01/15/2010, 00.00
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Mongolian president calls for the abolition of the death penalty

Tsakhia Elbegdorj says it degrades Mongolia's dignity. He plans to commute the sentence of people on death row. Since the start of his mandate, he has already commuted three death sentences. In parliament, a majority of lawmakers still supports the death penalty, and is blocking the president’s proposal.
Ulaan Baatar (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj has announced a moratorium on the death penalty, and has called for its abolition. Mr Elbegdorj told parliament that such punishment degraded Mongolia's dignity and that he would commute the sentence of death row inmates.

In the land of Genghis Khan who imposed discipline by putting people to death, the president wants a moratorium on executions because the “majority of the world's countries have chosen to abolish the death penalty. We should follow this path," he told lawmakers.

The president said he would start at once. “From tomorrow, I'll pardon those on death row. I suggest commuting the death penalty to a 30-year severe jail sentence.”

A draft code reserves capital punishment for premeditated murder and assassination of a state or public official, but removes it for rape, banditry, terrorism, sabotage and genocide. Execution is by gunshot to the back of the head. The death penalty does not apply to women or to males under the age of 18 or over 60.

As president of Mongolia, a country the size of Western Europe but with a population of only three million or so, Elbegdorj he has the power to commute any death sentences, but changing the law is likely to be much more of a challenge. He will need help from members of Mongolia's opposition-dominated parliament, many of whom still favour capital punishment.

The number of executions in Mongolia is a state secret and is not known, but humanitarian organisations and human rights activists have said that at least five people were executed in 2008.

China holds the unenviable title as the world’s top executioner in 2008 with 1,718 people put to death. That is more than half of the 2,390 executions carried out in the world that year.

Altogether 93 per cent of all executions occur in five countries. In addition to China, the list includes Iran (346), Saudi Arabia (102), the United States (37) and Pakistan (36).

The continent with the highest number of executions is Asia with 1,838 executions.

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