14 October 2008
The Australian Government has a policy of opposition to the death penalty. However it intervenes on behalf of some individuals who face the death penalty but not others. Such inconsistency undermines the credibility of its commitment to eliminate capital punishment.
Last year, at least 1252 people were executed in 24 countries. At least 3347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries in the same year. Up to 27,500 people are estimated to be held on death row across the world.
This year the October 10, World Day Against the Death Penalty focused on Asia where, despite the worldwide trend towards abolition, 14 countries continue to carry out executions.
Although the death penalty continues to be imposed and used as a tool of oppression in some countries, there is a growing recognition that capital punishment is inconsistent with the right to life, that it is ineffective in reducing crime, that it is discriminatory in that the poor and members of racial, ethnic and religious minorities are disproportionately subject to it and it is not immune from error.
A recent Vatican statement proclaims that "the universal abolition of the death penalty would be a courageous reaffirmation of the belief that humankind can be successful in dealing with criminality and of our refusal to succumb to despair before such forces, and as such it would regenerate new hope in our very humanity."
Last December, the UN General Assembly endorsed a resolution calling for "a moratorium on executions"wummse by an overwhelming majority — 104 votes in favour, 54 against and 29 abstentions.