Academic Article

From Advocacy To Abolition: How The Universal Periodic Review Can Shape The Trajectory Of The Abolition Of The Death Penalty

By Amy Bergquist, California Western, School of Law, on 1 February 2024

Trend Towards Abolition

Published in 2023.

This article assesses whether there is evidence to suggest that the UPR can influence the timing of a country’s decision to abolish the death penalty. The evidence arises out of the examination of thirty case studies of countries that abolished the death penalty, or ratifiedthe leading treaty calling for abolition. This article concludes that in some circumstances the UPR does appear to influence that timing. These conclusions can assist civil society organizations as they refine their advocacy to encourage more countries to abolish the death penalty.

Part I of this article offers an introduction to the global abolitionist movement and two of its advocacy targets: the U.N. Human Rights Council and the UPR. Part II makes the case for focusing on the UPR to assess the efficacy of U.N. advocacy. Part III describes the process of abolition and offers several theories as to how the UPR might influence a country’s trajectory toward abolition. Part IV sets out the study’s methodology and encompasses the analysis of the case studies, focusing first on countries that have abolished the death penalty early in a UPR cycle, then on countries that have abolished at mid-cycle, and finally on countries that have abolished during the tail end of the cycle. The conclusion discusses the implications of these findings for civil society organizations working toward abolition of the death penalty.

  • Document type Academic Article
  • Themes list Trend Towards Abolition