ODIHR Director Link concerned by accelerated executions using questionable drug in Arkansas
WARSAW, 19 April 2017 – Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), today raised concern about the compressed execution schedule in the State of Arkansas this month and called on the United States to once more consider the complete abolition of capital punishment, in the context of the international debate linking the practice with torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“My Office has noted the connection between the fundamental concepts of human dignity and the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment and the evolving international debate on the legality of the death penalty,” said Director Link. “I believe the unnecessarily hurried timetable of planned executions in Arkansas this month, using a questionable sedative drug, denies these prisoners both their right to due process and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.”
In February, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson set the state’s execution schedule to put to death eight inmates in the last two weeks of April, before the state’s supply of the sedative midazolam expires. As of today, five of the eight remain scheduled to die, three executions have been temporarily suspended.
Director Link said: “This accelerated schedule compromises the quality of legal representation available to these individuals during a process that should demand a high level of consideration and precaution from authorities. I also note that the drug in question has been implicated in a few cases of botched executions in other U.S. states and I am concerned that its misuse could contribute to sever pain and suffering and cruel deaths for the men Arkansas seeks to execute in the next week. Once again, I urge American authorities to consider abolishing the death penalty, as all but one other of the OSCE participating States have done.”
ODIHR’s most recent annual report The Death Penalty in the OSCE Area: Background Paper 2016, has a specific focus on the relationship between the practice of capital punishment and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It examines a number of issues surrounding the death penalty that are already considered by many as running afoul of the absolute prohibition, including the use of certain questionable methods of execution.