The United States faced harsh criticism from the world community for its continued use of capital punishment during a United Nations review of its human rights record on November 9, 2020. During the U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of the United States’ human rights record on November 9, 2020, countries around the world criticized the U.S. for systemic racism, police violence against civilians, separation of immigrant families and internment of immigrant children, and use of the death penalty.

The U.N. Human Rights Council reviews its member nations’ human rights practices every five years. The last review of the U.S. human rights record was in 2015, prior to the Trump administration’s praise of autocratic regimes around the world, institution of harsh policies against refugees and asylum seekers, travel bans directed at Muslim nations, use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and an unprecedented federal execution spree. The U.S. withdrew from its membership on the human rights council in 2018.

In a statement issued in response to the review, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “The United States has been, and always will be, a leader in transparent, rights-respecting governance. … We don’t simply discuss human rights in the United States; we cherish and defend them,” he said.

Several major United States allies urged the U.S. to halt executions or abolish the death penalty entirely. France called for the U.S. to halt federal executions, and Germany called for the U.S. to resume a federal moratorium on the death penalty, establish state moratoria, and take steps towards abolishing capital punishment nationally. Austria recommended that the U.S. “[c]ontinue efforts towards abolishing death penalty and halting executions.” Australia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland called for the U.S. to take steps towards abolishing the death penalty altogether.

At a press briefing, Jamil Dakwar, the director of the human rights program at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), described the review as an “unsurprising condemnation” of the United States’ human rights record. “We’ve heard country after country … calling and urging the United States to take serious measures to address structural racism and police violence,” he said.

Dakwar urged President-elect Joe Biden to “prioritize re-engagement with international human rights.” “While the American voters elected a new president who is more committed to universal human rights, the international community must continue to hold the U.S. accountable to its international human rights obligations,” Dakwar said. He called on the U.N. to “ensure that the U.S. repair the damages caused to millions of people’s lives over the past four years.”