Explanation of Vote on the UN General Assembly Resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions

Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
U.S. Representative to ECOSOC 
New York, NY
November 20, 2012




AS PREPARED

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We wish to join the co-sponsors of this resolution in condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions against all persons, irrespective of their status. We agree that all States have obligations to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and should take effective action to combat all extrajudicial killings and punish the perpetrators. We agree that countries such as ours, which have capital punishment, should abide by their international obligations, including those related to due process, fair trial, and use of such punishment for only the most serious of crimes. We strongly agree with the language condemning extrajudicial killing that targets vulnerable groups, particularly those targeted on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Indeed, we agree with much of the text of this resolution.

We nonetheless have concerns about the language of the resolution in a few areas and, therefore, abstain on the resolution. Much as we deeply agree with the goals and sponsors of the resolution, we are not in a position to vote for a text that obscures that there are not one, but two bodies of law that regulate unlawful killings of individuals by governments - international human rights law and international humanitarian law. These two bodies of law are complementary and mutually reinforce one other. We also recognize that determining what international law rules apply to any particular government action during an armed conflict is highly fact-specific. However, the applicable rules for the protection of individuals and conduct of hostilities in armed conflict are primarily found in international humanitarian law.

The resolution as worded contributes to legal uncertainty about how these two important bodies of law apply to an array of factual circumstances.

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PRN: 2012/262