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Death Penalty Moratorium: New York Times Editorial

with 9 comments

Newspapers are slowly waking up to the importance of the Moratorium against Death Penalty approved on Thursday, Dec 18 by the UN General Assembly. Here’s an important editorial A Pause from Death” from The New York Times (and Lining up against the death penalty” from the International Herald Tribune):

The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday for a global moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was nonbinding; its symbolic weight made barely a ripple in the news ocean of the United States, where governments’ right to kill a killer is enshrined in law and custom.

Go to The Board » But for those who have been trying to move the world away from lethal revenge as government policy, this was a milestone. The resolution failed repeatedly in the 1990s, but this time the vote was 104 to 54, with 29 nations abstaining. Progress has come in Europe and Africa. Nations like Senegal, Burundi, Gabon — even Rwanda, shamed by genocide — have decided to reject the death penalty, as official barbarism.

The United States, as usual, lined up on the other side, with Iran, China, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq. Together this blood brotherhood accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s executions, according to Amnesty International. These countries’ devotion to their sovereignty is rigid, as is their perverse faith in execution as a criminal deterrent and an instrument of civilized justice. But out beyond Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Myanmar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, there are growing numbers who expect better of humanity.

Many are not nations or states but groups of regular people, organizations like the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic movement begun in Italy whose advocacy did much to bring about this week’s successful vote in the General Assembly.

They are motivated by hope — and there is even some in the United States. The Supreme Court will soon hear debate on the cruelty of execution by lethal injection. On Monday, New Jersey became the first state in 40 years to abolish its death penalty.

That event, too, left much of this country underwhelmed. But overseas, the votes in Trenton and the United Nations were treated as glorious news. Rome continued a tradition to mark victories against capital punishment: it bathed the Colosseum, where Christians once were fed to lions, in golden light.

It is rather unfortunate that no mention has been given of the Transnational Radical Party and “Hands Off Cain“, the organizations that have initiated the whole process almost 14 years ago. But the fact that the NYT deemed it important enough to warrant an editorial, should be placate those claiming the Moratorium, as a nonbinding document, is a useless document or worse.

For other articles on the Moratorium:

(1) On the Los Angeles Times, an opinion piece “The UN’s Death Blow” by Louise Arbour, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

(2) On BBC News, a Special Report “UN votes for death penalty freeze” with words from the Singapore and Mexican ambassadors and the “detail” that only 51 nations still retain the right to use death penalty

(3) On Euronews (in French), an article “L’Italie s’est fortement impliquée en faveur d’un moratoire sur la peine de mort” with some background on those that have fought for the Moratorium

(4) On the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German), an article “Die guten Menschen von Rom” about the Community of Sant’Egidio mentioned by the New York Times’ editorial.

(5) On the Tagesenzeiger (Swiss, in German), an editorial “Ein Akt der Zivilisation” that makes the rather obvious points that dangerous criminals should be locked up, and the death penalty, whatever one thinks of it, is arrogant and archaic.

(6) The Argentinian El Mundo (in Spanish) hosts a commentary “Una victoria italiana contra la pena de muerte by the local Italian Ambassador, Stefano Ronca.

(7) In Diário Digital (in Portuguese) there is an exhaustively explanatory article “ONU: AG aprova apelo a moratória na aplicação pena de morte“, explaining the origin of the “Hands Off Cain” name.

And I am sure there’s lots more in other languages I an as yet unable to perform searches with…

Written by omnologos

2007/Dec/21 at 21:33:53

9 Responses

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  1. Firstly, to Hell with the UN. They have NO goal except the destruction of the sovereignty of every nation on Earth.

    Secondly, In the US at least we need a moratorium on the death penalty until we can use it fairly. Right now it too tied up with the economics of the criminals. The poor die and the wealthy don’t.

    I think we need to make capital crimes death penalty only sentences so as to avoid unfair sentencing.


    2007/Dec/21 at 21:48:53

  2. jonolan: you should note the Moratorium has been brought about by one state (Italy) and then democratically discussed, rejected, then approved at the United Nations. It’s not like having the Security Council or the Secretary General trying to impose anything on anybody. It’s those “Nations on Earth” that have freely voted (thereby re-affirming their sovereignty).

    Concerning the fair use of the death penalty, I am very skeptical that _that_ can ever be achieved. Leaving aside places like China and Iran, the USA have discovered that in a democratic country where there is the Rule of Law, behind the search for “fair use” there is an enormous amount of money that need to be spent. Are you sure that is a good way to allocate resources, when “life with no possibility of parole” is a much cheaper alternative, and much safer for all involved?


    2007/Dec/21 at 22:24:32

  3. It can be done by simplifying the penal code. Remove the options for sentence.


    2007/Dec/21 at 22:30:47

  4. Please let me know when you blog about the definition of “fair”


    2007/Dec/21 at 22:32:32

  5. fair = same crime, same punishment. Why is this difficult for you?


    2007/Dec/22 at 01:57:27

  6. Fairness in justice is about being sure the criminal is condemned, and the innocent freed. That’s what the American very expensive review process for people in death row is about. Removing options from sentencing, or promising “same crime same punishment” are actions that have little to do with “fairness”.


    2007/Dec/22 at 07:55:14

  7. You were talking about the Death Penalty, a sentence or punishment. I commented solely within that scope – fairness in sentencing.

    A complete overhaul of the Courts system was beyond the scope of my comment. If that makes what I said have no bearing on “fairness” in your mind, so be it.


    2007/Dec/22 at 13:29:55

  8. [jonolan]:
    “fair = same crime, same punishment”

    In fact, in the US that would be prohibited by the Eight Amendment, if the crime is either cruel or unusual.


    2007/Dec/28 at 07:55:11

  9. enzo,

    “Same crime, same punishment”

    I meant that everyone who commits the same crime should receive the same punishment, not that the punishment should mimic the crime – though that would be an interesting social experiment.


    2007/Dec/28 at 13:24:22

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