Update: 16.07.2014

Swiss resolution on capital punishment before the UN Human Rights Council

Death penalty always involves human rights violations no matter in what way it is applied. This is one of the key messages of the resolution which Switzerland and seven further states successfully presented to the UN Human Rights Council at the end of June.

According to a Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) media release of 26 June 2014 the resolution is a new approach in the old discussion about the abolition of capital punishment. International law up to now does not interdict the death penalty. According to the FDFA the resolution is designed to launch both a reflection process and a dialogue which will ideally lead to an international consensus on the abolition of capital punishment over the coming years.

Supporters and opponents

The resolution launched by Switzerland in cooperation with Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Mongolia, Moldavia and Belgium has received the support of a total of 60 states from five continents.

Switzerland and the supporting countries had to fight for the resolution in the UN Human Rights Council. During the discussions several countries proposed changes in content all aiming to weaken the resolution, but all alterations to the text were refused by individual ballot. In the end 29 countries voted for the text, ten against it (Botswana, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) and 8 states abstained from voting (Cuba, Kenia, Maldives, Morocco, South Korea, Russia, USA, Vietnam).

On the content

The resolution calls for a UN Secretary-General report on the negative effects of the death penalty on the human rights of the convicts and their nearest and dearest. At the same time, the Human Rights Council in future shall have to lead a frank discussion on death penalty during the March session every second year. “In this way the topic will be on the work programme of the Human Rights Council over a long period”, as the FDFA puts it.
With the launch of this resolution Switzerland follows its declared aim of abolishing capital punishment worldwide by the year 2025. This is one of the prime aims of the Swiss human rights foreign policy (cf. Worldwide abolishment of death penalty by 2025: Swiss aims and strategies).


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