An Assessment of the Effectiveness of the UN Universal Periodic Review: Towards the Abolition of the Death Penalty in the United States of America

Storey, Alice (2018) An Assessment of the Effectiveness of the UN Universal Periodic Review: Towards the Abolition of the Death Penalty in the United States of America. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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Abstract

International law plays an important role in regulating the criminal punishments imposed by states, including capital punishment. Although capital punishment is not prohibited by international law, the United Nations’ ultimate goal is worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

The United States of America (‘the US’) retains the death penalty in thirty-one States, the federal government, and in the military. The US has a ‘thorny’ relationship with international law, which to some extent can be attributed to the theory of ‘American exceptionalism’. This theory allows the US to act ‘exceptionally’ simply by virtue of it being a super-power state.
Despite this, the US does engage with international law through the Universal Periodic Review (‘UPR’). The General Assembly of the United Nations (‘UNGA’) created the UPR in 2006 through Resolution 60/251 to be a universal and intergovernmental peer review process, intended to appraise every UN member state’s protection and promotion of human rights.

To date, no scholar has examined the effectiveness of the UPR in the context of the abolition of the death penalty in the US. This thesis contributes to filling that gap in the literature by undertaking a qualitative review of the 2010 and 2015 US UPRs, examining the UPR’s role in facilitating the abolition of capital punishment in the US. From this analysis, the author has identified three broad themes within the US UPR regarding capital punishment. Namely, one,
the right to a fair trial and due process, two, intellectual disabilities and mental health, and, three, the implementation of a death sentence. From this, the author has identified recommendations to strengthen the UPR mechanism, both generally, and specifically in the context of the abolition of the death penalty in the US.

The potential impact of this research is three-fold. First, it will assist in ensuring the US is held to account to its international obligations whilst it retains the death penalty. Second, it will further the Steikers’ ‘blueprint for abolition’, by providing evidence to show the arbitrary application of the death penalty in the US in violation of international and domestic laws. Third, the strengthening of the UPR will benefit the mechanism generally, for the protection and promotion of human rights globally.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Date: 31 August 2018
Uncontrolled Keywords: United Nations, death penalty, US, UPR, universal periodic review
Subjects: M100 Law by area
T700 American studies
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > School of Law
REF UoA Output Collections > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2020 10:18
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2020 11:35
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10237

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