Killing the Death Penalty

It is finally happening. After 13 years of negotiations, delays, and hesitation, the UN General Assembly will vote this month on the proposal for a universal moratorium on the death penalty. A large majority of the UN adopted the proposal on 15 November, despite attempts by some member states to obstruct, amend, or bury it. Fortunately, in the end, the opponents were forced to fight a will stronger than their own: the will of those who – after the abolition of slavery and torture – want to mark another turning point for civilization.

But will this December’s vote be a mere formality? Experience teaches us to be prudent. I have not opened my bottle of spumante yet.

To be honest, I am not sure that all of the world’s governments have accepted the inevitable, or that even the most inflexible will now agree to the moratorium. But I continue to have faith that the General Assembly will know, as always, how to meet this challenge.

We are all aware that even if the vote succeeds, the UN resolution will not be binding, and that establishing and enforcing a moratorium is only a necessary mid-way step toward full abolition. I believe the UN should push for an immediate de facto suspension, without waiting for the debates to begin on legal reforms in the respective countries. I hope that this approach will allow a wide consensus in the General Assembly, and that any last minute change of heart will fail.