For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Alexandra Ringe, ACLU National, 212-549-2666;

Missouri and Oklahoma Executions Will Violate International Law: ACLU Petitions Human Rights Tribunal

NEW YORK - This morning, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights showing that the upcoming executions by lethal injection in Missouri and Oklahoma will most certainly violate international law against torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, should they go forward. The ACLU asks that the executions be stopped until the IACHR can conduct independent investigations of the two cases.

At 12:01 AM CT on Wednesday, May 21, the state of Missouri is scheduled to execute Russell Bucklew, the first death-row prisoner in the U.S. to be executed since the horrifically botched killing of Clayton Lockett by lethal injection in Oklahoma. Physicians predict that lethal injection for Mr. Bucklew will be prolonged, torturous, and gruesome due to his cavernous hemangioma, a rare, lifelong, and severe condition that causes, among other problems, weakening of his veins and tumors in his nose and throat that severely compromise his airway. The state plans to use compounded pentobarbital, the same drug that has repeatedly proved problematic, including in the botched January 9, 2014, execution of Michael Lee Wilson, in Oklahoma, whose last words were "I feel my whole body burning," and in other executions that appeared to have serious difficulties.

Charles Warner is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma in November. The state has resisted initiating a third-party independent investigation of Mr. Lockett’s death. The petition asks the IACHR to request an independent investigation as a prerequisite to any preparations for Mr. Warner’s execution.

Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, said, "Lethal injection in the United States has reached such a level of barbarism that the world needs to know the facts. The application of the death penalty itself in the U.S. violates international human rights standards, yet we continue to administer it with methods shown over and over to flout our own constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. It’s time for the depravity to end."

In addition to detailing the cruelty in recent executions by lethal injection, the ACLU’s petition outlines the many ways in which the governments of Oklahoma and Missouri have hidden crucial information from the prisoners to be executed and the public. Cassandra Stubbs, Director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, noted, "Both the Oklahoma and Missouri governments have bent over backwards to keep secrets about lethal injection: they won’t let the public know where the drugs come from, who makes them, whether they have been tested for contaminants—the list goes on. We need these facts. Otherwise, we have no way of knowing that the same horrors won’t happen again and again, in our name."


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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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