US Executions Reach Five-Year High: Amnesty International Report

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The recent report from Amnesty International revealed a concerning uptick in the number of executions in the United States, reaching a five year peak. Critics have strongly opposed the country’s consistent use of capital punishment.

In 2023, the US saw 24 individuals being executed, showing a 33% increase compared to the previous year and marking the highest number since 2018 when 25 people were put to death. This rise is significant considering the decreasing trend in executions since the late 1990s when annual figures were much higher, with a peak of 98 executions in 1999.

One noteworthy case from last year was Amber McLaughlin, who became the first transgender woman to be executed in the US. Convicted of murder and rape, she was put to death in Missouri through lethal injection. All executions carried out in the US were done by state authorities using this method last year.

Currently, lethal injection is predominantly used as a method of execution by 27 states and the federal government that still retain capital punishment.
However, this approach has encountered several challenges, such as flawed executions resulting in significant pain, mainly because of a lack of essential pharmaceuticals after the main producer stopped manufacturing them in 2009. As a result, some states have turned to different approaches.

Other Methods of Execution; A Somber Compilation
In light of the issues with lethal injections, various states have reintroduced or allowed alternative execution methods;

Firing Squad; Approved in Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah.
Electric Chair; Utilized in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Gas Chamber; Permitted in Alabama and six other states.

Criticism from Amnesty International
Amnesty International has strongly criticized the United States for its continued use of capital punishment. Secretary General Agnes Callamard condemned the country’s stance by saying that “Certain US states have shown a disturbing commitment to the death penalty and a cold hearted willingness to dedicate resources to ending human lives.”

The organization also raised concerns about the adoption of nitrogen asphyxiation as an untested new method. Alabama made headlines when Kenneth Smith was executed using nitrogen gas due to the shortage of lethal injection drugs. This sparked further debates on ethical considerations.The Global Scenario; An Increase in Executions
The surge in executions is not limited to the United States alone. Amnesty International highlighted a worldwide uptick, with 1,153 executions in 2023, showing a rise of over 30% from the previous year. This marks the highest number since 2015 when there were 1,634 recorded executions.

Possible Outcome; A Bleak Outlook?
The spike in executions in the US, along with the global trend, presents a somber outlook on the future of capital punishment. While some states are considering alternative methods due to challenges with lethal injections, debates persist around the ethical concerns and potential for cruel practices. Amnesty International’s report acts as a stark reminder of the ongoing discussions surrounding the death penalty and its role in contemporary justice systems.

As discussions progress, attention is likely to focus on striking a balance between justice and compassion, questioning whether capital punishment truly acts as a deterrent or merely perpetuates cycles of violence.

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