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One Step Closer

by Newsweek Pakistan

Matthew Lee High

Confusion reigns over Pakistan’s vote on resolution after Foreign Office claims U.N. was ‘mistaken’ in its stance

Pakistan, for the first time, appeared to vote on Monday in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions as a step toward abolishing the death penalty. However, a few hours after the news went public, Pakistan’s Foreign Office claimed that the U.N. was ‘mistaken’ and Islamabad had actually voted against the resolution

Mohammad Faisal, the spokesman of Pakistan’s Foreign Office, told The Express Tribune the vote had been ‘mistakenly’ read by the U.N. “Pakistan voted against the resolution,” he said. “The vote will be corrected as soon as office hours begin in New York.”

During the UNGA plenary sessions in New York, 121 of 193 member states voted in favor the seventh resolution on a moratorium on capital punishment. Of the remainder, 35 voted against and 32 abstained. The voting showed a clear trend toward abolishing the death penalty globally, as the number of nations voting in favor increased by 4, from 117 in December 2016 when the resolution was up for vote previously.

The Dec. 17 vote was proposed by Brazil on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of member states and was co-sponsored by 83 states. Dominica, Libya and Malaysia supported the resolution for the first time, while Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and South Sudan switched their votes from opposition to abstention. Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Mauritius, Niger, and Rwanda returned to the fold, meanwhile, voting in favor once against despite not having done so in 2016.

“The fact that more countries than ever before have voted to end executions shows that global abolition of the death penalty is becoming an inevitable reality. A death penalty-free world is closer than ever,” said Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Expert Chiara Sangiorgio in a media statement. “This vote sends yet another important signal that more and more countries are willing to take steps to end this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment once and for all.

Despite the gains, five nations reversed their 2016 votes, with Nauru moving from a vote in favor to a vote against and Bahrain and Zimbabwe switching from abstention to opposition. Congo and Guinea also changed their vote from in favor to abstention.

According to Amnesty International, only eight of the 51 founding member states of the U.N. had abolished the death penalty at the time of the global body’s formation. Today, 103 of 193 member states have abolished capital punishment for all crimes, while 139 have abolished it in law or practice.

“The result also shows the increasing isolation of the 35 countries that voted against the resolution. Those countries still retaining the death penalty should immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards full abolition,” Sangiorgio added.

Pakistan had placed a moratorium on executions in 2008 but resumed capital punishment following a militant attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014 that left 149 people—mostly schoolchildren—dead. Since resuming executions, Pakistan has executed 496 people, 13 percent of the global total, according to a tally by the Justice Project Pakistan.

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