Author: Billy Holmes

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights facilitates inequality regarding the imposition of the death penalty and thus, it cannot ensure universality for the protection of the right to life. Paragraph two of this article states: ‘sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.’ This article argues that the vagueness of the phrase ‘the most serious crimes’ allows states to undermine human rights principles and human dignity by affording states significant discretion regarding the human rights principles of equality and anti-discrimination. The article posits that this discretion allows states to undermine human dignity and the concept of universal human rights by challenging their universality; by facilitating legal inequality between men and women. Accordingly, it asserts that the implications of not expounding this vague phrase may be far-reaching, particularly in the long-term. The final section of this article offers a potential solution to this problem.

In: International Human Rights Law Review