Thursday, April 16, 2015

At Doha Crime Congress, UN experts cite ‘shift’ as more States move away from death penalty

As the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice continued its work in Doha, Qatar today, high-level UN, academic and Government experts at a panel discussion on death penalty advocated moving away from the punishment as there is no empirical evidence that it deters crime. 

“Over the lifetime of the United Nations, the balance has shifted, and today, more than 160 Member States have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it”, said UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Ivan Šimonović, who moderated the discussion. 
“Despite these positive developments, however, a number of States continue to impose the death penalty,” he told the panel, one of the many events taking place during the UN Crime Congress, which opened Sunday and is expected to conclude on 19 April. 

The participants at the panel included the Minister of Justice of Italy, Andrea Orlando, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, the Deputy Director in Penal Reform International in charge of regional Middle East and North Africa office, Haitham Shibli, a non-governmental organization working on penal and criminal justice reform, and Jeffrey Fagan, Professor at Columbia Law School in New York. 

Mr. Šimonović stressed that Amnesty International noted in a recent report on global sentences and executions that in 2014 there were fewer registered executions but there was an increase of people condemned to death. 

“The spread of drug trafficking and terrorism is an important factor for many States when considering to retain or even reintroduce the death penalty,” he added, noting that China, Iran, Viet Nam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Malaysia have the highest rate of executions for drug trafficking.

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