Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


NZ behind UN resolution to abolish death penalty

10 October 2007

NZ behind UN resolution to abolish death penalty

Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced that New Zealand is working with other countries to put a resolution to the United Nations seeking the abolition of the death penalty world wide.

Helen Clark made the announcement at an event at Parliament, attended by Amnesty International representatives, to highlight World Day Against the Death Penalty.

“New Zealand’s last execution occurred fifty years ago, in 1957. Capital punishment was removed from our statute books in 1961, except for the crime of treason. That provision was finally repealed in 1989,” Helen Clark said.

“To date ninety countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and 131 countries have done so in law or in practice. Sixty-six countries still retain the death penalty.

“Capital punishment is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The death penalty violates the right to life and is by definition and in practice a cruel and degrading treatment. It is known to have been inflicted on the innocent. Its very nature means it cannot be reversed.

“New Zealand has campaigned against the death penalty for many years. We are now working with other nations on a resolution to go before the UN General Assembly later this year.

“The resolution will ask countries to implement a global moratorium on executions as a first step towards the eventual abolition of the death penalty. Its adoption would be a significant step forward in the abolition campaign,” Helen Clark said.


The death penalty was inherited from English law and, while its application narrowed, it remained an option in New Zealand until 1989. All legal executions in New Zealand have been by hanging, with the first in 1842 and the last in 1957.


From 1935 to 1941 the Labour Government followed a policy of commuting all death sentences imposed by the courts to life imprisonment.

From 1941 to 1950 the death penalty was outlawed.

In 1950 it was restored by the National Government, and from 1951 to 1957 there were 18 convictions for murder and eight executions.

In 1956, a proposal for a referendum on capital punishment was put forward by the then Minister of Justice, Jack Marshall. This referendum was to be voted on during the 1957 general election, but the proposal was defeated.

The 1957 election saw a Labour government elected, which made the death penalty inoperative through the automatic exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy.
In 1961, the newly elected National Government reaffirmed its support for the death penalty, but restricted its use to premeditated murders, murders committed during another crime, and murders committed during an escape from custody.

The issue of capital punishment generated debate within the National Party—the new Minister of Justice, Ralph Hanan, was an opponent of the death penalty, while Jack Marshall, then Deputy Prime Minister, was a strong supporter.
When the issue came to a conscience vote in Parliament, Hanan and nine other National MPs crossed the floor to vote with the Labour Party.
The death penalty was thereby abolished for murder, being retained only for treason and a number of military offences.

These last remnants of the death penalty (which had never been put into practice) were finally abolished under a Labour government in 1989, with the enactment of the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act.

New Zealand signed and ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights( ICCPR), which aims to abolish the death penalty, in February 1990, following the passage of the

Abolition of the Death Penalty Act.

New Zealand was the first country to ratify the Optional Protocol, reinforcing New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to the abolition of the death penalty.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Whether We Should Be Betting Quite So Heavily On Astra Zeneca’s Covid Vaccine

According to this week’s Speech from the Throne, maintaining public safety during the pandemic will remain the government’s top priority. Next year will (hopefully) bring the rolling out of a free vaccination against Covid-19 to New Zealander. Currently, there are three possible vaccine contenders but the effectiveness of the vaccine will be only one of the factors determining which vaccine will pre-dominate. On the basis of the cost per dose, and the ease of manufacture, storage and distribution, the Astra Zeneca/Oxford University vaccine will almost certainly be the prime choice for New Zealand, at least initially... More>>


New Zealand Government: Speech From The Throne

It is my privilege to exercise the prerogative of Her Majesty the Queen and open the 53rd Parliament.
In the October election, New Zealanders elected a majority Government for the first time under our Mixed Member Proportional electoral system... More>>

Grant Robertson: Government To Review Housing Settings

New Zealand’s stronger-than-expected economic performance has flowed through to housing demand, so the Government will review housing settings to improve access to the market, the Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced today. “Our focus More>>


Law Commission: Recommends New DNA Laws For Criminal Investigations

Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission today released a report that recommends a new, comprehensive regime to control how DNA is obtained, used and retained for criminal investigations. The report has revealed significant gaps in the operation ... More>>


New Zealand Government: To Declare A Climate Emergency

The Government will declare a climate emergency next week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said today. “We are in the midst of a climate crisis that will impact on nearly every aspect of our lives and the type of planet our children will inherit ... More>>


Economy: Crown Accounts Reflect Govt’s Careful Economic Management

The better-than-expected Crown accounts released today show the Government’s careful management of the COVID-19 health crisis was the right approach to support the economy. As expected, the Crown accounts for the year to June 2020 show the operating balance ... More>>


Green Party: Announce Portfolio Reshuffle With Talented And Energised Caucus Team

“The Green Party caucus offers a breadth of talent and energy to the Parliament this term. In ten MPs you have a small business owner, a human rights lawyer, an academic, a climate negotiator, a transport planner, and so much more”, Green Party ... More>>





InfoPages News Channels