Death Penalty: A Major Disappointment at UNGASS


“We urge all States that have not done so to implement a moratorium on the use of death penalty as a step towards its final abolition”

Gavel of Justice

There are still 30 countries in the world in which the death penalty is applied for crimes related to drug trafficking. According to Amnesty International, 685 people were executed for these crimes worldwide in 2015. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, China, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Singapore, Sudan and Yemen are some of the countries that perpetuate this practice, which they also defend in international forums.

Let us remember that these documents are approved by consensus; consequently, they cannot have dissonant aspects.

Without a doubt, this has been the most debated subject throughout the UNGASS debates, in which most countries have taken advantage of the short time they had to speak to denounce this practice that constitutes a human rights violation and a breach of international law and to request that a moratorium be applied on the matter.

This UNGASS has placed a special emphasis on favoring a person-based and human rights-based approach to drugs, which is why there was a great impetus to include some guidance with regard to the death penalty in the final document. For their part, the countries that apply the death penalty for drug trafficking crimes have pleaded that international norms have no competence in this area, and that each country is sovereign to decide how to apply justice.


The EU along with other countries (1), among which Canada, Chile and Uruguay stand out, published a resolution on the matter requesting the application of a moratorium:

“We have a strong and unequivocal opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances and consider that the death penalty undermines human dignity and errors made in its application are irreversible. Moreover, imposing the death penalty for drug offenses is against norms of international law (…). We urge all States that have not done so to implement a moratorium on the use of death penalty as a step towards its final abolition”.

Even though including the elimination of the death penalty has not yet been achieved in the final document, we are convinced that after this UNGASS, we are one step closer to ending this cruel and useless practice.

[1] Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Republic of Moldova, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Uzbekistan.