The UN vote on the moratorium on executions is positive: the world must cancel the most premeditated of assassinations

December 18 2020

Death Penalty
Andrea Riccardi

Editorial by Andrea Riccardi

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Mobilization is needed, as demonstrated by the commitment of the Community of Sant'Egidio: 114 states out of 193 have abolished it. On December 12 the UN votes on the moratorium saw an increase in the votes in favor of the universal moratorium: 123 (2 more than at the last vote), 38 against and 24 abstentions.
"The death penalty is the most premeditated of assassinations": with these words of Gigi Proietti, who recently passed away, opened this year's edition of "Cities for Life: against the death penalty", organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio. The rules of social distancing did not allow the traditional meeting at the Colosseum with the participation of many young people. The day was celebrated remotely on the Web, with authoritative speakers and witnesses from the corridors of death.
The annual initiative supports the global campaign for the moratorium on the death penalty that Italy has been carrying out since 2007, the year of the first resolution in this sense at the UN General Assembly. Since then, the death penalty has taken many steps backwards: today 114 out of 193 states have abolished it (8 only for common crimes) and 28 are de facto abolitionists, having suspended executions. It is a decisive step towards total abolition. The campaign touched many states where the theme is sensitive: the United States, Japan, India and the Islamic countries. The movement of the "Cities for Life" allows the participation to the campaign also of centers and municipalities of the retaining countries, thus broadening the basis of consensus.
An international movement that goes beyond cultural, religious and political borders. To date, 2,371 municipalities have joined, and every 30 November - the date of the first official abolition by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1786 - they light up a city monument as a sign of membership.
This year the day was opened by David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, speaking of the "failure" of the death penalty which is not a deterrent to crime (one of the major justifications for maintenance). One of the worst characteristics of capital punishment, underlined Mario Marazziti, curator of the event, is irreversibility. South African judge Navi Pillay, President of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, turned to Joe Biden hoping for a moratorium in the United States, where 22 states are now abolitionists and 3 are in a moratorium.
The Islamic point of view was expounded by Malaysian lawyer Suzana Norlihan Ujen: "Sharia law itself does not impose the death penalty or recommend it". Great surprise was created by Pope Francis' tweet that came during the event which, taking up the hashtag of the initiative (#nodeathpenalty), wrote: "Not even the murderer loses his personal dignity and God himself guarantees it. Firm rejection of the death penalty shows the extent to which it is possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of every human being".
The jurist Sandra Babcock, who spoke about Lisa Montgomery, awaiting execution in January 2021 in the United States concluded the panel. It is a story of terrible violence she suffered as a child that traumatized her for life and explains how she came to commit a crime. It is a sentence to be reviewed!
The last word was a protagonist: Joaquin Martinez, sentenced to death in 1997 for a crime he never committed. "I speak against the death penalty because it represents hatred and lack of humanity".
On December 12, a new vote on the global moratorium was held at the UN. November 30 was a stop. The mobilization continues for new countries to join the list of those who abandon this practice of other times. Abolishing the death penalty is a sign of pacification in our societies and of respect for life today so threatened by the pandemic.
Editorial by Andrea Riccardi on Famiglia Cristiana of 13/12/2020