"This historic resolution is a major step torwards worldwide abolition of the death penalty," said Irene Khan, Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
A call was made for a global moratorium on executions by the UN General Assembly's Third Committee. The General Assembly is expected to endorse the decision in a plenary session in December.
The breakthrough comes in clear recognition of the growing international trend towards worldwide abolition. The initiative is an important contribution to the creation of a death penalty free world – a vision envisaged by General Assembly three decades ago.
The resolution carries considerable moral and political weight, although it is not legally binding on states. Establishing a moratorium on executions is an important tool for convincing states still using the death penalty to engage in a nation-wide debate and to review their laws on capital punishment. If death penalty laws are under review, states must deem that it is only fair to stop executing people during the process.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights - the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
One-hundred-and-thirty-three countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Only 25 countries actually carried out executions in 2006. In 2006, 91% of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the USA. Amnesty International's statistics also show an overall decline in the number of executions in 2006 - a recorded 1,591 executions, compared to 2,148 in 2005.
Amnesty International calls on all countries to establish a moratorium on executions as soon as the General Assembly in plenary has endorsed the resolution later this year.