27 Sep 2019
STATEMENT BY THE PERMANENT MISSION OF SINGAPORE TO INTRODUCE AMENDMENT A/HRC/42/L.46 TO RESOLUTION A/HRC/42/L.37 ON THE QUESTION OF THE DEATH PENALTY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2019
I have the honour to introduce this amendment on behalf of a cross-regional group of 25 countries.
The issue of the death penalty is raised biennially at the Human Rights Council. The Core Group driving this Resolution has claimed it built bridges. However, what we saw instead were walls being built by the Core Group against countries that do not share its abolitionist agenda.
This agenda has been pursued at the cost of facts and international law. As a result, each time this Resolution has been tabled, it has been subjected to a vote and numerous amendments. The resistance against this Resolution underscores the indisputable fact that there is no consensus for or against the use of the death penalty, when applied according to the due process of the law, under international law.
Every country has the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and legal penalties in accordance with its obligations under international law.
We also have a duty to work together to find a workable consensus within the setting of this august body. That is why a cross-regional group of countries, including my delegation, engaged constructively and in good faith during the three informal consultations. We expressed our concerns that the draft text contains multiple inaccuracies which misinterpret and mischaracterise international law.
While the consultations were cordial, in truth, there was no real effort by the Core Group to engage in serious negotiation. It was evident from the outset that the Core Group was not prepared to change its approach nor accept substantive amendments. We regret that the Core Group has chosen to ignore the diversity of views on this issue, erecting walls instead of building bridges.
We respect the right of the Core Group to table their own draft resolution. However, the Core Group must acknowledge that other delegations have an equal right to table amendments. Singapore and a group of countries tabled this amendment today because we had no alternative. There is no international consensus on capital punishment. Sovereign States have the right to determine punishment most suitable for their circumstances. It is clear and unambiguous under international human rights law that States are free to retain capital punishment as a criminal justice tool, with the requisite due process safeguards. It is a gross mischaracterisation of the legal position to suggest otherwise.
The intent behind the extensive recitations of the Human Rights Committee’s non-binding General Comment No 36 in the draft Resolution’s PPs 17, 19, 20, 22 and OPs 3 and 4 is plain. In our discussions with the Core Group, we were informed that the inclusion of this language was to advance the Committee’s views toward customary international law status. We appreciate the transparency of the Core Group in respect of their ultimate objective. However, we fundamentally reject their premise, which effectively requires States to derogate their sovereign decision-making to a body of 18 individuals, which is wholly unacceptable.
Treaty obligations are founded on State consent. The General Comments of treaty bodies provide the views of a group of individuals. These General Comments are intended to serve only as guidance to State Parties in fulfilling their treaty obligations. They are not a substitute for the terms of the treaty nor the treaty obligations of State parties. General Comments do not take into account the domestic environment or circumstances of individual states.
It is the sovereign decision of States, who bear the primary responsibility for the governance of their respective societies, to decide whether they agree or disagree with a treaty body’s General Comment, including on whether the views in the General Comment accord with their treaty obligations.
The amendment contained in document L.46 seeks to introduce a new preambular paragraph after PP16 to reflect this reality. The amendment does not advocate the use of the death penalty. It takes no position on the substance of the Resolution. The amendment is an incontrovertible statement of fact and an undisputed statement of law, seeking to correct some of the serious imbalances and inaccuracies of the draft Resolution.
For all these reasons, we would urge all States who value the sacrosanct foundations of international law, to vote Yes to amendment L.46.
Thank you, Mr President.