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UN experts warn of associated torture and cruel punishment

World Day Against the Death Penalty

10 October 2022

GENEVA (10 October 2022) – On the 20th World Day Against the Death Penalty, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Alice Edwards, and the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz, issued the following statement, reflecting on the relationship between the death penalty and the absolute prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“Although the death penalty is permitted in very limited circumstances under international law, the reality remains that in practice it is almost impossible for States to impose capital punishment while meeting their obligations to respect the human rights of those convicted. Abolition of the death penalty is the only viable path.

The death row phenomenon has long been characterised as a form of inhuman treatment, as has the near total isolation of those convicted of capital crimes and often held in unlawful solitary confinement.

A number of states continue to impose the death penalty for non-violent crimes such as blasphemy, adultery and drug-related offences, which fail the “most serious crime” standard for the application of capital punishment under international law. A growing trend of imposing the death penalty on those exercising their right to peaceful political protest is deeply worrying.

Furthermore, increasingly methods of execution have been found to be incompatible with the obligations to refrain from torture and ill-treatment, for inflicting severe pain and suffering.

Despite more than 170 States having repealed the death penalty or adopted moratoriums, there was a reported 20 percent increase in the number of executions last year.

States that retain the death penalty are urged to scrupulously apply exceptions for persons with intellectual disabilities, pregnant women and children, as required by various instruments including article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

All States are invited to consider ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolition of the death penalty. The Protocol currently has 40 signatories and 90 States parties.”


*The experts: Dr. Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact: Yasmine Ashraf (+41 22 917 2059 / [email protected]).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Renato Rosario de Souza ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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