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

Anthony Bestafka-Cruz
Adviser to the Third Committee
New York, New York
November 11, 2022


Thank you, Chair.

We sincerely thank the sponsors of the resolution for their efforts and collaborative approach to negotiating the text. Those negotiations made clear there is wide divergence of views on the use of the death penalty. While we appreciate that this resolution sets forth policy objectives shared by advocates for abolition of this form of punishment, we must emphasize, as we have in the past, that the ultimate decision regarding these issues must be addressed through the democratic processes of individual Member States and be consistent with their obligations under international law. 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 ICCPR, to which the U.S. is a party. Accordingly, the U.S. does not understand the lawful use of this form of punishment as contravening respect for human rights, both as it relates to the convicted and sentenced individual as well as the rights of others. Those states wishing to abolish the death penalty within their jurisdiction may choose to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.

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 ICCPR, 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 U. S. 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 all States, including supporters of this resolution, to focus their attention toward addressing and preventing human rights violations that may result from the improper imposition and application of capital punishment. We strongly urge Member States to ensure that they cannot apply capital punishment 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. Moreover, through their legal processes, States should carefully evaluate both the class of defendants subject to the death penalty, as well as the crimes for which it may be imposed, in order to ensure that the use of capital punishment comports with their international obligations. Methods of execution designed to inflict undue pain or suffering must be strictly prohibited.

As a result of these concerns, the United States must vote “no” on this resolution. That said, the U.S. remains open to continued discussions related to the use of the death penalty with the hope that compromise language might ultimately be found. Once again, we thank the sponsors for their efforts.

Thank you.