Press Release

IACHR Condemns Execution of John Winfield in the United States

June 23, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the judicial execution of John Winfield, which took place on June 18, 2014, in Missouri, United States, in violation of his fundamental rights.

On June 4, 2014, a petition alleging the violation of rights set forth in the American Declaration and a request for precautionary measures were filed on Mr. Winfield’s behalf. On June 6, 2014, the IACHR granted precautionary measures asking the United States to refrain from carrying out the death penalty until the Commission had the opportunity to issue a decision on those claims.

The Inter-American Commission deplores the failure on the part of the United States and the state of Missouri to comply with the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR. The failure of the United States to preserve Mr. Winfield 's life pending a petition before the IACHR contravenes its international legal obligations derived from the Charter of the Organization of American States, in force since the United States joined the OAS in 1951, and the American Declaration.

The Inter-American Commission has dealt with the death penalty as a crucial human rights challenge for decades. While a majority of the member States of the Organization of American States has abolished capital punishment, a substantial minority retains it. In this regard, the Commission notes that the United States is currently the only country in the Western hemisphere to carry out executions.

The Commission reiterates the recommendation made in its report “The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition” published in 2012, that States impose a moratorium on executions as a step toward the gradual disappearance of this penalty.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 69/14