U.N. panel calls for U.S. death penalty moratorium
By Laura MacInnis
GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States should impose a death penalty moratorium and stop sentencing young offenders to life in prison until it can root out racial bias from its justice system, a United Nations panel said on Friday.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also called on Washington to end racial profiling of Americans of Arab, Muslim and South Asian descent, and to ensure immigrants and non-nationals are not mistreated.
The 18 independent experts expressed concern that racial minorities in the United States were more likely than whites to be sentenced to death or to life without parole as juveniles.
They recommended the United States "discontinue the use of life sentence without parole against persons under the age of 18 at the time the offense was committed, and review the situation of persons already serving such sentences."
Their report also urged Washington to "adopt all necessary measures, including a moratorium, to ensure that the death penalty is not imposed as a result of racial bias on the part of prosecutors, judges, juries and lawyers."
An unofficial moratorium has effectively been in place since just after the U.S. Supreme Court said on September 25 that it would decide on an appeal by two death row inmates from Kentucky arguing that the three-chemical cocktail used in lethal injections inflicted unnecessary pain and suffering.
One convicted killer was executed in Texas hours later but no one has been since then. The court is expected to rule on the matter by the end of June.
The ruling will not address whether the death penalty or even lethal injection are constitutional, but is focused on the current method of lethal injection that most states use. Continued...