There is evidence of growing global support for the eventual elimination of the death penalty, a senior United Nations official stated today, while acknowledging that abolishing this practice is a difficult and sensitive process for many societies.
Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, told the Fourth World Congress against the Death Penalty, held at the Palais des Nations, that moving this process forward will require comprehensive and inclusive national debates.
“It is my hope that the discussions at this World Congress, which will highlight the practical experiences of countries that have either abolished the death penalty or instituted a moratorium, can help to stimulate such national debates.”
He added that the Congress, with its frank and inclusive debates, will serve to raise awareness – in all regions and among all States – of the trend towards abolition of the death penalty and will help consolidate support for this important trend.
“Governments, the United Nations, regional and other intergovernmental organizations and civil society need to be involved as partners in support of this process.”
In 2007, the General Assembly adopted resolution 62/149, which called on States that still maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
The Assembly considered that the death penalty undermined human dignity, that there was no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation was irreversible and irreparable.
Mr. Ordzhonikidze cited a number of initiatives that serve as evidence of a trend towards the ultimate abolition of the practice, including the large turnout at today’s meeting which “confirms this expanding global support for the eventual elimination of the death penalty.”
He also noted that the steady increase in ratifications, now numbering over 70 countries, of the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which aims to bring about the abolition of the death penalty – indicates the growing commitment to eliminating this practice.
“The introduction of moratoria also plays an important role in facilitating the process in States working towards eradication,” said the Director-General, adding that the steadily increasing number of States that have introduced such suspensions must also be welcomed and encouraged to entrench the trend towards elimination.
Some 2,000 participants, including national political leaders, activists and representatives of international organizations, have gathered in Geneva for the three-day Congress.