It’s not often that India, China and the United States are on the same page. But, on Thursday, that’s exactly what happened in New York when the three biggies joined 49 other countries in voting against a UN General Assembly panel resolution seeking universal abolition of the death penalty.
The resolution, which called for a moratorium on executions pending the abolition of the death penalty, passed comfortably, with 99 votes in favour and 33 abstentions. It’s now likely to be reinforced by the full General Assembly, but the body’s decisions are recommendations and not binding on member states.
For countries with the death penalty on the statute book, there was no other option but to vote against the resolution, seen in New Delhi as a European Union-led initiative backed by Amnesty International, officials explained.
“How can we support a resolution when the death penalty is on our statute books even though it is applied in the rarest of rare cases?” the officials told this writer. Singapore’s UN envoy, Vanu Menon, was direct in his criticism at New York, describing those pushing the resolution as trying to “impose a particular set of beliefs on everyone else” and describing them as “sanctimonious, hypocritical and intolerant”.
“This house is divided…there is no international consensus on the death penalty,” Iranian delegate Mahmoud Jooyabad was quoted as saying in New York. Expressing “deep concern” at the continued application of the death penalty, the resolution also sought the restriction of its use and reduction of the number of offences for which the death sentence may be handed out.
Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said: “This resolution is a major step towards worldwide abolition of the death penalty.”