The global campaign against the death penalty secured a landmark victory on Tuesday when the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the call for a worldwide moratorium (suspension) on executions.
In a landslide result, 104 UN member states voted in favour of the ground-breaking resolution. 54 countries voted against, while there were 29 abstentions.
Amnesty International welcomes this timely resolution, passed at the UN headquarters in New York City, as a clear recognition of the international trend towards worldwide abolition of the death penalty.
A total of 133 countries, from all regions of the world, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice and only 25 countries carried out executions in 2006. 91% of all known executions took place in six countries: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the USA. Recorded executions worldwide fell by more than 25% in 2006, with a drop from at least 2,148 in 2005 to at least 1,591.
Although not legally binding, the UN moratorium on executions carries considerable moral and political weight. The resolution is a reminder of member states' commitment to work towards abolition of the death penalty. It is also an important tool to encourage retentionist countries to review their use of the death penalty.
Amnesty International calls on countries which still use the death penalty to establish an immediate moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing capital punishment. The UN Secretary-General will report to the General Assembly in October 2008 on states' implementation of the resolution.
"This landmark resolution is a major step towards ending this cruel and inhuman punishment and an important contribution to protecting human rights," said Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International's Head of Office at the UN. "The death penalty is inhuman, inherently arbitrary and innocent people are invariably executed".