US Joins with Iran, N. Korea, Syria in Opposing Abolition of Death Penalty

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Common Dreams

US Joins with Iran, N. Korea, Syria in Opposing Abolition of Death Penalty

As world makes progress towards abolishing state-sanctioned murder, US remains defiant

by
Common Dreams staff

A record number of countries voted to abolish the death penalty, but the US sided with Iran and North Korea on the issue. (Photo: Eric Risberg/AP)

The US on Monday once again voted down a resolution at the UN calling for an international moratorium on the death penalty. In doing so, the US joined nations it often critcizes as human rights "outliers" like Iran, North Korea, Syria and China in opposition to a growing global trend away from the practice.

Though the US often loudly criticizes other nations for their human rights records, the US in recent years has lost its moral footing in the wake of torture scandals, its continued position on the death penalty, and because of many policies practiced under the umbrella of what it calls the "war on terror."

US allies in the European Union, as well as Israel, Australia, Brazil and South Africa were among the growing number of nations who voted in support of the resolution, which grew to 110 nations this year from 107 when the resolution was last put to a vote in 2010.

Norway wrote on its Twitter account was "a great result."

In May, the US annual human rights report criticized Iran, Syria, China and other countries for human rights abuses, and "had particularly harshly worded condemnation of Iran and Syria," countries the US said it was "watching," The Guardian reported.

Yet the US has also been subject to criticism from Amnesty International and other groups over such abuses as domestic executions, extrajudicial drone strikes overseas, wars of aggression and its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Norway, along with France's new government, campaigned for the full General Assembly to pass a resolution in December calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.

The vote is non-binding, but diplomats say it would increase moral pressure. As The Nation reports:

The vote tears apart traditional alliances at the United Nations. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding resolution in the assembly's rights committee. Thirty-six countries abstained.

Some 150 countries have abolished or instituted a moratorium on capital punishment, according to Amnesty International.

The organization reports that  China executed "thousands" of prisoners in 2011, and other countries executing at least 680, "with Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia major users of capital punishment."

In the United States, Illinois last year became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.

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