Taking our rightful place in the world

The President of the USA is frequently known as the leader of the free world, at least until recently. But there is one area of our law where the US is a member of a group with whom we would not normally be counted.

US death penalty fact and figures

At the end of 2017 according to Amnesty International, there are 2,724 people on death row in the US. Over 1600 of them are held in just five states. California has a quarter of them under lock and key.

Last year 23 people were executed here, which put us at the same level as Somalia who executed 24. We added a further 41 to the list.

How the world views the death penalty

The Middle East is far and away the home of the death penalty. 85% of all last year’s executions took place in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. However, this is in marked contrast to a global trend in reducing executions.

In 2017 there were less than 1,000 executions. A 4% drop over the prior year and fully 39% on 2015. Guatemala became the 142nd country to abolish the death penalty and making S. America the only continent without the death penalty. Belarus spoils Europe’s record and only three countries in Africa retain the penalty.

The picture in the US is contrary to the Global trend.

Where is the US compared globally?

China keeps its execution numbers a state secret. Amnesty assumes that it tops these infamous charts, citing thousands of people being executed and sentenced to death. But removing China from the comparison, where does the US rate?

Amnesty points out the actual number of executions and sentences increases but suggests it remains within the low-ish trends. However, it is not all good news.

Arkansas recommenced executions and in what is a move of shocking cynicism executed eight people within a ten-day window. The unwonted hurry being because of the three drugs used in the lethal injection was about to expire. Anyone want to talk about what cruel and unusual means? Florida, California and Nevada all also reinstated executions in 2017.

Even more disturbing was the Texas execution of heir Rubén Cárdenas Ramírez without advising him of his right as a Mexican national to contact his consulate. This is a violation of our international obligations under the UN Vienna Convention on Consular relations. It is evidence of a disturbing trend.

Whose company do we keep?

Here’s the really distressing part besides the fact the Amnesty International cites the country that is the leader of the free world as showing a new contempt for life, in the list of countries who execute people only Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Pakistan and Somalia are ahead of us. Afghanistan and Vietnam figure below us as does the Congo.

This is a deplorable situation. It does not reflect how we see ourselves or how we want to be seen in the eyes of the world.