Right to life - capital punishment

The right to life is recognized in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in Article 37(a) in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UN and the capital punishment

In 1984, the Economic and Social Council adopted the document Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, which imposes restrictions on the use of the death penalty as well as the treatment of prisoners.

In order to undertake an international commitment to abolish the death penalty, the General Assembly, in its 1989 resolution 44/128, adopted and proclaimed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The protocol entered into force in 1991.

The ECOSOC invites the Secretary-General to submit to it, at five-year intervals, periodic updated and analytical reports on capital punishment entitled Capital Punishment and Implementation of the Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty.

Human Rights Council and the capital punishment

The Commission on Human Rights by its resolution Question of the death penalty, resolution 1999/61, commended countries, which had abolished the death penalty and urged the international community to limit their application of capital punishment.

The Commission on Human Rights established a Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to examine, monitor and report on the death penalty worldwide. The special rapporteur reports regularly to the Human Rights Council.

Human Rights, conventions and declaration

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.