U.N. Special Rapporteur Finds Major Problems with U.S. Death Penalty Systems

After a two-week visit to the United States, Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, expressed deep concern (PDF) about the way the country carries out capital punishment. During his visit, Alston met with officials in Austin, Texas; Montgomery, Ala.; New York and D.C., including ACLU national and state affiliate staff.

Noting his concerns about the poor quality of legal representation received by capital defendants in Alabama and Texas, Alston recommended that the two states establish well-funded, statewide public defender systems. He also stated that the states should establish another method of choosing a judiciary other than elections.

In addition to these recommendations, Alston pointed out that federal court review of constitutional claims—claims based on rights outlined inthe Constitution—in death sentences has been sharply curtailed by federal legislation erecting procedural barriers to full review. Alston recommends that Congress pass new legislation that would eliminate these barriers.

Alston recognized that innocent people have been sent to death row and some have been executed. He strongly disapproved of the lack of urgency showed by Alabama and Texas officials to reform the criminal justice system.

The Special Rapporteur also criticized the U.S. government for thelack of fair trials for those incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay. Alston stated that any death sentence that arises from the unfair trials of "alien enemy combatants" would violate international law.

Many of these issues were highlighted in a report by the ACLU's Human Rights Project and Capital Punishment Project to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Gary

Just what we need, another bunch of fat head anti Americans telling us how to run our penal system. We are a sovereign nation and don't need the UN, ACLU or any other anti American groups telling us how to run our country. The UN has never been successful in anything they have done, excluding cause trouble and they are trying to give advice to the greatest country on earth. If we had any leaders with some testosterone they would get us out of this lousy organization and tell them get out of our country. We have no use for you and your one world philosophy. They only want us because of the money the American taxpayer gets ripped off for. We should get out of the UN and toss them out of our country. They are doing everything within their power to destroy our sovereignty as a nation.

lee

I understand there are legitimate concerns pertaining to capital punishment. It is good that we have a conscience and agonize over the possible killing of innocent persons convicted of terrible crimes.

I do not however understand why the AMERICAN Civil Liberties Union should get excited over the opinion of a United Nations appointee when this tends to legitimize the notion of a higher international power.

It seems more appropriate for American concerns to be dealt with by Americans.

Anonymous

Two points:
1 The U.N. does not govern the U.S. We govern them. But, we DON'T run the U.N. you say? B.S. - who pays their bills? Who gives them one of the best pieces of realestate on the planet for nothing? Their "peace-keeping forces" are funded and primarily staffed by who?

2) The fact that they would even attempt to examine and/or criticize our legal system, when there are so many agregious violations of human rights occuring in so many other countries proves them to be a worthless, self-important mess.

Pete B in Ca

It seems as though we Americans are constantly provoking th U.N. through our actions. So, in order to promote a healthy relationship with the rest of the world perhaps we Americans should LEAVE th U.N. Reclaim the land we so generously granted them for their building, and then remind the rest of the world that we act in our own best interest. I am curious as to why anyone thinks that we should care what people from other countries think and or say about us. I do understand why the Germans are sore at us, with losing to us twice in less than thirty years. But I am baffled as to why the French bad mouth us so. After all, we saved their ungreatful a**es three times last century. Twice in Europe and once in Asia. People need to remember what it is to be an American. And I for one am sick of the world trying to tell us what to do.

John W

Being a Texan, I know what they're talking about. Just because the opinion sniped us from the UN doesn't mean that the opinion is invalid. Let's handle this on two fronts.

1) The UN is not a soverign nation that reigns over the US. We know that; they know that. They're calling a spade a spade, and we should listen.

2) The justice system in TX ramrods cases through based on emotion and outcry. Elected judges are pressured to seek the max penalty to appease constituents. In these cases the will of the people becomes the will of a mob. We're a "hang-em-high" people here in Texas; I wish we'd change.

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