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US rejects UN call to abolish death penalty

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Frank Jordans reports from Geneva for AP:

The United States dismissed international calls Tuesday to abolish the death penalty as friends and foes alike delivered their recommendations on how Washington can improve its human rights record.

U.S. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said capital punishment was permitted under international law, brushing aside long-standing appeals by European countries and others to temporarily halt or completely abolish the death penalty, which critics say is inhumane and unfairly applied.
The United Nations Human Rights Council that is lecturing us on this subject, among others, includes such sterling defenders of human rights as Cuba and Libya.

8 Comments

So your argument is 'because they abuse human rights, we can do too'? Or are you accusing two members of the Council of hypocrisy while not addressing the substantive issues raised?

With respect, the argument the death penalty is accepted under international law is sadly, a good one; your attempt to discredit the UN is not.

"So your argument is 'because they abuse human rights, we can do too'?"

The ability of people to read things into my statements that are not there never ceases to amaze me. To infer that argument from what I wrote is irrational.

The death penalty is not a human rights violation. Therefore, my defense of the death penalty does not constitute defending human rights violations.

I do not need to discredit the UN. By putting Cuba and Libya on its Human Rights Council, the UN has discredited itself.

There are no substantive/substantial human rights violations to speak of--prison overcrowding, racial profiling--give me a break.These issues are examined/debated everyday in our democratic society.


In the homelands of our chief accusers- Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea- autocrats impose their will with no opportunity for dissent.

The process by which the UN allows these despots to take pot shots at our human rights record is unseemly.

Kent, you didn't say the death penalty wasn't a human rights abuse, you just made a snide comment about two of the 47 countries on the UN Human Rights Council. As both Cuba and Libya have the death penalty maybe you have more in common with their leaders than you realise.

Snide, you say? Look in the mirror.

You made a "straw man fallacy" argument, deliberately misrepresenting what I was saying, and you know it.

My comment about the membership of the UN Human Rights Council is directly relevant to the credibility of that body.

I didn't deliberately misrepresent anything, you just weren't very clear.

I don't see how the credibility of two members of a forty-seven member body instantly discredits the findings of the rest, Is there some flaw in their reasoning attributable to the presence of Cuba and Libya, or is this simple guilt by association?

"I don't see how the credibility of two members of a forty-seven member body instantly discredits the findings of the rest."

Well, then, bhaal, you just aren't that bright. First of all, perhaps you ought to examine why the death penalty seems to bother you so much. Even if we assume that the death penalty is a human rights violation, it pales in comparison to all sorts of human rights violations in many places around the world. Is it anti-Americanism that leads you here? Second, that serial human rights abusers like Cuba and Libya can stand in judgment of the US is positively Orwellian and shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the UN. Kent can explain it to you--he cannot understand it for you.

If the other nations were really serious about human rights, then they would demand that Libya and Cuba be booted from the Council. They don't, so please don't expect me to care a whit about what they have to say.

This debate reminds me of the old legal doctrine of "unclean hands." If a person, or a body of nations, is to stand in judgment upon another, they had better be above reproach. In this instance, I could not agree more with Kent: If a UN body that includes oppressive dictatorships such as Cuba and Libya is going to try to tell the United States of America that it is abusing human rights, as far as I'm concerned they can stick it you-know-where because their hands are unclean.

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