The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty with the ultimate goal of abolishing the practice. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the vote, calling it a bold step by the international community. The non-binding resolution calls on all countries that still allow capital punishment to respect international standards that safeguard the rights of condemned inmates.

The vote follows the passage of a law banning executions in the U.S. state of New Jersey. VOA's Robert Raffaele has more.

New Jersey is the first U.S. state in more than four decades to outlaw capital punishment. Governor Jon Corzine signed the ban on Monday. "I think it is the winning side, because it is moral, in my heart and in my soul, and that's why I feel the way I do," Corzine said. 

The new measure spares the lives of eight men on New Jersey's death row, including Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender who murdered seven-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. That case helped lead to Megan's Law, requiring law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities.

Megan's father, Richard Kanka, voiced his outrage to New Jersey lawmakers. "She was suffocated, she was raped post-mortem, her body was dumped in a park. Now if that doesn't constitute gross and heinous, I don't understand what you people are thinking about. "

Capital punishment opponents are praising the state's decision. Among them: Sister Helen Prejean, the author of "Dead Man Walking," a book about her experience with a death row inmate. She said, "And the word will travel around the globe, that there is a state in the United States of America that was the first to show that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hatred."

Lethal injections have come under increased scrutiny in the United States since recent executions in Florida and California took up to 30 minutes to kill the condemned inmates. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of such executions and is expected to issue a ruling in the next few months.