Stop first federal executions in 17 years

Death Penalty
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On 15 June 2020, the US Attorney General William Barr directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of four death row prisoners who were tried and convicted under federal law. The executions have been set to be carried out at the US Federal Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana, on 13, 15 and 17 July and 28 August. If carried out, these would be the first US federal executions since 2003. 

The move follows the introduction by the federal authorities of a revised lethal injection protocol in July 2019, allowing for the use of pentobarbital as a single-drug; and the subsequent setting of five executions between December 2019 and January 2020, which were temporarily stayed to allow the courts to consider appeals filed on behalf of the men.

The US death penalty system is deeply flawed and arbitrary. There have been more than 1,500 executions in the USA since judicial killing resumed under revised statutes in 1977, yet research and individual cases have continuously shown that race, particularly of the murder victim, plays a role in who is sentenced to death. As of 7 July, 2020, 170 people have been exonerated from death row since 1977. In numerous cases, prisoners have gone to their deaths despite serious doubts about the proceedings that led to their convictions, including without adequate legal representation. People with serious mental and intellectual disabilities have been subjected to the death penalty in violation of international law.

No federal executions have been carried out for nearly two decades. As of July 2020, 22 US states have abolished the death penalty and 11 have not carried out executions in more than 10 years. Figures on 2019 executions and death sentences in the USA represented the second lowest yearly totals recorded in 28 and 46 years, respectively. The majority of the world has abandoned the use of the death penalty, with a small minority – 7 US states and 19 other countries – carrying out executions in 2019. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt accounted for 86% of confirmed global executions in 2019. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organization campaigns for total abolition of capital punishment.

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