Death Penalty and Human Rights Standards

Death Penalty and Human Rights Standards

Over two-thirds of the countries in the world – 139 – have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

1948
The United Nations adopted without dissent the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Declaration proclaims the right of every individual to protection from deprivation of life. It states that no one shall be subjected to cruel or degrading punishment. The death penalty violates both of these fundamental rights.
1966
The UN adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 6 of the Covenant states that "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life" and that the death penalty shall not be imposed on pregnant women or on those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. Article 7 states that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
1984
The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted "Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty." In the same year, the Safeguards were endorsed by consensus by the UN General Assembly. The Safeguards state that no one under the age of 18 at the time of the crime shall be put to death and that anyone sentenced to death has the right to appeal and to petition for pardon or commutation of sentence.
1989
The UN General Assembly adopted the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. Its goal is the abolition of the death penalty.
1990
The Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States. It provides for the total abolition of the death penalty, allowing for its use in wartime only.
1993
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia stated that the death penalty is not an option, even for the most heinous crimes known to civilization, including genocide.
1995
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force. Article 37(a) prohibits the death penalty for persons under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.
1999
The UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) passed a resolution calling on all states that still maintain the death penalty to progressively restrict the number of offenses for which it may be imposed with a view to completely abolishing it.
2002
The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers adopted Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Protocol 13 is the first legally binding international treaty to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances with no exceptions. When it was opened for signature in May 2002, 36 countries signed it.
2005
The UNCHR approved Human Rights Resolution 2005/59 on the question of the death penalty, which called for all states that still maintain the death penalty to abolish the death penalty completely and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions.
2007
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) approved Resolution 62/149 which called for all states that still maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.