Category Archives: Death Penalty

Death penalty posts

Using the death penalty to fight drug crimes violates international law, UN rights experts warn World Day Against the Death Penalty

October 10, 2015 – Today, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, United Nations Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez, and on summary executions, Christof Heyns, remind Governments that “executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings.” It is estimated that drug-related sentences could account for around 1,000 executions a year worldwide. The two Special Rapporteurs reaffirmed that the death penalty has no role to play in the 21st century, and even less so in the case of drug-related offences. “We are looking forward to the time when it will no longer be necessary to have a special day on the death penalty; a time when all states have left this form of punishment behind them.” To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Urges Saudi Arabia to Halt Execution of Children

22 September 2015- On September 22, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions Christof Heyns, and Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of Child Benyam Mezmur urged the Government of Saudi Arabia to halt the imminent execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted of a crime reportedly committed when he was a child. During his arrest and detention Mr. Al-Namir was reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment by the General Investigation Directorate, which coerced him to confess the charges against him. “Confessions obtained under torture are unacceptable and cannot be used as evidence before court,” the experts stressed. Saudi Arabia is a State party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which carries with it international obligations. “Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offence, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations,” said the experts. The experts “urged the Saudi authorities to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, halt executions of persons convicted who were children at the time of the offence, and ensure a prompt and impartial investigation into all alleged acts of torture.”

To read the full press release, please click here

Special Rapporteur on Torture Welcomes Steps Towards Death Penalty Abolition

11 September 2015- United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions Christof Heyns welcomed the recommendation made today by the Indian Law Commission to abolish the death penalty, and the recent decision by the Chinese authorities to reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty. “These new developments are in line with the general trend towards the abolition of the death penalty at a global level, even if there are isolated moves in the opposite direction,” Mr. Heyns notes. The experts also called on the States that have not yet abolished or put in place a moratorium on the death penalty to do so. “Moratoria on the use of the death penalty need to be formally established as a first step towards its complete abolition,” they stressed.

To read the press release, please visit the OHCHR website

Special Rapporteur on Torture endorses the call on Iran to commute the death sentence of Mohammad Ali Tehari

August 5, 2015- Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez has endorsed the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran Ahmed Shaheed’s call on Iranian authorities to immediately commute the death sentence recently handed down to Mohammad Ali Tehari, a well-known author of alternative medical theories practiced in Iran and abroad, and founder of an arts and culture institute in Tehran.

Mr. Taheri was reportedly sentenced to death on 1 August on charges of ‘Fisad-fil-Arz’ (‘Corruption on Earth’), while he was already serving a five year prison sentence from May 2011 for insulting Islamic sanctities.

“It is unacceptable and a clear violation of international law for an individual to be imprisoned and condemned to death for peacefully exercising his rights to freedoms of religion and of expression,” the Special Rapporteur Mr. Shaheed stressed. “Mr. Taheri has been handed a death sentence for his spiritual beliefs and teachings.”

The Special Rapporteur on the State of Human Rights in Iran reminded that the UN opposes the use of death penalty in all circumstances and recalled that Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which protect freedom of religion and belief, and allow the death penalty (if still practiced) only in cases involving an intentional killing.

Special Rapporteur Shaheed has declared that “Mr. Taheri’s actions were peaceful and constitute protected activities under international human rights law.”

For the full article click here.

Special Rapporteur urges Pakistan to halt the ongoing surge in executions and to reimpose the death penalty moratorium

29 July 2015- Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Médez and other UN human rights experts have urged Pakistan to halt the ongoing surge in executions in the country and to reimpose a moratorium on the death penalty. Since the lifting of the moratorium in December 2014, more than 182 prisoners have been executed, including two earlier this week. The experts also called on the Government to commute without delay the sentences of those on death row, an estimated 8,000 persons. The Special Rapporteur asked Pakistan to “reconsider whether the use of the death penalty per se respects the inherent dignity of the human person, causes severe mental and physical pain or suffering and constitutes a violation of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The experts also drew attention to the case of Mr. Shafqat Hussain, whose trial fell short of international standards, and called on the Government to abide by due process of law and fair trial standards. Convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child, Mr. Hussain is scheduled to be executed on 4 August despite the experts’ appeal.

To see the full article click here.

U.N. human rights experts call for U.S. moratorium on death penalty

June 27, 2015 – United Nations human rights experts, including Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez urged the United States to impose a moratorium on death penalty, and to ultimately abolish the practice.

This call comes as Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, sentenced to death by lethal injection last May, was moved on Thursday to a Colorado “Supermax” facility for high-risk prisoners. While Massachusetts abolished the death penalty for state crimes in 1984, federal crimes such as the ones Tsarnaev was convicted of are still punishable by death.

The Special Rapporteur, joined by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Executions Christof Heyns, strongly condemned the decision which “contradicts the trends toward abolishing the death penalty in the country in law and practice,” noting that the death penalty, which has no proven deterrent effect, is no longer in use in more than three-quarters of countries worldwide.

The Special Rapporteur, who has been requesting access to United States’ prisons where 80,000 people are in solitary confinement, also denounced the Government’s lack of cooperation in granting the request, despite the U.S. human rights ambassador Keith Harper’s assurances that the visit would take place this year. You can read the article in full on Reuters.

India Death Penalty: UN Human Rights Experts Welcome Supreme Court Ruling

January 30, 2014 – Special Rapporteurs on Torture Juan E. Mendez and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns have welcomed a recent decision by the Supreme Court of India to commute to life imprisonment the death sentences of 15 individuals, and to introduce guidelines safeguarding the rights of people on death row. Identifying the decision as a “significant step,” the independent human rights experts  urged India to go further and “establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.” Special Rapporteur Mendez further stated that “the fact of being on death row itself and the methods of execution employed may render capital punishment tantamount to torture,” and reminded that under all circumstances, the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the strict adherence to safeguards against them constitute “fundamental limits on the use and enforcement of the death penalty.” To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.

“Stop the Executions:” UN Rights Experts Alarmed at Sharp Increase in Hangings in Iran

January 22, 2014 – The Special Rapporteur on Torture endorsed a recent appeal by the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and on summary executions, Christof Heyns, who have called on the Government of Iran to urgently halt the abrupt surge in hangings in the country since the start of 2014.  The Special Rapporteurs report that at least 40 persons have been reportedly hanged in the first two weeks of January in Iran, and that 625 executions, including at least 28 women and a number of political prisoners were reported to have been carried out in 2013. The majority of executions were carried out for drug-related offences, and a number involved crimes of Moharabeh (‘enmity against God’), or acting against national security. The independent human rights experts expressed deep concern that the Government proceeds with executions for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” under international law,  and about the lack of due process rights in these cases. To read the press release in full, please visit the website of Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed.

“High-Profile Execution in North Korea is Just One Among Many Other Cases,” UN Experts Warn

December 18, 2013 – The Special Rapporteur on Torture has endorsed concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) and on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, who have warned that the recent high-profile execution of a senior official with a complete disregard of due process and other international human rights standards  is just one among multiple executions reported in the country since last year.  The independent human rights experts have received information from multiple source about reports of public executions in different locations in DPRK in recent months, which were allegedly founded on political groups or involving charges such as selling illegal videos, viewing pornography and the use of drugs.  The Special Rapporteurs urged the Government to immediately halt all executions and additionally expressed particular concern about the practice of ‘guilt by association,’ whereby the associates or family members of persons being punished for ideological or political crimes also risk punishment by being sent to labor comps or by immediate execution. To read the press release in full, please visit the OHCHR website.



UN Experts Call for Continued Efforts to Move Away from Capital Punishment for Good

October 10, 2013 – In recognition of World Day Against the Death Penalty, a newly-released United Nations article discusses the recommendations of Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez and Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Christof Heyns.  According to the report, the experts urge the international community to increase its efforts to abolish the death penalty.  Although States have made impressive strides in the past decades towards achieving this aim, much remains to be done.  Special Rapporteur Heyns urged States that retain the death penalty to limit this “most serious crime provision” to crimes of intentional killing. Special Rapporteur Méndez discussed ways in which the implementation of the death penalty could equate to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment and treatment under international law. Both experts emphasized the importance of States viewing death penalty cases through the strictest adherence to fair trial and due process standards. Read the United Nations article here.