US votes against UN resolution banning the capricious and discriminatory use of the death penalty; vote widely misinterpreted by the Left

I’m seeing all kinds of “memes”, like this one on Facebook, about the U.S.’s vote (see also here) against a UN Human Rights Council measure that called for ending the capricious application of the death penalty and its use on juveniles, gays, blasphemers, adulterers, and those who are mentally handicapped:

In fact, while the measure (which you can see here), does call for member states to stop using the death penalty as punishment for apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, and homosexuality, the measure went far beyond that, in a way that explains why the U.S. voted against it.  But I first have to say that I think the U.S. shouldn’t have voted against it, and I deplore Nikki Haley’s vote.

Here’s some of what the measure recommended; the part that everybody’s singling out is provision 6 (my emphasis):

1. Urges all States to protect the rights of persons facing the death penalty and other affected persons by complying with their international obligations, including the rights to equality and non-discrimination;

2. Calls upon States that have not yet acceded to or ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty to consider doing so;

3. Calls upon States that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not applied on the basis of discriminatory laws or as a result of discriminatory or arbitrary application of the law;

4. Calls upon States to ensure that all accused persons, in particular poor and economically vulnerable persons, can exercise their rights related to equal access to justice, to ensure adequate, qualified and effective legal representation at every stage of civil and criminal proceedings in capital punishment cases through effective legal aid, and to ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to seek pardon or commutation of their death sentence;

5. Urges States that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that the death penalty is not applied against persons with mental or intellectual disabilities and persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, as well as pregnant women;

6. Also urges States that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not imposed as a sanction for specific forms of conduct such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations; A/HRC/36/L.6 4

7. Calls upon States to comply with their obligations under article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and to inform foreign nationals of their right to contact the relevant consular post;

8. Also calls upon States to undertake further studies to identify the underlying factors that contribute to the substantial racial and ethnic bias in the application of the death penalty, where they exist, with a view to developing effective strategies aimed at eliminating such discriminatory practices;

9. Calls upon States that have not yet abolished the death penalty to make available relevant information, disaggregated by gender, age, nationality and other applicable criteria, with regard to their use of the death penalty, inter alia, the charges, number of persons sentenced to death, the number of persons on death row, the number of executions carried out and the number of death sentences reversed, commuted on appeal or in which amnesty or pardon has been granted, as well as information on any scheduled execution, which can contribute to possible informed and transparent national and international debates, including on the obligations of States with regard to the use of the death penalty;

10. Requests the Secretary-General to dedicate the 2019 supplement to his quinquennial report on capital punishment to the consequences arising at various stages of the imposition and application of the death penalty on the enjoyment of the human rights of persons facing the death penalty and other affected persons, paying specific attention to the impact of the resumption of the use of the death penalty on human rights, and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session;

There are 47 countries on the Human Rights Council, and 27 voted in favor of this resolution (nonbinding of course), while 13 voted against. Those against were these:  Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Japan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Seven countries abstained: Cuba, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Kenya. Here’s the overall vote:

But as you see from the measure, most of it is about countries not applying the death penalty in a capricious way, ensuring that those accused have reasonable and consistent rights, and ensuring that it is not applied in a discriminatory fashion or against those who are mentally deficient or underage. (When the Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty in 1972, it was because capital punishment was inconsistently applied, and, said some judges, given preferentially to black people. Capital punishment was reinstated in the US four years later.) One could easily have made a meme saying that “Nikki Haley voted in favor of the death penalty for juveniles.”

Finally, note that the measure doesn’t call for ending the death penalty, and in that sense it didn’t go far enough. No civilized country should be executing criminals.

As you may know from reading here, I’m opposed to the death penalty in general, so yes, I think the U.S. should have supported this resolution. But it didn’t vote against it, as some maintain, because we wanted the right to execute gay people, adulterers, or blasphemers. We don’t: those are not crimes in America. The US voted against this resolution—as the Obama administration voted against a similar but not identical resolution—because it implies a moratorium on the death penalty, and the death penalty is legal in America. We were voting against the penalty as a whole, not advocating its use against gays, blasphemers, and so on. As NBC News reports:

In a press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert explained why the U.S. voted against the resolution.

“We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances,” Nauert said. “The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization.”

Even gay rights advocates are calling out the misconception propagated in the meme above:

Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBTQ human rights organization, acknowledged the U.S. vote on the U.N. resolution was misconstrued.

“There’s been some misreporting and misconceptions,” Stern told NBC News. “The U.S. always opposes this death penalty resolution, because it makes reference to a global moratorium on the death penalty. For both Obama and Trump, so long as the death penalty is legal in the U.S., it takes this position.”

“OutRight will call out the Trump administration on its many rights violations, its many abuses of power from LGBTI violations to xenophobia, but this particular instance is not an example of a contraction of support on LGBTI rights,” Stern continued. “It would be a mistake to interpret its opposition to a death penalty resolution to a change in policy.”

This is another example of a kneejerk reaction against something that people haven’t bothered to read—or understand. Yes, we should have voted the other way, but for other reasons, as being gay is not a crime (much less a capital crime) in America. So, Facebook posters, be aware of the real reason Haley voted against the resolution.


  1. Posted October 4, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Why should the truth get in the way of an opportunity to signal one’s virtue?

    • kelskye
      Posted October 4, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      Immediately after seeing this post, I saw the photo being shared on my Facebook feed.

  2. sensorrhea
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    This is amazing, because Nikki Haley herself has a sordid history of reported adultery.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    There would have been insurrection on the Right had the US vote gone the other way, since it would have been seen as a capitulation of core American values to civilized world opinion.

    Trump has given Nikki Haley a relatively free hand at the UN (mainly because he could give a shit what happens there, as long as it doesn’t adversely impact property values at the Trump tower in the Turtle Bay neighborhood near the UN building), but this one would’ve hit his base where it lives.

  4. Randy schenck
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Well, the death penalty, like many other things in this country, is primarily due to religion. It says so in the bible so it has to be good. It was good 2 thousand years ago so it must be good now. It is the same for the 2nd amendment and guns. Not quite so old but the same background because this county was founded on Christian religious values. Now, none of this makes any sense or is true but that is how this place rolls.

    • Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I grok what you’re saying but I don’t think support for the DP in the U.S. can be reduced to something so simple.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        If it is not wrapped around religion, then what else is it? They just like killing people? Think it is a deterrence – it isn’t. Think it is cheaper than housing them, it isn’t. All I ever hear is…well it says so in the bible.

        • Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          I dunno. People support DP or not for lots of reasons. For example. I don’t support the DP but not because I think human life is too important (or sacred, also a religious idea) or because of “couldn’t help themselves” kind of ideas about free will. Mostly I don’t support it because of the chance of making a mistake.

          I have little doubt that much of the support for the DP comes from Olde Tyme religion. Just not sure how much.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted October 4, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

            I think you will find, when it is all said and done, the answer is religion. Just as it is on most of the republican social issues, like abortion, gay people, marriage, even the flag which you must stand for and not protest in any way. Charter schools and dislike for public schools and on and on.

            • BJ
              Posted October 4, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

              You keep saying it’s religion, but I would like to see some evidence. I’ve heard plenty of different arguments not resting on religious reasons. Ruth named one. Others are “they deserve it,” “the death penalty is only used for the most heinous crimes,” “it’s a deterrent” (just because you know it’s not doesn’t mean the vast majority of the public is as well informed), and the fact that we have a more violent culture in general (one need not look further than gun culture for confirmation of that). I’m sure there are plenty of other non-religious reasons, and I’ve certainly known plenty of non-religious people who support the death penalty.

              • Randy schenck
                Posted October 4, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                I’ll let you look it up but it goes like this, An Eye for an Eye. To say non religious reasons like deterrence is still a reason even thought it’s not true, well then, I guess anything you want to put down would be a reason. Does that sound reasonable?

        • Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

          I commonly hear, “Save the taxpayers some money, just execute and be done with it.” Those people obviously don’t understand the exhaustive appeals processed involved in death penalty sentencing. It certainly won’t save any taxpayer dollars to do it, though I think that is largely a justification for the revenge people actually want.

          • Posted October 5, 2017 at 6:43 am | Permalink

            Yes, it’s often said that the death penalty in the USA is more expensive than life imprisonment and it’s probably true.

            But let’s imagine for a moment it is cheaper than incarcerating people for most of the rest of their life. The argument then boils down to “if we kill people we can save money”. That’s not an argument I would ever want any part of.

            • Posted October 5, 2017 at 8:43 am | Permalink

              Absolutely agreed.

              I don’t think the people who make such an argument really are concerned with the price of execution or incarceration. I think it just makes for a tidy justification for the revenge that they are actually after without having to own the sentiment.

        • biz
          Posted October 4, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          I personally support – or at least am conflicted on – the death penalty, and my support is not from a religious perspective. So there is at least one counterexample to your generalization.

          My reason is that I just don’t see the point of keeping someone like, say, Charles Manson, alive. Or Bin Laden if he had been captured alive. But I also understand the argument against the DP – that it is final and there is the risk of executing an innocent person. However it is very rare that the wrong people are convicted for the most heinous crimes such as large scale terrorism or multiple murder sprees.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted October 4, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

            Your reason is not religious, you just don’t see the point of keeping them alive. So you are not really killing them you are just not keeping them alive. That is more like a non reason than a reason. Maybe that murderer was not really killing anyone, he was just not keeping them alive.

            • biz
              Posted October 5, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

              Tortured reasoning there. In saying that I don’t see the point of keeping them alive, I was explicitly endorsing the state ending the lives of those convicted of the most heinous crimes.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 4, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

            The best argument against the death penalty, to my thinking, is that it has proved absolutely impossible to apply in a fair and justice manner. In the best of circumstances, it is arbitrary and capricious; in the worst, it’s applied invidiously against the poor and minorities.

            Most people who favor the death penalty’s limited use think it should be reserved for the worst of the worst — and feel that they know such cases when they see them (like that of Charles Manson). But no one has yet formulated a set of functional legal standards that can achieve that result consistently by sorting out those cases. That is why we’ve seen a number of Supreme Court justices — including conservative justices who began their careers as death-penalty supporters — throw up their hands eventually and refuse to continue“tinker[ing] with the machinery of death.”

            The way it is now, it would be more equitable to march everyone charged with first-degree murder out on a golf course with an iron held above their heads during a thunderstorm, let nature choose who pays the ultimate penalty by getting struck with lightening.

            • biz
              Posted October 5, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

              I don’t think Harry Blackmun would be considered one of the conservative justices. He may have been a Republican appointee, but I believe he was part of the liberal block on the court as it sorted out by the 80s. I could be wrong though.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 5, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

                Harry Blackmun was considered a staunch conservative when he first joined the Court. He and Chief Justice Warren Burger were known as the “Minnesota twins” due to their shared heritage and ideology. But Harry moved fairly steadily to the left over his two-and-a-half decade tenure on the Court (do in part, perhaps, to all the shit he had to take from the Far Right over his opinion for the Court in Roe v. Wade). His reputation as part of the “liberal block,” however, had as much to do with the extreme right-wing appointees who followed him onto the bench as with Harry’s own shifting views.

                There’s a pretty well-established (although by no means exclusive) tendency for Supreme Court justices to drift to their left over the course of their service on the Court.

  5. Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    When you are born in the West, you believe the US are the Good Guys, the Beacon of Hope, Shining Light of Democracy and Human Rights.

    When a halfway decent President is at the helm, it typically goes unnoticed that the US once again vetoed some good project, refused to outlaw something heinous, join global efforts that would improve matters. That it would literally invade The Netherlands in case a war crime is brought before court against US servicemembers (true story).

    When a halfway decent President is at the helm, …

    • Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Just a note; the Obama* administration also said they would reject this proposal; though it didn’t ultimately come up for a vote in the U.N., had it then his admin would have voted “No” too.

      *a halfway decent president if there ever was one

      • Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, because he has a great smile and can dance and sing, most people didn’t notice his politics.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 4, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Say what you will about this US administration, at least it has a Secretary of State who knows a moron when he sees one. 🙂

    • kirbmarc
      Posted October 5, 2017 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      Absolutely NO country is the Good Guys, the Beacon of Hope, etc. etc.

      Countries are only as good as they can be according to the geopolitical/strategic interests of their elites.

      In many ways the US is an empire and it acts like other empires throughout history.

      The best you can say about the US is that sometimes they’re the lesser evil when compared to their competition (although not always, and especially NOT when it comes to the Middle East, since they side with the Saudis/GCC countries).

      European countries are also sometimes the lesser evil and sometimes not.

      France and the UK are still pretty imperial in Africa, Germany has project of financial domination of the EU and has interfered in the politics of many Eastern European countries to further its interests, Italy has made deals with pretty much every dictator in the Mediterranean (for obvious reasons) and Switzerland has kept money from many different genocidal groups.

      There are no perfectly clean hands when it comes to international politics.

      • Posted October 5, 2017 at 5:31 am | Permalink

        True in general, it’s still remarkable that the US often deviates from other Western countries on the world stage with ostensibly similar values (it is even thought it was even championing such values). In other words, if you are leader in Democracy and Human Rights, not only would I expect you to be with other nations, I would expect you take the lead. The US is not only not doing that, it positions itself in opposition.

        • kirbmarc
          Posted October 5, 2017 at 6:02 am | Permalink

          A leadership position is a great way to set up exceptions for yourself. After all if you’re the leader you can say that you deserve some special right, and who’s going to object?

          The US are the biggest empire on earth right now (although not the only one). They provide the military security for most of Europe through NATO, and in exchange they ask for military co-operation against threats to their interests.

          There are American bases in pretty much every NATO country (except France which has its own standards) and American nuclear bombs function as a deterrent for every NATO enemy (again only France has its own autonomous nuclear defense system, even the UK share their nuclear defense with the US).

          The US are actually very similar to the Roman Empire: focused on getting revenue through trade, with special interests in some areas, ruling over the decisions of its allies, and diffusing their culture throughout their empire, hoping to create cultural elites which are sympathetic to them.

          NATO countries (and ANZAC/Pacific US allies) are in the same position of the “federate kingdoms”: autonomous, but with strict and binding agreements with Rome/America.

          At least the US are following the Roman/British approach to empires and not the Muslim Caliphate or the French or the Mongol/Russian approaches to empires, which are far more invasive and authoritarian as long as things go well, while other models of empire tend to impose racial/cultural supremacy in a far more direct way.

          (Although it seems that the US have given their OK to the new Salafi Caliphate to be their satraps in the Middle East province).

          Make no mistake, though, when things go against their interests the US can be as brutal as Putin’s Russia or China or the Muslim theo-monarchies.

          The only thing that might stop an American invasion are nuclear weapons, and that’s why the countries whose interests collide with the US and aren’t already nuclear powers (Iran, North Korea) are so eager to get their hands on the best way to keep the Yanks out of their affairs.

  6. Chris Swart
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I have nothing against the death penalty on ethical or moral grounds, but it is a travesty here in the USA. Poor people and black people are at the mercy of DAs who “earn” promotion and re-election by convictions? No thanks.

    • Posted October 5, 2017 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      That’s an indictment of your legal system, not the death penalty (to which I am opposed on moral and practical grounds).

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Frodo Baggins:
    “He [Gollum] deserves death.”

    “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it.”

    From Chapter 2 of Lord of the Rings

  8. Wotan Nichols
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    As I recall the story, neither Gollum nor Frodo were cured, & the ring was destroyed mostly by chance. I believe Tolkien started writing a new book set after the long reign of King Elessar, but gave it up when he realized that it would just be the same damn things over & over again.

  9. Dean Reimer
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    This is exactly why I didn’t jump on this particular outrage bandwagon. I didn’t know the reason for the US’s opposition, but I suspected it would be something like this.

    Still, capital punishment has no place in a civilized society, so I’m with PCC in wishing the US had supported the resolution.

  10. Curtis
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    There are so many reason to criticize Trump that it is ridiculous (and counterproductive) to make up lies about him. All this does is show that progressives are willing to use the same abhorrent tactics as he does.

    This pathetic virtue showing is one of the reason, I did not vote for a single democrat in the last election. Now that gay marriage is legal, I see no reason I should vote for democrats in Oregon. I am still a registered democrat but I voted mostly for libertarian and a few moderate republicans.

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