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Afghanistan says no to resolution for moratorium on death penalty

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UNITED NATION, Nov 16 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghanistan Thursday voted against a resolution in a key UN committee calling the member nations to declare a moratorium on death penalty.

The resolution introduced in the Third Committee — which looks after human rights issues of the General Assembly — by Italy and co-sponsored by more than 80 other countries was passed by 99 votes in favor, 52 against and 33 abstentions. Though the resolution is non-binding in nature, the General Assembly is expected to endorse the decision in a plenary session in December.

Important South Asian countries, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives voted against the resolution along with Afghanistan. Except for India, which said the resolution goes against countrys statutory law, rest of the South Asian nations voted against because of religious considerations.

Our position on death penalty is based on the constitution of Afghanistan, the Afghan Ambassador to the UN, Zahir Tanin, told Pajhwok Afghan News after the voting. We are an Islamic country wherein death penalty is allowed and is in accordance with the Islamic law, he said. At the same time, Tanin said Afghanistan is committed to the international law and conventions.

With Afghanistan executing death penalty on 15 prisoners last month, it was one of the major centers of debate during the entire deliberations that went on for several weeks informally and formal in the run up to the vote.

Passage of the resolution, following several weeks of intense negotiations both in closed door and in open, was heralded by its sponsors, mostly from the European Union, as historic and a step towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. Welcoming the passage of the resolution, the Italian Ambassador to the UN, Marcello Spatafora, said: In approving this resolution, we will be starting a process in which we will be all working together, we will be all walking together along the same path, with equal dignity, with full mutual respect.

Expressing delight at the passage of the resolution for a world-wide moratorium on the use of the death penalty, the British Ambassador to the UN, Sir John Sawers, said: The strong vote in favor of this resolution is further evidence that the centre ground on this debate has shifted towards the end of the use of the death penalty world-wide. Sawers said it is a sign of the increasing conviction within the international community that justice can be administered through more humane, appropriate and effective means. “The UK will continue to work bilaterally and with our European Union and other partners to help put this conviction into practice,” he said.

The resolution passed Thursday is a step ahead of the previous General Assembly resolutions of 1971 and 1977 which said that it was “desirable” for states to abolish death penalty.

The latest resolution calls on countries that still maintain death penalty “to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty”. It urges them “to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty” and “progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed.” The resolution also requests the UN Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly in 2008 on the implementation of the resolution.

Terming it as a crucial step forward in creating a death-penalty free world, Amnesty International spokesperson, said: Today’s decision — adopted by the UN’s highest political body with universal membership — is a clear recognition of the growing international trend towards worldwide abolition of the death penalty, endorsed by the UN Secretary-General.

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Written by afghandevnews

November 18, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Human Rights

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