United States Committee Against Torture Death Penalty Oct. 2014

The report highlights that the administration of the death penalty in the United States raises serious concerns that condemned prisoners are experiencing severe pain and suffering when being executed, in violation of U.S. obligations under the Torture Convention. Shortages of lethal injection drugs have prompted states to experiment with drugs obtained from unregulated sources and new drugs not previously used in lethal injections. States have attempted to shield these decisions from public examination by passing secrecy laws that, among other consequences, prevent condemned prisoners from challenging their executions on grounds that they will experience severe pain and suffering. As a result of these changes, condemned prisoners in several recent executions apparently suffered severe pain.

The report offers the following suggested recommendations:

  • The U.S. federal government and U.S. states should impose a moratorium on the death penalty in light of the risk of imposing torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment by lethal injection;
  • The U.S. federal government should enact legislation to ensure that lethal injections are carried out: (1) via well-tested procedures that do not subject prisoners to unnecessary pain; (2) with full oversight and transparency of the sourcing and administration of the drugs; and (3) using drugs regulated and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and
  • In full compliance with the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Cook et al. v FDA et al., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should bar importation of any drug which is found to be in violation of § 21 U.S.C. 381(a) and should seize drugs imported in violation of that statute.