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IBAHRI statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty

Human Rights Council, 42nd session

11 September 2019

Mr President,

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) notes the report of the high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty. We welcome positive steps taken by some states 1, including the executive moratorium on the death penalty in California 2, as well as measures in Colorado 3, Pennsylvania 4 and Oregon 5. The decision of US Attorney General Barr to reinstate the death penalty 6 is therefore an unacceptable retrogressive step, as is Sri Lanka’s intention to reinstate the death penalty and seek execution of four people. 7

The IBAHRI opposes the death penalty without exception. We therefore condemn the imposition of the mandatory death penalty against two men in Myanmar for their role in the murder of prominent human rights lawyer, U Ko Ni 8. In addition, while we fully advocate the enjoyment of rights by persons with albinism, we condemn the court decision in Malawi, sentencing three people to death for killing and dismembering of a person with albinism. 9

As noted by the high-level panel, the death penalty is incompatible with the right to life, human dignity and the possibility of offenders’ rehabilitation. We call on states to immediately abolish the mandatory death penalty, observe a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it and refrain from taking retrogressive steps.

This statement was delivered by:

Helene Ramos dos Santos, Geneva Consultant, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute: Helene.santos@int-bar.org

For further information on the IBAHRI report ‘Forced to Kill: The Mandatory Death Penalty and its Incompatibility with Fair Trial Standards’, please contact: Muluka.miti-drummond@int-bar.org

Download the report

  1. Gambia’s ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Malaysia’s recent decision to abolish the death penalty.
  2. Governor Gavin Newsom, Executive Order N-09-19, 13 March 2019. See IBAHRI press release, 27 March 2019, IBAHRI supports ‘executive moratorium’ on the death penalty in California,
    www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail?ArticleUid=BD7B1A4B-D7CA-4413-8E5A-FFC6E21AC863
  3. Senate Bill 19-182: A bill for an act concerning the repeal of the death penalty by the General Assembly, 1 May 2019.
  4. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Death penalty moratorium declaration (executive order), 13 February 2015.
  5. Governor John Kitzhaber, Governor Kitzhaber Statement on Capital Punishment (executive order), 22 November 2011. Current Governor Kate Brown announced on 18 February 2015 that she will continue the moratorium on executions.
  6. See IBAHRI press release, 26 July 2019, IBAHRI condemns US Attorney General Barr’s decision to reinstate the death penalty,
    www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail?ArticleUid=A461E8A2-BF05-4A84-BC02-61E895986B93
  7. Any execution would break with a moratorium on the death penalty, which has been in place in Sri Lanka since 1976. See IBAHRI press release, 24 July 2019, IBAHRI voices concern over potential reinstatement of the death penalty in Sri Lanka,
    www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail?ArticleUid=399473B6-77B6-476A-B0A7-158DB11E4B50
  8. In Myanmar, the death penalty is the mandatory punishment for defendants found guilty of premeditated murder. See IBAHRI press release, 26 February 2019, IBAHRI condemns death penalty ruling in U Ko Ni trial,
    www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail?ArticleUid=DF6368DF-37C9-4B34-A234-81832C30A61D
  9. See IBAHRI press release, 22 August 2019, IBAHRI denounces death sentence delivered against three in Malawi,
    www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail?ArticleUid=b64288d3-a54d-496e-aef8-f3f588af65dd