US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



USHRN Calls for a National Moratorium on the Death Penalty

Jan 9, 2020

In light of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to resume federal executions for the first time in sixteen years, the US Human Rights Network released the following statement:

On December 8, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a district court ruling that halted five federal executions that were planned to take place that month. The US Human Rights Network commends this ruling and stresses that the death penalty is a clear violation of basic human rights. The Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to reinstate federal executions is a message to human rights defenders that the administration will continue to repeal the human rights of people residing in the US and around the world. 

We must not allow federal executions to resume. Capital punishment is a flagrant violation of the basic human right to life, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, a 2007 UN General Assembly resolution (A/RES/62/149) called for a global moratorium on capital punishment, which was re-adopted in 2014 with 117 countries voting in favor of the resolution. The US is a minority of countries who continues to use capital punishment alongside China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and North Korea [1]. Our allies in Mexico, Canada, South America, Europe, and Australia have largely abolished the death penalty. 

The death penalty’s implementation in the United States has been proven to be racist and classist. USHRN member the AFSC has importantly noted that the death penalty is “inflicted most often upon the poor, and particularly upon racial minorities, who do not have the means to defend themselves that are available to wealthier offenders.” [2] According to USHRN member the Equal Justice Initiative, “African Americans make up 42% of people on death row and 34% of those executed, but only 13% of the population is black.” [3]

In addition to its highly biased application on the poor and people of color, death penalty sentencing is not immune to human error nor criminal justice system corruption/official misconduct — since 1973, a total of 166 wrongly convicted people on death row have been proven innocent, exonerated, and released. 

People in the US agree that the death penalty is cruel, inhumane, biased, and violates basic human rights. So far, 21 states have abolished capital punishment, while many clergy leaders, community organizations, and members of the public have also come out staunchly against the practice. The US Human Rights Network stands with our partners at the ACLU [4] in urging the US to impose a national moratorium on the use of capital punishment, and to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR which aims to abolish the death penalty. We call on an end to the Trump administration’s wreckless attempts to reinstate federal executions, and we commit to leading a human rights movement in the United States that demands the respect of every person's human dignity.

Our members are working on the ground to reform the criminal justice system including fighting to end the death penalty. Please visit their websites below:

Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign

American Civil Liberties Union

American Friends Service Committee

Best Practices Policy Project

Derechos Humanos

Equal Justice Initiative

Justice Strategies

Latino Justice PRLDEF

Puente Human Rights Movement

Workers Center for Racial Justice

For more information on the death penalty, please visit these articles on our partners’ websites:

Equal Justice Initiative: Death Penalty

ACLU: The Case Against the Death Penalty

ACLU: Capital Punishment