UN-Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has performed an apparent U-turn just one day into his new job. His spokesperson says he does support the abolition of the death penalty. That is in spite of ambigious comments he made when asked about the execution of Saddam Hussein by Iraq. “The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member state to decide,” he told reporters. It was a clear departure from the traditional United Nations opposition to the death penalty.
According to official sources, Saddam’s hanging is one of over 50 such executions of prisoners since the Iraqi government re-introduced capital punishment in 2004. Despite failing in her bid to halt his death, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is now calling on Baghdad not to execute Saddam’s half-brother and a fellow official of the late leader’s regime.
It comes as Italy says it will campaign at the United Nations for a global ban on the death penalty. The country has just taken a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. Prime Minister Romano Prodi says executions must be abolished in all countries and Italian politics will work towards this end. Rome is already a focal point for the issue, with the Coliseum lit up in celebration whenever a death penalty is cancelled anywhere in the world.