/ 13 November 2007

Tutu calls for global death-penalty ban

The death penalty is a violation of fundamental human rights, and it should be abolished around the world, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in a comment piece in the Guardian on Tuesday.

Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former archbishop of Cape Town, was writing ahead of a vote on a draft resolution at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a moratorium on executions with the ultimate goal of abolishing the practice later this month.

”I am delighted that the death penalty is being removed from the globe,” Tutu wrote, referring to steadily rising numbers of countries that have abolished capital punishment in either law or practice.

”The death penalty … says that to kill in certain circumstances is acceptable, and encourages the doctrine of revenge. If we are to break these cycles, we must remove government-sanctioned violence.”

According to Giuseppe Manzo, a counsellor at Italy’s UN mission, 72 countries co-sponsored a draft resolution on the death penalty that was circulated earlier this month, ahead of a vote by the full 192-member General Assembly.

”The time has come to abolish the death penalty worldwide,” Tutu wrote. ”The case for abolition becomes more compelling with each passing year.”

Two previous attempts to secure adoption of such a resolution in the General Assembly failed in 1994 and 1999.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, while 64 countries and territories retain and use capital punishment, although the number of countries that actually execute prisoners in any one year is much smaller.

”In country after country, it [capital punishment] is used disproportionately against the poor or against racial or ethnic minorities,” Tutu wrote in the Guardian.

”It is often used as a tool of political repression. It is imposed and inflicted arbitrarily. It is an irrevocable punishment, resulting inevitably in the execution of people innocent of any crime. It is a violation of fundamental human rights.” — Sapa-AFP