Axis of Death Penalty: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United States

Who says the United States, Iran and North Korea cannot agree on anything? Most of us remember one of George W. Bush’s  “classic” speeches in front of the United Nations when he defined Iran, Venezuela and North Korea as “the Axis of Evil”. In the case of the death penalty, however, the US, Iran and North Korea perfectly agree. As matter of fact, Iran and the US share the dubious distinction of having been among the top five killer states for three years in a row. On November 19, 2012, the US joined forces with some of its enemies to oppose an international moratorium on capital punishment. The vote took place in the United Nations General Assembly. The draft resolution to call on states “to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolish the death penalty” was approved by a vote of 110 in favor to 39 against, with 36 nations abstaining.

In 2011, the top executioners were China with more than 1,000, Iran with 360, Saudi Arabia with 82, Iraq with 68, the United States with 43, Yemen with 41 and North Korea with 30. The United States is the only country from the G8 group of leading global economies to carry out executions. China’s UN representative justified his negative vote on the moratorium by expressing “regrets that the issue was again up for discussion”. He also said that “the use of the death penalty belongs to a country’s national jurisdiction, and no country had any right to interfere”. The US delegate said that “the ultimate decision must rest on domestic democratic practices within countries, consistent with international law, and may be imposed for the most serious crimes”.

People around the world have long demanded an end to capital punishment. The global trend to abolish the death penalty is quickly growing. Today, some 150 states have either formally abolished the death penalty or do not practice it. The death penalty is impossible to reconcile with the notion of human rights. The death penalty is, by definition, cruel and inhuman. Capital punishment tends to be discriminatory by affecting mainly the poor, the powerless and people from minority communities.

Human rights organizations have fought for years to abolish the death penalty. In 2007, at the behest of France, the United Nations became more active in the push to end this barbaric practice where a state becomes a legal killer. The inhuman practice of capital punishment should be opposed worldwide in all cases, without exception. The death penalty should be abolished regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the methods of the state to kill the prisoner. Capital punishment is incompatible with human rights.

Editor’s Note: All photographs by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.



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