UN rights chief urges return to moratorium as executions resume in Pakistan, Jordan

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

22 December 2014 – The top United Nations official on human rights issues voiced “deep regret” today over the resumption of executions in Pakistan and Jordan at a time when the international community is increasingly turning away from the use of the death penalty.

In a news release, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned the recent lifting of the moratorium on capital punishment in both countries, stressing that “no judiciary, anywhere, can be infallible.”

“It is very unfortunate that Pakistan and Jordan have resumed executions, reversing the moratoria on the death penalty that they had commendably put in place in 2008 and 2006 respectively,” stated Mr. Zeid.

“This is particularly disappointing given that just last week, a record 117 States voted in the UN General Assembly in favour of an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty.”

In October, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released its report – entitled Moving away from the Death Penalty, Arguments, Trends and Perspectives – upholding abolition as a necessity, particularly due to the need to avoid executing those subjected to wrongful convictions; the lack of statistical evidence pointing to the death penalty as a useful deterrent; and the higher rate of execution among those from marginalized communities, including people with mental or intellectual disabilities.

“The crime rate, historically, is not lowered by the imposition of capital punishment,” the High Commissioner continued. “Instead, shocking cases emerge, with tragic frequency, of the execution of people who are subsequently proven innocent – including in well-functioning legal systems.”

Recently, Equatorial Guinea and the states of Washington, Maryland and Connecticut in the United States, decided to establish a moratorium or suspend executions while last April, El Salvador, Gabon and Poland acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – an international agreement aimed at abolition. These countries join the more than 160 other Members States who have already either eliminated capital punishment or do not practice it.

Mr. Zeid urged the Governments of Pakistan and Jordan to re-impose the moratoria on the death penalty, stressing that “no justice system, no matter how robust, can guarantee against wrongful convictions.”


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