Millions call for ban on death penalty

 A petition with more than 3.2 million signatures, calling for an end to the death penalty, was handed to the UN on Monday. The petition was presented by campaigners representing all the world's religions, from more than 46 countries. Among the signatories are the Dalai Lama, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, the Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, Italian writer Umberto Eco, many Roman Catholic organisations, Italian film director Roberto Benigni, Nobel literature prize winner Dario Fo and World Methodist Council President Frances Alguire, the organisers said. So far, 43 states have ratified a protocol or addendum against capital punishment, part of a treaty on civil and political rights, approved by the UN General Assembly 11 years ago. Seven other nations have signed the protocol, signalling their intention to ratify it. Although many countries have abolished capital punishment, executions still remain legal in 90 countries and about 30 nations conduct executions each year, according to human rights campaigners. Among these are the United States, China, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Yemen. Sr Helen Prejean, who set up Moratorium 2000, one of the campaigning groups, told reporters she would return next year with 10 million signatures. She said: "In the United States we are just beginning to see a shift in public attitude," Sr Helen wrote about her work in the book Dead Man Walking which was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon. Kofi Annan, secretary general of the UN, who received the petition, said he shared the campaigners' hope for a global ban on the death penalty. He said: "What happens when you discover that it is a mistake? Recently we have seen many who have been found not guilty as a result of DNA and other new evidence."

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