Explanation of Vote on a Resolution on the Death Penalty

Sofija Korac
Advisor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 17, 2020


Thank you, Madam Chair.

The United States cannot agree with establishing an international moratorium on, and the eventual abolition of, the use of the death penalty as a criminal punishment. It is up to each Member State to decide on adopting the use of the death penalty and its lawful implementation. The lawful implementation must be addressed through domestic democratic legal processes in accordance with a Member State’s international human rights obligations. International human rights law establishes clearly that Member States may, within certain established parameters, use this form of punishment as confirmed by Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party. Those states wishing to abolish the death penalty within their jurisdiction may choose to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to that Covenant.

Under Article 6, the death penalty may be imposed for the most serious of crimes in conformity with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and when carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court. For parties subject to the Covenant, imposition of the death penalty must abide by exacting procedural safeguards under Articles 14 and 15. Within the United States, judicial enforcement of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures substantive due process that applies at both the federal and state levels, and prohibits methods of execution that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The United States is firmly committed to complying with these Article 6, 14, and 15 obligations, and strongly urges other countries that employ the death penalty to do the same.

The United States urges Member States that support the resolution to address human rights violations that may arise from implementation of the death penalty in an extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary manner. Capital defendants must be provided with a fair trial before a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law, with full and fair trial guarantees. Through their legal processes, states should carefully evaluate the class of defendants subject to the death penalty, the crimes for which it may be imposed, and the manner in which it is carried out to ensure that capital punishment does not unfairly target any group, inflict undue suffering, and that it complies with both domestic laws and international obligations which are freely assumed.

The United States will vote no on this resolution and calls on other delegations to do the same.

Thank you, Madam Chair.