Counsellor Svein Michelsen, point person on human rights at the Norway Mission (left), and Ambassador Morten Wetland (centre/right). 
Photo: Norway UN Mission/Emma K Lydersen.Counsellor Svein Michelsen, point person on human rights at the Norway Mission (left), and Ambassador Morten Wetland (centre/right). Photo: Norway UN Mission/Emma K Lydersen

UN calls on member states to stop executions

11/15/2010 // The UN General Assembly has called on member states to establish a moratorium on executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty. Norway, in cooperation with a group of countries from all parts of the world, led the initiative, which was supported by 107 countries.

“This UN resolution confirms that countries that support the death penalty are fighting a losing battle. But a UN resolution is by no means enough. I am therefore pleased that we have managed to get this difficult debate back on a more constructive track that we can follow up in our contact with countries that are considering changing their policy on this issue,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said.

Norway played a leading role in the negotiations in New York, together with countries such as Angola, Argentina, Belgium, Burundi, Croatia, East Timor, Micronesia and New Zealand. The aim of the initiative was to encourage more countries to support the call for establishing a moratorium on executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty. The resolution received broad support from countries in all parts of the world, reflecting a global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. A total of 107 countries voted in favour of the resolution, while 38 countries voted against and 36 abstained. This time, ten fewer countries voted against the resolution than when the issue was considered by the UN General Assembly in 2008. Then, a total of 105 countries supported the resolution.

Altogether, 58 countries still retain the death penalty in their penal legislation, while we know for certain that 18 countries carried out executions in 2009.

“There are still a large number of cases involving use of the death penalty that go unreported. The text that was adopted today also calls on states to show greater transparency with regard to their use of the death penalty. In the long term, this could foster an open debate based on facts,” Mr Støre commented.
In connection with the debate on the resolution, a number of countries said that they were in the process of reducing the number of crimes that can carry the death penalty. Whether or not to continue executions is now being discussed in many countries, but the issue is still highly controversial in the UN. Some countries that still practise the death penalty insist that this is a domestic issue that should not be discussed in the UN.

“The death penalty is a human rights issue that affects us all. At the end of the day it is up to individual countries to abolish the death penalty, but Norway’s view on the issue remains unchanged. We raise Norway’s opposition to the death penalty at regular intervals in our talks with countries that still carry out executions. The campaign against the death penalty is a priority task for Norwegian missions abroad, both in individual countries and in international organisations,” Foreign Minister Støre said.


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