Just as public opinion in opposition to the death penalty in the U.S. is growing, so too do international calls for the U.S. to abandon this outdated and ineffective injustice continue. On March 25th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of the American States (OAS) convened a public hearing on the death penalty in Washington, DC.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which has partnered with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission toward the goal of abolition in the U.S., was invited to attend the public hearing by colleagues of the Embassy of Mexico.
The IACHR has dealt with the death penalty as a crucial human rights challenge for decades and released a report called, “The death penalty in the inter-American human rights system: from restrictions to abolition” in 2011. While the regional instruments for protection of human rights do not prohibit capital punishment but strongly restrict its application, most of the American States have abolished it. For the minority which retain it, including the U.S.–which is the only country in the Western hemisphere to carry out executions–the IACHR called for a moratorium on executions as a step toward the gradual disappearance of the penalty. Multiple States (such as Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, Dominican Republic and also France as a Permanent Observer) and Amnesty International spoke at the hearing to support the repeal of the death penalty. They highlighted the significant changes in the past few years and the fact that the death penalty is increasingly called into question in the OAS Member States that retain it.
For instance in the U.S.: six states have repealed capital punishment in the last six years, and New Hampshire could become the seventh. Three states have declared a moratorium on executions, and support for the death penalty among the general population has decreased sharply.
Mexico is particularly concerned about the death penalty in the U.S. as 60 of the 140 foreign nationals currently on death row in the U.S. are Mexican nationals. Most of them were sentenced in violation of their Vienna Convention rights without being informed about their right to contact their Consulate and receive legal assistance.
Argentina also expressed its concern about the violation, by the state of Texas, of the human rights of its only citizen on death row worldwide.
Abolition of capital punishment requires political will and courage, and the IACHR’s goal on this issue is to keep it on the top of the Member States agendas.