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Helsinki Commission Releases U.S. Statement on the Exchange of Information on the Death Penalty

WARSAW, POLAND – The following statement was delivered by the United States during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation currently being held in Warsaw, Poland:

Exchange of Information on the Death Penalty

Right of Reply

Delivered by Stephen Epstein

U.S. Delegation to the

OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

With regard to the death penalty in the United States today: we have been listening closely. And we note that in the United States, capital punishment is also a controversial and emotional issue, with strong opponents and defenders.

The death penalty in the U.S. is not applied monolithically. A number of states do not use capital punishment, either because of a moratorium, or a statutory judicial prohibition. And, most of the states that do permit capital punishment rarely impose it.

At present, a majority of Americans continues to support use of the death penalty for the most heinous of crimes. Therefore, the majority of states and the federal government retain the authority to impose capital punishment.

It is the position of the United States government that the practice of the death penalty in the United States and its constituent states is consistent with international law. International law limits capital punishment to the most serious crimes and requires certain safeguards, most notably due process, but it does not prohibit capital punishment. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specifically recognizes the right of states that have not abolished the death penalty, to impose it. In the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court has strictly limited the application of the death penalty to conform to the international obligations we have accepted.

In the past, the United States has not hesitated to share its views on a wide variety of issues with the rest of the world. And, in the same spirit, we welcome this opportunity to receive the opinions of some of our friends around this table.

I will carry your views back to Washington. Further, you should know that your views are covered fully in the American media, and so contribute to the ongoing debate within the United States.

We value the honesty of your comments, and thank you for the constructive spirit in which they have been offered.

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