Islamabad’s vote on death penalty at UN corrected

Published December 20, 2018
Pakistan among three dozen countries which voted against moratorium on executions. — File photo
Pakistan among three dozen countries which voted against moratorium on executions. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani diplomat on Wednesday said that the United Nations had corrected Pakistan’s vote on the death penalty by including it among the votes cast against the resolution calling for a moratorium on executions.

A vote count at the UN General Assembly’s plenary session on a draft resolution calling for a moratorium on executions by all states still retaining the death penalty created a stir when Pakistan was shown as having voted for the first time in favour of the resolution.

At the voting held in New York on Monday, 121 UN member states were shown to have voted in favour of the seventh resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment, whereas 35 countries were said to have voted against the resolution and 32 as having abstained. This was the highest number of countries to date to have voted in favour of the moratorium resolutions since 2007.

Pakistan among three dozen countries which voted against moratorium on executions

The Foreign Office, however, clarified that Pakistan’s vote had been erroneously recorded by the UN.

FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal emphasised that the country had actually voted against the resolution and there was no change in Pakistan’s position on the issue.

“Pakistan, in accordance with its consistent policy, voted against the General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on execution,” Dr Faisal said.

An unofficial moratorium on the death penalty remained in place in Pakistan from 2008 till 2014.

Since the lifting of moratorium, Pakistani authorities have executed 496 convicts, accounting for 13 per cent of all global executions from 2015 to 2017, according to Justice Project Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation working for prisoners’ rights.

While explaining the voting episode, the Pakistani diplomat said: “Votes on various draft resolutions at the UN General Assembly and in its main committees are recorded electronically. At times, due to technical reasons, the transmitting machines do not relay the intended vote correctly on the screen displayed in the UNGA Chamber and the meeting rooms”.

The rules of procedure allow member states to approach the department of general assembly and conference management and make necessary corrections, the diplomat said, adding that “it is a procedural matter and happens routinely. The Secretariat then records the vote change, and reflects it also in the verbatim record of the meeting”.

The diplomat said there had been numerous instances when the country votes had been recorded inaccurately. Quoting an example from the last session under agenda item 52 “International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space” in sub item “Report of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee”, the diplomat said the votes of Oman and Tunisia were wrongly recorded, adding that their delegations later informed the Secretariat that they wanted to vote against the resolution and the same was corrected.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2018

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