Declaration by the Committee of Ministers
on the death penalty in the United States of America
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 28 May 2014
at the 1200th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers recalls its Declaration of 12 February 2014 expressing concern about recent executions in the United States of America, in particular those carried out in violation of minimum standards like the requirement to inflict the minimum possible suffering and the requirement that an execution could only be carried out after a legal process providing all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial.
Subsequently, on 29 April, Mr Clayton Lockett was executed in Oklahoma in exceptional circumstances where the suffering went far beyond that pointed out in earlier cases. In this context, reference is made to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1996. The way in which the above-mentioned execution was carried out could be considered a violation thereof and of the safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty approved by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1984. It was the 20th execution in the USA this year.
The Committee of Ministers, while welcoming the overall review of the application of the death penalty ordered by President Barack Obama, firmly believes that notwithstanding the efficacy of the measures adopted to improve the proceedings from trial to execution, there is only one solution to the issue of the death penalty, which is its total abolition. Only abolition can avoid the irreversibility of any miscarriage of justice, the unnecessary infliction of suffering and the violation of human dignity and integrity that is inherent to the act itself.
The Committee of Ministers acknowledges that there is an ongoing open and intense democratic debate in American society on all issues related to the death penalty. Moreover, it recognises that in the last few years several US States have abolished the death penalty.
In this context, the Committee of Ministers regrets that the New Hampshire Senate did not repeal the death penalty in April and strongly hopes that the same bill will be adopted during the current Senate session, making New Hampshire the 19th State to abolish the death penalty.
The Committee of Ministers strongly urges the USA, as an Observer State to the Council of Europe, to end completely this inhumane practice with the establishment of a moratorium on the use of death penalty as a first step towards its total abolition.