GENEVA, April 28 (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights office voiced deep concern on Friday at the execution of four men in Arkansas in the past week saying that the rush to carry them out before a drug expired added to the “arbitrariness and cruelty” of the process.
Arkansas on Thursday executed its fourth inmate in eight days, administering a lethal injection to a man who killed two people after escaping from a prison where he had been serving a life sentence for murdering a woman.
“We are deeply troubled that, after a 12 year de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, the U.S. state of Arkansas has executed four men in the space of eight days,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a news briefing.
The state had initially planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days in April, the most of any state in so short a period since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Four of those executions were halted by various courts.
The unprecedented schedule was set by Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson because a drug in the state’s mix for lethal injections, the sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.
Pharmaceutical companies have been increasingly unwilling to sell drugs used in capital punishment, although Arkansas law grants vendors confidentiality.
Throssell, in response to a reporter’s question, said: “Our concern is really the fact that these executions were scheduled because of the expiration date of the drug, and you are absolutely right that adds to the arbitrariness and cruelty of the whole process.”
“Rushing executions” can deny prisoners the chance to fully exercise their rights to appeal and can also lead to states shortening their clemency processes, thus affecting prisoners’ rights, she said.
The United Nations opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, but welcomed a decline in U.S. executions from 52 in 2009 to 20 last year, Throssell said.
So far this year there have been 10 executions, she said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Ralph Boulton)