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UN rights official calls for international abolition of death penalty

[JURIST] Speaking at the Geneva presentation of a report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] Moving Away from the Death Penalty [text, PDF; JURIST report], UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic [official profile] urged the international abolition of the death penalty. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] released a statement [press release] in support of the sentiment, saying "The taking of life is too irreversible for one person to inflict on another. We must continue arguing strongly that the death penalty is unjust and incompatible with fundamental human rights." Simonovic expressed particular concern [UN News Centre report] with the increase in the number of executions in recent years, despite a growing trend internationally toward the abolition of the death penalty [JURIST report]. Currently 160 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

Use of the death penalty [JURIST backgrounder] has been a controversial issue throughout the US and internationally, and recent months have seen the UN encouraging the abolition of capital punishment internationally. Last month the OHCHR and a number of UN officials urged global leaders to abolish the death penalty [JURIST report] in a presentation and accompanying report entitled "Moving Away from the Death Penalty." In September two experts from the OHCHR urged Saudi Arabia to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] following an increase in executions, with a significant number of the executions completed by beheading. In June former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned Iran's use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders and called on authorities to halt the announced execution of 17-year-old Razieh Ebrahimi. In May the OHCHR urged the US to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty following a botched execution [JURIST reports] performed in Oklahoma the previous week.

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