More information is at the World Coalition website.
"UN marks World Day against Death Penalty with strong calls to end ‘cruel practice’," is the news release issued by the United Nations News Centre.
The continuing application of the death penalty is a “cruel practice” that undermines human dignity, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he urged Member States to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” and impose moratoriums on executions.
In a video message issued to an event that took place yesterday at the UN Office in Geneva to mark the annual observance of the World Day against the Death Penalty, the Secretary-General noted that an increasing number of States from all regions of the world had acknowledged the failure of capital punishment as a means to exact justice.
The death penalty, Mr. Ban said, does not deter crimes more than any other punishment and its abolition or moratorium can contribute “to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights.”
“The taking of life is too irreversible for one human being to inflict it on another,” he continued. “We must continue to argue strongly that the death penalty is unjust and incompatible with fundamental human rights.”
The event in Geneva also marked the European release of a new publication produced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), entitled Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Arguments, Trends and Perspectives, which places particular focus on the political leadership required to move away from capital punishment.
Recently, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan, and the states of Washington, Maryland and Connecticut in the United States decided to establish a moratorium or suspend executions while last April, El Salvador, Gabon and Poland acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – an international agreement aimed at abolition. These countries join more than 160 other Members States who have already either eliminated capital punishment or do not practice it.
Also to mark the occasion, 13 UN member States signed an appeal to “jointly call for a world which respects human dignity.” In the joint appeal, the first ever launched by Foreign Ministers of both abolitionist and non-abolitionist States, the countries stress that while they respect the views of those who still support the use of the death penalty, they “consider that State executions should not be taking place in the 21st century. Modern justice systems must aspire to more than retribution.”
In a separate message delivered yesterday, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, celebrated the overall trend towards abolition, adding that support for abolition resonated across regions, legal systems, traditions, customs and religious backgrounds.
But, he noted, amid all the successes there have also been setbacks with some States resuming executions after decades and others reintroducing it for certain offences. “In 2013, after many years of slow, but consistent moving away from the death penalty, we have had a 12 per cent increase in the number of executions when compared to 2012, and the number of executing states increased by one,” Mr. Šimonović told those gathered.
“Exactly for this reason, we need to continue our advocacy for the universal abolition of the death penalty.”
The Assistant Secretary-General highlighted three specific reasons for abolition which he said were clearly delineated in the OHCHR publication, such as the need to avoid executing those subjected to wrongful convictions; the lack of statistical evidence pointing to the death penalty as a useful deterrent; and the higher rate of execution among those from marginalized communities, including people with mental or intellectual disabilities.
He added that while some advocated capital punishment as retribution, research appeared to show the exact opposite – victims and their families “do not want revenge but prefer justice without revenge or retribution.”
“I strongly believe that one day, people will look back and wonder how it was possible that the death penalty ever existed—just like, in most societies today, it is already hard to understand how slavery could ever have been allowed,” Mr. Šimonović concluded.
“I hope that ‘one day’ is not far away from us. Abolition will undoubtedly enhance the rights of all humankind, starting with our most sacred right of all, the right to life.”
Jurist posts, "UN rights official calls for international abolition of death penalty," by Julie Deisher-Edward.
Speaking at the Geneva presentation of a report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] Moving Away from the Death Penalty [text, PDF; JURIST report], UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic [official profile] urged the international abolition of the death penalty. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] released a statement [press release] in support of the sentiment, saying "The taking of life is too irreversible for one person to inflict on another. We must continue arguing strongly that the death penalty is unjust and incompatible with fundamental human rights." Simonovic expressed particular concern [UN News Centre report] with the increase in the number of executions in recent years, despite a growing trend internationally toward the abolition of the death penalty [JURIST report]. Currently, 160 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
"Senior UN Official Calls For Abolition Of Death Penalty," is from by RTT News.
As long as the death penalty exists, there will be a need to advocate against it, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, declared Thursday at the launch of a new United Nations publication aimed at raising awareness on the abolition of capital punishment.
Speaking at the Geneva presentation of Moving away from the Death Penalty, Arguments, Trends and Perspectives, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Simonovic celebrated what he said was "worldwide accelerating progress" made towards abolition since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"Back then, 66 years ago, only 14 countries had abolished the death penalty, the majority in South America," Simonovic explained, adding that currently around 160 countries around the world had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
"Swiss launch joint declaration against death penalty," is from SwissInfo.ch.
On World Day against the Death Penalty, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter has launched a joint declaration in favour of death penalty abolition, together with 11 foreign ministers from around the world.
“The death penalty is incompatible both with human rights – in particular the fundamental right to life – and with justice systems aimed at rehabilitation rather than retribution.” according to a government statement on Friday.
Switzerland is working on this issue at both the international level – namely in the framework of the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe – and at the bilateral level, engaging in dialogue with countries that are on the path towards abolition.
“The death penalty is irreversible and can lead to wrongful convictions, or even executions. Even in modern and transparent justice systems, human error remains an unavoidable risk,” the statement said.
“Furthermore, the death penalty reinforces discrimination: investigations show that underprivileged, vulnerable or marginalised people are, in many places, disproportionately affected by the death penalty. Moreover, attempts at using the death penalty to fight crime, drug dealing or terrorism are, in Switzerland’s view, ineffective.”
Switzerland has set itself an ambitious goal with the strategy it formulated last year: it wants to promote the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, or at least a moratorium on all executions, by 2025.
The full text of the "Joint Declaration of October 10, 2014," is below. It's available in Adobe .pdf format at the link.
As we mark the 12th World Day against the Death Penalty, we jointly call for a world which respects human dignity. The death penalty, one of the most complex and divisive issues of our time, continues to question the fundamental values of our societies and to challenge our understanding of criminal justice.
We respect the views of those who still support the use of the death penalty, and we believe that everyone has a right to be protected from violent crime. However, we consider that state executions should not be taking place in the 21st century. Modern justice systems must aspire to more than retribution.
The main objections to the death penalty are well known. Despite popular belief, there is no evidence supporting the claim that executions deter or prevent crime. No justice system can ever be guaranteed free from error, meaning that death sentences may cause the innocent to be put to death. Often, capital sentences are disproportionately imposed on poor, vulnerable and marginalised persons, aggravating discrimination against the weakest in society. Finally, the capital sentence provides victims of crime and their families neither with commensurate compensation nor with spiritual relief. On the contrary, state killing results in more hatred and violence - the exact opposite of what modern justice systems should be trying to achieve.
This joint call, which we address to the world at large, is the first ever launched by Foreign Ministers of both abolitionist and non-abolitionist States. We recognize that exchange and cooperation are needed to move together towards more effective and more humane justice systems. Together, our countries have the experience and the drive to turn the death penalty into a sentence of the past. A vast majority of countries already supports worldwide death penalty abolition; we hope that all countries will soon join this trend.
Signed by the following Foreign Ministers (countries):
Héctor Marcos Timerman (Argentina),
Julie Bishop (Australia),
Nassirou Bako Arifari (Benin),
Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé (Burkina Faso),
Duly Brutus (Haiti),
José Antonio Meade Kuribreña (Mexico),
Luvsanvandan Bold (Mongolia),
Børge Brende (Norway),
Albert F. del Rosario (Philippines),
Didier Burkhalter (Switzerland),
Mevlüt Çavuolu (Turkey),
Philip Hammond (United Kingdom)