Killings of ANY human being cannot be justified


All human beings have the right to life, regardless of who they are and who they love, writes Mr Pasi Pöysäri, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN

By Mr. Pasi Pöysäri, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN and lead negotiator for Finland on General Assembly Resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary executions

The Nordic Resolution on the prevention and investigation of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was adopted with the growing support of member states in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on 19 November 2014. The 63 co-sponsors of the resolution together with other like-minded countries blocked with a clear margin a proposed change that would have removed individuals in a vulnerable position from the resolution.

At the core of this resolution are the right to life and the fight against impunity. Its aim is to stress the importance of protecting individuals from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions as well as to effectively investigate and bring perpetrators of such killings to justice. The resolution has contained elements considered controversial by some delegations, e.g. impunity, implementation of death penalty and the only reference to sexual orientation in a General Assembly resolution. Therefore, the text has for many years been subject to hostile amendments and to adoption through a vote.

The resolution is presented by Finland or Sweden on behalf of the five Nordic countries every other year. This year it was Finland’s turn to facilitate negotiations, and we had hoped that the consensus could be restored. During the process we tried to accommodate as many concerns and suggestions as possible. At the end, however, we had to propose a Chair’s text.

The changes in the Chair’s text addressed, inter alia, the fact that the imposition and the implementation of the capital punishment in a manner that violates international law is one of the causes of the arbitrary deprivation of life, but not the only one. With this factual change several countries that retain the death penalty were able to move from abstention to supporting the resolution.

Another change in the text addressed the obligations of all states under international law to investigate all killings. With a few clarifying changes countries like the USA and Turkey were now able to support the resolution.

The final draft resolution was subject to only one hostile amendment. Egypt on behalf of the OIC proposed to delete the whole list of vulnerable groups of persons. These groups have been explicitly mentioned in this resolution for well over a decade. The list includes, among others, racially motivated killings, killings of persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, and killings of persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For the co-sponsors the amendment was obviously unacceptable: it would have given not only a wrong but also a dangerous message. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that certain individuals are more vulnerable to unlawful killings than others and more often victims of impunity.

After the amendment was defeated (82 votes against, 53 in favour and 24 abstentions), the whole resolution was called for a vote by Egypt. The resolution was adopted with an increased support of member states (111 in favour, 64 abstentions).

Final adoption of the Resolution will take place at the plenary session of the General Assembly during the third week of December. We hope and expect that more member states will then be able to support the resolution and confirm explicitly that all human beings have the right to life, regardless of who they are and whom they love.

Finally, on behalf of all the co-sponsors, I would like to express our gratitude to civil society following the process around the world. The culmination of their concrete support was a joint letter by 29 human rights organizations to all the Permanent Missions in New York on 13 November.


  • Human rights defenders
  • LGBT rights
  • UN General Assembly
  • Finland