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Commissioners: Tracy Robinson, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, James L. Cavallaro
Petitioners: Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, Dominican Republic
Observers: Permanent Observer of France to the Organization of American States and Amnesty International
Nine Member States to the Organization of American States requested a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the death penalty in the Americas. The states, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, and the Dominican Republic, expressed an interest in working towards abolishing the death penalty in the Americas in order to protect the right to life and asked for the Commission’s assistance in encouraging abolition.
The Commission also held a thematic hearing on the death penalty in the Americas in 2013 at the request of member states. At the hearing last year, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Dominican Republic, France, and Amnesty International participated. Last year’s participating Member States and observers asked the Commission at that time for abolition of capital punishment and a report on those executed due to the death penalty. The participants also asked the Commission to alternatively, if the death penalty is not abolished, encourage the restriction of capital punishment. The Commission and the Organization of American States (OAS) have also focused on the death penalty outside of thematic hearings. The OAS adopted the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty in 1990. Thirteen Member States are a party to the Protocol, including the petitioning states. Additionally, the Commission published a report in 2012 on the death penalty.
At the hearing on March 24, 2014, the petitioning Member States asked the Commission to follow up on their recommendations from the hearing last year. The Petitioners asked the Commission for three things: to work towards abolition of the death penalty; to restrict the use of the death penalty and ensure the highest standards of due process; and to analyze the role of the Commission and the member states of the OAS in addressing the death penalty. The Representative from Mexico emphasized that what has been reported in the United Nations and discussed in the Commission is that there is no conclusive evidence on the value of the death penalty. He further stressed that the Commission should take a proactive role in encouraging a dialogue in the Americas so that countries can share best practices.
The Petitioners and the Commission focused on the United States and Caribbean states that still have the death penalty. The Representative for Argentina described the poor conditions of Victor Saldán’s confinement, an Argentine on death row in Texas. The Representative from Amnesty International recognized that eighteen U.S. states have abolished the death penalty and that three countries in the Caribbean reported empty death rows, but she also emphasized that the United Sates executed thirty-nine people in 2013 and that efforts have been made to continue executions in some Caribbean countries.
The Commissioners made final comments on the next steps the Commission and Member States can take on the death penalty. Commissioner Tracy Robinson noted the lack of observance of precautionary measures generally, including those dealing with death penalty cases. She particularly mentioned the position of the United States on both the death penalty and the Commission’s precautionary measures. Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez underscored the need to identify strategies beyond the current hearing, such as future meetings promoting the report of the Commission. Commissioner James L. Cavallaro said that as someone committed to the U.S. and a member of the Commission, he believes everything possible must be down to move towards abolition of the death penalty. Finally, Commissioner Robinson asked for help in disseminating the 2012 report on the death penalty.