The Death Penalty under International Law: A Background Paper to the
IBAHRI Resolution on the Abolition of the Death Penalty
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The Death Penalty under International Law
The Death Penalty under International Law: A Background Paper to the IBAHRI Resolution on the Abolition of the Death Penalty
Introduction This paper aims to outline the status of the death penalty under international law. Part One assesses existing treaty and customary international law, and notes that while the death penalty is not yet prohibited under universally-binding international law, its abolition is strongly encouraged and it may only be imposed within very strict limitations. Part Two examines the increasing international trend amongst states to abolish the death penalty and identifies the likelihood that an international customary standard is developing. Part Three considers the position of other international organisations on the death penalty, noting that according to our research all organisations with a human rights focus promote the abolition of the death penalty to varying degrees. Part One: The Death Penalty under International Law While the death penalty is not prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or any other virtually universal international treaty, there are a number of instruments in force with fewer states parties that do abolish capital punishment. Similarly, international customary law does not prohibit the death penalty at the current time, but custom is rapidly changing towards a position in favour of worldwide abolition. At the international level, the most important treaty provision relating to the death penalty is...