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Northern Ireland hanged a prisoner for the last time in 1961...

The tide of history is flowing fast against the death penalty and this UN resolution is a big step forward.

So far, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Only 25 countries actually carried out executions in 2006. In 2006, 91 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the US.

Amnesty's statistics also show an overall decline in the number of executions in 2006 a recorded 1,591 executions, compared to 2,148 in 2005.

Of course, we had it here too until fairly recently. Northern Ireland hanged a prisoner for the last time in 1961 25 year old Robert McGladdery, who had been convicted of the murder of 19 year-old Pearl Gamble, near Newry.

The death penalty for murder was abolished in Northern Ireland as recently as 1973, with the UK finally abolishing it for all remaining crimes (treason, piracy, etc) only in 1998 (one of T Blair's positive moves to improve human rights in the UK, before it all started going horribly wrong).

Remaining death penalty-using countries should establish a moratorium on executions as soon as the General Assembly endorses the resolution later this year.

However, sadly countries like Saudi Arabia (favoured method beheading) and the US (favoured method injection) undoubtedly will hang on to this practice for years yet. But, in the end, like us they'll catch on and abolish the death penalty. The only question is: how many more of their own citizens will they kill first?

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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