Mr. President: Please Support or Abstain from the UN Resolution on the Death Penalty

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RE:  UN Resolution on a Death Penalty Moratorium

Dear President Biden:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 230 national organizations to promote and protect civil and human rights in the United States, and the undersigned 48 organizations, we write to urge you to keep your promise of ensuring equality, equity, and justice in our criminal-legal system by abstaining from or voting for the forthcoming UN resolution on a death penalty moratorium. Any criminal-legal system truly dedicated to the pursuit of justice should recognize the humanity of all who encounter it and not sanction the use of a discriminatory practice that denies individuals their rights, fails to respect their dignity, and stands in stark contrast to the fundamental values of our democratic system of governance. 

As The Leadership Conference has made clear, state-sanctioned killing as a form of criminal punishment is, in all cases, both inhumane and in conflict with our country’s most fundamental principles. A cruel and unusual punishment, the death penalty fails to comport with either the 8th or 14th Amendments and violates our obligations under international law. Since 1973, more than 190 individuals have been sentenced to death and exonerated on innocence grounds, demonstrating the high propensity for error in our criminal-legal system and the unfathomable consequences that may follow. The only way to eliminate the possibility of executing an innocent person is to do away with the punishment altogether. 

Moreover, the use of the death penalty in this country continues to perpetuate patterns of racial and economic oppression endemic to the American criminal-legal system — patterns that you have recognized and have committed to eradicating. Throughout history, Black people have been routinely put to death for offenses for which White individuals received lesser punishments, have been more likely to be executed as juveniles, and have been less likely to have their death sentence convictions reviewed by higher courts than their White counterparts. Still today, stark racial disparities in the application of capital punishment exist. For example, while just 13 percent of the U.S. population is Black, 17 of the 44 individuals remaining on federal death row as of April 2022 — or approximately 38 percent — are Black.  

The United States is an outlier in the international community when it comes to the death penalty. More than two-thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty in either law or practice. Experts on human rights have called for the complete abolition of the death penalty, saying that it is “almost impossible” to administer the death penalty without violating the human rights of defendants. National and international organizations have condemned the use of the death penalty in the United States as violative of human rights obligations and treaties and international law against torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has found the United States in contempt of its international obligations regarding the death penalty several times. The United States flouts human rights laws and norms in its continued use of the death penalty.

Over the past few years, millions of individuals have made clear that our nation must meaningfully address systemic racism and inequality and fundamentally transform our criminal-legal system as we continue our work to chart a path towards a more fair, just, and inclusive society. You have the power to take action to begin to right the injustices of today and prevent their occurrence tomorrow. By abstaining from or voting in favor of the forthcoming UN resolution, you have the ability to set the United States on a path towards honoring human rights and recognizing and respecting the dignity and humanity of all. 


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Advancement Project
Advocate for Friends on Death Row
American Atheists
American Constitution Society
American Civil Liberties Union 
American Humanist Association
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Amnesty International USA
Arab American Institute
Center for Death Penalty Litigation
Center for Disability Rights
Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues
Death Penalty Action
Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona
Death Penalty Focus
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Drop LWOP New England
Fair and Just Prosecution
Feminist Majority Foundation
Freedom from Religion Foundation
Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP)
Hip Hop Caucus 
Human Rights First
Impact Fund
Just Solutions
Juvenile Law Center
Kentucky Committee to End Executions
Lambda Legal
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention (LA-Aid)
Muslim Advocates
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Miami Section
National Employment Law Project
National Legal Aid & Defender Association
National Organization for Women
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Sentencing Project
True Colors United
Witness to Innocence