Last Tuesday, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the draft Resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions. The main aspect of this resolution is that it mentions for the first time gender identity as a characteristic warranting protection from unlawful executions.
This resolution comes up for a vote in the Committee every two years. Language to protect individuals on the basis of “sexual orientation” has been included for the past 12 years, but this year marked the first time the resolution has mentioned “gender identity.”
The Resolution was passed by a vote of 108 to 1, with 65 abstentions and 18 absences.
The United States chose to abstain. U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens gave an interesting explanation as to such vote. After saying that the U.S. agreed that all States should take effective action to combat all extrajudicial killings and punish the perpetrators, she stated that the resolution obscures that there are not one, but two complementary bodies of law that regulate unlawful killings of individuals by governments – international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The Ambassador added that the applicable rules on extrajudicial killing in international armed conflict are primarily found in international humanitarian law. For the U.S. Representative, the resolution as worded contributes to legal uncertainty about how these two important bodies of law apply to an array of factual circumstances.