October 10: UN vote on death penalty

. “October 10 is to be observed as the ‘World Day against the Death Penalty’. UN members will vote on a text declaring a global moratorium on death penalty, the most inhuman punishment civilised society can levy. ”

 Excerpts courtesy of meri news (India):

THE COUNTDOWN has begun – on October 10, abolitionists worldwide will answer the World Coalition’s call and take action to accelerate the decline of death penalty. This year, the ‘World Day against the Death Penalty’ will coincide with the UN General Assembly’s schedule. Following a proposal from the European Union, delegates from the United Nations’ 192-member States will vote on a text declaring a global moratorium on death penalty. This would constitute the first step towards the definitive outlawing of capital punishment…..

….Human rights organizations like Amnesty International express their unconditional opposition to death penalty as a violation of the right to life and the right to be not subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In fact, the death penalty has never been shown to be a more effective deterrent than other, more humane forms of punishment.

The World Coalition against the Death Penalty (WCADP), of which organizations like Amnesty International are members, is organizing a day of local action around the world on October 10, celebrated as the World Day against the Death Penalty. The objective is to make a concerted push for its abolition worldwide by mobilising popular support. Support is to be mobilised by encouraging public discussion and strengthening public opposition to death penalty, besides brining pressure to bear upon retentionist countries to stop executions and abolish the death penalty. The death penalty is not an abstract or theoretical issue. The decision to apply it means that living men and women must be singled out and put to death. It is the reality of its use around the world…the use of the death penalty against child offenders, the discrimination inherent in who is selected for execution, the ever-present risk of the execution of the innocent, or of those suffering from mental illness and the use of unfair trials in the administration of capital punishment that add to the unacceptable face of State killing. Although often justified as being a deterrent, studies have shown that death penalty does not provide the unique protection of benefit to society. When such punishment is applied to systems which are subjected to human error and prejudice, the result is that justice will not be served but perverted.

The World Day 2007 marks the launch of a World Coalition, an international effort to support the proposed resolution at UN and get as many countries as possible to vote for it. The World Coalition is calling upon all its members to get in touch with national governments to discuss their position. Over two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished death penalty in law or practice. According to Amnesty International’s latest information, 90 countries have abolished death penalty for all crimes; 10 countries have abolished for all but exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes and 30 countries can be considered abolitionist in practice, as they retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any execution in the past 10 years. While 130 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, 69 countries retain and use the death penalty. But the number of countries which actually executes prisoners in any one year is much smaller. Since 1990, more than 50 countries have abolished capital punishment for all crimes. International human rights treaties prohibit anyone less than 18 years of age at the time of commission of the crime from being sentenced to death. However 8 countries since 1990 are known to have executed prisoners who were under 18 years at the time of commission of the crime. They are China, Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen.

Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Moreover, it is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. As long as death penalty is maintained, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated. Like torture, execution constitutes an extreme physical and mental assault on an individual.

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