The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to adopt a resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty.
Co-sponsored by 89 countries, the December 20 resolution garnered the votes of 117 nations, the same record number that supported a moratorium resolution in 2014. This year, Guinea and Nauru newly voted in favor of the moratorium after abolishing the death penalty, and two countries that retain capital punishment on the books but do not use it, Malawi and Swaziland, also voted for the resolution for the first time.
This is the UN’s sixth resolution on the death penalty. In addition to calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions, the resolution calls on all countries to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, to comply with their obligations on consular relations, to progressively restrict death penalty use, and to make available data on their use of the death penalty.
The United States was among 40 nations that voted against the resolution. It stands alone among Western countries in retaining capital punishment. The last execution in Western Europe was in 1977 in France, and abolition is a prerequisite for membership in the European Union.
When the United Nations was founded, only eight countries had legally abolished the death penalty. Today, 99 countries have abolished capital punishment, and only five countries execute more than 25 people per year: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United States.