World executed fewer prisoners as Brandon Bernard and others are being executed in the U.S.

The Trump administration, which announced it would resume federal executions in 2019 after a 16-year moratorium, plans to execute at lea...

The Trump administration, which announced it would resume federal executions in 2019 after a 16-year moratorium, plans to execute at least four more people before Biden takes office, putting the country at odds with a larger trend of declining executions worldwide.

According to Amnesty International, the rate of global executions has declined in the past few years with 657 recorded in 2019, compared with 690 in 2018 and 993 in 2017.

The United States executed 22 people in 2019, behind only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt. It has been the only country in the Americas to carry out capital punishment for more than a decade.

In fact, much of the world has gotten rid of the practice. As of 2019, 106 countries had abolished capital punishment, and nearly 30 more have abolished it in practice.

Kim Kardashian West, along with other high-profile figures, tweeted out opposition to Bernard’s execution in the days before his death, calling for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison.

America’s practice of the death penalty has not only set it apart from its allies but also had geopolitical implications. Countries have historically expressed hesitancy to extradite prisoners to the United States without assurance they will not be executed.

In 1986 Jens Soering, a German national, was detained in Britain and indicted on murder charges in the United States, which sought his extradition. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1989 that Soering should not be extradited if he would face the death penalty in Virginia. After the United States said he would not face capital punishment, Soering was extradited, convicted and sentenced to life behind bars before a surprise release in 2019.

Since then, countries have enshrined such assurances in their extradition agreements with the United States. In 2001, Canada’s supreme court ruled against death-penalty extraditions to the United States apart from “exceptional cases.”

The United Nations has repeatedly spoken out against capital punishment. In 2017, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said the practice “has no place in the 21st century.”

The United States has also faced international pushback related to its methods of execution. In 2011, the European Union moved to tightly control the export of drugs that could be used for “capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The move followed Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck’s decision that year to stop exporting pentobarbital to U.S. prisons, which used the drug for lethal injections. Other pharmaceutical companies followed suit, resulting in a shortage of lethal injection drugs in the country’s penitentiaries.

The ban was met with mixed results: Some prisons deprived of supplies experimented with different substances, resulting in cases of botched or drawn-out executions.

Still the Trump administration has found access. Bernard was executed in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., with a lethal injection of pentobarbital. The Trump administration began laying the groundwork to procure the drug in 2017, a 2020 Reuters investigation found, with some U.S. companies involved in testing the drug unaware of the intended purpose.

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Newsrust: World executed fewer prisoners as Brandon Bernard and others are being executed in the U.S.
World executed fewer prisoners as Brandon Bernard and others are being executed in the U.S.
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