[JURIST] Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia [official profile] announced Thursday that he would suspend [speech text] the death penalty [JURIST news archive] and commute the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row to 30 years in prison. In a lengthy speech to the Mongolian Parliament, Tsakhia called for a permanent ban on the death penalty, saying that many mistakes are made in its administration, and that the system has been abused by those with power. He cited statistics from Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], showing that one in three death sentences were overturned by a court of appeals, as proof that oftentimes the sentence was wrongfully imposed. Tsakhia said:
It is not the fault of the people of Mongolia that Mongolia maintains the death penalty. And it is not the fault of our judiciary to practice this punishment. Our judges have endeavored to render just judgments and have been working to repair those decisions deemed unjust. Yet, I cannot firmly say, no mistakes have been made here. Similarly, I cannot say, no mistakes will be made. The price we pay for mistakes in delivering the truth is measured in human lives. Humans work in courts, judiciaries. After all, no human being is alien to mistakes.
AI had previously criticized [press release] for a lack of transparency in its administration of the death penalty. AI welcomed [press release] Thursday's announcement.
In November, the Russian Constitutional Court [official website, in Russian] extended [JURIST report] a moratorium on the death penalty until the country's parliament ratifies an international treaty abolishing capital punishment. In July, Hands Off Cain [advocacy website], an anti-death penalty advocacy group, reported [JURIST report] that the number of countries with capital punishment, as well as the total number of executions was down in 2008 from the previous year. According to Amnesty International, 95 countries have abolished [AI report] the death penalty for all crimes. In March, New Mexico became the latest US state to abolish the death penalty [JURIST report].