New Zealand Permanent Mission Geneva, Switzerland

Panel discussion on the death penalty and children’s rights

Panel discussion on the death penalty and children’s rights - 24th session, Human Rights Council. Delivered by Ambassador Amanda Ellis 11 September 2013.

Thank you Mr President

New Zealand welcomes the opportunity for the Council to discuss the question of the rights of children of parents subject to the death penalty. The panelists’ interventions have certainly highlighted the need to address this issue and New Zealand shares the concerns raised by previous speakers about the negative impact of the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty on the rights of children whose parents are sentenced to death or executed.

We recognise that the issue of the death penalty is at times a divisive one, including here in this Council, but we hope that states will find common ground in acknowledging the need to protect innocent and vulnerable children from its impact. In this respect, we particularly welcome the participation of those states that have not abolished the death penalty in sharing their policies and practices for protecting the rights of children in these situations.

New Zealand recognises that some of the challenges faced by children whose parents are subject to the death penalty are to a varying extent also faced in abolitionist countries – for example, where parents are incarcerated for considerable periods of time. However, there are also important differences, most obviously the fact that a child must also come to terms with a parent’s death. As such, we believe it is important that age-appropriate information and assistance is given to children to help them to understand the situation. To help with the grieving process, families should be informed well enough in advance of the execution date to allow for a final visit. Following the execution, the body should be returned to them, without costs, or they should be given access to the burial site, and be given the prisoner’s personal effects with advance notice.

We would be interested to hear more from the panel on:

  • What States can do to address the stigma often attached to children whose parents are subject to the death penalty?

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