Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Abolition of Death Penalty in New Hampshire, United States

June 17, 2019

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) applauds the abolition of the death penalty in the state of New Hampshire, United States. This measure has consolidated the move toward the gradual elimination of this form of punishment in the United States.

According to publicly available information, the death penalty was abolished in New Hampshire as of May 30, 2019. New Hampshire has not carried out any executions since 1939, and there is currently only one person in the state on death row.

The IACHR has been targeting the death penalty as a crucial human rights challenge for decades. Although most OAS member states have abolished capital punishment, it continues to exist in a substantial minority. In this regard, the IACHR wishes to underline that the United States is currently the only country in the Western Hemisphere that actually executes people who are sentenced to death. In relation to this, the IACHR wishes to reiterate the recommendations it made in The Death Penalty and the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition, a report which seeks to eliminate the death penalty or, failing that, to implement moratoriums on executions as a step toward gradual abolition.

“The main concerns that the IACHR has in connection with the use of the death penalty are the risk of executing innocent people, the arbitrariness and unfairness with which people are sentenced to the death penalty, and the fact that being held on death row constitutes inhuman treatment,” said Commissioner Joel Hernández, rapporteur for the rights of people who are deprived of their liberty and for the prevention and combating of torture. “We value the actions that the state of New Hampshire has taken to abolish this form of punishment, which is a step toward guaranteeing dignified treatment for all people in its custody,” he added.

“This year, the state of California imposed a moratorium on executions for all people on death row; the state of Washington abolished the death penalty in 2018; and New Hampshire has now become the 21st state in the United States to have done likewise,” said Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, the rapporteur for the United States. “This is in keeping with international standards on this issue, which stipulate that the death penalty should be suspended until it is done away with altogether. We call on all states in the Americas to take the necessary steps to abolish this form of punishment,” she added.

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 and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 152/19