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The United Nations Human Rights Council released a list of 228 recommendations for the United States concerning their human rights record. All U.N. members have to undergo the review once every four years. Among the repeated recommendations throughout the list was the call for the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. U.S. State Department legal advisor Harold Koh said capital punishment was permitted under international law, quickly dismissing the long-standing appeals by European countries and others to temporarily halt or completely abolish the death penalty. Many critics of the death penalty say it is inhumane and unfairly applied.
“While we respect those who make these recommendations, we note that they reflect continuing policy differences, not a genuine difference about what international law requires,” Koh told the Geneva-based group. Other nations also urged the U.S. to reduce overcrowding in prisons, ratify international treaties on the rights of women and children, and take further steps to prevent racial profiling. Koh said the U.S. was committed to rooting out injustices and would seriously consider some of the recommendations, including one to sign a U.N. declaration on the rights of indigenous people.
“This international engagement must be followed by concrete domestic policies and actions and a commitment to fixing all domestic human rights abuses, not just the ones that are most convenient,” the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, Jamil Dakwar, said in a statement.
Officials from the U.S. and Europe held what may have been the first international forum of law enforcement officers on the merits of the death penalty in reducing violent crime last October. In the under reported panel held at National Press Club in Washington, D.C., officers talked about whether capital punishment actually helps to keep citizens safe, assist healing for victims, or uses crime-fighting resources efficiently. Many law enforcement officers, both domestic and from abroad, formed a consensus on the ineffectiveness of the death penalty. Antonio Cluny, senior attorney general and public prosecutor from Portugal, made his case. “Nobody can assure that the death penalty can contribute to reduce the number of the most horrible crimes. In Portugal, we have – without the death penalty – one of the lowest statistics [rates] of violent crimes.”
Ronald Hampton, a 23-year veteran of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, talked about his experience with capital punishment. “What we need to do from a law enforcement perspective is to be smart on crime, not to be hard on crime… I couldn’t find evidence that the death penalty did any good here in the district, as a police officer… What we ought to be is smart on the crime. All of the money that we spend on the death penalty every year, I can imagine what that money can be involved in, if we used it in education and training for police… investing in things that can really make a difference in our community.”