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The cruelty of death row and a glimmer or two of hope

There’s a man on death row facing imminent execution for the second time. 

How so? 

Romell Broom would already be dead if his execution by lethal injection on Tuesday hadn’t gone badly wrong when state officials couldn’t find a vein. After trying for an agonising two hours, during which Mr Broom became distressed but also attempted to help the officials try to do their grisly job, the execution was called off. For the time being.  

Broom’s lawyers, on the Today programme and in the Guardian, say that to go ahead with a second attempt would amount to “cruel and unusual punishment”.  

Strange that only in these very unusual circumstances should capital punishment be described as cruel. There have been previous claims that those being executed by lethal injection are paralysed, can feel pain but cannot move or cry out, but isn’t a death sentence followed by years, or even decades on death row, cruel anyway?  

There’s a glimmer of hope that lurid tales such as Romell Broom’s may help lead, one day, to the end of the death penalty in the USA. Impossible? Perhaps not – the Times reports that the only other industrialised democracy to retain capital punishment, Japan, has effectively put the hangings (rather than lethal injections in this case) on hold.

 The new Japanese Government has appointed an outspoken opponent of capital punishment as Justice Minister and she has the final say in signing execution orders for Japan’s 102 death row inmates.

If the cruelty of death row concerns you, as it does me, that’s good news because Japan’s treatment of its death row prisoners has been so harsh as to send many of them insane. For more on that, see Niluccio’s blog about Amnesty’s recent – and very timely – report.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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