The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved six draft resolutions today addressing human rights questions on missing persons, extrajudicial executions, escalating refugees situations and moratorium of the death penalty.
Heated debate surrounded a draft on moratorium of the death penalty, which was approved in a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 37 against, with 24 abstentions. By the text, the Assembly would call on States to progressively restrict use of capital punishment, ensure that it is not applied on the basis of discriminatory laws, improve conditions in detention and establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. Addressing the draft, the representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union and the bloc’s candidate countries, in its capacity as observer, said it raises the issue of States voluntarily taking the life of human beings, which include “victims of a miscarriage of justice”. The representative of Myanmar underscored the alarming increase in extrajudicial killings and death penalty sentences in that country by the military to repress democracy through fear.
The representative of the United States cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which permits States to use the death penalty within certain parameters, adding that Countries must focus on preventing human rights violations arising from the improper imposition of capital punishment. Meanwhile, the representative of Egypt said the amended resolution has several legal flaws in attempting to reinterpret existing human rights instruments and erroneously links the use of the death penalty to traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds.
The text was approved following the approval of an amendment, which was approved in a recorded vote of 103 in favour to 68 against, with 13 abstentions. The amendment affirmed “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 representative of Singapore, introducing the amendment, said it would restore language adopted three times by a majority in the Third Committee in previous sessions and reaffirm the United Nations Charter as well as the sovereign rights of all countries to make their own decisions regarding their legal systems.
In other action, a draft on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was approved by a recorded vote of 131 in favour, to 1 against (Burundi), with 45 abstentions. By the text, the Assembly would express deep concern over executions committed against persons exercising their rights, including to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Further, it would urge States to ensure that persons deprived of their liberty are treated with full respect for international law and ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel.
Prior to approving the draft, the Committee rejected an amendment to it in a recorded vote of 88 against to 51 in favour, with 26 abstentions. Opposing the amendment, which sought to replace the phrase “sexual orientation or gender identity” with “sex”, several States said it would remove a group from a list of vulnerable persons, thus rejecting selectivity. Supporting the amendment, other delegates noted that the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity run counter to their constitutional principles and values.
The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which would stress the importance of responsibility sharing among States, urge them to uphold the humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements and allow the UNHCR unhindered access to them. The representative of Iran emphasized that a few developing, host countries have been providing hospitality to refugees for decades, adding “that should not be taken for granted, and that is no reason for others to shirk their responsibilities”. With thousands of Afghans entering Iran daily due to recent developments in their country, he said nations in the region should not feel all the burden, stressing that “the sustainability of current services is in doubt”.
The representative of Hungary affirmed that governing migration is a prerogative of States, while Kenya’s delegate stressed that hosting modalities should be defined by receiving States without interference.
The Committee also approved draft resolutions on missing persons; freedom of religion or belief; and the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 November, to take further action on draft resolutions.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, introduced the draft resolution “Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (UNHCR) (document A/C.3/77/L.49), which carries no programme budget implications. Noting extensive negotiations on the text, the constructive participation by States from all regions and the hard work in Geneva to reach agreement on key and sometimes delicate issues, he urged delegations to join consensus on the draft. Stressing that the number of displaced persons has surpassed 100 million, he emphasized that “this resolution is first and foremost a humanitarian resolution”.
Without a vote, the Committee then approved “L.49”, by which the Assembly would express deep concern at the increasing number of people who are forcibly displaced, including from conflict, persecution and climate. It would express concern over challenges associated with hosting refugees in national systems, given stretched resources, and would stress the importance of responsibility sharing among States. Further, it would express deep concern about increasing threats to the security of humanitarian aid workers and strongly condemn attacks on refugees and asylum-seekers.
Also by the text, the Assembly would urge States to uphold the civilian and humanitarian character of camps and settlements for refugees and allow unhindered access to them for the UNHCR. It would express grave concern at the large number of asylum-seekers who have lost their lives trying to reach safety and the unprecedented scale of the global food crisis. Further, the Assembly would express grave concern over the negative long-term impact of continued cuts in food rations and would call upon donors to ensure sustained support for the UNHCR and World Food Programme (WHO).
The representative of Iran, speaking after the approval, said his country has played a vital role in reducing refugee problems in the region and prevented an influx of millions of refugees into other parts of the world. He noted that a few developing host countries have been providing hospitality for decades, but said “that should not be taken for granted, and that is no reason for others to shirk their responsibilities”. Pointing to unilateral coercive measures, he stressed the adverse effects of sanctions by the United States on refugees who live in Iran. Turning to Afghanistan’s recent developments, which have led to a massive influx of refugees, he said that, since last year, thousands of Afghans have entered Iran daily. Over five million refugees and migrants from Afghanistan are still living in his country. However, Afghanistan’s neighbours, like Iran, should not feel the entire burden associated with receiving Afghan refugees. “The sustainability of current services is in doubt,” he added, stating that the country has joined consensus on the resolution.
The representative of Canada said that with unprecedented levels of forced displacement, global food insecurity and increasing conflict around the world, the UNHCR is more important than ever. The Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine has led to unprecedented rates of forced displacement in Europe, he said, underscoring the importance of coordination among States to protect refugees. Stressing the country’s partnership with the UNHCR, he recognized the need to strengthen collective efforts towards increased responsibility sharing and the importance of advancing durable solutions. He strongly supported the resolution.
The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said his bloc acknowledges that forced displacement is driven by new factors, welcoming substantive language added to this resolution on the effects of the global food crisis and climate change. “This text is humanitarian in nature and objectives, and should remain as such,” he said. Further, he said it is crucial to safeguard the efficiency and functionality of asylum systems for those in need of international protection and “prevent any abuse, including for political purposes”.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, also speaking on behalf of Bahrain, Omar, Qatar and Kuwait, said those delegations joined consensus on the draft. With reference to sexual reproductive health and reproductive and sexual health service mentioned in operative paragraphs 48 and 49, she said her group regards those paragraphs in line with their cultural and societal values and their national systems.
The representative of Hungary said his State joined consensus in the spirit of compromise. Noting references to the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Refugee Forum, he said his country does not accept the Compact. Further, international efforts should focus on root causes of migration and assisting third countries locally. Adding that governing migration is a prerogative of States to define, he disassociated from operative paragraphs 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 51 with respect to the Compact and Forum.
The representative of Singapore, noting that her country joined consensus for the draft resolution, expressed regret that it continues to deplore denied access to asylum, without taking into consideration the different context that States face. Reaffirming States’ rights to control their borders and manage migration flows, she said her country, due to limited land and a high population, is not able to accept refugees or asylum-seekers.
The representative of Kenya, noting that his country joined consensus on the resolution, said it takes exception to the reference to “integrating” in operative paragraph 28. The modality for hosting remains a prerogative for determination by the hosting State and shall not be prescribed by others, he said, adding that the reference to “integrating” without any caveats or qualifiers remains unacceptable to Kenya. He disassociated from the paragraph.
The representative of Syria, welcoming adoption of the resolution by consensus, stressed its importance for his country, adding that this year, his State did not ask for a vote on the draft, highlighting good practices in negotiations of the text.
The representative of Senegal, noting that his country joined consensus on the draft, dissociated from references to “non-consensual” throughout the text, especially in operative paragraphs 48 and 49. Those issues must be understood according to the sociocultural realities of individual countries, he said.
The observer for the Holy See said the call for coordinated and immediate action to save lives and reduce suffering in countries at risk of hunger and acute malnutrition represents a crucial addition to this year’s draft resolution. He underscored the call for further international cooperation to support hosting communities, particularly long-standing hosting countries. He said he considered “sexual and reproductive health” and “sexual and reproductive health care service” as part of a holistic concept of health, but didn’t consider abortion, access to abortion and abortifacients as a dimension of these terms. He interpreted “gender” in terms of biological identity.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Missing persons” (document A/C.3/77/L.41), which the Chair noted contained no programme budget implications.
Introducing the resolution, the representative of Azerbaijan said the draft calls upon States parties to conflict to strictly observe international humanitarian law, determine the identity of missing persons in connection with conflict and inform families of their fate. He noted that the text is a rollover with some agreed-upon additions and should be adopted by consensus.
In a statement before the vote, the representative of Armenia took the floor. Highlighting the importance of respecting terms set out in the draft, he decried Azerbaijan’s hypocrisy in tabling it, citing a 2022 report on implementation of last year’s resolution that noted an increase in missing persons as a result of conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh. Noting the 4,500 missing persons associated with Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia throughout the 1990s, 200 new cases following hostilities in 2020, and 29 more cases from this year’s aggression, he said Azerbaijan has no intention of adhering to protocols set out in the Geneva Conventions.
Approved by consensus without a vote, the draft would have the General Assembly urge States to strictly observe the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols and call on States parties to armed conflict to prevent persons from going missing, account for persons reported missing and ensure investigations and accountability. It would also urge States to avoid harming civilians who prevent persons from going missing in armed conflict, including by minimizing military use of civilian infrastructure. Further, it would call on States to determine the fate of the missing and provide their family members with all information.
Also by the text, the Assembly would urge States and encourage intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to take measures to address the problem and provide assistance as requested by concerned States. It would stress the need to address the issue of missing persons as part of peace and peacebuilding processes, with reference to all justice and rule of law mechanisms.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” (document A/C.3/77/L.42), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
The representative of Finland, introducing the draft on behalf of the Nordic countries, stressed that everyone should be able to live freely, without fear of being illegally executed on any grounds. Advocating for the use of forensic expertise in extrajudicial executions, she observed that new elements in the draft accommodate suggestions of delegations and ensure protection of everyone’s inherent right to life.
The representative of Egypt introduced, on behalf of other countries, the amendment to the draft (document A/C.3/77/L.66), which aims to replace the term “sexual orientation or gender identity” with “sex” in operative paragraph 7(b). Opposing the attempt to grant protection to certain persons while excluding others, she urged all delegations to vote in favour of the amendment.
A recorded vote was requested.
The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, underscored that the purpose of the resolution is to bring the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings to justice. He voiced deep regret over the decision of some Member States to present an amendment to the long-established language contained in the draft resolution. Such last-minute amendments undermine multilateralism as well as the very purpose of the United Nations and its institutions, he stressed, adding that vulnerable groups are more likely to be victims of extrajudicial, arbitrary, and summary executions. He called for investigations guaranteeing protection to all without discrimination. Moreover, he stressed that the resolution places no obligation on States to change their domestic laws regarding these specific groups, but rather urges them to investigate all killings in an exhaustive and impartial manner. His delegation will vote against the amendment presented, he noted.
The representative of Finland emphasized that certain groups of persons are more vulnerable to extrajudicial killings than others, including persons belonging to religious and linguistic minorities, refugees, internally displaced persons and members of Indigenous communities and communities of gender identity or sexual orientation. Her delegation will vote against the amendment, she added.
The representative of Argentina said that all persons have the right to enjoy the protection of international human rights law, especially with regard to the right to life, which should be guaranteed by States with no distinction. Opposing selective approaches towards the protection of human rights, she noted her delegation will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Mexico noted that the draft contains elements aimed at preventing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Opposing the tabled amendment, he voiced concern over deaths motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity. His delegation will vote against the amendment, he said.
The representative of New Zealand, also on behalf of other countries, underlined that it is of utmost importance that this listing of vulnerable groups is kept in the resolution. Killings of persons targeted due to their sexual orientation is well documented, she said, adding that such exclusion of a certain vulnerable group from the draft would send a dangerous message. Her delegation will vote against the amendment, she said.
The representative of the United Kingdom said extrajudicial killings undermine State authority and the rule of law. The resolution encompasses references to a large group of people that are at a particular risk due to their national, ethnic and linguistic identity or sexual orientation. The draft rightly identifies individuals facing greater risks, she stressed, noting that her delegation will vote against the amendment.
The representative of the United States, voicing regret over the last-minute amendment, stressed that no one should be subjected to extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions. Removing one group from the list of vulnerable persons would be deeply troubling, she said, adding that her country will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Colombia said that there is no justifiable reason to execute somebody extrajudicially without a fair trial. Her delegation will vote against the amendment, she noted.
The representative of Jordan, noting that his delegation will vote in favour of the amendment, affirmed the right to life for all persons and highlighted the duty of all States to ensure fair investigations related to any crime, regardless of a person’s ethnic, religious, linguistic and sexual orientation.
The representative of Syria, noting that his delegation will vote in favour of the amendment, said that adoption of the amendment would mean that a gap between two groups of Member States is expanding.
The Committee then rejected the amendment “L.66” by a recorded vote of 88 against to 51 in favour, with 26 abstentions.
A recorded vote on the draft resolution as a whole, “L.42”, was then requested.
The representative of Sweden, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote on behalf of the Nordic countries, underscored the role of forensic expertise in investigating cases of extrajudicial executions. Expressing disappointment that a recorded vote was requested, he urged delegations to read the language of the paragraph in question as it merely calls on Member States to conduct investigations in instances when persons belonging to the aforementioned vulnerable groups have been targeted by extrajudicial executions. Everyone should be able to live freely, without the fear of being illegally executed on any grounds, he stressed, adding that his delegation will vote in favour of the draft.
The representative of Saudi Arabia stressed that the proposed amendment was not introduced at the last minute. She added that the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity run counter to her country’s constitutional principles as well as its values.
The representative of Iran, pointing out that extrajudicial killings and arbitrary execution continue to happen with impunity in many parts of the world, including Western countries, disassociated from all non-consensual and controversial language in the text.
The representative of Yemen expressed regret that certain delegates have chosen not to respect his country’s national constitution, traditions, cultures and identities.
The representative of Egypt said her country’s position has been consistent and should be of no surprise. She noted that a group of countries are attempting to focus on special groups of persons, to the detriment of universality and indivisibility of the rights of all persons.
The representative of the Netherlands, aligning himself with the European Union, voiced regret that the text has been called to a vote after the unsuccessful last-minute introduction of the amendment. He noted that the question before the Committee is: “Can we as a United Nations speak out for the protection of all individuals against unlawful killings and for the needs to bring the perpetrators of such killings to justice?”
The representative of the Russian Federation stated that there remains non-consensual language in the text that creates an “artificial hierarchy” within civil society. The draft resolution also attempts to arbitrarily interpret the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. Noting that the text also includes an unjustified mention of the International Criminal Court, he added that his country does not agree with the concept of the responsibility to protect.
The representative of the United States stated that, while the draft resolution addresses several important issues, her country continues to have concerns regarding the language related to the use of force and the application of international humanitarian law in addition to other legal concerns. She voiced regret that the resolution, which should enjoy consensus in this Committee, has once again been put to a vote.
The representative of Peru, recalling Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, underscored that the right to life is universal and therefore belongs to everyone.
The representative of Pakistan voiced concern over the concept of sexual and gender identity, stressing that “inclusion of superficial categories and terminologies which do not enjoy universal recognition must be avoided”. He also rejected any notion that equates the legitimate use of death penalty with extrajudicial killings.
Draft resolution “L.42” was then approved by a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 1 against (Burundi), with 45 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would note with deep concern that impunity can perpetuate extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and femicide. It would be deeply concerned about such executions committed against persons exercising their rights, including to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Further, the Assembly would urge all States to ensure that persons deprived of their liberty are treated humanely and with full respect for international law. It would strongly urge all States to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of national and international humanitarian personnel.
Further, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to offer appropriate resources to Special Rapporteurs to carry out their mandates, including through country visits. It would also request the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on extrajudicial killings worldwide to the General Assembly, at its seventy-eighth and seventy-ninth sessions.
The representative of Gambia disassociated from operative paragraph 7(b), saying that the amendment only sought to introduce a language that is acceptable and represents the values of all nations.
The representative of Senegal stated that once again the Committee has missed an opportunity to speak unanimously on this issue. “We believe that the creation of other categories of human being cannot be supported by our country,” he emphasized.
The representative of Switzerland, commending that the text addresses the issue of protesting in preambular paragraph 15 and operative paragraph 12, pointed out that the language in Human Rights Council resolution 50/21 (2022) on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful demonstrations should have been reflected in its entirety with regard to operative paragraph 12.
The representative of Mali disassociated himself from controversial provisions, including operative paragraph 7.
The representative of Malaysia disassociated from the phrase “sexual orientation and gender identity”, as contained in operative paragraph 7(b) and stated that his country does not recognize this as agreed language.
The representative of Belarus voiced disappointment that many countries have intentionally brought up non-consensual language in the text. His country’s position on the issue, as well as many other countries’, have been well-known and unambiguous, he stressed.
The representative of Nicaragua disassociated from references to the International Criminal Court in the draft resolution because his country is not a party to the organization.
The representative of the Philippines stated that her country has withdrawn from the Statute of the International Criminal Court and does not recognize its jurisdiction.
The representative of China expressed regret that its proposals, which would have helped reach a consensus, were not taken on board. He pointed out that the sponsors have included in the resolution certain language on which there was no consensus among Member States, such as “human rights defenders” as well as references to the International Criminal Court and its Statute. They also expanded the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council, he added.
The representative of Bangladesh stated that her country has never recognized the concept of minorities based on sexual orientation and gender identity. She expressed regret that the facilitators have failed to deal with serious concerns from several delegations, including making sexual orientation and gender identity a ground for vulnerability.
The representative of Indonesia stated that the attempt to amend the draft resolution was compromised by a reference that does not enjoy consensual support, nor addresses the concerns from many delegations. She highlighted her country’s position on operative paragraph 7(b), saying that this paragraph should not be regarded as agreed language.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania disassociated from the language used in operative paragraph 7(b).
The representative of Nigeria voiced regret that the draft resolution was not approved by consensus, due to some controversial language. He further stressed that introduction of controversial concepts is not productive when trying to reach a consensus. He disassociated from operative paragraph 7(b).
The representative of Cuba said he does not agree with the reference to the Rome Statute or with the concept of the responsibility to protect. He further stated that this draft resolution expands the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. In this regard, he disassociated himself with preambular paragraph 16 as well as operative paragraphs 15 and 23.
The representative of Syria disassociated from certain paragraphs without mentioning which ones.
The observer for the Holy See expressed disappointment over the retention in operative paragraph 7(b) of controversial and ambiguous terminology, with reference to gender and its derivatives. Inclusion of such language impedes the possibility of achieving consensus on this text, he pointed out.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Freedom of religion or belief” (document A/C.3/77/L.43), which the Chair noted contains no programme budget implications.
Introducing the draft, the representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union in its capacity as observer, said the text stresses the importance of the protection of freedom of religion or belief in response to the rise of violent religious extremism in various parts of the world. Only technical updates have been introduced to encourage States to focus on implementation, he noted, before spotlighting the European Union’s commitment and work in this regard. Approval by consensus, he added, will send a strong message to the world on the importance of protecting this freedom.
The Committee then approved “L.43” without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would express serious concern over acts of violence based on religion and the increasing number and intensity of such incidents. It would be deeply concerned by the limited progress made to eliminate discrimination based on religion or belief. Further, the Assembly would be concerned that State and non-State actors can encourage violence against religious minorities as well as by an increasing number of laws that limit the freedom of thought, religion or belief.
Also, by the text, the Assembly would be seriously concerned about attacks on religious sites and shrines, including those carried out in connection with incitement to national, racial or religious hatred. It would strongly condemn any advocacy of hatred based on religion in any form of media. The Assembly would further express deep concern over obstacles to the right to freedom of religion or belief, as well as increasing intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief, including acts of violence directed against individuals based on their religion.
Further, the Assembly would urge States to redouble efforts promoting freedom of thought and religion and therefore ensure legislative frameworks guarantee freedom of thought and religion, that they do not reproduce discrimination and that no official documents are withheld from individuals based on their religion. It would urge Governments to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on this topic for the effective fulfilment of her mandate. Also by the text, it would request the Secretary-General to ensure she receives the resources to fully discharge her mandate and submit an interim report to the General Assembly at its seventy-eighth session.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders” (document A/C.3/77/L.11/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Uganda, speaking for the African Group and introducing the draft resolution, said the Institute provides vital technical support to African countries in the areas of training, technical assistance, advisory services, research and policy development, and information and documentation. This support strengthens countries’ national capacities to advance the regional crime-prevention and criminal-justice framework, and to promote the rule of law and human rights in the administration of justice. Noting that this year’s deliberations focused mainly on technical updates, she also pointed out that the draft contains concrete actions to improve the Institute’s work in supporting national mechanisms for crime prevention and criminal justice in African countries. A strengthened, sufficiently resourced Institute will support African countries in rebuilding and accelerating their efforts to combat crime, she added, expressing hope that the Committee would adopt the resolution by consensus.
Without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft resolution, by which the Assembly would urge the Institute’s member States to pay all or part of their outstanding arrears. Further, it would urge Member States, non-governmental organizations and the international community to continue to adopt measures to support the Institute in developing requisite capacity and implementing its activities aimed at strengthening criminal justice systems in Africa.
The text would also have the General Assembly urge all States that have not already done so to consider ratifying or acceding to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols thereto, as well as the United Nations Convention against Corruption. It would encourage States parties that have not yet implemented the conventions to inform the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) of any impediments. Further, the Assembly would encourage African States that are not yet members of the Institute to consider becoming member States and request UNODC to continue working closely with the Institute.
The Committee next took up the draft resolution titled “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” (document A/C.3/77/L.44/Rev.1), which the Chair noted contained no programme budget implications.
The representative of Australia, also on behalf of co-facilitator Costa Rica, introduced the draft on behalf of an inter-regional taskforce of 44 countries. “This resolution invites all States to protect the rights to life by establishing a moratorium on executions”, he said, adding that it builds on previous resolutions on the topic. Noting a global trend away from capital punishment, as four out of five countries have abolished it or no longer apply it, he stressed that the resolution already has 74 co-sponsors from all regions. “This support demonstrates that countries from all cultures, legal systems, regions and traditions have chosen to establish moratoriums on the use of the death penalty”, he asserted.
The Committee then took up draft amendment “L.54”. The representative of Singapore, introducing “L.54” on behalf of a group of more than 39 countries, said the amendment is not new, but is taken word for word from previously adopted resolutions. Noting that in 2020 the Third Committee adopted the same amendment with a large majority of votes, he expressed disappointment that proponents have insisted on deleting such a paragraph and have adopted a take it or leave it approach. He said the amendment will restore language adopted three times by a majority in the Committee and reaffirm a fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter as well as the sovereign rights of all countries to make their own decisions with regards to their legal systems. He asked delegations to vote in favour to send a clear signal that the sovereign rights of all countries must be respected.
A recorded vote was requested on draft “L.54”.
In explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union and the bloc’s candidate countries in its capacity as observer, said the draft resolution raises the issue of States voluntarily taking the life of human beings, among which a number are the “victims of a miscarriage of justice”. The draft aims at sending the message that proclaiming a moratorium contributes to enhancing respect for human dignity, while amendment “L.54” goes in the opposite direction, he said. There is “no single word” in “L.44/Rev.1” asking countries to change their penal legislation and “not even for one second is State sovereignty put into question”, he asserted. He added that “States proclaiming a moratorium exercise their sovereignty, so do States who continue to execute”. Noting that the sovereignty argument is off topic, he said the bloc would vote against the amendment and invited others to do the same.
The representative of Venezuela, recognizing the efforts of co-facilitators to continue promoting the call for use of the moratorium on the death penalty and its possible definitive abolition, said this is an important political symbol regarding the preservation of human life as a fundamental human right. Noting that his country has been an historic co-sponsor of the resolution, he highlighted his State’s tradition in not applying the death penalty, stressing that his was the first country to abolish it for all crimes. Recognizing the balanced text proposed by Singapore, he said that respect for sovereignty is “in no way contradictory” to the global call for moratorium or abolition of the death penalty. He said Venezuela understands and defends the principle of sovereignty, expressing hope that the resolution will be adopted with full consensus in the future.
The representative of Canada, expressing regret over the introduction of “L.54”, said the draft resolution is guided by purposes contained in the United Nations Charter, including the principle of State sovereignty. Noting that her country will vote against the amendment, she encouraged others to do the same.
The representative of New Zealand, stressing that her country is a member of the Inter-regional Taskforce on moratorium of the use of the death penalty, said her State was encouraged by conversations on the issue of sovereign rights. She expressed disappointment that the new language delegations are working towards is not reflected in the resolution, expressing regret that the amendment was tabled, hoping that the seventy-nineth session will be able to build on progress.
The representative of Sri Lanka said that sovereignty is inextricably interwoven with the debate on the death penalty. Rhetorically, he asked whether the relation between citizen and sovereign is grounded in the sovereign’s right to the citizen’s death. The answer is not easy, he said, underscoring that legislation must be directed by the people. Adding that his country has had a moratorium on the death penalty by sovereign order since 1976, he acknowledged that it still exists in Sri Lanka’s penal code. Affirming that the decision should be left up to States to decide, he said his delegation would vote in favour of the amendment.
The representative of the Federated States of Micronesia lamented the process of inserting, then taking out, then inserting operative paragraph 1, adding that his delegation will continue to support the resolution regardless, and invited all delegations to do the same.
The representative of China highlighted the importance of respecting the rights of a sovereign State and expressed concern that, although many delegations asked that operative paragraph 1 be inserted, it was left out. China co-sponsored the amendment and will vote “yes”, she said, reiterating that the exercise of judicial sovereignty by sovereign States is of the utmost importance.
The representative of Botswana said his country will vote in favour of the amendment, expressing disappointment that operative paragraph 1 was left out of the text. The moratorium on the death penalty is a decision of each State, he said.
The representative of Jamaica said that there is no international law prohibiting the death penalty, adding that it is up to sovereign States to decide on laws based on their customs and traditions. While his delegation acknowledged the moratorium on the death penalty in other States, he said it is not appropriate in Jamaica, as the country is experiencing an upsurge in crime and maintains capital punishment for the most egregious crimes. He lamented persistent attempts to ignore pleas to include operative paragraph 1 in the text, but said Jamaica will vote in favour of the resolution to preserve State sovereignty and multilateralism.
The representative of Argentina, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the moratorium on the death penalty is about the full respect of human rights. Underscoring that a provision asking States to modify their criminal justice systems is absent from the text, he expressed willingness to participate in further negotiations with all countries and will vote against the amendment.
The representative of Indonesia noted that the amendment returns the text to the form adopted during the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly in 2020, and that the decision to abolish the death penalty or not is one for each sovereign State to take up. Underlining the need to reinsert operative paragraph 1, he expressed deep concern that countries involved in writing the text are less keen to uphold the United Nations Charter in favour of a “pick-and-choose” approach. He said his delegation will vote in favour of the amendment and encouraged other delegations to do so.
The representative of Iran said that his delegation will vote against “L.44” because Iran has never acceded to the second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Iran maintains use of the death penalty only as a punishment for the most severe cases after due process in the justice system, he said. As the Government has a responsibility to maintain the security of its citizens, it has a responsibility to ensure that drug traffickers and other serious human rights offenders do not kill again, he said, recalling that many police have been martyred by drug traffickers. Further, a moratorium on the death penalty overpopulates prisons, a fact ignored by the idealist drafters of the amendment, he said. “Let us say that one size does not fit all” he said, adding that Iran is not in a position to abolish the death penalty.
The representative of Liechtenstein reiterated his country’s opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances, since it contravenes human rights and fundamental freedoms. Highlighting General Comment 36 of the Human Rights Council on abolition of the death penalty as both desirable and necessary for enhancement of human rights and progressive development of them, he noted that the amendment undermines the commitment of Member States towards that end. Liechtenstein will vote against the amendment and in favour of the resolution, he said.
The representative of Egypt, as a co-sponsor of the amendment, urged other Member States to vote in favour of it. Voting against is a direct voluntary waiver of States’ sovereignty, she said, noting that consultations were marred with confrontation and rhetoric. The premeditated and intentional deletion of operative paragraph 1 reflects a disregard for the majority of Member States of the Third Committee and the United Nations system, she emphasized.
The representative of Papua New Guinea said his country’s recent repeal of the death penalty does not automatically imply a change of position, nor a lesser degree of importance concerning the resolution. He then expressed regret over the inflexibility of the sponsors of “L.44/Rev.1” in balancing and strengthening the text by including the amendment contained in “L.54”. The omission of an operative paragraph on State sovereignty, once again, obscures, downgrades and diminishes the critical importance of this principle and how it is exercised by countries in their domestic criminal justice systems, he said.
The representative of Nigeria, noting that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent against the most serious crimes, emphasized the fundamental right of people to safety and security. While there is no international consensus for or against the death penalty when imposed according to due process, there is a well-recognized right of States to exercise their authority in pursuit of their people’s welfare, he underlined. Voicing his support for the amendment, he then reaffirmed the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems and determine the appropriate legal penalties in accordance with their own needs.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said he will vote in favour of amendment as it will add balance to the resolution and respond to aspirations to achieve consensus. Operative paragraph 1, he pointed out, is the bedrock for discussing other paragraphs of the resolution, including preambular paragraph 11, which welcomes measures by States to eliminate the use of the death penalty and operative paragraph 3, which welcomes steps by States to reduce the number of crimes requiring the death penalty. He then noted he will vote against the resolution in light of its co-sponsors’ inflexibility in including operative paragraph 1.
A recorded vote was requested on “L.54”.
The Committee adopted the amendment “L.54” by a recorded vote of 103 in favour to 68 against, with 13 abstentions.
By the text, the Assembly would reaffirm 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 representative of Singapore, responding to the delegate of the Czech Republic, said Singapore does not reject dialogue. Also, dialogue does not start with finger pointing, he added. He asked whether concerned countries will withdraw their co-sponsorship in order to be consistent and embrace operative paragraph 1, which has now become an integral part of the document. Unless a co-sponsor of the original draft “L.44/Rev.1” withdraws their co-sponsorship, these co-sponsors have accepted operative paragraph 1, he emphasized, noting that this amendment has now been adopted four times. By deleting the operative paragraph, concerned countries show no respect for the working methods of the Committee as well as for the majority of Member States. It is an approach based on arrogance and cultural superiority, he stressed, adding that this is not the multilateral system that Member States subscribed to.
The representative of Sierra Leone, in explanation of vote after the vote, recalled that his country abolished the death penalty in 2021, following meaningful and inclusive dialogue. His delegation voted in favour of the amendment based on the fundamental belief in the sanctity of the Charter of the United Nations.
The representative of Chile said his delegation voted against the amendment, as it undermines the spirit of the draft resolution. Voicing regret that this amendment is being adopted, he called on States to vote in favour of the resolution.
The representative of Belarus expressed gratitude to all delegations who supported the amendment.
A recorded vote was then requested on the draft resolution as a whole, “L.44/Rev.1”.
Speaking before the vote, the representative of Mexico stated that the death penalty is a human rights-related affair for his country and therefore opposes its application under all circumstances. He welcomed that, year after year, more States decide to apply the moratorium or decide to abolish the practice.
The representative of Switzerland, also speaking on behalf of New Zealand, said that capital punishment violates the fundamental right to life. She called on all States to vote in favour of the draft resolution, which will echo the global trend towards a death penalty-free world. She expressed regret that the amendment was adopted, noting that it does not correspond with the spirit and purpose of the draft resolution.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago stressed that application of the death penalty is a matter of criminal justice that falls exclusively within national jurisdictions of individual sovereign States. She expressed confidence that her country’s application of the death penalty is consistent with both national and international law obligations.
The representative of Singapore stated that, while the amendment has fixed the basic flaw in the draft resolution, it still contains many other flaws and contractions. This resolution has made no reference to the rights of victims and their families, he highlighted, also pointing out that it is not founded on international law. “The proponents did not give us a fair hearing”, he lamented, asking them to review their approach and respect the diversity of legal systems.
The representative of Canada, welcoming the increasing number of States that have implemented moratoriums on the death penalty, encouraged continued progress towards its abolition.
The representative of Palau stressed that the death penalty is fundamentally inconsistent with human rights. State-sponsored executions lead to excessive punishment and inhuman treatment, he added, while prisoners waiting for their executions experience deteriorating mental health and are often kept in near isolation.
The representative of Australia, emphasizing that his country “absolutely respects sovereignty”, pointed out that the draft resolution, even without the proposed paragraph, fully respects the principle of sovereign equality of States. He urged all countries that still carry out capital punishment to establish a moratorium on the death penalty.
The representative of the United Kingdom strongly opposed the inclusion of the amendment, which is designed to undermine the overall intention of the draft resolution. Underscoring that the text is a call for a moratorium and does not affect the sovereign right of States, he rejected any claim that seeking to engage in a moratorium on the death penalty amounts to “cultural superiority”.
The representative of Zambia noted that, despite the death penalty being legal in her country, it has not carried out any executions since 1997. Zambia’s President announced plans in May to transition from the death penalty and focus on the preservation and rehabilitation of life, while still delivering justice for all. Legislation introduced in 2022 to amend the penal code seeks to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, but the death penalty remains in the Constitution. She said, therefore, that her delegation will abstain from the vote because the process of aligning the penal code with the Constitution is still ongoing.
The representative of Yemen, recalling that a majority of countries voted in favour of the amendment to the draft resolution, called on the draft resolution’s co-sponsors to accept the voice of the majority. He said his delegation will vote against the draft resolution.
The Committee then approved draft resolution “L.44/Rev.1”, as amended, by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 37 against, with 24 abstentions.
By its terms, the General Assembly would express deep concern about continued application of the death penalty. It would call on States to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, and to comply with their obligations under article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The Assembly would also call on States to make available information on their use of the death penalty and any scheduled executions, and ensure that any trial leading to its imposition complies with internationally recognized fair-trial guarantees.
By further terms, the Assembly would call on States to progressively restrict use of the death penalty and ensure that those facing it can exercise their right to apply for pardon or commutation. It would also call on States to ensure that inmates, their children, families and legal representatives are provided with adequate information about their detention and pending execution to allow a last visit or communication, the return of the body for burial or information about where the body is located, unless this is not in the best interests of the children. In addition, it would call on States to ensure that the death penalty is not applied based on discriminatory laws, improve conditions in detention and establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. Further, the Assembly would call on States which have abolished it not to reintroduce it.
The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking for the European Union after the vote, in its capacity as observer, said that the list of countries supporting the resolution confirms the global push towards a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. “The figures speak for themselves,” he stressed, pointing out that capital punishment fails to deter criminal behaviour. Justice systems are run by humans and are therefore exposed to mistakes and aggravated by social stigmas and political pressure, particularly in countries with no independent judiciary. Further, the death penalty primarily affects poorer persons and those belonging to marginalized groups. Today’s resolution encourages countries to join the majority and proclaim a moratorium on the death penalty, he added.
The representative of Costa Rica welcomed the approval of the resolution, which is essential for human rights. Costa Rica has worked to ensure an open, transparent dialogue between States, but she underscored that the death penalty – in any form – is “unquestionably the most brutal and extreme expression of violence” that violates the supreme right to life. The path of each State towards abolition of the death penalty may be different, she said, while underscoring the importance of making progress towards this end.
The representative of India noted that his country’s laws impose no mandatory death sentence for any offense and have specific provisions for commutation in certain circumstances. Today’s resolution, however, fails to recognize the basic principle that each State has the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and punish criminals according to its domestic laws. Noting that his delegation voted in favour of the amendment, he said India voted against the resolution, as it goes against his country’s statutory law.
The representative of Viet Nam said the death penalty could be considered a measure to deter serious crimes. He said his country takes precautions to avoid miscarriages of justice and publishes all relative information in mass media.
The representative of Ghana said that a moratorium on the death penalty is an aspiration, but should not affect States’ sovereignty. His delegation voted for both the resolution and its amendment.
The representative of Pakistan said that every State has an inalienable right to decide its own laws, recalling that the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights allows for the death penalty in a manner consistent with a State’s law and judicial processes. Asserting that the right to life must be protected for victims of the most heinous crimes, he said that the death penalty is practiced only after due process with the right to seek pardon. His delegation co-sponsored the amendment, he said, and voted for it. Expressing disagreement with “the overall theme and framework” of the resolution, his delegation voted against it.
The representative of Japan also voted for the amendment and against the resolution, saying that in his country the death penalty applies to particularly serious crimes, cannot be given for crimes committed when the perpetrator is a minor and allows stays for pregnant women. His delegation will address this issue in good faith going forward, he said.
The representative of Myanmar said that prior to the military coup in his country, there was an effective moratorium on the death penalty, even though it was not abolished in the penal code. Highlighting an alarming increase in extrajudicial killings and death penalty sentences in Myanmar by the military — even handed down in absentia — to repress democracy through fear, he said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution.
The representative of Indonesia, explaining her abstention, cautioned against conflating the use of capital punishment with torture or extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killing. In Indonesia, the death penalty remains part of its positive law; is safeguarded under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other legal instruments; and is applied with maximum restraint, as a last resort and only for the most serious types of crimes. The resolution’s adoption must not be seen as an attempt to reinterpret treaty law, she warned.
The representative of Qatar said he voted against the resolution, since it includes paragraphs which do not consider the sovereign rights of countries to choose their own legal systems in line with local laws and international law obligations.
The representative of the United States emphasized that abolition of the death penalty must be addressed through Member States’ democratic processes and be consistent with their international law obligations. As Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights permits States to use the death penalty within certain parameters, there is no contravening of the human rights of the convicted individual and the rights of others, he contended. States wishing to abolish the death penalty within their jurisdictions should ratify the second Optional Protocol to the Covenant. All States must focus their attention on addressing and preventing human rights violations arising from the improper imposition of capital punishment, he urged. Despite voting against the resolution, he indicated his hope for continued discussions.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said this country voted in favour of the resolution, spotlighting its de facto abolition of the death penalty over the past 26 years. He noted that his country would continue to review the issue of abolition with prudence and a comprehensive consideration of its function in criminal justice systems, public opinion and sentiment and domestic and international circumstances.
The representative of Egypt, noting that the Third Committee’s approval of “L.42” implies the existence of judiciary executions, said her country voted against the amended resolution, as it qualifies the death penalty as a violation of the fundamental right to life. This legal flaw intentionally denies the sovereign right of States to develop their national legal systems, she underscored, highlighting her country’s legal code, safeguards and limitations on the death penalty. The amended resolution has several other legal flaws in its attempt to reinterpret or widen existing human rights instruments, she added. The preambular section has an unbalanced focus on the rights of children in total disregard of the rights of victims of serious crimes. It also implicitly and erroneously links the use of the death penalty to traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds, she continued. Operative paragraph 6 (e) offers a new interpretation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by incorporating undefined categories of persons as exempt from the use of the death penalty, she further noted. It is not the role of the Third Committee to alter international human rights law, she stressed.
The representative of Fiji dissociated from operative paragraph 1. Fiji’s 2013 Constitution, she said, provides every person with an inherent right to life, which cannot be deprived.
The representative of North Macedonia requested that his vote on “L.54” and “L.44/Rev.1” be changed.
The observer for the Holy See reiterated his opposition to the death penalty in all cases, since it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. In welcoming the resolution’s reference to several positive trends and recognition of the death penalty’s impact on family members, particularly children, he regretted that acceptable language could not be found to reflect the legitimate concerns of all parties. The international community should support efforts for a further moratorium of the death penalty, he urged.
Source: United Nations