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INTERNATIONAL: Roman Colosseum Lit to Mark Connecticut's Abolition of Death Penalty

On November 29, the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, was illuminated in honor of Connecticut's repeal of the death penalty in April of this year. The event featured former death row inmate Shujaa Graham of California and George Kain of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. Five states in the past five years have abolished the death penalty: Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York. The program also commemorated the 10th World Day of Cities Against the Death Penalty, sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a faith-based organization focusing on conflict resolution and interfaith dialoge. See a slide slow of pictures from participating cities at this link.


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INTERNATIONAL: U.N. Death Penalty Resolution Backed by Record Number of Countries

On November 19, 110 countries voted for a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty. The vote marked record support for the resolution compared to previous years. Among the countries supporting the resolution were the European Union nations, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Israel. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries opposing the non-binding resolution in the Assembly's Third Committee, which addresses human rights issues. Thirty-six countries abstained. Recently, France launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would also be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure. Around the world, about 141 are abolitionist in law or in practice, while 57 countries retain the death penalty.


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FOREIGN NATIONALS: Reprieve Issues New Report on Foreign Nationals on Death Row In U.S.

A new report by Reprieve, a non-profit organization based in London that provides legal representation and humanitarian assistance to foreign nationals on death row in the U.S., found that many U.S. states were not in compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).  This treaty, which the U.S. has signed and ratified, requires participating countries to give arrested individuals from other countries timely notice of their right to contact their consular officials.  In 95% of the U.S. death penalty cases involving foreign nationals reviewed by Reprieve, the requirements of the treaty had not been met. The report stated, “It is widely accepted that foreign nationals are at a significant disadvantage when confronted with the intricacies of the US criminal justice system - particularly when facing capital charges. They are likely to encounter various cultural and linguistic barriers that hamper their ability effectively to engage in the judicial process."  The report noted that none of the 37 death penalty states satisfactorily met their obligations under the VCCR, and even the federal government failed in 75% of their cases for which there was data.  The report concluded with a series of recommendations for other countries to follow to effect full U.S. implementation of this treaty.


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INTERNATIONAL: UN Investigator Claims Executions are Increasingly Viewed as Torture Around the World

On October 23, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, told a UN General Assembly human rights committee that countries around the world are increasingly viewing capital punishment as a form of torture because of the severe mental and physical pain it inflicts on those sentenced to death. Mendez told the committee, “States need to re-examine their procedures under international law because the ability of states to impose and carry out the death penalty is diminishing as these practices are increasingly viewed to constitute torture.” Mendez urged all countries to consider repealing capital punishment because it is “cumbersome and expensive and you’re never sure you’re doing it in the right way.” Mendez also spoke about the “death row phenomenon," that is, conditions on death row that cause severe mental anguish and physical suffering. He said such deprivations include anxiety due to the threat of imminent execution, extended solitary confinement, and poor prison conditions.


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LETHAL INJECTION: Manufacturer of Proposed Execution Drug Blocks Its Use

The main supplier to the U.S. of a drug proposed for lethal injections has announced it will not allow the drug to be sold for executions. Fresenius Kabi USA, a German-based company with offices in Illinois, issued a statement forbidding the sale of propofol to correctional institutions for death penalty use. Earlier in 2012, Missouri announced it intended to switch to propofol as the sole drug in its lethal injection protocol, becoming the first state to do so. Fresenius Kabi officials reacted with a statement: “Fresenius Kabi objects to the use of its products in any manner that is not in full accordance with the medical indications for which they have been approved by health authorities. Consequently, the company does not accept orders for propofol from any departments of correction in the United States. Nor will it do so." Missouri, like most states with the death penalty, had been using sodium thiopental as the first drug in a three-drug protocol. Supplies of the drug expired or ran out, forcing states to seek alternatives. Some states replaced sodium thiopental with pentobarbital, but supplies of that drug have also dwindled after its manufacturer announced it will restrict the drug's sale for similar reasons. Read full statement from Fresenius Kabi.


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INTERNATIONAL: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Calls for Hold on Executions

On August 3, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS), which includes the U.S., called for a moratorium on executions in the region and released a report reviewing key areas of concern about the death penalty. The report made a series of recommendations for member States, including:
- States should refrain from any measure that would expand the application of the death penalty or reintroduce it,
- States should take any measures necessary to ensure compliance with the strictest standards of due process in capital cases,
- States should adopt any steps required to ensure that domestic legal standards conform to the heightened level of review applicable in death penalty cases, and
- States should ensure full compliance with decisions of the Inter-American Commission and Court, and specifically with decisions concerning individual death penalty cases and precautionary and provisional measures.


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FOREIGN NATIONALS: Information About Citizens from Other Countries on U.S. Death Rows

New information on foreign nationals facing the death penalty in the U.S. is now available on DPIC’s Foreign Nationals page. This page provides background information on citizens from other countries who have been sentenced to death in various states and under the federal system.  The list includes information on whether these defendants were informed of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention, which the U.S. has ratified and depends upon to protect its citizens when they travel abroad.  Some foreign nationals have been executed in the U.S. despite not being properly informed of their rights under this treaty.  The new information was provided by Mark Warren of Human Rights Research.


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United Kingdom Acts to Ban Export of Lethal Injection Drug

The United Kingdom has introduced restictions on the exportation of propofol after officials in Missouri announced they would begin using the anesthetic in executions. Exports of sodium thiopental, another anesthetic previously used in executions, were restricted after several states obtained that drug from DreamPharma, a drug company run out of the back of a driving school in London. Vince Cable, the U.K. Business Secretary, said, "This country opposes the death penalty. We are clear that the state should never be complicit in judiciary executions through the use of British drugs in lethal injections." The ban will not prevent export of the drug for medical purposes.

Missouri is the first state to announce its intention to use propofol in executions. All executions in 2012 have used the anesthetic pentobarbital. Lundbeck, Inc., the Danish producer of pentobarbital, announced restrictions on its distribution to avoid its use in lethal injections. Recently, manufacturing rights were transferred to a U.S. company, Akorn, Inc., but restrictions on pentobarbital's use were to stay in place.  This week, Texas announced that it will begin using pentobarbital in a new one-drug protocol for executions.  Four other states have already used a one-drug procedure.  Oklahoma, which had previously stated that it had only enough pentobarbital for one more execution, announced on July 11 that it had acquired 20 additional doses from an unnamed source.


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NEW VOICES: UN Secretary-General Calls for Worldwide End to the Death Penalty

On July 3, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on UN Member States that use the death penalty to abolish the practice, stressing that the right to life lies at the heart of international human rights law. During a panel organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Ban said, “The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process… Where the death penalty persists, conditions for those awaiting execution are often horrifying, leading to aggravated suffering.”  Mr. Ban especially emphasized the need for change among Member States that impose the death penalty on juvenile offenders. He said, “I am also very concerned that some countries still allow juvenile offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offence to be sentenced to death and executed. The call by the General Assembly for a global moratorium is a crucial stepping stone in the natural progression towards a full worldwide abolition of the death penalty.”  In 2007, the UN General Assembly first endorsed a call for a worldwide moratorium of the death penalty, a resolution that has been repeated in subsequent years.  Today, more than 150 States have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.


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FOREIGN NATIONALS: The Importance of Intervention for Citizens of Other Countries Facing U.S. Death Penalty

A new video prepared with international support discusses the importance of foreign embassies lending support when citizens of their countries face the death penalty in the United States.  According to Ambassador Joao Vale de Almedia, Head of the European Union Delegation to the U.S., “Foreign nationals are particularly vulnerable in death penalty cases. They’re most likely not to know the language perfectly, and certainly not know the way justice is administered in that particular country. So it’s only normal that they require particular attention and help.”  Article 36 of the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations, a bi-lateral treaty that the U.S. has signed and ratified, requires that foreign nationals arrested in the United States (or elsewhere) be told of their right to communicate with their consulate for assistance. The video features Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador Bianca Jagger, as well as Ambassador Almedia and other legal experts, who describe some of the problems that foreign citizens face in the justice system and how consular officials can be of assistance.  There are about 136 foreign nationals on U.S. death rows from 37 different countries.


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