Categorized | ICLEI, News, Opinion


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights just commented on matters utterly internal to the United States.  The UNHCR needs to be told that future meddling will result in defunding. And an official apology.

Here is the article, found first in the Examiner written by Michael McGuire and also here at the UN News Centre:

The United Nations on Friday urged all states in the Union to end capital punishment, while praising Connecticut leaders for abolishing it on Wednesday.


“We would also like to take this opportunity to encourage other states, as well as the federal authorities, to move towards the abolition of capital punishment altogether,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

From a related Examiner article:

In recent months, UN agencies have criticized Arizona’s neighbor of California for alleged human rights abuses, as well as endorsed a proposition on November’s state ballot.

On April 27, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights endorsed a California initiative that would mandate the end of capital punishment; and replace it with a provision sentencing first-degree murderers to 25 years to life, or life in prison without parole, depending upon the circumstances.

There’s more meddling at the UN article:

He noted that, even though the imposition of the death penalty fell by around half between 2001 and 2011, the US was still ranked by human rights non-governmental organizations among the top five countries carrying out executions last year. The other four are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has repeatedly called for the universal abolition of the death penalty, citing a host of reasons ranging from the fundamental right to life to the possibility of judicial errors.

It’s hard to know where to start, it is so ridiculous.  But let’s start with execution of the death penalty as a human rights issue.  The application of the death penalty can of course raise human rights issues.  No question about that.  But to lump the USA in with Iraq, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia is grossly unfair to the point of being defamatory.  (I won’t even discuss the “fundamental right to life” does not apply to the unborn but to killers!)

Iran for example has sentenced a Christian pastor to death for converting from Islam to Christianity.  China has executed persons for many non-homicides:

Two of the factors apparently contributing to China’s frequent use of the death penalty are the troubled court system and a national policy that permits capital punishment for crimes that are not considered capital in most other countries. Corruption, embezzling, drug-related crimes, and even theft on a large enough scale can all get you killed in China. Last month, a Chinese telecommunications executive was sentenced to death for accepting bribes. In March, China sparked a diplomatic incident by executing three Filipino citizens on drug trafficking charges. Other non-violent crimes punished by death have included, for example, 43-year-old Du Yimin, killed in March 2008 after he borrowed $100 million for investment schemes that never panned out.

What does the United States do in inflicting the death penalty?  We execute people for willful and intentional homicide and only those crimes that directly relate to death, such as terrorism that causes death.  (Our Supreme Court has barred capital punishment of so-called retarded persons, those who committed murder while being a juvenile, no matter what the crime is, for rape that did not include a homicide, and finally not even the rape of a child.)  We have procedures in place that almost universally protect against unjust convictions and ensure appellate review.   Our criminal procedure ensures an attorney in all capital cases, at trial and on appeal.  Our Supreme Court has held that minimum standards are required of attorney practice before a suspect can be executed.  Finally there is executive clemency.

Instead of criticizing the United States, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ought to THANK this nation for these protections and procedures.

Now I agree with the High Commissioner for Human Rights:  the death penalty ought to be abolished.   Not because of sentimentality about killers or the rare innocent convicted (although that would concern me) but because the special procedures and measures we have deemed necessary in capital cases raise the cost in the criminal justice that can and should be spent on such things as a fully funded public defender system in Virginia, including an appellate defender.

But, capital punishment in the USA is NONE of the BUSINESS of the UN.  If I were President (Lord help the Republic!) I would write the UN HCHR and warn him or her:  Meddle in our internal affairs again and your agency will be defunded.  Period.  I also want an apology for unfairly comparing us with Iran, China and Saudi Arabia.

Point to ponder:  If you live in a ICLEI city, your city is aiding and abetting (unconstitutionally, I would add) the implementation of UN policies.  Time to get out of ICLEI!

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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