UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] reaffirmed the UN’s long-standing position against the death penalty Wednesday and urged [statement] member states to end its use. In his opening statement at the biennial high-level panel discussion on the death penalty, Zeid condemned [press release] the practice by pointing to its infringement on human dignity. He went on to explain that the weight of impending death reaches beyond those sentenced and into the lives of the prisoner’s children and other family members. He raised several implications with the death penalty and the ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, one of which was the lengthy mental anguish associated with prisoners on death row. Zeid stated that the use of the penalty likely violated the prohibition on torture, and had the potential to go against international human rights law. He ended by calling on member stated to abolish the death penalty completely.
Several high-profile death penalty cases have recently received international attention. Last month the US Supreme Court [official website] declined to review [JURIST report] a lethal injection case from Alabama. The appeal was filed by inmate Tommy Arthur, who was challenging the method of his execution, claiming that it was difficult for inmates to effectively challenge the method of execution as they were required to identify an alternative and state accepted method as well as a plan for execution. Also in February Egypt’s Court of Cassation [official website, in Arabic] upheld the death penalty [JURIST report] for 10 men involved in the Port Said Stadium Riot in which more than 70 individuals were killed after a soccer game in 2012. That same month UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] the government of Iran to stop the execution of Hamid Ahmadi, a 17 year old with a death sentence stemming from Ahmadi fatally stabbing another Iranian youth. In January the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] ruled that a Pakistani man who was convicted of killing a cleric in 2002 can be executed [JURIST report], despite having been diagnosed with schizophrenia.