Uzbekistan abolished the death penalty 1 January 2008. The act is a confirmation of a radical change, a choice to ensure justice without resorting to death, following the United Nations’ approval of the Resolution for a Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment.
A presidential decree signed 1 August 2005 set the first day of 2008 as the date the abolition would take effect and the decision was confirmed by the Ukbekistan Supreme Court. The Community of Sant’Egidio and the Association of Uzbekistan Mothers Against the Death Penalty have been working for years to end capital punishment in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia. They greet this historic step with joy and appreciation, noting that it follows a similar decision taken last year by Kyrgystan. Kazakhstan also has begun moving toward a moratorium and complete abolition, as the president of the Kazkhstan Senate, K.J.Tokayev, announced in Naples in October at the global interreligious meeting for peace sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Archdiocese of Naples.
Uzbekistan is the 134th country in the world to abolish the death penalty and -- after Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan -- the third former Soviet republic in Central Asia to do so.
It is highly significant that Uzbekistan has become the first country to eliminate the death penalty after the approval of the moratorium on the part of the U.N. General Assembly Dec. 18.
Years of work and preparation led to this historic event with the Uzbekistan Government following a program of preparation from 2005 to 2007 for the complete abolition of the death penalty. The Supreme Court courageously confirmed the abolition of the death penalty Jan. 1, 2008.
The move is tied to the extraordinary work of Uzbeki abolitionists, and particularly the movement Mothers Against the Death Penalty, founded by Tamara Chikunova, who, with the Community of Sant’Egidio worked in Uzbekistan and around the world to sensitize the public to the need to defend the rights of those condemned to death and to ensure they had a proper legal defense. The group was closely involved in the entire process leading to the moratorium and adoption of the death penalty ban in Uzbekistan and was a strong supporter of the U.N. Resolution for a Universal Moratorium.
Since 2002, Tamara Chikunova and the Community of Sant’Egidio have been working for the abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan and throughout the region. From the founding in 2002 of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) at the Rome headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community, with the participation of the world’s principal abolitionist movements and those most deeply involved in defending human rights (from the Ensemble Contre la Peine de Morte to Penal Reform International, from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty to Amnesty International, from ACAT to FIDH), the struggle to abolish the death penalty in Uzbekistan has been among the top priorities in the global fight against the death penalty.
Recounting her tragic experiences as a mother who lost her only son, unjustly condemned to death and secretly executed by the state without being allowed to visit him one last time, Tamara Chikunova has reawakened the conscience of the world.
The Community of Sant’Egidio supported the birth of the Association of Mothers Against the Death Penalty, made up of parents of executed prisoners, and has assisted its work. Twenty-one people condemned to death have been saved from execution thanks to the creation of a pool of qualified legal assistants and local actions to defend human rights despite the many difficulties and even the personal risks run by Tamara Chikunova, who was often threatened, as the association sought legal recognition from the government. International attention, the interventions of Italian and European representatives in Tashkent, at the urging of the Sant’Egidio Community, helped Mothers Against the Death Penalty secure government recognition and ensured the safety of Tamara Chikunova.
The Community of Sant’Egidio congratulates the Government of Uzbekistan for the strength and meticulousness with which it carried out such a great act of civility, one which gives honor to the country and represents a decisive contribution to the achievement of a more humane justice in the world.
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