Tomorrow is the the anniversary of the first ever abolition of the death penalty by a state -- the Grand Duchy of Tuscany on 30 November 1786 -- celebrated for the past few years as the International Day of the Cities for Life campaign organised by the Rome-based Catholic community of Sant'Egidio. It begins tonight with a vigil (watch here) in Rome; 1,300 other cities across the world -- 61 of them capital cities -- in 85 countries will light up a monument or a square, to declare themselves against the death penalty. It is the largest international mobilisation against the death penalty there has ever been, bringing together local governments and civil society organisations under the slogan, "No justice without life".
This movement, part of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, has had remarkable success in persuading country after country to renounce capital punishment, leaving a minority of just 54 who still practise it. The campaign has also led to thousands of death sentences being commuted to life -- and to a UN vote in favor of an international moratorium.