UN human rights chief welcomes Rwanda’s abolition of death penalty

Louise Arbour

11 December 2007 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today lauded the abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda.

Along with Gabon, which also recently decided to ban the practice, Rwanda joins “the vast majority of UN Member States that have already done so,” Louise Arbour told the Human Rights Council, currently in its sixth session in Geneva.

“Meanwhile, it is important to reiterate that where the death penalty still exists, its use should conform to restrictive international standards,” she added.

The High Commissioner also welcomed the broad support for a General Assembly initiative calling for a global moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing them entirely.

Last month, the Assembly’s third committee, which deals with human rights issues, voted 99 to 52, with 33 abstentions, in favour of the resolution, which states “that there is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty’s deterrent value and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty’s implementation is irreversible and irreparable.”

That resolution will now go before the full 192-member Assembly for a vote this month. All Assembly resolutions are non-binding.

In her address to the 47-member Council today, Ms. Arbour also spoke about her latest visit to Sri Lanka, where she focused on the issue of abductions and disappearances, which have been reported in alarming numbers over the past two years.

She also mentioned her first trip to Afghanistan in two years, and voiced concern at the country’s limited progress on women’s rights.

On Sudan, the High Commissioner drew attention to the serious and ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, especially in the war-wracked Darfur region. “More needs to be done urgently by the Government and the international community to extend adequate protection to civilians,” she said.

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