Capital punishment advocates in Switzerland can begin collecting signatures in support of a referendum [text, in German] to reinstate the death penalty [JURIST news archive] for those convicted of murder, the Federal Chancellery [official website, in German] announced Tuesday. Campaigners for the referendum have until February 24, 2012, to accumulate at least 100,000 signatures in support of the measure in order to force a national popular vote. Capital punishment was abolished from Switzerland's criminal code in 1942 and remained part of the country's military laws until 1992. The last military execution, however, took place in 1944. The Swiss Federal Council has yet to investigate whether the referendum is constitutionally legal or violates international law [JURIST news archive].
Despite the continued use of the death penalty in some countries, there is a growing movement toward international abolition. Earlier this year, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] the number of countries using the death penalty dropped [report, PDF] in 2009. According to the report, more than 700 people were executed last year in 18 countries, with the most executions carried out in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US. AI's figures exclude the estimated thousands of executions conducted in China [press release], where the government refuses to release death penalty statistics. AI challenged China and other nations to disclose information about executions and condemned all forms of capital punishment. More than two-thirds of the world's countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.