Statement on executions in the USA


By World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, on 21 June 2019

As of 21 June 2019, 106 countries worldwide have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 8 other countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 28 countries are abolitionist in practice. Of the 56 retentionist countries, 20 countries have carried out executions in 2018. According to Amnesty International, the USA was the 7th worst executioner in the world in 2018 after China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, Iraq and Egypt. In December 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted the 7th resolution for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the death penalty with 121 UN member states out of 193 voting in favour, the highest number ever. Unfortunately, the USA voted against this resolution for the 7th consecutive time.

Even within the USA, the trend towards abolition in stronger than ever. Over the last 10 years, 7 states have abolished the death penalty, most recently New Hampshire on 30 May 2019. Altogether, 21 states have now abolished the death penalty and among the 29 states that still allow capital punishment, 4 have a governor issued moratorium on the death penalty: California in 2019, Colorado in 2013, Oregon in 2011 and Pennsylvania in 2015.

US state governors, parliaments and supreme courts have repeatedly found that the death penalty is applied discriminatorily; that many innocent people are on death row, that it is not an effective response to crime and that more and more family member of murder victims are opposed to the death penalty because they call for justice and not revenge.

The death penalty is irrevocable. No justice system is safe from judicial error and innocent people are likely to be sentenced to death. It is inefficient and does not keep society safe. It has never been conclusively shown that the death penalty deters crime effectively than other punishments. It is unfair and discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against people who are poor, people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, and members of racial and ethnic minority groups. It is inhuman, cruel, and degrading. Conditions on death row and the anguish of facing execution inflict extreme psychological suffering, and execution is a physical and mental assault. It is counterproductive. By establishing the killing of a human being as a legal solution, the death penalty promotes the idea of murder more than it fights against it.

The world looks at the US for leadership in many criminal justice issues, human rights issues and in the rule of law. It is high time for the United States to join the ranks of countries that have abolished the death penalty and show leadership in ending this cruel punishment all around the world.


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