Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Stay of Execution of Russell Bucklew in the United States

May 30, 2014

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the order of the United States Supreme Court to stay the execution of Russel Bucklew in the state of Missouri pending an appeal on the execution procedure.

Russell Bucklew was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on May 21, 2014, in the state of Missouri. On May 20, 2014, the IACHR granted precautionary measures asking the United States to refrain from carrying out the death penalty until it had the opportunity to issue a decision on claims regarding alleged violations of the American Declaration.

In the petition and the request for precautionary measures filed before the Commission, the petitioners argue, among other points, that because of a medical condition, Mr. Bucklew could face a “threat of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and even torture” if executed by the current method of compounding pentobarbital. According to the information provided, Mr. Bucklew suffers from cavernous hemangioma that has caused a tumor in his nose and throat, which reportedly constitutes a substantial risk that the airway be obstructed when executed causing excruciating pain.

On May 21, 2014, the United States Supreme Court stayed Mr. Bucklew’s execution and remanded the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. According to a public statement made by one of Mr. Bucklew’s attorneys, the appeals court will hear Mr. Bucklew’s claims “that he faced a great likelihood of a prolonged and tortuous execution because of the unique and severe medical condition.”

The Inter-American Commission welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court to stay Mr. Bucklew’s execution and reminds the United States and the state of Missouri that, in capital cases, the State has an enhanced obligation to ensure that the person sentenced to death has access to all the relevant information regarding the manner in which he or she is going to die. The IACHR urges all states that use the lethal injection as a method of execution, to disclose the drugs used, their source, the execution protocol, as well as the composition and training of the execution team, as this information forms a necessary part of the basis to file judicial challenges.

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. 63/14