General statement after adoption of resolution 'moratorium on the use of the death penalty' (A/C.3/73/L.44) - delivered on behalf of Liechtenstein, Switzerland and New Zealand
United Nations/World Trade Organisation
I make this statement on behalf of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and my own delegation, New Zealand.
We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. It contravenes fundamental human rights and is not an effective means of deterrence. In this regard we welcome the adoption of General Comment No. 36 on the right to life, adopted by the Human Rights Committee on 30 October. The General Comment reflects the growing consensus that the death penalty is not a valid exception to the right to life, and takes an unambiguously pro-abolitionist stance on the death penalty.
In General Comment 36 the Committee states that: “Article 6, paragraph 6 of the ICCPR reaffirms the position that States parties that are not yet totally abolitionist should be on an irrevocable path towards complete eradication of the death penalty, de facto and de jure, in the foreseeable future. The death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life, and abolition of the death penalty is both desirable and necessary for the enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights”.
Article 6(6) of the ICCPR states that “Nothing in this article [Article 6] shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party.”
We note that international obligations do also stem from customary international law. In this context, our countries welcome the increasing number of States that view the death penalty as violating the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This view has been recognised by the Human Rights Council in resolution 36/17 (para 48) which states that: “a significant number of States hold that the death penalty is a form of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
In General Comment 36 the Human Rights Committee recognises that: “considerable progress may have been made towards establishing an agreement among the States parties to consider the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman or degrading form of punishment”.
Therefore, while the resolution may state that the ‘sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties in accordance with the international law obligations’, this should not be interpreted to permit the use or imposition of the death penalty in any circumstances.