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U.S. Explanation of Vote: Human Rights Council Resolution on the Death Penalty
June 26, 2014

Explanation of Vote: A/HRC/26/L.8/Rev.1 on Death Penalty
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
UN Human Rights Council – 26th Session
As Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper

Geneva. June 26, 2014

 Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States is disappointed that it was not able to join consensus on this resolution.

We had hoped for a balanced and inclusive resolution that would better reflect the position of states that continue to apply the death penalty lawfully.

In particular, we cannot agree with the slant of this resolution in favor of a moratorium or abolition, nor with the generality expressed that use of the death penalty inevitably leads to violations of human rights.

We are deeply troubled whenever an individual subject to the death penalty is denied the procedural and substantive protections to which he or she is entitled, but we cannot accept the implication that such a denial of legal protections follows from use of the death penalty.

For this reason we supported the amendment that would have removed this problematic language.

International law does not prohibit capital punishment when imposed and carried out in a manner that is consistent with a state’s international obligations.

We therefore urge all governments that employ the death penalty to do so in conformity with their international human rights obligations.

With respect to the imposition of the death penalty for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age, the United States Supreme Court has barred as unconstitutional the use of the death penalty in such circumstances.

We would likewise encourage all States to do the same, but interpret the references in the resolution to related provisions of the ICCPR and the Convention on the Rights of the Child as addressed to those States Parties who have accepted such obligation under those conventions.

As to the question of abolition of the death penalty or moratoriums on its use, the United States’ position is equally well known.

The ICCPR, its Second Optional Protocol and other relevant conventions leave this question to be decided through the domestic democratic processes of each individual Member State.

We believe that these domestic processes may be enhanced by open debate on all sides of the issue and that this resolution can contribute to such debate.

For that reason we have chosen to abstain rather than oppose this resolution, despite its flaws.

It is our hope that the biennial high-level panels to be convened on the death penalty, as well as the Secretary General’s 2015 supplement to his quinquennial report on capital punishment, will address all aspects of the issue with due consideration to national perspectives, given the wide divergence of views regarding its abolition or continued use both within and among nations. 

Thank you, Mr. President.