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Monday, March 28

Pacific paves the way to a death penalty-free world

The Pacific is continuing to lead the world towards abolishing the death penalty, Amnesty International revealed today in its new report, Death Sentences and Executions in 2010.

While 31 countries abolished the death penalty in law or practice during the last 10 years, the Pacific remained the only region in the world to have not carried out any executions or delivered any death sentences in the last decade – and is well on its way to becoming the first region to be entirely death penalty-free.

The total number of executions officially recorded by Amnesty International in 2010 went down from at least 714 people in 2009 to at least 527 in 2010. China is believed to have executed thousands in 2010 but continues to maintain its secrecy over its use of the death penalty.

“When Amnesty was founded in 1961, only nine countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and capital punishment was hardly considered a human rights issue. Fifty years on, the trend towards worldwide abolition is unmistakeable, with only a handful of countries carrying out the majority of executions,” says Rebecca Emery, Deputy Director of Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ.

“The last decade was one which saw real progress towards the global abolition of the death penalty, and we commend our Pacific neighbours – generally considered small players in the international community – for being world leaders in this area,” adds Emery.

Only four Pacific nations still retain the death penalty in their laws (Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Tonga and Fiji), and an important step forward was made in February when Fiji, responding to the UN Human Rights Council, committed to abolishing the death penalty for crimes under military law.

2010 also saw encouraging moves by both the Solomon Islands and Kiribati who both changed their votes positively in the UN General Assembly’s global moratorium on the death penalty in December – which was supported by more UN member states than ever before.

“Drawing upon our country’s strong anti-death penalty stance, we will now be working hard to ensure that Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Tonga and Fiji completely remove the death penalty from their books, sending a signal to the rest of the world that an end to the death penalty is not only possible, it is inevitable,” adds Emery.