Sunday 31 October 2010

Death Penalty Resolution at the General Assembly

After a one-year gap, the death penalty resolution is back on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. I've reported in past years on the successful resolutions - the first in 2007 and the second a year later, with an ever-so-slightly greater majority. Now we're back to, in a sense, take the temperature of the United Nations member states on the issue.
As the recent report of the Secretary-General indicates, the momentum towards reduction of the death penalty (for retentionist states) and full abolition continues without interruption. (By the way, for Chinese readers, here is the report of the Secretary-General in Chinese). Therefore, one should expect the resolution to meet with similar success as in past years. Again, there ought to be a slightly greater majority.
Of interest will be the energy that certain retentionist states devote to fighting the resolution. In the past, the political battle has been led by States like Egypt and Singapore. But the recent report of the Secretary-General indicates that in practice, the use of the death penalty in these States is declining. Attitudes must therefore be changing even in these States. Other vocal supporters of capital punishment have been concentrated in the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean. But in the past decade there have been only a couple of executions, and in practice they seem to have lost their enthusiasm for executions.
Will such objectively measurable phenomenon be reflected in the positions they adopt within the General Assembly? We'll see in the coming weeks.
A draft text of the resolution was submitted a couple of weeks ago. Now, meetings with possible co-sponsors are underway, with a view to getting a final draft by the middle of the coming week (3 or 4 November). At the same time, a report from the Secretary-General on implementation of the earlier resolutions (A/RES/62/149 and A/RES/63/168) will be issued. The draft will be voted on by the Third Committee of the General Assembly sometime between 4 and 8 November.

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