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United Nations: Committee Passes Resolution on the Death Penalty

(Dec. 3, 2012) On November 19, 2012, the United Nations Third Committee – the Social, Humanitarian Cultural Affairs Committee – voted in favor of a resolution for a moratorium on capital punishment. By a vote of 110 for, 39 against, and 36 abstaining, the Committee called on all countries to establish a suspension of executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty completely. Henry L. Mac-Donald of Suriname chairs the Committee. (Ban Welcomes General Assembly Committee’s Record Vote on Death Penalty Moratorium, UN NEWS CENTRE (Nov. 21, 2012); Third Committee, U.N. General Assembly website (Sept. 18, 2012).)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement praising the resolution. The statement referred to Ban’s view, expressed in July 2012, that “the taking of a life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process.” (Latest Statements: Statement by the Secretary-General on the Adoption by the General Assembly’s Third Committee of the Resolution “Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon website (Nov. 21, 2012).)

Ban’s recent statement also referred to the 2007 U.N. General Assembly resolution on capital punishment. (Id.) That resolution had also been recommended by the Third Committee and asked all nations to “progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed.” (Press Release, General Assembly, GA 106/78, General Assembly Adopts Landmark Text Calling for Moratorium on Death Penalty (Dec. 18, 2007).)

To date, about 150 countries have ended the death penalty, either by abolishing it as a part of the legal system or by ending its imposition in practice. (Latest Statements, supra.)