World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

Death penalty disproportionately affects the poor

Death penalty disproportionately affects the poor, UN rights experts warn


GENEVA (6 October 2017) – United Nations human rights experts* are calling for urgent action to end the disproportionate impact of the death penalty on people from poorer communities. They say imposing the death penalty as a result of discrimination constitutes an arbitrary killing and Governments must not stand idly by. Their comments come in a joint statement marking World Day Against the Death Penalty on Tuesday 10 October:

“If you are poor, the chances of being sentenced to death are immensely higher than if you are rich. There could be no greater indictment of the death penalty than the fact that in practice it is really a penalty reserved for people from lower socio-economic groups. This turns it into a class-based form of discrimination in most countries, thus making it the equivalent of an arbitrary killing.

People living in poverty are disproportionately affected by the death penalty for many reasons. They are an easy target for the police, they cannot afford a lawyer, the free legal assistance they might receive is of low quality, procuring expert evidence is beyond their means, tracing witnesses is too costly, and access to appeals often depends on being able to afford extra counsel. Many cannot afford bail and therefore remain in custody before their trials, further hindering their efforts to prepare an effective defence.

Some legal aid systems become active only at the trial stage, meaning that defendants from low socio-economic backgrounds are often interrogated and investigated without a lawyer. By the time the case reaches court, it may already be too late to guarantee a fair trial. Corruption of law enforcement officials is another detrimental factor.

Poverty also compounds obstacles which vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society are already facing. In many countries, this especially includes people of African descent, as well as others who are discriminated against on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, race or migration status.

Meanwhile, migrants who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system face multiple obstacles in effectively challenging charges made against them, including unfamiliarity with legal language and procedures, limited awareness of their rights, financial constraints, and the possible lack of a supportive social network.

They may also face bias by judges, police officers and investigators, which can influence the verdict against them, and leave them at increased risk of receiving the death sentence.

We call on all States to treat all migrants involved in the criminal justice systems with respect and dignity as equal rights holders, regardless of their migratory status.

Women living in poverty are also at a severe disadvantage when faced with the risk of a death sentence. In some States, women face the death penalty, including by stoning, not only in cases of murder, but also for alleged adultery, same sex-relationships and drug-related offences.

Discrimination against women is compounded by intersecting factors, including their socio-economic status. This discrimination based on gender stereotypes, stigma, harmful and patriarchal cultural norms and gender-based violence, has an adverse impact on the ability of women to gain access to justice on an equal basis with men.

We are also concerned that it is extremely rare for domestic abuse to be treated as a mitigating factor. Imposing the death penalty in cases where there has been evidence of self-defence constitutes an arbitrary killing.

Poverty continues to affect prisoners - and their families – even after they reach death row. Living conditions are worsened by difficulties in accessing food, medical care and other services. Relatives who themselves live in poverty are unable to provide financial help. These inmates may even lack the resources to stay in touch with their families and friends while in prison.

Around the world, death sentences continue to be imposed in violation of major international standards, including the right to a fair trial and the principle of non-discrimination. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights makes clear that all people are entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination, while UN safeguards on the use of the death penalty make clear that people must have received a fair trial, including the right to adequate legal assistance, at all stages.

The disproportionate impact of the death penalty on the poor shows that these international standards are being violated.

We applaud the growing number of countries that have abolished the death penalty and welcome the figures for 2016 showing an overall decrease in its use.

However, the global effort towards its progressive abolition must continue to grow, along with the work to end systemic discrimination against some of the most vulnerable people in our societies.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 


Palestinian Ministry of Health: Developments In The Health Situation During The Israeli Aggression On The Cities & Governorates Of The Gaza Strip
For the second day in a row, the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip continues by targeting overcrowded residential areas and neighborhoods, as the death toll rose to 13 citizens, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman... More>>


UN: Horn Of Africa Faces Most ‘Catastrophic’ Food Insecurity In Decades, Warns WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that the Greater Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst famines of the last 70 years... More>>

FAO: Warns 90 Per Cent Of Earth’s Topsoil At Risk By 2050
A full 90 per cent of the Earth’s precious topsoil is likely to be at risk by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO...
More>>


Somalia: ‘We Cannot Wait For Famine To Be Declared; We Must Act Now’
Rising acute food insecurity in Somalia has caused more than 900,000 people to flee their homes in search of humanitarian assistance since January last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned... More>>

UN: American West Faces Water And Power Shortages Due To Climate Crisis
Two of the largest reservoirs in the United States are at dangerously low levels due to the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, which could affect water and electricity supply for millions in six western states and Mexico, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned on Tuesday... More>>



Singapore: UN Experts Call For Immediate Moratorium On Executions For Drug Offences

UN experts* today condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drug related charges... More>>