U.N. Human Rights Council Urges U.S. to Abolish Death Penalty

A report of the United Nations Human Rights Council issued on May 15 has urged the United States to end capital punishment. The report, produced as part of the United Nations’ periodic review of the human rights records of each of its member nations, identified capital punishment in the United States as a major human rights concern. At a hearing on the report on May 11, U.S. deputy assistant attorney general David Bitkower acknowledged that the death penalty is an issue of “extensive debate and controversy” within the U.S. and defended the American death penalty as being subject to “heightened procedural safeguards.” 38 countries called for the United States to either abolish capital punishment or impose a moratorium on executions with a view toward abolition. This was more than double the number who did so during the first U.N. review of U.S. human rights practices in 2010. Other recommendations urged fair imposition of the death penalty and suggested the need for additional safeguards to end racial discrimination in death sentencing, wrongful convictions, and the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities. France encouraged transparency with regards to lethal injection drugs.

(“US Defends Record Before Top UN Human Rights Body,” Associated Press, May 11, 2015; Alba Morales, “Dispatches: Death Penalty, Police Abuse Dominate Review of US,” Human Rights Watch, May 11, 2015; “Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review,” United Nations Human Rights Council, May 15, 2015.) See International.