DUSHANBE, November 29, Asia-Plus - In recent decades, the world has made steady progress towards the complete eradication of the death penalty.  One hundred and twenty-nine countries no longer use the death penalty in law or in practice, a report released by Amnesty International said. 

In 2005, only 23 of the world’s countries actually carried out executions.

Amnesty International calls on the heads of CIS states to put the issue of the abolition of the death penalty high on their agenda and to do all within their power to make the region a death penalty – free zone.

The organization greatly welcomes the significant progress already made by CIS countries to this end.  All current member-states of CIS -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan -- retained the death penalty when the Commonwealth was founded in 1991.  By the end of November 2006 seven countries have abolished the death penalty in law and practice; three countries -- Kazakhstan, Russia and Tajikistan -- have moratoria in law or practice.  Belarus and Uzbekistan are the only two remaining countries in the Commonwealth and also in the wider Europe and Central Asia region that still continue to apply the death penalty both in law and practice.

However, Uzbekistan has committed itself to abolish the death penalty.  In August 2005 the Uzbekistani President Karimov issued a decree abolishing the death penalty from January 2008.  In June 2006 the President also established a working group tasked among other things with preparing draft legislation replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment. Allowing increased public debate on the death penalty issue, involving independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs), was another important step made by the authorities in the past two years.  Amnesty International welcomes the government’s commitment to abolish the death penalty but remain concerned that scores of people may be sentenced to death in unfair trials and some may be executed before January 2008. The organization urges the authorities to promptly commute all death sentences and introduce a moratorium on death sentences.

According to the report, the authorities of the CIS need to provide their populations with human rights based leadership and actively educate people about the death penalty. To date, this has been lacking in the region.  All countries in the CIS who are members of the UN and/or the Council of Europe are entitled to become parties to treaties provided by these bodies that stipulate the abolition of the death penalty. 

The organization urges all CIS governments to promptly implement the recommendations outlined in the OSCE document ‘The Death Penalty in the OSCE Area.  Background Paper 2006, October 2006.’   As member states of the OSCE all CIS countries have committed themselves to keep the question of abolition under consideration.

Amnesty International urges the authorities in the region to disclose information related to the application of the death penalty and also ensure that the relatives of prisoners already executed receive full access to information including the dates and places of execution and burial and are allowed to collect the prisoner’s remains and any personal effects.