Explanation of Vote on a Third Committee Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 13, 2018


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 individual Member States to decide on lawful implementation of the death penalty, and that lawful implementation must be addressed through domestic democratic processes in accordance with obligations under international human rights law. International human rights law establishes clearly that Member States may, within certain 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 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 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 which may arise from implementation of the death penalty in an extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary manner. Capital defendants must be provided a fair trial before a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law, with full 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, in order to ensure that capital punishment does not inflict undue suffering and that it complies with both domestic laws and freely entered into international obligations.

Thank you.