former Prime Minister of Portugal, António Guterres,

Abolish death penalty, UN chief tells world leaders

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By Prudence Arobani


New York   –     UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday called on all countries which have not forbidden the extreme practice of death penalty to urgently stop executions.

Guterres said at an event at the UN Headquarters in New York that the death penalty had done little to deter crimes.

“The death penalty has no place in the 21st century,” Guterres underscored, speaking alongside Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

He welcomed that some 170 countries have either abolished death penalty and put a moratorium on its use, most recently, Gambia and Madagascar.

Guterres added that executions in 2016 were down 37 per cent compared to that of 2015.

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The UN chief, however, added that at present just four countries accounted for 87 per cent of all recorded executions.

He also expressed concern that the countries that continued executions were also failing to meet their international obligations, particular in relation to transparency and compliance with international human rights standards.

“Some governments conceal executions and enforce an elaborate system of secrecy to hide who is on death row, and why.”

Guterres said lack of transparency showed a lack of respect for the human rights of those sentenced to death and to their families as well as damaging administration of justice more.

He urged nation-states that had abolished death penalty to lend their voices to the call on the leaders of those countries that retained it.

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According to him, this is to establish an official moratorium with a view to abolition as soon as possible.

Also, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on all countries to strengthen efforts to abolish death penalty.

“We call on all states to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for OHCHR, said.

The Second Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) now ratified by 85 states around the globe, requires its parties to abolish death penalty.

ICCPR is the only universal international legal instrument that aims to end the practice.

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