About an hour ago, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty with the ultimate goal of eventually abolishing the practice despite fierce opposition from several members: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/LTD/N07/577/06/PDF/N0757706.pdf?OpenElement. The vote was 99 in favour, 52 against and 33 abstentions. The resolution will proceed to the General Assembly, in December, but given the result of the vote it is almost certain to be confirmed.
The resolution states that the death penalty 'undermines human dignity' and calls on all states which still maintain the death penalty 'to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty'. It also urges them 'to restrict its use and reduce the number of offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed' and to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of those facing execution.
For the past two days, a group of states (such as Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, Barbados, Iran) who remain enthusiastic about capital punishment have tried to stop the resolution with some 15 so-called 'wrecking amendments'. Often using coded language or raising extraneous issues, they unsuccessfully attempted to split what is obviously a growing majority within the United Nations favouring abolition of the death penalty. For example, Egypt, supported by several Islamic countries and the United States, sought to insert a paragraph in the resolution upholding the right to protect the unborn child.
Today, some 133 countries of the 192 United Nations membership have abolished capital punishment in law and practice. Adoption of this important resolution is an historic stage towards total abolition. It is a great victory for the human rights movement.
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