'Cruel and Barbaric' US Executions Violate International Law: Lawyers

According to all publicly available information, 45-year-old Rusty Bucklew is slated this week to become the latest person in the United States to die by the experimental lethal injection drug implicated in a grisly botched execution in Oklahoma last month. Now a group of lawyers has taken the step of petitioning an international human rights body to intervene against this and another planned execution on the grounds that the killings would violate treaties protecting human rights.

In a petition filed Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union called for the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to ask the U.S. government for a stay of executions planned in Missouri and Oklahoma that they say would subject men on death row to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” and violate their rights to “be free from human experimentation without consent.”

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Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, told Common Dreams that, while this international body does not have jurisdiction to directly stop an execution, “they can ask the U.S. government to halt the executions, and the Obama administration could then, in turn, ask Missouri and Oklahoma to respond to precautionary measures.”

Bucklew is slated for execution May 21st, likely using compounded pentobarbital, which has been implicated in a series of botched executions, including that of Clayton Lockett, killed by the state of Oklahoma in April. Lockett writhed in pain after the execution was initiated, only to have the lethal injection called off after the drugs were deemed not to be working properly. Yet Lockett was then killed by a heart-attacked in a horrific scene that garnered global condemnation.

“We know that the drug protocol in Missouri is pentobarbital,” explained Stubbs, adding that there is no way to absolutely confirm that the drug will in fact be used because the state is concealing information about the execution. “There is no form of accountability currently that would give confidence about the efficacy of a drug or what it is,” she said.

In an interview with the Guardian last week, Bucklew stated, “If you don’t have anything to hide, then you put it out in the open. It’s that simple.” He added, “Am I gonna get all screwed up here? Are they gonna screw it up? And you know if anything can go wrong in Missouri, then it’s gonna go wrong.”