South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Nation on Dec. 23 ::

The top United Nations official on human rights issues voiced “deep regret” on Monday over the resumption of executions in Pakistan and Jordan at a time when the international community is increasingly turning away from the use of the death penalty.

In a statement issued in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein — a Jordanian national — condemned the recent lifting of the moratorium on capital punishment in both the countries, stressing that “no judiciary, anywhere, can be infallible.”

“It is very unfortunate that Pakistan and Jordan have resumed executions, reversing the moratoria on the death penalty that they had commendably put in place in 2008 and 2006 respectively,” Zeid stated. “This is particularly disappointing given that just last week, a record 117 States voted in the UN General Assembly in favour of an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty.”

Questioned about the resumption of executions at the regular noon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s firm opposition to capital punishment was clear and well known.

In October, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released its report – entitled Moving away from the Death Penalty, Arguments, Trends and Perspectives – upholding abolition as a necessity, particularly due to the need to avoid executing those subjected to wrongful convictions; the lack of statistical evidence pointing to the death penalty as a useful deterrent; and the higher rate of execution among those from marginalised communities, including people with mental or intellectual disabilities.

“The crime rate, historically, is not lowered by the imposition of capital punishment,” the High Commissioner continued.

“Instead, shocking cases emerge, with tragic frequency, of the execution of people who are subsequently proven innocent – including in well-functioning legal systems.”

Recently, it was pointed out that Equatorial Guinea and the states of Washington, Maryland and Connecticut in the United States, decided to establish a moratorium or suspend executions while last April, El Salvador, Gabon and Poland acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – an international agreement aimed at abolition. These countries join the more than 160 other member states who have already either eliminated capital punishment or do not practice it.

Zeid urged the Governments of Pakistan and Jordan to re-impose the moratoria on the death penalty, stressing that “no justice system, no matter how robust, can guarantee against wrongful convictions.”