Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 24, 2007
UN calls for moratorium on death penalty
Church's opposition to death penalty helps effect change
By JOHN THAVIS
Catholic News Service
The Vatican said it was a "sign of hope" that the United Nations had voted for a moratorium on the death penalty.
By a 104-54 vote Dec. 18, the UN General Assembly approved the non-binding resolution to suspend executions.
The resolution states that "there is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty's deterrent value and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty's implementation is irreversible and irreparable."
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the vote was "a very positive event."
"It shows that despite the persistence of so much violence in the world, there is a growing awareness in the human family of the value of life, of the dignity of every person and of the concept of a non-vindictive punishment," Lombardi said.
He said it showed that people increasingly favour justice that respects human rights and refuses "every violent solution."
"Therefore, this vote should be interpreted as a sign of hope and a step forward on the way of peace," he said.
Lombardi expressed the Vatican's appreciation for those who worked hard to support passage of the resolution, an accomplishment that seemed difficult to achieve not too long ago.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's representative to the United Nations, told Vatican Radio that the Holy See "welcomes with satisfaction the results of the vote."
A Catholic activist opposed to capital punishment hailed the UN vote as a "victory for the culture of life."
Mario Marazziti, spokesman for the Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community and head of its campaign against the death penalty, said the vote signifies that capital punishment is not just a judicial matter for individual countries but a public issue that "concerns human rights."
The Sant'Egidio Community has been active in opposing the death penalty for more than a decade and is one of the founding member groups of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
The world coalition notes that two-thirds of the world's countries have "abolished the death penalty in law or practice" and since 1990 more than 50 countries have stopped using capital punishment.
According to Amnesty International, 133 countries have abolished capital punishment, and last year 91 per cent of executions took place in six countries: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the United States.
Marazziti said he has seen an attitude shift against capital punishment in recent years and he credits the Catholic Church in part for effecting the change by being so vocal in its opposition.
In early November, Marazziti led a delegation that presented a petition to the president of the UN General Assembly. It was signed by five million people from 154 countries calling for an end to capital punishment.