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The UN to Outlaw Capital Punishment By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In today’s world of moral relativism Saddam Hussein is still a martyr, but not to the Iraqi people who tried and executed the tyrant for the genocidal acts that he committed against his own people.  He remains a martyr for the cause of abolishing capital punishment.

A leading global advocacy group against capital punishment, known as “Hands off Cain,” still features a picture of Saddam Hussein on its website with the caption, “Is it Murder to Kill a Murderer: Hands off Saddam Hussein.”  Hands off Cain is part of a global network of organizations dedicated to declaring that even mass murderers have an inalienable universal “right not to be killed following a legal sentence.”   The network includes the Transnational Radical Party, a non-governmental organization that has official consultative status with the United Nations, and the Worldwide Congress Against the Death Penalty. 


Louise Arbour, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke for the U.N. bureaucracy in making Saddam a poster boy for the philosophy that capital punishment is an affront to universal human rights that should be opposed in all circumstances:

"There is a renewed momentum, or focus, or interest on the question of the abolition of the death penalty. It’s been possibly fuelled by the concerns, or the visibility of the executions in Iraq, which, in a sense, I think mobilised international public attention on the question of the death penalty and I would certainly hope that in the course of this year, we will see renewed efforts, debate, discussions on that issue." http://www.un.org/unifeed/script.asp?scriptId=2070


Indeed, Arbour wants to turn this international public attention against the death penalty into binding international law.  She regularly cites the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which she wants to reinforce as the basis to outlaw the death penalty world-wide, specifically Article 6 (which recognizes that “every human being has the inherent right to life”) and Article 7 (which protects against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment).


Arbour ignores the fact that the same Covenant also acknowledges the death penalty as a permissible fact of life in some countries, requiring merely that the “sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes…pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.”  Instead, she focuses on the aspirational statement in Article 6 that “[N]othing in this Article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.”  Thus, she arrogantly told the press in Geneva last month that any countries who do not agree to abolish the death penalty should be called to account.  Called to account for what?  Exercising their rights as sovereign nations under the U.N. Charter to decide for themselves how to deal with capital offenses committed against their own citizens?


Contrary to his own initial instinct that “capital punishment is for each and every country to decide,” Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was pressured to embrace Arbour’s agenda.  Prodded by the global network of self-styled capital punishment abolitionists and sympathetic governments, the U.N. General Assembly may be on the verge of enacting her agenda.  The capital punishment opponents are petitioning the General Assembly to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate and universal moratorium on death sentences and executions and the commutation of existing death sentences, with a view to the universal abolition of the death penalty.   


The Italian government is taking the lead to introduce this resolution during the current session of the General Assembly.  As reported by the Inter Press News Agency, Italy has so far managed to garner the support of eighty-eight nations who have signed a declaration of association with Italy's death penalty moratorium proposal.   On April 13, 2007, the Italian Council of Ministers announced that it planned to have its Minister of Foreign Affair present the proposal for the abolition of the death penalty and the corresponding moratorium at the next EU Council of General Affairs on April 23rd.  With the European Union’s official support, which is highly likely since the EU’s own charter abolishes the death penalty within the European Union, Italy will formally present the resolution for a vote in the General Assembly. 


The General Assembly, of course, can pass whatever resolutions it wants. Who really cares?   Their resolutions have no binding effect on how we handle our trials and punishments in this country unless our courts say they do.  But that is precisely where we are vulnerable.


The Supreme Court still has a majority that favors incorporating international law and norms into their constitutional decisions.  Indeed, the Supreme Court has already done this in a death penalty case.  Citing foreign opinion as confirmation, the majority held, in a decision written by Justice Kennedy, that the Constitutional prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment” embodied in the Eighth Amendment required the banning of the death penalty for juvenile offenders below the age of 18 who were convicted of murder, no matter what the circumstances.  Justice Kennedy said that, “the express affirmation of certain fundamental rights by other nations and peoples…underscores the centrality of those same rights within our own heritage of freedom.” [1]  


When the United States ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1992 it entered reservations, stating that the United States would only be bound to the extent that cruel and unusual treatment or punishment was prohibited by the Fifth, Eight or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as interpreted by the US Supreme Court.  Supreme Court precedent does not view the death penalty as per se unconstitutional, nor as cruel and unusual punishment under any and all circumstances.  But Kennedy is now the swing vote on the Supreme Court and he wrote the opinion on the death penalty for juvenile offenders that overturned a Supreme Court precedent decided on the same point about fifteen years previously.  Affirmation by the General Assembly that the death penalty is inherently a cruel and unusual punishment that should be abolished world-wide will likely sway Kennedy and the majority of internationalists on the Supreme Court to come to the same conclusion under own Constitution.  They may well say that it is high time that the ‘standards of decency’ at home caught up with the prevailing standards abroad, which do condemn the use of capital punishment under any circumstances.  Just like the juvenile offender case, Supreme Court precedents will not matter.


The U.N. will intervene in our judicial proceedings if given a chance, said its High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour:  "If the courts are willing to listen to us, we are not going to shy away.  It depends on our own capacity to make a contribution in a case where the advocacy of international standards are not likely to be advanced by others."  


Those concerned about preserving the liberties of our country must push back hard against this dangerous tide of benighted world opinion.  The death penalty must be preserved for the most heinous crimes, particularly for dealing with terrorists who wantonly kill the innocent to serve their perverted cause and would do so again if ever released from confinement.  The same Leftists who will use the courts to try and abolish the death penalty are intent on securing the terrorist suspects’ release as soon as possible because they believe that the inmates’ suffering should outweigh concerns about their danger to society.  Some of the suspects are reportedly so miserable that they are conducting a hunger strike.  Their advocates oppose force feeding as too harsh a counter-measure.  A better idea would be to quickly try them and apply the death penalty, putting them out of their misery and sparing us the trouble of keeping them alive against their wishes.


Current law allows the terrorists their day in court to appeal the death sentence.  However, the fact that death penalty abolitionists and their supporters at the United Nations believe that even terrorists have a bogus human right not to be executed for the most abominable acts of mass murder should not matter a whit to us.  Any federal judge who decides to spare a terrorist the death penalty on such spurious grounds in deference to international ‘norms’ should be subject to removal from office for violating his judicial oath to preserve the Constitution.




[1]  Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)


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