Critics denounce US vote against UN resolution condemning death penalty

Human rights activists criticized the United States for voting Thursday against a United Nations resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.

A supermajority of nations voted 125 to 37, with 22 abstentions, to back the UN-backed death penalty moratorium.

“Any criminal justice system truly dedicated to the pursuit of justice should recognize the humanity of all who encounter it and not sanction the use of a discriminatory practice that deprives individuals of their rights, does not respect their dignity and stands in stark contrast to the core values ​​of our democratic system of governance,” the Leaders Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of rights groups, wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday ahead of the tie vote. expected from the United States.

The group highlighted how since 1973, more than 190 innocent people on death row in the United States have been exonerated due to wrongful convictions.

The United States has been joined in its position at the UN by other countries with poor human rights records, including Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and Iran.

Commentators like Austin Sarat, a political science professor and death penalty expert at Amherst College, argued that the UN vote did not match recent US statements condemning Iran’s use of the death penalty against human rights protesters.

“We aid and comfort the very regime whose acts we denounce as this regime commits its most brutal acts,” he wrote in Justia.

Death penalty survivors have also spoken out against the US position.

“Let’s get this abolition of the death penalty in motion,” said Kwame Ajamu, president of Witness to Innocence, who was wrongfully convicted of murder as a teenager and spent decades on the hall of the prison earlier this week. dead. “If it was up to the state of Ohio, I wouldn’t be here having this conversation.”

The United States argued last month, in a message explaining its vote against recommending a UN moratorium to the plenum, that international law permits executions as long as they are carried out fairly.

“The United States urges all states, including supporters of this resolution, to focus their attention on addressing and preventing human rights abuses that may result from the abusive imposition and application of capital punishment,” committee adviser Anthony Bestafka-Cruz wrote. “We urge Member States to ensure that they cannot apply the death penalty extrajudicially, summarily or arbitrarily.”

The UN moratorium recommendation does not change international law or the individual justice systems of member states, but rather reiterates the position that inspired most of the world community to suspend or ban the use of the death penalty. dead.

As The Independent reported, in the United States, that the use of the death penalty frequently targets innocent people and racial minorities, and frequently involves inhumane medical errors that cause inmates to suffer needlessly in the execution chamber.

In the 2020 election, Joe Biden reversed his long tradition of supporting capital punishment and promised to seek an end to executions in the United States.

His administration imposed a moratorium on federal executions, but failed to issue a permanent legislative ban.

“He bravely ended federal executions in the United States. President Biden is also boldly advancing an agenda of criminal justice reform for our country; an agenda that seeks to address the racial disparities that have too often been perpetuated in our criminal justice system given the legacy of slavery in our country,” wrote Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, in a recent opinion piece.

“Two years after his election as president, it is time for Mr. Biden to align our vote at the UN with the principles and policies on which he was elected,” he continued.

The independent and the non-profit association Responsible Business for Justice Initiative (RBIJ) launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the United States. The RBIJ has attracted over 150 well-known signatories to its Statement of Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty – with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high profile leaders like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson in this initiative and pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage. .

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