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Sereni: “The death penalty, Italy is mobilised for a moratorium” (Il Riformista)

Today, the UN General Assembly will be called to vote on the resolution for a universal moratorium on the death penalty. Despite the pandemic crisis, the Italian Government has dedicated great attention, in recent months, to the initiative against capital punishment, which is traditionally central to our foreign policy since the United Nations approved the first historic resolution on the matter back in December 2007. This year too, Italy has been fully committed to ensuring that, after the vote by the Third Committee several weeks ago, the General Assembly will express itself again by asking all countries – regardless of their current legislation – to join the commitment to a moratorium. The goal we have set ourselves is to consolidate – and possibly expand – the extraordinary result achieved last year.

Regarding this effort, a high-level event on the death penalty and the gender dimension was held last September, on the sidelines of the UNGA Week, opened by Minister Di Maio and attended by, among others, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.

Furthermore, Italy has also mobilised its diplomatic network, with the aim of raising the awareness of as many governments and countries as possible on this fundamental issue for civilisation. The context, of course, is not easy an easy one, due to the already mentioned pandemic that has heightened the difficulty of a full mobilization, while the remote voting format, combined with the impossibility, in many cases, to carry out a diplomatic action vis-à-vis, has sparked fears of an increase in abstentionism. However, the consistent feedback we have received from our offices, on the voting intentions of many states, bodes well. It will not be easy to improve on the already excellent result of the December 2018 vote, with a record 121 votes for, 35 against, and 32 abstentions. We have aimed, in recent weeks, to change the position of some states by trying to change their previous position from abstaining to voting for, and from voting against to abstaining, while at the same time avoiding backtracking in the opposite direction, as well as countering abstentions as well.

The final version of the resolution has several important new features compared to the 2018 text, in particular, the recognition of the role played by civil society in the fight against the death penalty, a reference to the discriminatory application of the death penalty against women, and finally a new paragraph calling on States to ensure that the children, families and legal representatives of persons sentenced to death receive adequate information about their condition and also have the opportunity to see or communicate with the condemned person for one last time, as well as to ensure the return of the body to the family for burial.

Killing someone in the name of justice is an unacceptable practice for legal culture of a country that was the birthplace of Cesare Beccaria. Capital punishment is also ineffective as a deterrent and has irreparable consequences in the case of miscarriage of justice.

The Moratorium is a mitigation of not a solution to the problem. However, it is a very important and effective step, which is why the Foreign Ministry, together with Nessuno Tocchi Caino, Amnesty International and the Community of Sant’Egidio, has spared no effort to move in the right direction.