The United Nations General Assembly recently passed a resolution calling for a global moratorium on capital punishment. One hundred and four nations voted in favour of the resolution, 54 against, and 29 abstained. Although the UN’s decision is not legally binding to member states, the measure appeals for a general suspension, not abolition, of the death penalty throughout the world.
The UN moratorium campaign was first launched in Italy by the Nonviolent Radical party in 1994 and has met with continual defeat at the UN—until now. The Italian anti–capital punishment campaign is supported by the Roman Catholic Church and numerous NGOs, including Amnesty International.
The UN vote to pass a suspension on executions reflects significant policy changes among many UN member states over the last few years and sets ‘a new moral standard of justice,’ says activist Mario Marazziti. Nations opposing the resolution include the United States, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, China, North Korea and several Caribbean states. They argue that the practice of capital punishment is strictly an internal affair of criminal law.
The symbolic and moral importance of this milestone decision by the UN has sparked in Italy renewed debate about what constitutes life. Several Italian politicians and media officials have begun calling for a change in the abortion law, while the Vatican has continued to express its fierce opposition to abortion, both in Italy and in the UN. However, Italian Health minister Livia Turco has stated that amendments to Italy’s abortion law will not be made at this time.