23 Feb 2021
JOINT STATEMENT AT THE BIENNIAL HIGH-LEVEL PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE QUESTION OF THE DEATH PENALTY
23 FEBRUARY 2021
46TH REGULAR SESSION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of a cross-regional group of 41 countries, a list that has grown steadily since 2015.
Ensuring our people’s fundamental human right to safety and security is of paramount importance to us.
Our view is that the rights of the offenders must always be weighed against the rights of the victims and their families, and the broader rights of the community and society to live safely and in peace.
For many countries, the death penalty remains an important component of their criminal justice system and an effective deterrent against what their societies regard as the most serious crimes.
There is no international consensus for or against the death penalty when imposed according to the due process of the law, nor that the death penalty, when applied in accordance with due process of law and judicial safeguards, violates the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
There is also no international consensus on what constitutes the “most serious crimes”, which is not explicitly defined under International Human Rights Law to reflect that countries hold differing but legitimate views on this issue.
The absence of international consensus has repeatedly been affirmed by the votes on past HRC and UNGA Resolutions.
Diversity of States and the right of States to exercise their sovereignty in pursuit of their people’s welfare are well-recognized principles, including in the UN.
Every State has the sovereign right to choose its legal and criminal justice systems, without interference by other States.
This right was most recently and for the third consecutive time explicitly reaffirmed by a majority of UN Member States voting in support of the sovereignty amendment in the 75th UNGA resolution on a “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty”.
This was further affirmed by the 123 Member States who voted in favour of this Resolution, including its co-sponsors, who in doing so recognised that it is the “sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations”.
The decision whether to retain the death penalty, impose a moratorium or to abolish it, as well as the types of crimes for which the death penalty is applied to, is the sovereign prerogative of every State, taking into account its own circumstances and international obligations. And this should be respected.
Thank you, Mdm President.
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List of co-sponsors