General Assembly Will Call for Moratorium on Executions, with View to Abolishing Death Penalty, under Terms of Resolution Approved by Third Committee

19 November 2012
GA/SHC/4058

General Assembly Will Call for Moratorium on Executions, with View to Abolishing Death Penalty, under Terms of Resolution Approved by Third Committee

19 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4058
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

40th Meeting (PM)


General Assembly Will Call for Moratorium on Executions, with View to Abolishing


Death Penalty, under Terms of Resolution Approved by Third Committee


Vote:  110-39-36, with 5 Separate Votes Rejecting Proposed Amendments;

Also Approves Draft Text on Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly express its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty and call on States to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the practice.


The draft text, approved by a recorded vote of 110 in favour to 39 against, with 36 abstaining, would have the Assembly call on States to respect international standards that provided safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of persons facing the death penalty, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 (1984).


By other terms, the Assembly would call on States to progressively restrict the death penalty’s use and not impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons under age 18 or pregnant women.  States also would be called on to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty might be imposed.  For his part, the Secretary-General would be requested to report to the Assembly’s sixty-ninth session on the implementation of the present resolution.


Passage of the draft followed votes on five draft amendments, which aimed to inject into the text positions taken during weeks of intense consultations on the death penalty, and all of which failed to achieve the requisite majority for approval by the Committee.


Introducing the text, Croatia’s delegate said the co-sponsors had made a number of compromises based on proposals put forward during informal consultations.  She was disappointed to see so many amendments, as it undermined the spirit and purpose of the draft resolution.  In the spirit of bridging the gap between those favouring a moratorium and those applying the death penalty, the 2010 text had been redrafted to reflect prevailing trends on the issue.  The revised draft was a “balanced” text inviting States to pursue debate on the topic.


In a general statement before action, Egypt’s delegate said the draft resolution dealt with the use of the death penalty, not its application in accordance with national legislation, implying that it was being used by States to pursue political objectives, rather than maintain order.  It called for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in complete disregard of the principle of non-interference. 


Moreover, it disregarded the fact that, in some cases, national debates and referenda reflecting peoples’ will had resulted in reintroducing the death penalty, he said.  It ignored the great diversity of legal, social and other conditions around the world.  He wondered how consistent that was with the international legal framework.


The five amendments - introduced by the representatives of Egypt, Singapore, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Botswana - aimed to reaffirm the principle of State sovereignty, especially in the decision to retain, abolish or reinstate the death penalty, address language concerns, and draw attention to State obligations under international human rights instruments.


Against that backdrop, the amendment proposed by Egypt was rejected by a recorded vote of 84 against to 63 in favour, with 29 abstentions.  Singapore’s amendment was rejected by a recorded vote of 83 against to 61 in favour, with 31 abstentions.  The amendment proposed by Antigua and Barbuda was rejected by a recorded vote of 80 against to 54 in favour, with 37 abstentions.  Trinidad and Tobago’s amendment was rejected by a recorded vote of 86 against to 53 in favour, with 65 abstentions.  The amendment proposed by Botswana was rejected by a recorded vote of 85 against to 55 in favour, with 35 abstentions.


Also today, the Committee approved as orally revised a consensus draft resolution on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto, introduced by the representative of New Zealand, also on behalf of Mexico and Sweden.


By its terms, the Assembly would authorize for the Committee - without prejudice to the General Assembly’s intergovernmental treaty body strengthening process - two annual pre-sessional working group meetings of one week each, starting in 2013, to be held after each of the Committee’s two annual sessions and allowing time for the consideration of additional reports.


By other terms, the Assembly would decide to authorize an additional two weeks of meeting time per year to the existing regular sessions, starting in 2014.  It would request the Secretary-General to take further actions to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the United Nations, including through the retention and recruitment of persons with disabilities.


Speaking during action on the text concerning the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto was the representative of the United States.


During action on the draft resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as well as the five amendments, statements were made by the representatives of Egypt, Grenada, China, Argentina, Singapore, Pakistan, Gabon, Cyprus, Albania, India, Brazil, Switzerland, Botswana, New Zealand, Mexico, The Federated States of Micronesia, Croatia, Papua New Guinea, Syria, Viet Nam, Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Suriname, Japan, Morocco, Cuba and United States.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 20 November, to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions and take action on others.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to take action on two draft resolutions, entitled:  Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/C.3/67/L.25); and a Moratorium on the use of the death penalty (document A/C.3/67/L.44/Rev.1).


Action on Texts


The Committee took action on a draft resolution entitled Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/C.3/67/L.25), introduced by the representative of New Zealand, also on behalf of Mexico and Sweden.  She made some oral revisions to operative paragraphs.  The present resolution asked that the monitoring Committee be granted five weeks of plenary time and two weeks of pre-sessional meeting time by 2014, forming a baseline for meeting time, she said.


The Secretary then made an oral statement regarding revisions.  He said since no additional resources would be needed for the current biennium, the budget implications would not be forwarded to the Fifth Committee.


Speaking before action, the representative of the United States said her country remained deeply committed to the realization of human rights for persons with disabilities and ending all forms of discrimination against them.  She thanked Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden for their work on the issue, and stated that treaty bodies played a strong role ensuring the adherence to the Convention.  However, since the current economic situation posed significant financial constraints, the United States disassociated itself from operative paragraph 5 and 6 calling for more meeting time, she said.


The Committee then approved, as orally revised, the draft resolution on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto.


By the text, the Assembly would call upon those States that have not yet done so to consider signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto as a matter of priority.  It would also welcome the work of the monitoring Committee and encourage sustained efforts to improve its working methods.


With that in mind, the Assembly would authorize the Committee - without prejudice to the General Assembly’s intergovernmental treaty body strengthening process - two annual pre-sessional working group meetings of one week each, starting in 2013, with the participation of up to six Committee members, to be held after each of the Committee’s two annual sessions, allowing time for the consideration of additional reports.


By other terms, the Assembly would also decide to authorize an additional two weeks of meeting time per year to the existing regular sessions, starting in 2014.  It would encourage the Inter-Agency Support Group on the Convention to continue mainstreaming the Convention throughout the United Nations and invite the Secretary-General to take further actions to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the Organization, including through the retention and recruitment of persons with disabilities.


Next, the Committee turned its attention to the draft resolution entitled Moratorium on the use of the death penalty (document A/C.3/67/L.44/Rev.1).


By its terms, the Assembly would express its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty, calling on States to respect international standards providing safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of persons facing the death penalty, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 (1984).  It would call on States to progressively restrict the death penalty’s use and not impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age and pregnant women.


Further, States would be called upon to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty might be imposed and establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.  The Assembly would also call on States to consider acceding to or ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and further, request the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly’s sixty-ninth session on the implementation of the present resolution.


The representative of Croatia, the main sponsor of the text, said the draft was the outcome of five rounds of informal consultations.  In the spirit of bridging the gap between those favouring a moratorium and those applying the death penalty, the 2010 text had been redrafted to reflect prevailing trends on the issue.  It called on States to respect the minimum standards, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 (1984), make available information on the use of the death penalty, progressively restrict the death penalty’s use, and consider acceding to or ratifying the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


The co-sponsors had made a number of compromises based on proposals put forward during the informal consultations, she said, noting her disappointment at so many tabled amendments which undermined the spirit and purpose of the draft resolution.  The revised draft was a balanced text inviting States to pursue debate on the topic.  She invited all to vote in favour of it.


In a general statement, Egypt’s delegate said article 6 of the Covenant underscored that everyone had the inherent right to life, which should be protected by law.  The article did not prohibit the imposition of capital punishment.  Rather, it outlined that such punishment would be used for only the most serious crimes.  At the same time, it provided for the right to seek pardon.  Due process, rather than abolition, was the key element in that respect.


He said article 6.2 of the Covenant reaffirmed that the imposition of the death penalty for the most serious offences, including genocide, should not be in conflict with the Covenant.  The restriction in article 6 for crimes committed by those under age 18 and pregnant women reflected international agreement that such a penalty could only be applied to adults who were aware of their misdoings.  Moreover, the draft resolution dealt with use of death penalty, not its application in accordance with national legislation, implying that it was being used by States to pursue political objectives, not to maintain order.  It called for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in complete disregard of the principle of non-interference.  It expressed deep concern at the death penalty’s continued application, contrary to international human rights law.


He wondered how consistent that was with the international legal framework.  The text encouraged the exchange of lessons learned.  It disregarded the fact that, in some cases, national debates and referenda reflecting peoples’ will had resulted in reintroducing the death penalty.  Many proposals had been made, all of which had been given thorough consideration.  But none of the proposals had been accommodated.  Compromises in the text only reflected the views of a few of the co-sponsors.  None had been made to accommodate the views of the wider members, including those retaining the death penalty.  Egypt had engaged in negotiations in all sincerity and objectivity.  He wondered if there was no will to have a dialogue with regional co-sponsorship, how could a dialogue with the wider membership be held?


He said that, within the same framework, it was not surprising that proposals had been rejected on the basis of selectivity.  The draft resolution ignored the great diversity of legal, social and other conditions around the world.  He recognized that some States had voluntarily decided to abolish the death penalty.  Others had applied a moratorium on executions.  Still others had retained the death penalty in their constitutions and penal codes.  Both sides were in compliance with the Covenant.  Both sides had decided, within their sovereign rights, to choose the path that responded to their social, cultural and other needs.  Neither should give itself the right to impose their viewpoint on the other.  The diverging legal and human rights differences would only be solved through multilateral debate.  The amendments presented were only attempting to bring needed balance to the text.


Grenada’s delegate said her country had not carried out an execution since 1978 and had adopted a holistic approach to human rights.  She encouraged States to voluntarily ensure that their laws represented the maturity and civility of their peoples.  Grenada would not vote for the resolution.  Grenada’s vote was by no means suggestive of a cynicism toward the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Covenant or the American Convention on Human Rights.  Rather, Grenada was saying that any resolution on capital punishment must be the product of conscientious discussions, not an imposition from the outside.  The latter was inconsistent with the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948.


China’s representative expressed regret that the issue was again up for discussion.  Use of the death penalty belonged to a country’s national jurisdiction and no country had any right to interfere.  The Chinese government was against politicization of the death penalty; there was no international consensus on the matter.  The key was to exercise the strictest caution in the practice of the death penalty.  China strongly urged the co-sponsors to respect other country’s practices, and end imposing their views on others.  China would cast a negative vote on the draft resolution.


Five draft amendments were proposed to the text.  The Committee took action on the draft amendments in the order in which they had been tabled.  The first, sponsored by Egypt (document A/C.3/67/L.62), would insert a new preambular paragraph that would have the Assembly reaffirm States’ sovereign rights and urge implementation of State obligations under international human rights instruments.


Introducing the amendment, Egypt’s representative said the principle of sovereignty was the cornerstone of the Organization, reaffirmed time and again in resolutions by the Assembly.  The resolution’s treatment of sovereignty was flawed, and the amendment merely reaffirmed the principle of sovereignty.


Speaking before the vote, Argentina’s representative said his delegation believed that the paragraph needed greater discussion.


Egypt’s representative, speaking on a point of order, asked whether the Committee had moved into voting.


The Chair said that the Committee had moved into voting.  Any delegation wishing to make a statement in regards to the proposed amendment could speak, he said.


Singapore’s representative, making a general statement, said her delegation was of the view that the discussion today was not on the merits of the death penalty, but rather the sovereign rights of countries.  The sponsors would have Member States believe that sovereignty was already addressed in operative paragraph 1.  However, it only paid lip service to the Charter.


Pakistan’s representative then spoke, saying his delegation supported the amendment, which brought the desired balance to the text.


Gabon’s representative, speaking on behalf of the draft resolution co-sponsors, said the reference to sovereignty of States under the Charter was already included in preambular paragraph 1 of the text.  States were obliged to uphold human rights treaties as sovereign States.  The moratorium on the use of the death penalty in the resolution was not an infringement on sovereignty; it welcomed decisions by an increasing number of States to end executions.  The amendment of Egypt intended to attack the letter and spirit of the resolution, and therefore Gabon would vote against it.


Argentina’s representative said the concerns about sovereignty were already implicit in operative paragraph 1.  The amendment under consideration appeared to contain contradictions in the distinction between sovereign rights and human rights that had been settled during the World Conference of Human Rights in 1983 in Vienna.  A resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty could not in any way violate the sovereignty of a State.  The amendment ran counter to the fundamental reasons of the draft text and endangered its delicate balance, and he urged Member States to vote against it.


The Committee then rejected the amendment contained in A/C.3/67/L.62, by a recorded vote of 84 against to 63 in favour, with 29 abstentions.


Making a general statement, Sudan’s representative said the amendment was a controversial issue for all parties.  Those who had co-sponsored the text had not succeeded in making it a human rights issue, as many States did not want to see interference in their socio economic and cultural rights.  The death penalty was not a consensus issue, and rested under national domain.  Therefore, it was not possible in the Third Committee to impose a single view.  Sudan respected the internal dialogue within States that sought to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, and also respected the decision of States to impose the death penalty in a limited way.  Sudan believed it was an issue of sovereignty of States, guaranteed under the Charter.  It was a national issue that should not be politicized.  For all of those reasons, Sudan voted against the amendment.


Next, the Committee took action on the amendment to the draft resolution contained in A/C.3/67/L.63, sponsored by Singapore, which would insert a new operative paragraph after operative paragraph 1.  By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations.


Introducing the amendment, Singapore’s delegate said that over half of United Nations Member States had retained the death penalty in their legal systems.  The amendment recognized it was in each State’s sovereign right to make that decision.  While she recognized the cooperative spirit shown by some co-sponsors, she regretted that a small group of co-sponsors had not been open to the suggestions of others, resulting in an extremely unbalanced and biased resolution.  She urged delegates to vote in favour of the amendment.


Cyprus’ delegate said the Covenant articulated protections for people, including in respect of trial and punishment.  “L.63” would divert attention away from the human rights dimensions of the death penalty’s use.  Article 6 of the Covenant stated that nothing in that article should be invoked to delay or prevent the abolition of capital punishment.  Nearly all United Nations Member States had accepted a distinct human rights obligation not to execute child offenders.


He said that in 1984, the Economic and Social Council had adopted a resolution on safeguards guaranteeing the protection of those sentenced to the death penalty.  In 1989 and 1996, the Council had adopted further resolutions on use of those safeguards.  “L.63” was not consistent with the draft resolution L.44/Rev.1.  He rejected the amendment and called on States to vote against it. 


Albania’s delegate said the Commission on Human Rights and subsequent Human Rights Council had adopted several resolutions calling for a moratorium on executions, while the General Assembly had adopted a number of resolutions on the death penalty.  While recognizing the sovereign right of States to develop their own legal systems, Albania believed that inclusion of the proposed amendment would upset the balance of the text.  “L.63” was not consistent with L.44/Rev. 1.  Albania rejected it and reiterated the call to vote against it.


Egypt ’s delegate, saying he was speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said the amendment reaffirmed that States were to determine the legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations.  The arguments made vis-à-vis obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Covenant were in support of the document before the Committee.


Speaking in a point of order, Cyprus’s delegate asked if Egypt’s delegate had the right to provide an explanation of vote as a co-sponsor.


The secretariat representative said there was an opportunity for States to speak in a general statement, for sponsors, and in explanation of vote, for those that were not co-sponsors.  He said Egypt would speak in general statement.


Cyprus’s delegate pointed out that Egypt’s representative had said he was speaking in explanation of vote before the vote.


The secretariat representative said the Committee would understand Egypt’s statement as being made as a general statement.


Resuming his statement, Egypt’s delegate clarified that he would make a general statement.  The amendment merely called for respecting international obligations under international human rights law.  The arguments made vis-à-vis obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Covenant were in support of the amendment.  The international human rights law standards and customary rights law represented the comprehensive legal framework.  The amendment only complemented the text and in no way undermined any Convention on the Rights of the Child or Covenant obligations.  He called on all States to respect their international obligations in an objective manner.


India’s delegate said article 6.2 of the Covenant spoke only of the desirability for the abolition of the death penalty.  “L.44/Rev.1” failed to recognize that principle, and thus, India would vote in favour of the tabled amendment.


Pakistan’s delegate said the amendment discussed each country’s sovereign right to decide upon its own legal system, and for that reason, Pakistan would vote in favour of it.


By a recorded vote of 83 against to 61 in favour, with 31 abstentions, the Committee then rejected the amendment proposed in document A/C.3/67/L.63.


Continuing, the Committee then took action on the amendment to the draft resolution contained in A/C.3/67/L.64, which would replace operative paragraph 4 (b) with the following text:  “To make available relevant information with regard to their use of the death penalty, which can contribute to possible informed and transparent national debates.”


Introducing the amendment, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda said national debates had to be based on information covering all relevant information on the topic, not just statistics or national obligations, which biased the debate in a certain direction.  The co-sponsors had refused to take the language into consideration; therefore, his delegation hoped that Members would vote for the sensible amendment.


Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, Brazil’s representative said the draft resolution today reflected a positive global trend towards abolishment or moratorium on the death penalty.  It was important to reflect that new and emerging global reality, speaking through a lens of the right to life, and not business as usual.  Transparency on the use of the death penalty was a fundamental safeguard, allowing for accurate assessments of whether a safe trial was being used and opening dialogue on the issue.  The global community must not shy away from robust discussion; thus, the proposed amendment to retain the language from the sixty-fourth session represented a step back from positive developments.


Switzerland’s representative said her country attached great importance to operative paragraph 4 (b).  For more than twenty years, various United Nations entries had appealed for Member States to make available information concerning the death penalty.  Lack of transparency and secrecy violated human rights.  Switzerland would be voting against the proposed amendment, and called on all other Members States to do the same.


The Committee then rejected the amendment proposed in document A/C.3/67/L.64 by a recorded vote of 80 against to 54 in favour, with 37 abstentions.


The Committee then took action on the amendment to the draft resolution contained in document A/C.3/67/L.65, sponsored by the representative of Trinidad and Tobago, which would be inserted after operative paragraph 4 (b), reading:  “To restrict the crimes for which the death penalty may be imposed to the most serious crimes, pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court, in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.”


Introducing the text, the representative of Trinidad and Tobago said the concerns of States retaining the death penalty had not been considered in negotiations.  The application of the death penalty was a criminal justice matter falling within the jurisdiction of individual States.  Many countries retaining the death penalty only applied it in respect to the most serious crimes and with strict compliance with due process.  It had been determined that the resolution should take into account those situations in order to reflect reality and ensure a balanced text.  As there was no consensus on a moratorium or the abolition of the death penalty, she hoped States would vote in favour of the amendment.


Botswana’s delegate, in a general statement, supported the amendment, saying everyone had the right to life.  It was States’ duty to respect that right, in line with the Universal Declaration.  The death penalty was a criminal justice issue for many countries maintaining that practice.  Its imposition was restricted to the most serious crimes.  He saw merit for the amendment’s inclusion in the draft resolution, as it highlighted the limits imposed on the application of the death penalty.  To that end, he would vote in favour of the draft amendment and encourage others to do so.


Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, New Zealand’s delegate said the amendment was contrary to the draft resolution, as it drew on parts of article 6.2 of the Covenant.  The Covenant had been reaffirmed in full in operative paragraph 2 of the draft resolution.  The main sponsors had taken on board views for removing aspects that referred to international human rights instruments.  New Zealand would vote against the amendment and urge all States to vote against it.


Mexico’s delegate, in explanation of vote before the vote, described the aim of “L.65”.


Interrupting that statement on a point of order, Egypt’s delegate asked if there had been further revisions to “L.44” other than “Rev.1”.


New Zealand’s representative clarified that it was preambular paragraph 2 that reaffirmed the Covenant.


Mexico’s delegate said article 6.6 of the Covenant established that no provision of that article could be invoked to postpone or prevent the abolition of the death penalty.  Mexico would vote against “L.65” and urged all to do the same.


By a recorded vote of 86 against to 53 in favour, with 65 abstentions, the Committee rejected the amendment proposed in document A/C.3/67/L.65.


The Committee then turned its attention to the amendment to the draft resolution contained in document A/C.3/67/L.66, to be inserted before operative paragraph 4 (e), which would have States comply with their obligations under relevant provisions of international human right instruments, and to pay due regard to the provisions contained in articles 6, 14 and 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and articles 37 and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, while bearing in mind relevant international safeguards and guarantees, including the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.


Introducing the proposed amendment, the representative of Botswana said the standards to protect those from the death penalty were already enshrined in international rights law, but operative paragraph 4 (a) in the proposed draft resolution ignored safeguards.  The proposed amendment had been rejected by the main co-sponsors for no other reason than it was selective in nature.  Therefore, the amendment was being proposed for a balanced text.  It sought to avoid selectivity and put the draft resolution in proper perspective.  He invited all Member States to support the amendment.


Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, India’s representative said the draft resolution did not take into account that the death penalty was not prohibited in international law.  India would be voting in favour of the tabled amendment, which it believed brought balance to the draft resolution.


Making a general statement, Egypt’s representative said his delegation would be voting in favour of the amendment.  The main safeguards on which justice rested were contained in the same documents cited in the amendment, while the current state of the draft text only selectively recalled safeguards, mainly one resolution by the Economic and Social Council, while it systematically ignored the framework proposed by Botswana to be inserted into the text.


Serbia’s representative, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said these instruments had already been referred to in another part of the document.  Adding yet another reference did not add any value to the draft, and thus it was redundant and would undermine the balance of the text.  Serbia would vote against the amendment and urged others to do the same.


The Federated States of Micronesia’s representative said during the drafting of the document that co-sponsors had withdrawn a paragraph to avoid selectivity.  Adding another reference did not add to the draft, and was redundant and selective.  Micronesia would vote against the draft amendment.


The Committee then rejected the amendment proposed in document A/C.3/67/L.66 by a recorded vote of 85 against to 55 in favour, with 35 abstentions.


Making a general statement, Botswana’s representative said he was taking the floor to register disappointment with the action that rejected attempts for a balanced text.  The proposed amendment was not aimed to get countries to change their positions on the issue.  At the same time, it was not surprising that all the amendments put forth were rejected; it reflected the desire of co-sponsors to have a one-sided resolution.  It was of great concern to his delegation that they did not consider amendments on their merits.


Next, the Chair invited the Committee to take action on the draft resolution entitled Moratorium on the use of the death penalty (document A/C.3/65/L.44 Rev.1).


A recorded vote had been requested.


Presenting a general statement before the vote, the representative of Croatia said the text resulted from in-depth consultations during five rounds of informal consultations.  She invited all States to vote in favour of the text.


Speaking in explanation of the vote before the vote, India’s delegate said each State had the sovereign right to determine its own legal system.  Article 6.2 of the Covenant spoke only of the desirability of the abolition of the death penalty.  In India, that practice was exercised only on the rarest of occasions.  Indian laws contained provisions for suspending the death penalty in the cases of pregnant women.  Sentences must be confirmed by a superior court and the accused had the right to appeal to a superior court or the Supreme Court.  The draft resolution sought a moratorium on executions.  India could not support the text in its present form


Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of Papua New Guinea said calls for an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty was a highly sensitive issue.  The draft resolution did not enjoy the support of all countries.  Article 2, paragraph 7 of the Charter of the United Nations was unequivocal on the right of States to make their own laws without interference.  Thus, abolition was the sole prerogative of a State.


He said Papua New Guinea had become a State party to several international human rights instruments.  The death penalty was among the range of penalties available to the courts within its independent judicial system.  It was reserved for only the most heinous crimes.  Papua New Guinea had not carried out an execution of a convicted offender over the last four decades.  The last convicted person to experience the death penalty was during colonial times.  It was a valid law.  For such reasons, his Government would cast an abstention vote.


Syria’s delegate said the draft resolution interfered in States’ internal affairs and independence, which contravened the Charter of the United Nations.  The text concerned States’ sovereignty to choose its legal, social and other systems.  Requesting States to cease the death penalty application was a request to amend legal systems.  The text, in stating that death penalty was an issue of human dignity, did not take into account the dignity of the victim.  That was very important for humanitarian principles, which must be protected.  The death penalty was a criminal issue.  Her Government would vote against the draft resolution. 


Egypt’s delegate, explaining his Government’s position before the vote, said during deliberations, some countries had highlighted the rejection of selective quotations of the Charter.  They added their own interpretation and “turned a blind eye” to the fact that the text was selective in content and scope.  He had hoped the Committee would recognize the need for international cooperation and respect the diversity of economic, social and legal conditions around the world.  All rules were not suitable for application in all societies at all times.  The selected few had claimed there was a trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.  One could only wonder why, then, so many countries had voted in favour of the amendments just considered by the Committee.  Amid the trend to impose the perceptions of one side, without regard to other concerns, one could only wonder for what purpose and to what end that was being done.  Egypt was obliged to vote against the draft resolution.


Viet Nam’s representative, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said the death penalty in her country was restricted to the most serious crimes and subjected to safeguards.  In recent years, the Vietnamese Government had been conducting a review of the death penalty and reduced the number of crimes on which it was imposed.  However, the country was of the view that it was a criminal justice matter, not a human rights matter.  For that reason it would abstain.


Also speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, Singapore’s representative said her country’s position on the death penalty was well-known.  In the course of considering the draft resolution a number of co-sponsors refused to acknowledge that it was a national issue, and some had highlighted that it was predominantly a human rights issue.  Her delegation recommended that they respect others’ right to peace and security.  Given that the proposed amendments were defeated, her delegation could only conclude that the co-sponsors were not open to dialogue.  Singapore could not accept the draft resolution and would vote against it.


Sudan’s representative said the subject of the draft resolution should not be part of the human rights debate; the death penalty was a legal and criminal matter.  The death penalty was under the jurisdiction of Member States, who must choose what they prefer.  We could not impose the decision on other States or politicize it.  States that imposed the penalty must have the right to do so for serious crimes through their legal systems.  His delegation would vote against the draft resolution.


The Committee then approved the resolution on a death penalty moratorium (A/C.3/65/L.44/Rev.1) by a recorded vote of 110 in favour to 39 against, with 36 abstaining.


Malaysia’s delegate, speaking after the vote, underscored the importance of the issues outlined in the resolution.  Her Government’s participation in negotiations had been premised on the understanding that the draft was a vehicle through which differences could be understood and accepted.  Issues related to the application of the death penalty fell under the purview of crime prevention.  They should not be considered solely in the context of human rights concerns.


Rather than recognizing that its application continued to be relevant in many countries, she regretted that certain partners had approached the exercise as a way to isolate, resulting in a less-than-productive exercise for all concerned.  In Malaysia, the death penalty could only be exercised in strict compliance with safeguards.  Such efforts were in line with Malaysia’s plan to review its legislation.  She had voted in favour of all draft amendments.  Malaysia had no choice but to vote against the present resolution, as it was one-sided.


Indonesia’s delegate said the death penalty had undergone review by the national court.  Public debate was ongoing, including concerning a possible moratorium.  Many paragraphs in the draft resolution were in line with Indonesia’s position, particularly on the need for transparent national and international debates, use of the death penalty, and the provision of safeguards.  As such, he had abstained in the vote.


Bangladesh’s delegate said the death penalty was a part of the legal criminal justice systems of many sovereign countries.  Extreme caution was applied to avoid any miscarriage of justice.  There was no international consensus on retention or abolition of the death penalty.  It was a State’s sovereign right to decide.  She supported the tabled amendments and had voted against the resolution as a whole.


Suriname’s delegate said her country’s constitution guaranteed the right to life.  Capital punishment was enshrined in the penal code for only the most serious crimes, including murder and treason.  Suriname had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty dating back some 85 years.  The death penalty was no longer being mentioned as the principle penalty in the draft revision of the criminal code, which had already been approved by the Council of Ministers.  For such reasons, her country had abstained from the vote on the draft resolution.


Japan’s delegate said his country’s legal system outlined the death only for the gravest crimes and was not permitted for people below 18 years of age.  The Government made public data on people sentenced to death and the number of executions carried out.  It was up to States to decide on the abolition, retention or reintroduction of the death penalty.  Since it was a high-profile issue, careful examination was needed, paying due attention to public opinion.  Due to the diversity of views, Japan had found it difficult to abolish the death penalty immediately.  He regretted that sponsors had tabled the resolution.  Japan had voted against it.


Morocco’s delegate said that since 1993 his Government had firmly committed to a de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty.  Morocco had engaged in a democratic dialogue on the usefulness of maintaining that practice, having held a number of meetings, including with non-governmental organizations, to debate both sides of the argument.  The diversity of views had provided an ideal platform for the adoption of a clear position on the topic, in keeping with Moroccans’ aspirations.


In paragraph 5 of the resolution, on the sharing of good practices, he said Morocco, on 18-20 October, had held a regional congress on the death penalty, in partnership with Moroccan human rights organizations.  Further, its revision of the criminal code had allowed for decreasing the number of crimes to which the death penalty could be applied.  That explained Morocco’s vote on L.44/Rev.1 and the related amendments.


The representative of Cuba said in Cuba, there had been no detainees on death row since 2009, when all death sentences commuted to life in prison or 30-year sentences.  The death penalty was no longer applied in Cuba.


Egypt’s representative said although his country voted against the resolution, it was still of the view that international commitments should work towards no one being arbitrarily denied of their lives.  Any resolution should adhere to international law and rights instruments, and attempts to selectively apply the matter only showed double standards.


The representative of the United States said there was a wide divergence of views on the continued use of the death penalty.  The ultimate decision must rest on domestic democratic practices within countries, consistent with international law.  Clearly, capital punishment was not prohibited by international law and may be imposed for the most serious crimes.  The United States was committed to its international obligations, and would focus on addressing and preventing rights violations resulting from improper application of capital punishment.  Her delegation hoped the continued focus on the matter of abolishment of the death penalty would not divert attention from the manner of imposition and application of the death penalty throughout the world.


Botswana’s representative said he was taking the floor to record his delegation’s disappointment with the rejection of all amendments to the draft resolution.  As long as other opinions were not taken into account on the issue, Botswana would continue to vote against the draft resolution.  There was no international consensus on the linkage between the death penalty and human rights - it remained a jurisprudence matter.  The idea of linking the death penalty to human rights was totally unacceptable to Botswana, and it was concerned that countries did not respect those that chose to retain the death penalty in their justice systems, as was their sovereign right.  Botswana remained open for continued debate on this issue, but there must be broader debate based on mutual respect.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.