United Nations Overwhelmingly Adopts Resolution Calling for Global Moratorium on the Death Penalty

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on December 20 to adopt a resolution co-sponsored by 89 countries urging a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. 117 nations voted in support of the world body's sixth resolution on the subject, equaling the record number of countries who supported a UN moratorium resolution in 2014. 40 member nations, including the United States, voted against the measure, while 31 abstained. The resolution also called upon all countries to respect international standards providing for procedural safeguards for those facing the death penalty, to comply with their obligations on consular relations, to progressively restrict their use of capital punishment, and to make available data on how and against whom they apply the death penalty. This year's vote reflected some countries' recent changes on the issue, as Guinea and Nauru, which have recently abolished the death penalty in law, joined those voting in favor. Two countries that are abolitionist in practice, but not in law, Malawi and Swaziland, also voted in favor of the resolution for the first time. Despite its status as a retentionist country, the United States has seen a decline in the use of the death penalty, with death sentences and executions both reaching historic lows this year.

(E. Guillot and A. Placais, "The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a 6th resolution calling for a universal moratorium on executions," World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, December 20, 2016; "General Assembly Adopts 50 Third Committee Resolutions, as Diverging Views on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Animate Voting," United Nations Meetings Coverage, December 19, 2016.) See International.