INITIATIVE FOR A UN MORATORIUM ON DEATH PENALTY
A note prepared by ‚ÄúHands Off Cain‚ÄĚ
Transnational Radical Party and Hands Off Cain's campaign
TRP and Hands Off Cain's campaign started in Italy in 1993, the year during which the association was founded. The main purpose of it is to obtain a universal moratorium on the death penalty, established by the United Nations.
In 1993, the retentionist countries were 97; today, their number has lowered to 50, which means 47 less than 14 years ago. This should not be regarded as the consequence of a normal historical development, but as the result of a political campaign, joined by associations of many political and religious beliefs, countries from all continents, MPs from all parties.
The campaign will come to an end when the UN General Assembly approves a resolution about a universal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to completely abolishing the death penalty around the world.
The Italian Government and Parliament's initiative
In 1994, thanks to the Italian Government, the UN General assembly discussed and voted for the first time a proposal of a resolution for the universal moratorium on the death penalty. It was rejected, by only eight votes, while 20 European countries abstained. In 1997, the Prodi Government presented the resolution on the Moratorium on Capital Punishment to the UN Human Rights Commission, against the wishes of its European partners. It was approved with 27 votes in favour, 11 votes against, 14 abstentions and 1 absentee. From 1997 till 2005 (the year of the Commission‚Äôs dissolution ), the resolution was approved by a large and growing majority. In 1999, a resolution agreed upon by the European Union was not tabled. In January 2007, Francesco Paolo Fulci, then Italian Ambassador to the UN explained that at some point "an order from Brussels came to the European Ambassadors to suspend the initiative". According to Mr. Fulci, who had contacted some 90 UN delegations, the EU decision was nonsensical as there was a clear majority in favor of the text.
In 2003, Hands Off Cain's initiative aimed to submit the resolution about the moratium on the death penalty to the General Assembly of that year, under the Italian Chairmanship of the E.U., didn't obtain unanimous approval from all the European partners, and therefore did not succeed, particularly because of the English Government's strong opposition, due to the will to maintain a good relationship with the USA, and above all with the several retentionist countries members of the Commonwealth.
On July 27, 2006, the Italian Chamber of Deputies unanimously approved a motion, proposed by Sergio D'Elia and subscribed by representatives of all political groups, which committed the Italian Government to ‚Äúpresent in the next UN General Assembly [the one now in progress in New York] ‚Äď after consulting the EU partners, but without being subject to the unanimous approval of all EU members ‚Äď a proposal of a resolution for the universal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view¬† to completely abolishing the death penalty worldwide.‚ÄĚ
On October 19, 2006, with the Government remaining inactive, the Italian Chamber of Deputies' Committee on Foreign Affairs approved, unanimously again, a resolution which committed it to ‚Äúfully and immediately accomplish the motion voted by the Chamber itself on July 27, 2006, to present to the ongoing UN General Assembly a proposal of a resolution for the universal moratorium on death penalty, with a view¬† to completely abolishing the death penalty in all the world, and, as a result of this action, obtaining the endorsement and the joint sponsorship of countries representative of all continents.
On December 19, 2006, 85 states, members of UN, subscribed a declaration of intent against the death penalty, with which they ask the UN General Assembly to approach the question in the future. According to Hands Off Cain, a declaration like this has no political nor formal value. Between December 2006 and May 2007 eight more countries, bringing the total to 93, have signed the text. It needs to be noted that some countries, such as South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan have also announced their readiness to sponsor the resolution.
On January 2, 2007, reacting to the non-violent initiative of the leader of the Radical Party Marco Pannella, MEP, who was on a hunger strike for eight days and who fasted for three weeks, Italy's President of the Council of Ministers Romano Prodi publicly announced that "the Italian Government was committed to trigger all the necessary formal procedures so that the 61st session of the UN General Assembly put to a resolution the question of the moratorium on the death penalty‚ÄĚ.
On February 1, the European Parliament, in an almost unanimous vote strongly supported "the initiative of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and Government backed by the EU Council, the Commission and the Council of Europe" and asked "the EU Presidency to take appropriate action as a matter of urgency to ensure that such a resolution is urgently submitted to the current UN General Assembly; asks the EU Presidency and the Commission to keep Parliament informed of the results achieved in the current UN General Assembly on a universal moratorium on the death penalty";
On April 25, a similar resolution was adopted by the European Parliament.
On May 14, the General Affairs Committee of the European Union gave the green light to Italy to draft a resolution, gather co-sponsors and initiate the procedures to inscribe a specific item in the current UNGA agenda. On June 14th, 2007, the Italian Chamber of Deputies‚Äô Commission on Foreign Affairs unanimously approved a resolution presented by Sergio D‚ÄôElia that ‚Äúinvites, with renewed faith, the Government, reasserting its mandate, to proceed with maximum urgency and without further delay, the presentation of the Pro-Moratorium Resolution to the current General Assembly of the United Nations, being unacceptible that, after ten years of ostracism, this resolution remains blocked(under the pretense of ‚Äúpostponement‚ÄĚ) at the United Nations, where an indisputably pro-moratorium majority awaits its vote and subsequent manifestation.
Why a Resolution on the Universal Moratorium on the Death Penalty Can Win at the UN
On the basis of the votes expressed on a Resolution on a Moratorium tabled at the UN Commission on Human Rights from 1997 to 2005, and taking into account the number of signatories of the political declaration on the Moratorium read out by the Finnish Presidency of the EU in December 2006 as well as the judicial evolution concerning the death penalty in various countries a Resolution on a Moratorium in view of the total abolition of capital executions would obtain a certain majority at the UNGA:
Between 106 and 108 countries would vote in favor, an absolute majority of the 192 Member States of the UN that will never be defeated by those against (61 to 68 countries). It must be noted that there will be also a group of abstentions from 16 to 18 and some 7 undecided.
What Hands Off Cain and Radical Party request
After years of unrequested and unnecessary delays and polling, the time for action at the U.N. Headquarters in New York has arrived. On December 26, Marco Pannella began a ‚Äúthirst strike‚ÄĚ that would run till January 3rd to prevent the execution of Saddam Hussein. After the ex-dictator‚Äôs execution, in support of the universal moratorium on executions, Pannella transformed his non-violent initiative to a hunger strike. The hunger strike was planned to run till January 15, 2007. Faced with the delays of the Italian Government, Pannella re-started his hunger strike from March 21 until April 14. After two days suspension, he decided to start a lengthy hunger strike which began on April 16. He was joined by by numerous radical supporters and leaders. During this time Pannella continued his thirst strike as well. With this nonviolent intitiative, the Transnational Radical Party and Hands Off Cain urged the Italian Government to resume its leadership role in presenting the Pro-Moratorium Initiative to the United Nations. ¬† The appeal, made by 53 Nobel Prize winners and key international figures of the arts and culture, all the representative heads of political parties in Italy‚Äôs Chamber of Deputies and Senate(except Roberto Castelli,) all the Lifetime Members of the Italian Senate, 500 Members of Parliament, almost all of Italy‚Äôs Regional Presidents, now rests in the hands of the Italian Government, waiting to be joined(‚Äúwithin hours‚ÄĚ) by an already present worldwide coalition as projected by last December‚Äôs declaration undersigned by 93 countries calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty to be voted on during the current meeting of the General Assembly. ¬† On June 18, 2007, during the General Affairs meeting held in Luxembourg, the Italian Government (aided by the firm stance taken by France‚Äôs Kouchner) obtained a formal commitment from the EU. The EU also agreed to set a date for the presentation of the Moratorium resolution at the opening of the next General Assembly on behalf of a global coalition. This date, unlike in the past, must be complied with. Today we are particularly proud of our long non violent initiative and the way the Radical Party has fought for the Moratorium. Therefore, our indefinite hunger strike is suspended and we will start organising and strengthening international participation so that today's success can be turned into a victory at September‚Äôs General Assembly." ¬† ¬†¬†
TABLE 2: COUNTRY STATUS ON THE DEATH PENALTY
Source: Hands Off Cain
(Updated to: 13/06/2007)
¬† ¬† Abolitionist: 91
Albania, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bermuda*, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, C√īte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Venezuela.
Abolitionist for ordinary crimes: 8
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Fiji, Israel, Latvia and Peru.
De facto abolitionist (countries that have not carried out any executions for 10 years; date of last known execution in brackets): 38
Antigua and Barbuda (1991), Barbados (1984), Belize (1985), Benin (1993), Brunei Darussalam (1957), Burkina Faso (1988), Cameroon (1988), Central African Republic (1981), Congo (1982), Dominica (1986), Eritrea (no death penalty since independence in 1993), Gabon (1979), Gambia (1981), Ghana (1993), Grenada (1985), Lesotho (1995), Jamaica (1988), Kenya (1987), Laos (1989), Madagascar (1958), Malawi (1992), Maldives (1952), Mauritania (1987), Morocco (1993), Myanmar (1988), Nauru (no executions since independence, 1968), Niger (no executions or death sentences since 1976), Papua New Guinea (1957), Santa Lucia (1995), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1995), Sri Lanka (1976), Suriname (1982), Swaziland (1982), Tanzania (1994), Togo (1978), Tonga (1982). Tunisia (1991) and Zambia (1997).
Committed to abolishing the death penalty as members of the Council of Europe: 1
Retentionist countries observing a moratorium on executions: 4
Algeria, Guatemala, Kazakhstan and Mali.
Afghanistan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, China, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People‚Äôs Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
In bold, liberal democracies1 (11) that retain the death penalty
1 The classification ‚Äúliberal democracy‚ÄĚ is based on the rigorous analytic standards employed by Freedom House in its Freedom in the World 2005 report on the state of political rights and civil liberties around the world (see www.freedomhouse.org)
FORECAST OF VOTE ON A RESOLUTION FOR A MORATORIUM ON EXECUTIONS AT THE NEXT UNGA
Source: Hands Off Cain
(Updated to: 13/06/2007)
The following forecast on a Pro-Moratorium Resolution vote at the U.N. General Assembly takes under consideration 90* countries that have repeatedly co-sponsored the resolution as approved by the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, to which four countries(Mozambique, Niger, Bhutan, and Nepal) are added, though not co-sponsors, having voted favorably, as well as the Republic of Montenegro which gained its independence on May 21st, 2006. Meanwhile, another three countries(the Philippines, Liberia, and Senegal) have abolished the death penalty and another five countries(Guatemala, Rwanda, Kyrgyzstan, Gabon and Kazakistan) signed the Declaration of Association of December 19th, 2006. To this ‚Äúsolid base‚ÄĚ can be added another two countries(highlighted in black) because of their abolitionist status and recent development in their internal politics during recent years. The forecast of votes contrary to the resolution and abstensions are based on voting at The United Nations Commision on Human Rights from 1997 onwards, and the most recent survey of the internal politics of the nations in question. All sources indicate that even under the worst case scenario the resolution would pass. ¬† *Originally, the co-sponsors numbered 92, but Iraq and Papua New Guinea changed positions after a single vote.
In bold italics countries that may decide to abstain rather than vote in favour.
¬†Underlined: Signature countries of the Declaration of Association of December 19th, 2006.
Votes in favour: 106-108
Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, C√īte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela.
Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Cuba, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Zambia.
Votes against: 61-68
Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Chad, China, Comoros, Democratic People‚Äôs Republic of Korea, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mongolia, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Central African Republic (ag/ab), Gambia (ag/ab), Lebanon (ab/ag), Malawi (ag/ab), Nauru (ag/ab), Papua New Guinea (ab/ag), Tonga (ab/ag).
ag/ab swing between a vote against and an abstention (4)
ab/ag swing between an abstention and a vote against (3)
Estimates based on the worst hypothesis:
Votes in favour: the difference between 106 and 108 is given by the 2 countries in bold italics that may decide to abstain rather than vote in favour;
Abstentions: the difference between 16 and 18 is accounted for by the 2 countries listed in bold italics as votes in favour;
Votes against: the difference between 61 and 68 is made up by the 7 countries listed in the unclear category that fluctuate between an abstention and a vote against. ¬† ¬†
¬†¬†¬† On December 18, 2007, The U.N. General Assembly adopted the resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing capital punishment. The vote in the 192-member world body was 104-54 with 29 abstentions.
The vote capped a heated debate in the General Assembly's human rights committee that continued before and after the final vote. It saw the United States taking the unusual step of siding with countries such as Iran and Syria in opposition to the resolution.
¬†¬†¬† The Third Commission of the United Nations approved the resolution on November 15. The vote on the highly divisive issue was 99 in favor, 52 against and 33 abstentions. The United States and China joined many developing countries, notably from the Islamic world, in voting no after an acrimonious debate. Opponents decried what they saw as an attempt by the 87 co-sponsors to impose their values on the rest of the world and made it clear that there was no consensus on an issue which they said would further polarize the assembly. They argued that the death penalty was fundamentally a "criminal justice issue" to be decided by national authorities and saw the resolution as blatant interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Malaysia, Singapore, Singapore, Egypt, Barbados and the Bahamas were particularly vocal in denouncing an attempt to impose what they call Western values on the rest of the world.
Singapore's UN envoy Vanu Menon said the co-sponsors were trying "to impose a particular set of beliefs on everyone else" and described them as "sanctimonious, hypocritical and intolerant" for having rejected a "genuine dialogue" with opponents.
"This house is divided," said Iran's delegate Mahmoud Jooyabad. "There is no international consensus on the death penalty." Opponents were particularly angry that 14 amendments they proposed were all rejected, including one proposed by Egypt and supported by a number of Islamic countries and the United States, that sought to insert a paragraph also upholding the right to protect the unborn child.
The resolution states that the death penalty "undermines human dignity" and calls on all states which still maintain the death penalty "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."
It also urges them "to restrict its use and reduce the number of offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed" and to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of those facing execution.
¬†¬†¬† On December 18, 2008, the United Nations General Assembly approved, for the second consecutive year, the resolution with 106 in favour, 46 against and 34 abstentions. With respect to last year, votes in favour increased by two, votes against dropped by eight, and abstentions increased from 29 to 34.
¬†¬†¬† On November 20, 2008, the Third Commission of the United Nations‚Äô General Assembly passed the draft resolution with 105 countries voted in favour, 48 against and 31 abstentions. Compared to the resolution approved by the same commission in 2007, there was an increase of 6 favourable votes, a decrease of 4 votes against, and two less abstentions. The resolution was introduced by the Chilean representative, under the name of a coalition or representative countries from all continents. There were 89 co-sponsors of the resolution this year, two more than the previous year.
Countries for the death penalty presented 7 amendments. This included two affirming the principle of the internal sovereignty of nations, that if approved would have weakened the political strength of the text. They were all denied by a widening majority with respect to last year.
In substance, the text (which is much more concise than the one in 2007) concentrated on the moratoria.
It also relaunched the previous year‚Äôs resolution, favourably saluting the decision of countries that put into practice the moratoria. Reminding the Assembly of the global trend towards the elimination of the death penalty, the text welcomes the relevant Report by the Secretary General. The text establishes that the Assembly will return to discuss it within two years.
¬†¬†¬† On November 11, 2010, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly renewed, for the third time in four years, its call for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty by a recorded vote.
The draft resolution was approved by a vote of 107 in favour to 38 against, with 36 abstentions.¬†
The resolution garnered more support from UN Member States than the previous resolution in 2007 and 2008, confirming the worldwide trend towards abolition of capital punishment.
Bhutan, Guatemala, Kiribati, Maldives, Mongolia and Togo changed their vote to back the moratorium. In a further sign of support, Afghanistan, Comores, Nigeria, Solomon Islands and Thailand moved from opposition to abstention.
While noting ongoing national debates and regional initiatives on the death penalty, the Third Committee calls upon States to restrict the use of the death penalty, to reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed, and ‚Äúto establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty‚ÄĚ.¬† States that have abolished the death penalty are meanwhile called upon not to reintroduce it.
Enhancing a similar call included in the previous resolution in 2007, the Third Committee calls upon all Member States to make available relevant information with regard to their use of the death penalty, which can contribute to possible informed and transparent national debates.
Three written amendments to the draft, as well as one oral amendment, were put forward by delegations who said the jurisdiction of Member States was completely disregarded by the draft. All the proposed amendments were rejected by recorded vote.
The most important amendment proposed by Egypt, who said that, under the Charter of the United Nations, the Organization was unauthorized to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, was rejected by a vote of 62 in favour to 79 against, with 31 abstentions. The amendment proposed by Botswana was rejected by a vote of 51 in favour to 81 against, with 33 abstentions.¬† Singapore‚Äôs amendment was rejected by a vote of 58 in favour to 79 against, with 30 abstentions.
The representative of the Bahamas moved an oral amendment to operative paragraph 3 (d), in such a way that it would have the General Assembly call upon States ‚Äúto consider establishing a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty‚ÄĚ (in lieu of ‚Äúto establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty‚ÄĚ).¬†The oral amendment offered by Bahamas was rejected by a vote of 54 in favour to 82 against, with 29 abstentions.¬†
¬†¬†¬† On December 21, 2010, The United Nations General Assembly approved the new resolution with 108 votes in favour, 41 against and 36 abstentions (another 7 countries were absent at the time of the vote). It recorded a decisive step forward compared to 2007 when in a plenary assembly the votes in favour were 104, with 54 against and 29 abstentions (with 5 absent at the time of the vote). Another step forward was taken also in respect to the second vote on the pro moratorium Resolution in December 2008 when there were 105 in favour, 47 against and 34 abstentions (6 were absent at the time of the vote).
The most significant political data regarding the favourable is that of 6 countries that in 2008 voted against (Kiribati, the Maldives and Mongolia) or abstained (Bhutan, Guatemala and Togo) or the abstentions of 4 countries (Comoros, Nigeria, the Solomon Islands and Thailand) that in 2008 voted against. The number of cosponsors of the Resolution also increased, 90 in total, three doing so for the first time: Cambodia, Russia and Madagascar.
The only new part of the text of the Resolution concerns the request ‚Äď in part contained in the 2007 text ‚Äď directing the member states to ‚Äėmake information available relevant to the use of the death penalty to allow an informed and transparent national debate.'
PRO MORATORIUM CAMPAIGN PERSPECTIVES AFTER THE SUCCESS AT THE U.N.
After the historic vote at the U.N. in New York, re-affirmed decisively in December 2008 and 2010, some critics have sought to downplay its impact, calling it futile as it is not legally binding upon Nations.
It is true that the United Nations, according to its own Statute, cannot require its Member States to abolish the death penalty and certainly not by a General Assembly Resolution. However, the ‚Äúmoral‚ÄĚ and political force exerted on those Nations that still practice the death penalty is undeniable. It is enough to consider that, for the first time, the United Nations has established the question as pertaining to the sphere of individual rights and not domestic justice, and that this turnabout represents a momentous event in the progress of human rights.
As far as the concrete effects of the Resolution are concerned, it should be noted that just the announcement ‚Äď at the beginning of 2007 - of the initiative at the U.N. brought about many positive responses: during the same year, 9 countries which practiced the death penalty passed to varying degrees of abolition. Another 5 countries followed in 2008 and the first six months of 2009, as demonstrated by the Hands Off Cain's 2009 Report.
Two U.S. States abolished the death penalty: New Jersey in December of 2007 and New Mexico in March of 2009. This happened over the last year and a half, when cases of abolition had not occurred in the U.S. in over forty years.
Legislation for the abolition of the death penalty or the reduction of the number of capital crimes has been proposed in Lebanon, Algeria, Benin, Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a reality that would have been difficult to imagine in such Nations not long ago.
Furthermore, Kazakhstan has put legal limits on the use of the death penalty only in the case of grievous acts of terrorism and in time of war, while Vietnam eliminated 8 of the 29 capital crimes in that country.
In 2008, Cuba and Cameroon commuted all death sentences, while a significant number of amnesties and commutations were decided upon in Trinidad and Tobago, in Nigeria and in Zambia. In 2009, the President of Ghana, John Kufuor, commuted the sentences of the over 100 condemned to die in the country, while the Supreme Court of Uganda commuted death sentences to life imprisonment of all those on death row for more than three years.
Finally, in China, death sentences handed down by the country's various courts diminished by 30% over the last two years, while the Supreme Court of the country overturned 15% of those death sentences passed by lower courts. This is no small fact, given that thousands are put to death in China every year.
These positive developments are, of course, in no way an immediate prelude to the abolition of the death penalty worldwide or of radical changes in terms of democratic progress in many countries, but, without question, tendencies are following the lead of the United Nations Resolution.
These results were the fruit of a non-fundamentalist, non-prohibitionist and non-Eurocentric approach in the campaign for the moratorium that we were able to establish politically and formally, not only to underline the universality of our proposal but also to move beyond the outdated colonial framework and euro-centrism, unworthy of such an important objective. The method and aim of a moratorium ‚Äď and not outright abolition ‚Äď and the trans-regional alliance that promoted the initiative at the U.N. in New York, helped avoid perceptions of norms imposed by a ‚Äúcivilised‚ÄĚ abolitionist Europe on the rest of the ‚Äúbarbaric‚ÄĚ executioner world in need of ‚Äúcivilisation.‚ÄĚ
After the approval of the Resolution on a Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment, there remain two important fronts for Hands Off Cain in realising the call of the United Nations.
The first is directed towards retentionist Nations ‚Äď as called for by the Resolution ‚Äď in seeing that they furnish all information regarding capital punishment and executions in their countries to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The aim here is not the abolition of the death penalty, but to eliminate ‚ÄúState secrets‚ÄĚ regarding the death penalty. Many countries, for the most part authoritarian, do not provide information on the application of the death penalty, and a lack of information at the disposal of public opinion is a direct cause of an increased number of executions. To this end, we call on the Secretary General of the United Nations to institute a Special Envoy responsible to monitor the situation to bring about an increased transparency regarding capital punishment, and also to seek to persuade those countries still practicing the death penalty to adopt the line established by the U.N.: ‚Äúa moratorium on executions in view of the definitive abolition of the death penalty.‚ÄĚ
Simultaneously, the second front involves the spread of the Resolution worldwide, the monitoring, country by country, of the situation and the organising of political, institutional and public events in countries that still practice the death penalty so there is a greater awareness of the call by the U.N..
Hands Off Cain is working on realising the moratorium around the world. Starting with Africa, the continent with the highest number of de facto abolitionist States and where, in the last years, there have been significant steps towards the abolition of the death penalty.