Recently, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations passed a resolution condemning the death penalty as punishment for consensual same-sex relations. The resolution also condemned executions for apostasy, blasphemy, and adultery.

There are six countries where the death penalty is used for people in same-sex relationships: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia. There are five other countries that legally state same-sex relations is a capital crime, but these countries have not carried out any executions.

The final vote in the 47-member Human Rights Council was 27 in favor, 13 against, and 7 countries abstained. But why would a member of the Human Rights Council abstain from voting?

The former director of DPIC (Death Penalty Information Center) once said, “A majority of the countries in the world have abandoned the use of the death penalty. But the world had not yet formed a consensus against its use.”

So for those that wish to abolish the death penalty worldwide, defining the death penalty as a human rights issue was imperative, but the reclassification of the practice was rejected by those that believed the death penalty was an indispensable part of justice.

In 1994 the United Nations General Assembly considered a resolution to restrict the death penalty. Singapore maintained that capital punishment was not a human rights issue. Seventy four countries abstained from voting and the resolution failed. Here, it seemed, the vote itself, whether it was for or against the restrictions, confirmed that the death penalty was a human rights issue, and countries abstained so their vote wouldn’t be considered a part of the growing consensus to abolish the practice.

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