Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Death Penalty Moratorium in the State of Washington

February 26, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The IACHR welcomes the announcement made by Governor Jay Inslee on February 11, 2014, imposing a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in the state of Washington, United States.

Governor Inslee’s decision comes after months of careful review of the status of capital punishment in Washington state. According to the official announcement, “the use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.” Governor Inslee also acknowledged that “there are too many flaws in the system” and that “when the ultimate decision is death there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.” There are currently nine men on death row in Washington.

The Inter-American Commission notes, however, that this suspension of the executions does not mean a long-term reprieve and could be lifted by the next state administration.

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. The United States is currently the only country in the Western hemisphere to carry out executions.

The Commission highlights the fact that eighteen states and the District of Columbia have already abolished the death penalty in the United States (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin) and that some states have a moratorium imposed by the governor or the courts.

In its report “The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition” published in 2012, the IACHR called for a moratorium on executions as a step toward the gradual disappearance of this penalty. The Inter-American Commission hopes that the moratorium in the state of Washington is a step toward the abolition of capital punishment and that other states will follow in the abolition or moratorium of the death 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. 22/14