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UN rights chief urges Afghanistan to reinstate death penalty moratorium

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] on Tuesday urged Afghanistan to reinstate a moratorium on executions [statement]. Afghanistan executed 15 prisoners by firing squad [JURIST report] Sunday and Arbour said that "the circumstances of the executions may constitute a breach of Afghanistan's obligations under international law." Arbour's comments follow a statement [text; UN News report] issued by the top UN envoy to Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs [official profile], calling on Afghanistan to "continue working towards attaining highest human rights standards and ensuring that due process of law and the rights of all citizens are respected." The UN News Centre has more. AP has additional coverage.

Earlier this year, Rome-based anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain [advocacy website] released a report [text; press release] stating that the number of executions worldwide increased slightly in 2006 while the number of countries that employ capital punishment decreased. According to statistics compiled from news reports and NGOs, there were 5628 executions in 27 countries in 2006, up from 5494 executions in 24 countries in 2005. At the same time, three countries abolished the death penalty [JURIST news archive] last year, reducing the number of countries that use capital punishment to 51. In total, 146 countries have either abolished or placed a moratorium on the death penalty.

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