Mongolia‘s president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, implemented a moratorium on executions in his nation. He told members of Parliament that he could not bring himself to sign the order to execute a human being.
This is a courageous decision. Mr. Elbegdorj just took office last June, and is the first president who was never a member of the People’s Revolutionary Party (communist), and who is Western-educated. He takes this action in spite of the fragile position of his political party and the widespread acceptance of the death penalty in many Asian nations. While I’m sure he is also politically savvy, it’s refreshing to see someone speak so openly from a conscience-based position.
His statement received no applause from legislators. Other leaders have implemented moratoria on the death penalty, and all of them have been overturned. From the time of Genghis Khan, this has been culture that sees harsh punishment as the best way to deal with crime and misbehavior. At present, there are 59 crimes on the books which are punishable by death.
President Elbegdorj called upon legislators to pass legislation ending capitol punishment for most crimes, turning his presidential moratorium into a new legal reality.
“‘There is a blemish on the shiny name of Mongolia. This black spot is capital punishment, which degrades the supreme human right to life,” Elbegdorj said in a speech to parliament. “What if a mistake was made when imposing a sentence, what if the State deprived its innocent citizen of life because of a miscarriage of justice in court proceedings?”
According to Amnesty International, President Elbegdorj has already commuted the sentences of three people scheduled for execution since he took office in June 2009. Details of executions are difficult to find for Mongolia as the executions are carried out in secret, and the bodies of the prisoners are not returned to their families for burial.
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