Death Penalty:Terzi sees abolition potential in North Africa

Moratorium in Tunisia, Marocco. Riad 3rd in execution standings

03 August, 16:05

(ANSAMed) - ROME, AUGUST 3 - There is potential for abolishing the death penalty among the newly democratized southern Mediterranean countries, but a cautious approach is in order, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said on Friday at the official release of the 2012 Hands Off Cain report.

The annual report by Hands Off Cain, an Italian NGO that brings together international citizens and MPs to seek the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, documents fewer executions worldwide in 2011, when 5,000 people were put to death, against 5.946 in the previous year.

''The processes of democratic transition south of the Mediterranean are opening spaces for the abolitionist tendencies to grow. But we must find the right formulas and dose the pressure on a case-by-case basis, in order to invite the new leaderships to approach abolitionist positions,'' Terzi said.

There is hope for an abolitionist future in Libya and Tunisia, the minister said, but not immediately, because ''both countries consider the death penalty to be a deterrent against crime and terrorism.'' Tunisia and Morocco are already on the path to abolition, Terzi added. ''Tunisia has applied a de facto moratorium on executions since 1991, and Morocco since 1993,'' the minister said.

Of the 2011 executions, 4,000 were carried out in China, 676 in Iran, and 82 in Saudi Arabia. These three countries lead the pack in terms of executions worldwide, according to the Hands Off Cain report. ''We must continue to emphasize the absurdity of killing people who have killed other people in order to demonstrate that it's wrong to kill people,'' the minister said, adding that Italy is committed to the abolitionist position. The drop in executions over 2010 ''confirms an irreversible tendency towards abolition of the death penalty worldwide,'' according to Terzi, who said the 2007 UN resolution calling for a universal death penalty moratorium a ''key turning point.'' ''We are appreciated because we are willing to express our position with clarity and firmness,'' Terzi said. ''An index of our success is the fact that the latest UN resolutions included new elements, such as calling on member states to respect basic UN standards that prohibit the executions of minors and the mentally disabled.'' Italy is pushing for a revised anti-death penalty UN resolution in December, the minister explained, one that will include more signatory states and fewer contrary votes.

In the past eight months, Terzi has personally and publicly intervened to raise leaders' consciousness on this issue, for example, at a December Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting. ''I called on Byelorussian authorities to revoke the death sentences on two people charged with the Minsk attacks. Neither my appeal nor that of the EU were enough to prevent the executions from taking place, but we did raise consciousness,'' the minister said.

(ANSAMed).

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