Two recent ratifications by Argentina unequivocally support its recent abolition of the death penalty. This latest initiative paves the way for other countries to follow suit, and makes Argentina the seventh country to ratify all the human rights instruments of the inter-American system.
On 2 September 2008, Argentina ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.
This was followed by the government's ratification of the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, on 5 September 2008, making Argentina the tenth country to ratify. Both of these instruments were ratified without reservations.
These significant developments come only a month after the Argentine Senate unanimously approved the law repealing the 1951 Military Code of Justice, on 7 August. This move abolishes the death penalty for all crimes including those committed in times of armed conflict or in peace time by members of the armed forces, and deposes the military courts of justice.
Initiatives taken by the government of Argentina over the past month illustrate their international commitment to the abolition of capital punishment. Furthermore, it supports the call made by the Organization of American State's (OAS) Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, for other countries to follow Argentina’s example and put an end to the death penalty in the Americas. In the region, only the USA, Guatemala and several Caribbean countries retain the death penalty.
“To have ratified all of the important human rights instruments of the inter-American system is a very positive development, but must be followed through by their full implementation”, said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
As of 10 September 2008, 137 countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
This global trend towards abolition was recognized by the adoption of Resolution 62/149 calling for a moratorium on executions by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2007.
The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. The Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty was adopted by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in 1990.
Both can be ratified by any state party to the relevant instruments, and provide for the total abolition of the death penalty but allow state parties to retain the death penalty in time of war if they make a reservation to that effect at the time of ratifying or acceding the Protocol.
Argentina ratified both of these Protocols without any reservations, since the repeal of the Military Code of Justice abolished provisions for the use of death penalty in such instances.
Other countries to have ratified all the human rights instruments of the Inter-American system are Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The last execution took place in Argentina in 1916.