The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Italy convened a meeting to discuss the best practices and challenges in abolishing the death penalty. Twenty-five years ago, only ¼ of UN member states did not practice the death penalty; today more than 4/5 UN member states have abolished it. However, there are many countries that still regularly use the death penalty, including the United States. H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began the meeting with a stringent call for all member states to abolish the death penalty. He stated that the death penalty disproportionately has an impact on people who are poor/disadvantaged because they often do not have access to appropriate legal counseling, and further stated that 14 countries permit the death penalty on children.
The Secretary General called on member states to ratify the 2nd optional protocol in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (abolition of the death penalty), and called on member states to support a resolution in the General Assembly to place a moratorium on the death penalty. “The death penalty has no place in the 21st century, together we can finally end this cruel and inhumane practice around the world”, he concluded. Next, the Permanent Representative of Italy, H.E. Mr. Cardi, affirmed his country’s dedication to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. He stated that capital punishment is degrading, and denies a person’s fundamental right to life. Following, Dr. Karman pointed out how some countries still use the death penalty as punishment when people speak out against their government, express their opinions, beliefs, thoughts, etc. She called on states to begin by eliminating the death penalty for these “crimes”, and to eventually abolish the death penalty as a whole.
Next, Mr. Garcetti, California’s former D.A., gave a statement on California’s challenges, and eventual success in instituting a de-facto moratorium on capital punishment. He also stated that there is no proof that capital punishment deters crime in the U.S. Furthermore, a study was done in the U.S. which found that it costs more to put a person to death than it does to imprison him/her for life, showing that the death penalty is not only a human rights violation, but an economic burden as well. Concluding the meeting, Dr. Paul Bhatti of Pakistan, and Mr. Maja of Zimbabwe, spoke about their countries’ experiences with the death penalty. Currently, Pakistan has the largest population (8,000) on death row; however, executions have been suspended since 2008. In Zimbabwe, no one has been executed since 2004, and the number of crimes punishable by death has significantly decreased in recent years.
Meeting Title: “Best Practices and challenges in implementing a moratorium on the death penalty”
Speakers: H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; H.E. Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy; Dr. Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Dr. Paul Bhatti, Former Minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs, Pakistan; Mr. Gil Garcetti, Former District Attorney for the state of California, United States of America; Mr. Innocent Maja, Attorney, Zimbabwe
Date: 2 July 2014
Location: Conference Room 1, United Nations HQ, New York
Written By WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan
Edited by WIT Representative: Aslesha Dhillon