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Worldwide Abolition

In the 1980s the international abolition movement gained momentum, and treaties proclaiming abolition were drafted and ratified. Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights and its successors, the Inter-American Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the United Nations’ Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, were created with the goal of making abolition of the death penalty an international norm.

Today, the Council of Europe requires new members to undertake and ratify Protocol No. 6. This requirement has, in effect, led to the abolition of the death penalty in Eastern Europe. For example, the Ukraine, formerly one of the world’s leaders in executions, halted the death penalty and was admitted to the Council. In addition, in June 1999, Russian president Boris Yeltsin signed a decree commuting the death sentence for all of the convicts on Russia’s death row. In 2005, Mexico and Liberia abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

In April 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed the Resolution Supporting Worldwide Moratorium on Executions. The resolution calls on countries which have not abolished the death penalty to restrict the use of the death penalty, including not imposing it on juvenile offenders and limiting the number of offenses for which it can be imposed. Ten countries, including the United States, China, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Sudan voted against the resolution.

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