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USA: Spate of executions during election month - 'chilling reminder' of human rights failings

Seven executions set for next 10 days

Amnesty International has today (11 November) described a spate of executions scheduled in the United States during November as a “chilling reminder” of how much the country has to do to improve its human rights record.

After a week of international attention on the election of Barack Obama, the human rights organisation is warning that “it’s business as usual on Death Row USA”, with seven executions scheduled in the United States in the next 10 days alone.

The first execution is due to go ahead tomorrow tonight in the state of Texas, where 36-year-old George Whitaker is set to die by lethal injection. Four further executions are scheduled in Texas in the coming days, while two other executions are set to take place in the states of Kentucky (the first in this state for nearly a decade) and Ohio.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“It’s only a week since Barack Obama’s historic election win but with a spate of executions scheduled in the USA this month we already have a chilling reminder of how much needs to be done to improve the country’s human rights standing in the world.

“Change is heralded but in the meantime it’s business as usual on Death Row USA. A week ago we were looking at the election results state by state, now we’re looking at forthcoming executions state by state.

“The death penalty is always cruel and unnecessary and carries the inescapable risk of irreversible error. We urgently need a US president prepared to speak out against executions.

“When he takes office in January, Barack Obama should insist that it’s time for change on capital punishment and call a moratorium on federal executions as a first step to leading his country towards abolition.”

Despite various recent challenges to the legality of the death penalty in the United States, there have been 31 executions in the country so far this year. Since the resumption of capital punishment in the USA in 1977, there have been 1,130 executions, one of the highest numbers anywhere in the world.

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