The United States joined an illustrious list of 13 countries on Friday when it voted against a United Nations resolution condemning the discriminatory use of capital punishment — which included denouncing its use in cases of “apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations.”
With the approval of 27 countries, the Human Rights Council resolution still passed. It was introduced by a coalition of eight countries: Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, and Switzerland.
While it has consistently declined to oppose UN resolutions condemning the death penalty, this vote uniquely situated the U.S. on the side of India, China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, to name a few.
Iran and Saudi Arabia’s objection to the resolution might have something to do with their laws that define same-sex relationships as a capital offense. The UAE and Qatar also have laws permitting the use of the death penalty for same-sex relationships, but they are rarely enforced.
In voting against the resolution, the U.S. also rejected the idea that capital punishment is a form of torture — a move that is both altogether unsurprising and troubling! Before the final vote, the U.S. supported an amendment, put forth by Russia, that said the death penalty was not necessarily a human rights violation, but that its use could lead to it “in some cases.”
Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokesperson, said on Twitter that the U.S. still condemned the death penalty’s discriminatory use — even if it didn’t vote for the resolution.
It’s worth emphasizing that the resolution didn’t call for ending the death penalty, merely its discriminatory use. Other tenets of the resolution specifically condemned capital punishment’s use in cases involving people who are younger than 18-years-old, people with disabilities, and women who have been accused of adultery.
The Human Rights Campaign released a statement on Tuesday admonishing the Trump administration for rejecting the resolution. “While the U.N. Human Rights Council took this crucially important step, the Trump/Pence administration failed to show leadership on the world stage by not championing this critical measure,” said HRC’s Global Director Ty Cobb. “This administration’s blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful.”