Home > UN can’t agree on abolition of death penalty for drug offences.

Pike, Brigid (2014) UN can’t agree on abolition of death penalty for drug offences. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 50, Summer 2014, pp. 2-3.

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Ministers and government representatives attending the high-level segment of the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), held in Vienna on 13–14 March 2014, agreed a Joint Ministerial Statement (E/CN.7/2014/L.15).  The contents are outlined in ‘Towards UNGASS 2016’ elsewhere in this issue of Drugnet Ireland

In its report on the debate and round-table discussions leading to the formulation of the joint ministerial statement (E/CN.7/2014/16: Chapter II), the CND reported that Greece made a statement on the death penalty, speaking on behalf of the EU and its member states (including Ireland) and 29 other countries. The representative stated that those he spoke for ‘deeply regretted that the Joint Ministerial Statement did not include language on the death penalty, that they had a strong and unequivocal opposition to the death penalty, in all circumstances, and that they considered that the death penalty undermined human dignity and that errors in its application were irreversible’. 

The Greek representative went on to state that imposing the death penalty for drug offences was against the norms of international law, specifically article 6, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He also noted the UN General Assembly resolution, supported by an unprecedented number of member states and adopted in 2012, calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.  He welcomed the recent decision by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to call on countries still applying the death penalty to consider its abolition for drug-related offences.

The statement by the Greek representative was supported by the representative for Switzerland. Speaking on behalf also of Norway and Liechtenstein, the Swiss representative said that the fight against the death penalty was an integral part of their human rights policies. He stated that the silence of the Joint Ministerial Statement on the death penalty was regrettable and that the Statement did not therefore reflect their concern about the death penalty or take into account the position expressed on the subject by other entities within the UN system, i.e. the General Assembly, the Human Rights Committee, the UN Secretary-General, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the INCB. He requested that the report of the Session reflect that these countries’ agreement to the adoption of the Joint Ministerial Statement was given on the understanding that capital punishment was not compatible with the commitment to ensuring that the drug problem was addressed with full respect for all human rights and the inherent dignity of all individuals.

The representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, speaking also on behalf of 16 other countries, stated that the issue of the death penalty was not in the mandate of the CND. He argued that there is no international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty, that the death penalty is not prohibited under international law, including the three drug control conventions, and that the decision to use it or not is a criminal justice matter to be decided by the competent authorities in individual states. He concluded by stating that the death penalty is an important component of the system of the administration of law and justice and that it is imposed only for the most serious crimes, including drug trafficking, and that it serves as a deterrent. He noted that Iran has proper legal safeguards in place that took into account national policies and prevented any miscarriage of justice.

Item Type
Issue Title
Issue 50, Summer 2014
July 2014
Page Range
pp. 2-3
Health Research Board
Issue 50, Summer 2014
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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