The establishment of moratorium on the use of the death penalty (i.e. the suspension of executions) in a retentionist country is considered to be an important step towards the abolition of the death penalty. It often underlines the will of national key decision makers to review the utility of capital punishment or to initiate its abolition in the legislation of retentionist countries.
The resolutions 62/149, 63/168 and 65/206 on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly are of considerable importance. Although they are not per se legally binding, they reflect the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment. However, in their quality of so-called soft law instruments, they form part of the sources which international law is derived from.
The third UNGA resolution 65/206 was adopted on 21 December 2010 with a higher vote than the former two resolutions. In it, the General Assembly mentions the irreversible and irreparable character of the death penalty and expresses its conviction that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to the respect and enhancement of human dignity and human rights. It also states that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty.
The resolution calls upon all States that still maintain the death penalty:
- to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, in particular the minimum standards, as set out the Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50, as well as provide the Secretary General with information in this regard.
- to make available relevant information with regard to their use of the death penalty to restrict progressively the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed
- to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
World Medical Association statement, October 2013, supports the suspension of the use of the death penalty through a global moratorium.