[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Tuesday called [press release] on member states to abolish capital punishment. He welcomed the trend of abolishing the death penalty [JURIST news archive] since the UN General Assembly [official website] endorsed a call for a moratorium on capital punishment in 2007. He noted that more than 150 states have either abolished or do not participate in punishment by death but expressed his concern regarding 32 states that impose the death penaly for drug-related offenses. He also condemned those states which punish individuals with death for crimes that they committed as juveniles. Ban said the right to life is the most valuable right an individual could have:
The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights. It lies at the heart of international human rights law. The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict it on another, even when backed by legal process. Where the death penalty persists, conditions for those awaiting execution are often horrifying, leading to aggravated suffering.
The secretary-general echoed the UN’s call to use capital punishment only in the case of extremely serious crimes and pointed out that all UN-backed courts do not exercise the controversial punishments. He ended his statement by reiterating calls for the end of such punishment.
Capital punishment has remained a controversial issue around the world. In June Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Sudanese government to reform its discriminatory laws and abolish both the death penalty and all corporal punishment after a young Sudanese woman was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Intisar Sharif Abdallah, who is believed to be under the age of 18, was sentenced in April under article 146 of Sudan’s Criminal Act of 1991. In April Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy [official website] signed a bill to repeal the death penalty [JURIST report], making it the seventeenth US state to do so. New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois [JURIST reports] have all recently eliminated the death penalty, while 33 states retain its use. In 2010 Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF] revealing that the number of countries using the death penalty dropped in 2009, but more than 700 people were executed in 18 countries, with the most executions carried out in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US.