The Italian Almanac

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death penalty

Italy Vs. Death Penalty

The Italian government voiced ''great satisfaction'' over the approval of a United Nations resolution for a global moratorium on the death penalty. Premier Romano Prodi said he was ''moved'' after the UN General Assembly voted 104 to 54 to approve the resolution, for which Italy had campaigned for several years. ''It is a source of pride that Italy was first to promote this initiative, which soon was transformed into a great international coalition for people's rights and dignity,'' he said.

With the resolution, the UN asks all its members to suspend executions. Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, who was at the UN in New York for the crucial vote, said the strong majority in favour meant it was now possible to start talking about abolishing capital punishment definitively. Italy has long been active in the fight against capital punishment and lobbied many governments to table a moratorium proposal at the UN, where it took up a non-permanent Security Council seat this year.

Campaigners point out that it was an Italian, the philosopher and politician Cesare Beccaria, who made the first-ever case against the death penalty. Beccaria (1738-1794) condemned capital punishment and torture in his 1764 treatise Dei Delitti e Delle Pene (On Crimes and Punishments) which is considered a founding work in the field of criminology. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was also the first state to permanently abolish the death penalty in 1786.

A recent Amnesty International report said that the number of worldwide executions had fallen together with the number of countries that impose the death penalty. It said 1,591 executions were reported last year compared to 2,148 in 2005. The group said that some 99 countries have banned capital punishment while 69 still have it.