[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] and a number of UN officials on Thursday urged global leaders to abolish the death penalty. In in a presentation and accompanying report [text, PDF] entitled “Moving Away from the Death Penalty,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson [official profile] stated:
All human rights rest on the right to life, the most fundamental of all rights. The right to life symbolizes everything that the United Nations works and stands for, be it in the area of peace and security, development or human rights. Rejecting the act of irreversibly taking someone’s life is an act of embracing belief in human progress and dignity.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] further noted that judicial systems must move away from punishment based on revenge [UN News Centre report], and instead urged countries to “set course” towards a more humane form of justice which seeks “a genuine recognition by the wrongdoers of their wrongdoing.” The sentiment echoes a similar statement made by Hussein earlier this year, in which he declared that the death penalty has no place in the twenty-first century [UN News Centre report].
Use of the death penalty [JURIST backgrounder] has been a controversial issue throughout the US and internationally. Earlier this month two experts from the OHCHR urged Saudi Arabia to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] following an increase in executions, with a significant number of the executions completed by beheading. In May the OHCHR urged the US to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty following a botched execution [JURIST reports] performed in Oklahoma the previous week. In April the Supreme Court of Oklahoma ruled that inmates’ constitutional rights were not violated by keeping the sources of lethal injection drugs secret [JURIST report].