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Coalition Urges UN to Call For Moratorium on Executions

A coalition of 60 non-governmental organizations is urging the United Nations to adopt a resolution that calls for a global moratorium on the death penalty. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau that supporters believe such a resolution has enough support to pass.

In 2003, The World Coalition Against The Death Penalty designated October 10 as the "World Day Against the Death Penalty.

At a news conference in New York Wednesday, the group said more than 90 countries nations have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 131 have done so in practice and 66 retain it.

The U.N. General Assembly is considering a resolution that will ask countries to impose a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards abolishing it worldwide.

The resolution is co-sponsored by countries including Brazil, East Timor, Gabon, Mexico, the Philippines and Portugal. The spokesman for the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Michel Taube, says he is hopeful the initiative will be adopted.

"I think there is quite a lot of support at the moment. But let's let the diplomacy and the organizations continue it's work and I'm sure the number of sponsors will continue to grow, grow, grow," he said.

The coalition, which includes groups like Amnesty International and the International Federation of Human Rights League, says the use of the death penalty is declining overall.

But, it says in some countries, including Iran, more people are being put to death.

In Afghanistan Monday, 15 prisoners were executed by gunfire, ending a three-year moratorium on the death penalty in that country.

Taube said he thinks recent images, including those of Saddam Hussein's hanging last December, have bolstered international opposition to the death penalty. "In all the world today there are initiatives, on five continents, in many countries, to ask for the abolition of the death penalty. We think the moment has come."

Amnesty International says six countries were responsible for 91 percent of all known executions worldwide last year: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the United States.

The death penalty is a controversial issue in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that the death penalty is not unconstitutional. Currently, 38 of the 50 states allow the death penalty, as does the federal government.