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Planned US execution of seriously ill Doyle Hamm may amount to torture, UN experts warn

GENEVA (16 February 2018) – Two UN human rights experts* have called on the US Government to halt the execution of a seriously ill man amid concerns that the use of a lethal injection could amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and possibly torture.

The Special Rapporteurs also expressed concern that Doyle Hamm, who is due be executed in Alabama on 22 February, may not have received a fair trial. Mr. Hamm was convicted of robbery and murder in 1987 and has been on death row for more than three decades.

The execution is due to go ahead even though Mr. Hamm has cancer and medical professionals have previously had difficulty accessing his veins.

“We are seriously concerned that attempts to insert needles into Mr. Hamm’s veins to carry out the lethal injection would inflict pain and suffering that may amount to torture,” said the experts.
“The planned method of execution, using Alabama’s three-drug protocol, may also have torturous effects, because the sedative used is incapable of keeping a convict unconscious in the presence of the excruciating pain likely to be induced by the other drugs.

“We urge the authorities to halt his execution, annul his death sentence, and hold a re-trial that complies with international standards, as we have received information indicating that his original trial did not fully respect the most stringent due process and fair trial guarantees.”

The experts said that imposing the death penalty in a manner that constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would render the execution arbitrary in nature and thus be in violation of the fundamental right to life.

The experts have written to the US Government to express their concerns about the case.

Judges have ordered a fresh medical report to be delivered by 20 February, two days before the scheduled execution.


*The experts: Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Ms Rhiannon Painter (+41 22 917 9143 /  rpainter@ohchr.org ) or write to eje@ohchr.org.

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.