Friday, February 2, 2007

Morocco 1st arab state abolishes death penalty

earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supports a campaign to ban the death penalty worldwide; wonder when the US will follow suit!


Paris, 1 Feb. (AKI) - Morocco will become by the end of April the first Arab state to remove the death penalty from its statute books, the president of the state appointed Consultative Committee on Human Rights, Ben Dhikri, confirmed to Adnkronos International (AKI) on Thursday. He is among 600 delegates gathered in the French capital, Paris for a two-day international conference against the death penalty. Prospects for abolishing capital punishment in North Africa are the main focus of the event - 'The 3rd World Congress Against the Death Penalty'.

Dhikri said a "general consensus" in favour of ending capital punishment exists among MPs in the current Moroccan parliament whose term ends in April. Dhikri, who is a close advisor to Morocco's King Mohammed VI, praised the monarch's appointment of a special legal commission tasked with removing capital punishment from the country's penal code.

"The law has already been amended and capital punishment abolished for a number of crimes," Dhikri explained. "The plan now is to revise Morocco's constitution to remove the death penalty," he said.

"No true opposition to abolishing capital punishment exists, but there is some concern about the growth of terrorism and new forms of the phenomenon," Dhikri said. "The positive aspects of Islam need to be stressed. It does not order people to kill, carry out reprisals or state executions," he added.

Arab governments need to show themselves willing to take certain important decisions such as that to abolish capital punishment, and give a lead to a sometimes hesistant public, according to Dhikri. In Morocco, "a new moral conscience has matured which has contributed to the abolition of the death penalty," he said.

Commenting on the campaign Italy is leading at the 192 member United Nations to win support for an international moratorium on the death penalty - Dhikri said this is "helpful," but cautioned: "The problem with the UN is the diplomatic accords make the application of international conventions depend on the will of individual states."

Morocco - which has not applied the death penalty since 1993 - is among 29 countries which can be considered abolitionist in practice: they retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any executions for the past 10 years or more.

A total 88 countries have completely abolished capital punishment and 11 have ended the death penalty for all but exceptional crimes such as warcrimes, according to top campaign group Amnesty International.