ICCPR Shadow Report: Death Penalty

Shadow Report on the Death Penalty in the United States

Although six states have abolished the death penalty since the United States’ last review before the Committee in 2006, thirty-two states, the U.S. federal government, and U.S. military retain the death penalty in the United States. The death penalty system has wrongfully convicted and sentenced innocent persons to death, executing at least 10 individuals despite strong evidence of their innocence. Also of great concern, most death penalty states continue to sentence to death and execute “non-triggerment”—offenders who do not actually, or attempt, or intend to, kill. This practice contravenes interpretations of Article 6(2) of the ICCPR that the death penalty should only be applied to intentional crimes.

Racial bias is pervasive in the application of the death penalty in the United States, with the race of the victim being the most indicative factor in determining who is sentenced to death. Defendants are more likely to be sentenced to death if the victim is white than if the victim is African-American, and African-American defendants are disproportionately overrepresented on death row.

Additionally, the Committee has emphasized that when the death penalty is imposed, it must be carried out in a manner as to cause “the least possible physical and mental suffering.” The traditional three-drug lethal injection procedure used as a primary means of executing prisoners in the United States has come under constitutional challenge as causing cruel and unusual punishment. The controversy surrounding the use of these drugs has made them increasingly difficult to obtain, causing states to turn to questionable sources and heightening the risk of cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment during executions.

The Advocates for Human Rights, Reprieve
ICCPR, Shadow Reports, death penalty