Last updated on: 3/16/2017 | Author:

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, PhD Biography

United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights
Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“International and national bodies have determined that several methods of execution are likely to violate the prohibition of torture, because of the pain and suffering they are likely to inflict on the convicted person. Studies of the severe pain and suffering caused by other methods has continued to extend this list, to the point where it has become increasingly difficult for a State to impose the death penalty without violating international human rights law.

The long and highly stressful period that most individuals endure while waiting on ‘death row’ for years, or even decades, and frequently in isolation, for an uncertain outcome, has also been referenced as constituting torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment…

Furthermore, when the authorities fail to give adequate information about the timing of executions, they maintain not only the convicted person but also his children and other family members in permanent anticipation of imminent death. This acute mental distress, which may be compounded by failure to return the body to families for burial, or inform them of the location of burial, is unjustifiable…

There are many reasons why we should move away from the death penalty, starting with its capricious and frequently discriminatory application, and its failure to demonstrate any deterrent effect beyond that of other punishments. The severe mental and physical suffering which are inflicted by capital punishment on the person concerned and family members should now be added to the weight of the argument. The use of the death penalty should be ended.”

Speech to 34th Session of the Human Rights Council, available at, Mar. 1, 2017

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2014-present
  • Member, International Advisory Board, The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Brandeis University
  • Member, The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation at the Hague
  • Honorary Member, Advisory Board, The Center for Global Affairs, New York University
  • President, UN Security Council and Chair of the 1533 and 1521 Committees, Jan 2014
  • Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, 2010-2014
  • Former Advisor, Senior Advisory Group to Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
  • Former Member, World Bank’s Advisory Council for the 2011 World Development Report, 2011
  • Jordan’s Ambassador to the United States and Mexico, 2007-2010
  • Former Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
  • Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, 2000-2007
  • Ambassador and Jordan’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1996-2000
  • Political Affairs Officer, United States Protection Force [UNPROFOR] in former Yugoslavia, 1994-1996
  • PhD, Philosophy, Christ’s College, Cambridge University
  • BA, Johns Hopkins University
  • First Asian, Muslim, and Arab to serve as the UN High Commissioner
  • Awarded Honorary Doctorate by Southern California Institute of Law on June 14, 2008
  • Married to Princess Sarah Zeid
  • He is a prince born into the Hashemite family and is cousin to Jordan’s King Abdullah II
Quoted in:
  1. Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?