Human-Rights Commission Chastises Utah’s Firing Squad Death Penalty


Español On Wednesday, March 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concerns over the state of Utah’s decision to restore the firing squad as a method of execution if drugs used for lethal injections are not available.

US states have been struggling to procure the drugs necessary to carry out lethal injections.
US states have been struggling to procure the drugs necessary to carry out lethal injections. (Flickr)

The IACHR, which considers the death penalty a “crucial challenge in the field of human rights,” says the adoption of the bill is a “step backwards.”

According to the Center for Information on Death Penalty, cited by the IACHR, “death by firing squad, can cause an inhuman, slow, and painful death” which would constitute a breach of the international obligation “not to expose persons within its jurisdiction to cruel and unusual punishment.”

Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill into law on March 23. The new regulation would allow death by firing squad only when drugs used for executions are unavailable, as has recently been the case in several states.

In 2011, US-based pharmaceutical company Hospira stopped producing sodium thiopental, a key drug in lethal injections, after facing problems acquiring the active ingredients in the drug and legal threats from authorities in Italy, where the death penalty is strongly opposed.

Death by firing squad had been an option for inmates on the death row in Utah until 2004, when the state outlawed the choice. The last firing squad execution was in 2010, as chosen by a death-row inmate sentenced before the 2004 law.

In 2012, the IACHR published a report, entitled The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition, recommending its members to “implement a moratorium on executions as a step forward the gradual abolition of  this penalty.”

The United States is the only IACHR member that still carries out executions. Guatemala, Cuba, as well as several Caribbean islands, suspended the enforcement of capital punishment in 2008.

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