The U.S. voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemns the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.
The resolution introduced by Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland passed by a 27-13 vote margin.
Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the U.S. in opposing the measure.
The resolution specifically condemns “the imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations” and expresses “serious concern that the application of the death penalty for adultery is disproportionately imposed on women.” It also notes “poor and economically vulnerable persons and foreign nationals are disproportionately subjected to the death penalty, that laws carrying the death penalty are used against persons exercising their rights to freedom of expression, thought, conscience, religion, and peaceful assembly and association, and that persons belonging to religious or ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented among those sentenced to the death penalty.”
“It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in States where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love” Renato Sabbadini, executive director of The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), said in a statement. “This is a monumental moment where the international community has publicly highlighted that these horrific laws simply must end.”
ILGA, a federation of more than 1,200 member organizations from 132 countries committed to equal human rights for LGBTQI people that enjoys consultative status at the United Nations, called the resolution a “historic first.” The group produced a recent report and map that detail sexual orientation laws around the world.
The resolution asked countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not “applied arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner.”
Currently, there are six countries (eight if parts of Syria and Iraq occupied by Isis are included) where the death penalty is implemented for same-sex relations. (Penalty applies country-wide in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, and in certain provinces in Nigeria and Somalia.)
An ILGA in a press release noted Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia sought to amend the resolution and “dilute its impact.” These amendments failed, even though the U.S. supported two of them from Russia that stated the death penalty “does not per se mean a (human rights) violation, but may lead to . . . (human rights) violations” and “in some cases the (death penalty) leads to torture, rather than that many states hold that the (death penalty) is a form of torture.”
The U.S. also backed a proposed amendment from Egypt that stated “a moratorium (on the death penalty) should be a decision after domestic debate.” The U.S. abstained from voting on a proposed amendment from Saudi Arabia that said countries have the right to “develop their own laws and penalties (in accordance with international law.)”