M2 PRESSWIRE-February 26, 2019-: Human Rights Council holds high-level panel on the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality
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GENEVA, Switzerland -- The Human Rights Council this morning held its biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, with a focus on human rights violations in the context of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality.
Coly Seck, President of the Human Rights Council, reminded that the Council was holding the biennial high-level panel on the question of the death penalty in line with its resolutions 26/2 and 36/17, when it decided to focus the discussion on the violations of human rights in the context of the death penalty, particularly when it concerned the rights to non-discrimination and equality.
In her opening statement, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded that death rows were disproportionately populated by the poor and economically vulnerable; members of ethnic minorities; people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities; foreign nationals; indigenous persons; and other marginalized members of society. Condemning people to death for conduct that should not be criminalized in the first place was never compatible with a State's human rights obligations. The High Commissioner encouraged all States to take a stand on the right side of history and join the international trend towards abolition.
Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, and Defence of Belgium, speaking on behalf of a group of States that co-sponsored the resolution to hold this panel, regretted that the death penalty continued to be applied in cases of apostasy, blasphemy, adultery or consensual relations between people of the same sex. Poverty and the death penalty were linked, including due to financial access to legal recourse. Maintaining the death penalty had no impact on the crime rate and it was time to unilaterally turn the page on that practice.
The panellists were Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal; Melinda Janki, Director of the Justice Institute Guyana; and Fatimata M'Baye, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association. Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, acted as the discussion moderator.
Mr. Shany drew attention to the adoption by the Human Rights Committee of the General Comment No. 36 on the right to life, according to which the death penalty could not be "reconciled with full respect for the right to life." The General Comment made particular reference to the problem of inequality in the application of the death penalty.
Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, said that in Nepal the abolition of the death penalty had been possible through a long and conscious effort of all stakeholders, including political leaders, civil society, human rights defenders, and the media. It was a conscious national choice and a reflection of shared values.
Melinda Janki, Director of the Justice Institute Guyana, noted that the death penalty, like slavery, sent a message that some lives were worth less than others. It disproportionately affected the poor, the marginalized, the illiterate and the mentally challenged, whereas the rich were able to pay lawyers or get a non-guilty verdict.
Fatimata M'Baye, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association, drew attention to the case of a blogger who had posted an article about social discrimination in Mauritania and been accused of blasphemy, then sentenced to death. The United Nations could play a role in ending the death penalty by asking those States that still practiced it to abandon that punishment in the name of the right to life.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed belief that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights. The death penalty was a human right violation. They hailed the adoption in the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2018, but noted that around the world capital punishment continued to be imposed in violation of major international standards. Speakers expressed deep concern that the death penalty was imposed in a disproportionate and discriminatory manner to juvenile offenders, women victims of domestic violence, minorities, foreign nationals, persons with disabilities, and poor and economically vulnerable populations. Some, however, noted that every State had the right to choose its legal and criminal justice systems, without external interference, and that the rights of defendants always had to be weighed against the rights of victims and their families, and the broader rights of the community and society.
Speaking were Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Italy, Mexico, Singapore on behalf of a group of countries, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, Slovenia, Ecuador, France, Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia, and Greece.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Friends World Committee for Consultation, Centre for Global Nonkilling, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Together against the death penalty, and International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), and the National Human Rights Institution: Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines.
The Council will next continue with its high-level segment.
Opening Statement by the President of the Council
COLY SECK, President of the Human Rights Council, reminded that the Council was holding its biennial high-level panel on the question of the death penalty in line with resolutions 26/2 and 36/17 of the Human Rights Council, where the latter decided to hold at the fortieth session a high-level biennial panel discussion on the violations of human...