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Death penalty: Global abolition closer than ever as record number of countries vote to end executions

    December 17, 2018

    After a record number of UN member states today supported at the final vote a key UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Expert Chiara Sangiorgio said:

    “The fact that more countries than ever before have voted to end executions shows that global abolition of the death penalty is becoming an inevitable reality. A death penalty-free world is closer than ever.

    “This vote sends yet another important signal that more and more countries are willing to take steps to end this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment once and for all.

    “The result also shows the increasing isolation of the 35 countries that voted against the resolution. Those countries still retaining the death penalty should immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards full abolition.”

    Background

    121 of the UN’s 193 member states voted in favour of the seventh resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the UNGA plenary session in New York, while 35 voted against and 32 abstained. 117 had done so in December 2016. This resolution was proposed by Brazil on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of member states and co-sponsored by 83 states.

    For the first time, Dominica, Libya, Malaysia and Pakistan changed their vote to support the resolution, while Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and South Sudan moved from opposition to abstention. Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Mauritius, Niger, and Rwanda once again voted in favour of the call for a moratorium on executions, having not done so in 2016.

    Five countries reversed their 2016 votes, with Nauru moving from vote in favour to vote against and Bahrain and Zimbabwe switching from abstention to opposition. Congo and Guinea changed from voting in favour to abstention.

    When the UN was founded in 1945 only eight of the then 51 UN member states had abolished the death penalty. Today, 103 of 193 member states have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and 139 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In 2017 executions were reported in 22 UN member states, 11% of the total. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.

     

    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca