New York (GPA) – Last week the US (and several allied nations) voted against a sweeping motion condemning global human rights abuses concerning the application of the death penalty.
On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) – currently chaired by Saudi Arabia – passed a motion to condemn global abuses in carrying out the death penalty in an “arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner.” The proposal included a list of crimes punishable by death in several countries that are key US allies.
The motion, proposed by Belgium, Benin, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, and Switzerland, specifically criticized the use of the death penalty for offenses such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual homosexual relations. The motion also criticized countries that have policies of executing the most vulnerable demographics such as children, pregnant women and the mentally ill.
While the use of the death penalty as punishment for most of these ‘crimes’ was already against international law, this does mark the first time the UN condemned the killing of homosexuals. A margin of 27-13 passed the motion despite condemnation by all the nations that actually do carry out executions for these ‘crimes.’
Following the vote on the resolution, some commentators asked why the US would vote against such a natural mostly-symbolic gesture that would win them some global PR points. There is, of course, a straightforward answer to that question when you examine some of the nation’s that also voted No with the US.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the country’s in question that sided with the US include the usual suspects of human rights violators. The No vote group included such monstrous nations as India, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Needless to say, these are key US allies that are obviously the primary targets of and inspirations for Friday’s motion. There is language in the resolution that would explicitly target several Gulf states, including the one hailing the council, which have histories of carrying out lopsided punishments described in the motion such as the way “the application of the death penalty for adultery is disproportionately imposed on women.”
The resolution also laid out the council’s concern that “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.”
Despite this, the US and friends did initially pretend that they wanted to vote Yes but couldn’t do it because their several attempts at amending the motion failed.
The US voted in favor of some amendments, like that of Egypt that wanted to write in a caveat concerning enforcement of the new ruling that stated that nations should first place “a moratorium (on the death penalty) should be a decision after domestic debate.” Ironically, Egypt proposed these changes on Friday, while Monday saw the country launch their largest crackdown on homosexuals in over a decade after spotting a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo.
One amendment that the US surprisingly voted against was proposed by Saudi Arabia, which wanted to add the rights of nations to “develop their own laws and penalties (in accordance with international law.” How they thought anyone would support the resolution with an amendment that would basically cancel out the rest of the motion is something only Riyadh could possibly comprehend.
Also, while Egypt spent Monday hunting for gay people, Saudi Arabia used the day to execute six prisoners, one of whom convicted of drug trafficking; a crime that it is also illegal to kill people for under current international law.
While some on the center-left in the US have decried their country’s vote as evidence that the Trump regime doesn’t care about the rights of LGBTQ+ people, it must be noted that other factors are obviously in play. Besides the language concerning homosexuality, the other crimes listed in Friday’s resolution are basically a just list of things US partners, specifically in the Middle East, do every day.
Trump’s latest move to appease the oil kingdoms is no different than Obama selling weapons to the Saudis as he was chastising them publicly, that is to say, it’s all a part of a larger system that continues to survive regardless of what regime has control of Washington. If the US opposes “human rights” it typically means it’s either bad for business or can’t be used to start another foreign intervention.
Also published on Medium.