Explanation of Vote by Laurie S. Phipps, Advisor, Regarding the Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty Resolution (A/C.3/65/L.23), Third Committee

Laurie Shestack Phipps
Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs 
New York, NY
November 11, 2010


Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for the opportunity to explain our vote. The United States appreciates the openness with which the co-sponsors have approached this resolution and their attempts to focus more on international dialogue.

There is a robust political debate on the issue of the death penalty—both within and among nations. While we appreciate that this resolution sets forth policy objectives shared by advocates of an abolition to this form of punishment, we believe that the ultimate decision regarding these issues must be addressed through the domestic democratic processes of individual Member States and be consistent with their obligations under international law.

As the United States has consistently noted in this context, capital punishment is not prohibited by international law. Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party, the death penalty may be imposed for the most serious crimes when carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court and accompanied by exacting procedural safeguards and the observance of due process. U.S. and international law are also relevant to the manner in which the death penalty is carried out. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits methods of execution that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

These and other protections are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and criminal statutes at both the federal and state levels. In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has further narrowed both the class of individuals on whom the death penalty may be imposed and the types of offenses that may be subject to the death penalty.

Just as the United States is committed to complying with its international obligations, we strongly urge other countries that employ the death penalty to do so only in full compliance with international law.

Greater efforts are required to ensure that capital punishment is not applied in an extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary manner. We believe that capital defendants must be provided a fair trial before a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law, with full due process guarantees. Moreover, states should carefully evaluate both the class of defendants subject to the death penalty, as well as the crimes for which it may be imposed, in order to ensure that their use of capital punishment comports with their international obligations. Methods of execution designed to inflict undue pain or suffering must be strictly prohibited.
The United States urges all States, and particularly the supporters of this resolution, to focus their attention towards addressing and preventing human rights violations that may result from the improperly imposed application of capital punishment.


PRN: 2010/282