The U.N. human rights office criticized the Trump administration’s decision to reinstate federal executions after a 16-year hiatus, saying it bucks the national and international trend to abolish the death penalty.
The U.N. human rights office says Washington’s decision to resume executions of federal inmates on death row flies in the face of the most basic human right, that of the right to life. It says it also is a blow to progress toward universal abolition of capital punishment.
The United Nations reports around 170 of 194 U.N. member sates either have abolished the death penalty altogether in law or in practice.
Human rights spokesman Rupert Colville says executing people is wrong on many levels. He says a major concern is the risk of putting to death people who are innocent of the crime for which they are charged. He says reports in the United States based on DNA evidence have shown that some states have put innocent people to death.
“There is also really an absence of any proof that the death penalty actually serves as a deterrent, which is often given as a reason for using it,” Colville said. “And, there also, of course, are considerable concerns, especially in the United States that it is being applied arbitrarily and often in a discriminatory fashion, particularly… affects people from poor backgrounds and from minorities.”
Last week, U.S. Attorney General, William Barr reinstated federal executions. He says the first executions of five inmates on death row are to begin in December with additional executions to be scheduled at a later date.
Sixty inmates are currently on the federal death row in the U.S. A recent poll finds 56 percent of Americans support the death penalty, a considerable drop from 80 percent in the mid-1990s.
Colville says Attorney General Barr’s decision is counter to U.S. and international trends. He notes 21 states have completely abolished the death penalty and four others have issued moratoriums, creating a 50-50 split in the country between states that favor capital punishment and those that do not.