Delegation of the European Union to the Council of Europe

EU Statement on federal executions in the USA

Brussels, 13/01/2021 - 12:57, UNIQUE ID: 210113_7
Statements on behalf of the EU

1392nd meeting of the Committee of Ministers on 13 January 2021

  1. The EU deeply regrets the decision by the outgoing Federal Government of the United States of America to proceed with federal executions until 20 January 2021.
  2. On 10 December, International Human Rights Day, Brandon Bernard was executed for a crime committed in 1999, when he was only 18 years old. The execution took place despite the recent change of positions of five of the nine jurors who had originally convicted him. On 11 December, Alfred Bourgeois was executed by lethal injection. On 13 January, Lisa Montgomery, a woman with severe mental illness, who has suffered domestic violence and extreme sexual abuse from early childhood, was executed.
  3. The executions of Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs which were scheduled to take place before 20 January have been now stayed until at least March 16 in a move intended to allow them to recover from COVID-19 infections.
  4. If these executions are carried out, this would amount to a total of 13 executions having taken place since July 2020, breaking a more than 120 years old record, concerning the number of federal executions in a one-year period. They would also represent a further departure from the long-standing de facto moratorium on federal executions that had been in place for 17 years. Moreover, the outgoing US Administration is the first of its kind to set up federal executions during a presidential transition since 1889.
  5. The EU also deplores the new regulations issued by the US Department of Justice that took effect in December 2020, allowing the reintroduction of highly controversial methods of execution by electrocution, firing squad, hanging or lethal gas.
  6. In contrast, we positively assess that fewer new death sentences were imposed in individual US states in 2020 than in any prior year since capital punishment resumed in the United States in 1970s, and that they carried out fewer executions than at any time in the past 37 years.
  7. The EU reaffirms its strong opposition to the use of death penalty at all times and circumstances. The death penalty violates the inalienable right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime and makes any miscarriage of justice irreversible. 
  8. We reiterate our call upon the Federal Government and upon those states of the United States which still apply the death penalty to establish a moratorium on the application of capital punishment, as a first step towards its complete abolition.  
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