The question of the death penalty

Commission on Human Rights resolution 2003/67


The Commission on Human Rights,

Recalling article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which affirms the right of everyone to life, article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and articles 6 and 37 (a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Recalling also General Assembly resolutions 2857 (XXVI) of 20 December 1971 and 32/61 of 8 December 1977, as well as resolution 44/128 of 15 December 1989, in which the Assembly adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty,

Recalling further the relevant Economic and Social Council resolutions, 1984/50 of 25 May 1984, 1985/33 of 29 May 1985, 1989/64 of 24 May 1989, 1990/29 of 24 May 1990, 1990/51 of 24 July 1990 and 1996/15 of 23 July 1996,

Recalling its previous resolutions in which it expressed its conviction that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights,

Noting that, in some countries, the death penalty is often imposed after trials which do not conform to international standards of fairness and that persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities appear to be disproportionately subject to the death penalty, and condemning cases in which women are subjected to capital punishment on the basis of gender-discriminatory legislation,

Welcoming the exclusion of capital punishment from the penalties that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court are authorized to impose,

Commending the States that have recently become parties to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and welcoming the recent signature of the Second Optional Protocol by some States,

Welcoming the abolition of the death penalty which has taken place in some States since the last session of the Commission, and in particular in those States that have abolished the death penalty for all crimes,

Welcoming also the fact that many countries which still retain the death penalty in their penal legislation are applying a moratorium on executions,

Welcoming further regional initiatives aimed at the establishment of a moratorium on executions and the abolition of the death penalty,

Referring to the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50,

Deeply concerned that several countries impose the death penalty in disregard of the limitations set out in the Covenant and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Concerned that several countries, in imposing the death penalty, do not take into account the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty,

1. Recalls the sixth quinquennial report of the Secretary-General on capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, submitted in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1995/57 of 28 July 1995 (E/2000/3), and welcomes the yearly supplement of the Secretary-General on changes in law and practice concerning the death penalty worldwide contained in his report (E/CN.4/2003/106), as requested in Commission resolution 2002/77;

2. Reaffirms resolution 2000/17 of 17 August 2000 of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights on international law and the imposition of the death penalty on those aged under 18 at the time of the commission of the offence;

3. Calls upon all States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that have not yet done so to consider acceding to or ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty;

4. Urges all States that still maintain the death penalty:

(a) Not to impose it for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age, and to exclude pregnant women from capital punishment;

(b) Not to impose the death penalty for any but the most serious crimes and only pursuant to a final judgement rendered by an independent and impartial competent court, and to ensure the right to a fair trial and the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence;

(c) To ensure that all legal proceedings, including those before special tribunals or jurisdictions, and particularly those related to capital offences, conform to the minimum procedural guarantees contained in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

(d) To ensure that the notion of "most serious crimes" does not go beyond intentional crimes with lethal or extremely grave consequences and that the death penalty is not imposed for non-violent acts such as financial crimes, non-violent religious practice or expression of conscience and sexual relations between consenting adults;

(e) Not to enter any new reservations under article 6 of the Covenant which may be contrary to the object and the purpose of the Covenant and to withdraw any such existing reservations, given that article 6 enshrines the minimum rules for the protection of the right to life and the generally accepted standards in this area;

(f) To observe the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty and to comply fully with their international obligations, in particular with those under article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, particularly the right to receive information on consular assistance within the context of a legal procedure;

(g) Not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder or to execute any such person;

(h) To exclude mothers with dependent infants from capital punishment;

(i) To ensure that, where capital punishment occurs, it shall be carried out so as to inflict the minimum possible suffering and shall not be carried out in public or in any other degrading manner, and to ensure that any application of particularly cruel or inhuman means of execution, such as stoning, be stopped immediately;

(j) Not to execute any person as long as any related legal procedure, at the international or at the national level, is pending;

5. Calls upon all States that still maintain the death penalty:

(a) Progressively to restrict the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed and, at the least, not to extend its application to crimes to which it does not at present apply;

(b) To abolish the death penalty completely and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions;

(c) To make available to the public information with regard to the imposition of the death penalty and to any scheduled execution;

(d) To provide to the Secretary-General and relevant United Nations bodies information relating to the use of capital punishment and the observance of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty as contained in Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50;

6. Calls upon States which no longer apply the death penalty but maintain it in their legislation to abolish it;

7. Requests States that have received a request for extradition on a capital charge to reserve explicitly the right to refuse extradition in the absence of effective assurances from relevant authorities of the requesting State that capital punishment will not be carried out;

8. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to submit to the Commission, at its sixtieth session, in consultation with Governments, specialized agencies and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, a yearly supplement on changes in law and practice concerning the death penalty worldwide to his quinquennial report on capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, paying special attention to the imposition of the death penalty against persons younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offence;

9. Decides to continue consideration of the matter at its sixtieth session under the

same agenda item.

61st meeting
24 April 2003
[Adopted by a recorded vote of 23 votes to 18,
with 10 abstentions. See chap. XVII.]


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