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US issues statement after voting against UN resolution banning the death penalty for gay people

By Will Stroude

The US government has issued a statement following its decision to vote against a United Nations resolution which would have banned the death penalty for, among other things, being gay.

The resolution, titled ‘The Question of the Death Penalty’ was passed by the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week, with 27 nations voting in favor, 13 voting against and seven abstentions.

It condemned the imposition of the death penalty when “applied arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner” and specifically condemned “the imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations.”

Currently, there are six countries that carry the death penalty for being gay, not including parts of Iraq and Syria currently occupied by ISIS: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia.

While countries including the UK, Germany and South Africa voted in favour of the resolution, the United States joined countries including Bangladesh, Botswana, Burundi, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and The United Arab Emirates in voting against it.

In a press briefing on Tuesday (October 3, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert explained the decision, saying the US was “disappointed” to have voted against the resolution but did so in order to defend its own use of the death penalty.

“As our representative to the Human Rights Council said last Friday, the United States is disappointed to have voted against that resolution,” Ms Nauert said in a press briefing.

“We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances, and it called for the abolition of the death penalty altogether.

“We had hoped for a balanced and inclusive resolution that would better reflect the positions of states that continue to apply the death penalty lawfully, as the United States does.

“The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization.”

Responding to the State Department’s statement, the Human Right Council said: “HRC welcomes this clarification but continues to be concerned about the Trump/Pence administration’s engagement on the human rights of LGBTQ people abroad.

“It is disturbing that leadership in this administration did not discuss this position in their original explanation for the ‘no’ vote.”

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