UN votes for death penalty freeze

BBC (18 Dec 07)
21 Dec 07

Public executions are still a fact of life in some countries today

The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, with the ultimate aim of abolishing capital punishment.

It voted 104 in favour and 54 against with 29 abstentions on a resolution which, while non-binding, reflects the view of most member states.

Unusually, the US sided with countries like China and Iran to oppose it.

It calls on countries with the death penalty to respect international standards and establish a moratorium.

The UN’s humanitarian panel approved the resolution last month.

Heated debate

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed what he called a bold step by the international community.

But Singapore’s ambassador to the UN, Vanu Gopala Menon, spoke for those countries who say the death penalty is not a human rights issue but a matter of criminal justice.

“This resolution will make no difference to Singapore’s policies,” he said.

“We will continue to implement policies that work for us and best serve the interests of our people.”

The vote followed a heated debate in the Human Rights Committee of the UN as Singapore accused countries in favour of the moratorium on the death penalty of trying to impose their values on the rest of the world, the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan reports from the UN.

Mexican ambassador Claude Heller argued the resolution was not an attempt to impose one set of views on others.

“Our intention is to promote and to strengthen the growing trend towards the elimination of the death penalty,” he said.

Most countries in the world do not have the death penalty, our correspondent adds.

Only 51 nations retain the right to use it, down from 60 countries three years ago.

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