All countries urged by UN chief to ratify treaty to abolish death penalty

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Countries around the world have been urged to ratify an international treaty aimed at abolishing what has been described as the "cruel" death penalty.

The call came from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who spoke at a discussion entitled "Moving away from the death penalty-Discrimination against marginalized groups."

Speaking at the UN, he said the right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights.

The Secretary-General said in death penalty cases, the odds are often stacked against the poor, ethnic minorities and other minority groups, who often lack access to effective legal representation.

"I call on all States that have not yet done so to ratify the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. As we mark the Protocol's 25th anniversary in New York later this year, let us proclaim again our utter opposition to the death penalty. It is cruel because it is final and because it disproportionately targets disadvantaged groups." (29")

Secretary-General Ban said since the General Assembly called for a worldwide moratorium in 2007, the trend against capital punishment has become stronger.

He said there are now about 160 countries that have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations

Duration: 1’29″

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