US government defends “disgraceful” vote on gay death penalty

The US State Department has justified why it chose to shockingly vote against a UN resolution that condemned the execution of people for being gay or lesbian.

On Friday, the country joined 12 other states in opposing the resolution, which was nevertheless passed by the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The decision was described as outrageous by human rights groups, but the American government insisted it had valid reasons to try to block the resolution, in light of the fact that the death penalty is legal in the US.

“The headlines and much of the reporting that has come out of that has been misleading. As our representative to the Human Rights Council said on Friday, the United States is disappointed to have voted against that resolution,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday.

“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,” claimed Nauert.

“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 criminalisation,” added Nauert.

According to the version of the text read by Mambaonline, the resolution does not insist or require that the death penalty be abolished outright but rather suggests that countries “consider doing so”.

The resolution asks states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not “applied arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner” and that it is not applied against persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, persons below 18 years of age, pregnant women and those accused of same-sex relations, apostasy, blasphemy and adultery.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBTQ rights organisation, slammed the US government’s actions.

“[US] Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.

“While the UN Human Rights Council took this crucially important step, the Trump/Pence administration failed to show leadership on the world stage by not championing this critical measure. This administration’s blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful.”

The 12 other countries that voted against the resolution were: Bangladesh; Botswana; Burundi; China; Egypt; Ethiopia; India; Iraq; Japan; Qatar; Saudia Arabia; and The United Arab Emirates. South Africa voted in favour.

According to ILGA’s 2017 State-Sponsored Homophobia report, there are currently six states (eight counting the parts of Syria and Iraq still occupied by Isis) where the death penalty is implemented for same-sex relations, a further five where it is technically allowed (if not actually invoked), and one where it has not yet been implemented.

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