rights.
"The confirmation of the votes in favor of a universal moratorium on capital punishment is very important in a time when, faced with the emergency of terrorism, there is the danger of abdicating to the principles of law rather than strengthen them. The General Assembly vote shows us that we must continue to work to raise the threshold for the protection of human dignity in compliance with international treaties” said Sergio D'Elia, Secretary of Hands Off Cain.
D’Elia concluded: “The new vote at the Palace of Glass, the sixth at the General Assembly in nine years, demonstrates that the path of dialogue, liberal and anti-prohibitionist, of the moratorium - and not the outright abolition of the death penalty - which since 1993 Hands Off Cain and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty have chosen to propose in all international fora, has proved to be the main way to overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable , and open doors that otherwise be inaccessible”.
Sources: Hands Off Cain, December 19, 2016
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