The Moldovan parliament voted unanimously December 8 to abolish the death penalty. The country had pledged to do so as one of the conditions for becoming a full member of the Council of Europe–the first CIS member country to gain that status. Some European Union member countries have also asked Moldova to take this step. In its December 8 vote, the parliament amended the penal code to replace the death penalty with 25 years or life imprisonment for crimes of high treason and premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances, including terrorism. From 1990 to date, Moldovan courts pronounced 21 death sentences but none was carried out. (16)
The issue is politically contentious in former Soviet republics, where popular opinion generally favors the retention of the death penalty to cope with the rise in violent crime. But governments and parliaments seeking closer relations with West European countries and institutions are being asked to buck that trend and abolish the death penalty as part of post-communist legal reforms. The change is mandated by the sixth additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights to which the new democracies are required to adhere. Ukraine currently faces that decision in connection with its recent admission to the Council of Europe, and Lithuania still grapples with it after its admission to the CE.
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