NY Times Opinion – Stepping Back From Capital Punishment

Published: February 20, 2013

In December, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a global moratorium on the death penalty. This fourth such vote in five years was supported by a record 111 nations.

Yet in the first month of 2013, Saudi Arabia beheaded nine people. In recent weeks, Yemen has sentenced a juvenile offender to death, fueling hunger strikes by scores of imprisoned children. Iran has reportedly begun imposing death sentences for petty criminals accused of robbery.

Elsewhere, a court in Indonesia, where there have been no state executions since 2008, sentenced a British grandmother to death for drug trafficking — reportedly to gasps of disbelief in the courtroom. Zimbabwe has hired a hangman after seven years of searching, while Sri Lanka, which has not carried out an execution since 1976, has reportedly recruited two executioners who are undergoing special training.

In the United States, the trend is toward fewer executions and death sentences, with more states repealing the death penalty. Nevertheless, in 2012 there were 43 executions and 77 death sentences.

Such developments make for grim reading. However, we at the International Commission against the Death Penalty — an independent body opposed to capital punishment in all cases — remain hopeful. It is clear that the world is becoming an increasingly lonely place for states that practice executions.