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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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Behind Death Penalty Moratorium Vote at UN, Lunches with Dictators, Cities for Life

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- Tuesday the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. Afterwards, in a swank 57th Street law office, Mario Marazziti of the Community of Sant'Egidio, a major proponent of the resolution, briefed a handful of reporters on why some of the countries voted yes. Cote d'Ivoire, he said, had been won over by Sant'Egidio's role in the peace process. Marazziti initially said that France had helped; after Inner City Press asked for clarification, given President Gbagbo's antipathy for France, Marazziti agreed, it had all been Burkina Faso (which also voted for the moratorium).

            Over what he billed as a Tuscan spread, of wine and mozzarella the pepper corns on which may his eyes water, Marazziti sketched the history of the death penalty campaign. This round involved schmoozing with dictators and recruiting sub-regions to become Cities for Life. Tuscany, it turns out, was the first to oppose death, back on November 30, 1786. It was never reinstated.

Campaigning against the death penalty

            At the UN, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim was presented with the text on November 2. On November 15, Marazziti said, Egypt tried some amendments, to tie the death penalty to the wider right-to-life, meaning abortion. According to Marazziti, even the Vatican opposed this "instrumental" use of the principle of life. The Philippines -- a "Catholic country," Marazziti pointed out -- opposed Egypt's gambit. And on December 18, the resolution passed, 104 in favor, 54 against, and 29 abstentions.

            Despite the recent news from New Jersey, the U.S. voted against the resolution, along for example with Sudan. Antigua Barbuda, incoming to the presidency of the Group of 77 and China, also voted no. By contrast Algeria voted yes, and Morocco abstained. Who'd have thunk it?

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540