[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jan 4 19:08:30 UTC 2007
Hussein's Execution May Trigger UN Backlash
The swirling controversy over the execution of former Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein is threatening to trigger a backlash at the United Nations.
Italy, which has condemned the death penalty as "barbaric", is trying to
bring the issue before a sharply divided world body by calling for a
"universal moratorium" on capital punishment.
If Italy -- which became a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security
Council on Jan. 1 and will hold office during 2007-2008 -- decides to take
the initiative, a resolution on the proposed moratorium could go before
the 192-member General Assembly.
On Wednesday, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour
made an unusual public appeal to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asking him
to spare the lives of two former colleagues of Saddam Hussein who are due
to be executed later this week. The two officials, Awad Hamad al-Bandar
and Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan, were co-defendants of the former Iraqi
president who was executed last Saturday.
"The concerns I expressed just days ago with respect to the fairness and
impartiality of Saddam Hussein's trial apply also to these 2 defendants,"
"I have therefore today directly appealed to the president of the Republic
of Iraq to refrain from carrying out these sentences," she added.
Arbour also pointed out that international law, as it currently stands,
only allows the imposition of the death penalty as an exceptional measure
within rigorous legal constraints.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was ambiguous on the issue of the
death penalty when he responded to questions from reporters Tuesday, said
he "fully endorsed" Arbour's call for restraint.
U.N. spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters Wednesday that the
secretary-general "is of course aware of the ongoing debate concerning a
total ban of the death penalty."
"Until the matter is resolved, he respects the right of member states to
have their own positions on it," she said.
However, she added, the secretary-general strongly believes in the wisdom
of Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states
that "everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."
Last Friday, Arbour issued a statement critical of the Saddam Hussein
trial and the trial of two of his colleagues.
The chaotic scene preceding his execution -- including taunting by his
executioners -- has also prompted protests worldwide.
She said that under international treaties that Iraq had signed, Hussein
had the right to appeal to the appropriate authorities for consideration
of commutation or pardon.
"There were a number of concerns as to the fairness of the original trial,
and there needs to be assurance that these issues have been
comprehensively addressed," she said.
"I call therefore on the Iraqi authorities not to act precipitately in
seeking to execute the sentence in these cases," Arbour said Friday, less
than 48 hours before Hussein was executed. She pointed out that
international law proscribes the imposition of the death sentence after an
"All sections of Iraqi society, as well as the wider international
community, have an interest in ensuring that a death sentence provided for
in Iraqi law is only imposed following a trial and appeal process that is,
and is legitimately seen as, fair, credible and impartial."
That is especially so in a case as exceptional as this one, she added.
The death penalty issue was discussed at the United Nations both in 1999
and 2000 but was shelved without a decision. Since then, it has become one
of the most politically divisive issues in the world body.
The European Union (EU), supported by several African and Latin American
countries, is a strong advocate of abolishing capital punishment. The
United States, backed by several Asian and Islamic countries, supports the
On Tuesday, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema was quoted as saying:
"I believe this must constitute one of the top commitments of our
international efforts because it us urgent to have an initiative to put an
end to the barbarism of the death penalty."
Ambassador Vanu Gopal Menon of Singapore, whose country played a leading
role in the campaign for the death penalty, said that although some
countries persist in trying to impose their views, the reality is that
there is no international consensus on whether the death penalty is a
violation of human rights.
"Indeed, a large group of countries have always disassociated themselves
from resolutions calling for a moratorium on or the abolition of the death
penalty," he told IPS.
In fact, said Menon, at the 61st Session of the Commission on Human
Rights, held in Geneva in March-April 2005, 66 countries signed a Joint
Statement of Disassociation making it clear that they did not support the
resolution tabled by the European Union and some others calling for a
moratorium on or abolition of the death penalty.
"For a large number of countries, the death penalty is a criminal justice
issue. It is imposed for the most serious crimes and serves as a deterrent
to would be offenders," Menon said.
Singapore's position is very simple. Every country has the sovereign right
to decide on its own criminal justice system. Whether to maintain or
abolish the death penalty is a question of national choice, he added.
And each society has to judge what is best for its people according to its
unique circumstances. Respect for human rights must include respect for
differences in systems and practices. Singapore respects the rights of
others to decide on their own systems.
"We do not seek to impose our views. All we ask is for the same treatment,
the same respect, to be extended to us," he said.
Montas said the secretary-general is aware of the ongoing debate in the
General Assembly concerning a total ban of the death penalty. Until the
matter is resolved, he respects the right of member states to have their
own positions on it.
Montas also said that in one recent vote, a majority of member states did
not agree to condemn the death penalty.
At the same time, she added, the secretary-general stressed the need to
work to abolish the death penalty, although he is aware that member states
differ on the issue.
Asked about the proposal for a moratorium on the death penalty, Montas
said "the matter was the prerogative of the General Assembly, and the
secretary-general would push forward whatever the Assembly agreed to on
(source: IPS-Inter Press Service)
More information about the DeathPenalty