The European Union has criticized the US state of Arkansas for scheduled executions for the period between 17 April and 27 April on the grounds that it de-facto breaks the moratorium on capital punishment observed by Arkansas since November 2005. The southern US state bordering the Mississippi River would become the first state in the country to conduct 7 executions over an 11-day period since the resumption of the use of death penalty in 1977 in the United States.
Capital punishment is illegal in the 19 out of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia. In 2016, the United States did not rank among the world’s five biggest executioners for the first time since 2006 and only the second time since 1991. Amnesty International reports that only five US states executed people in 2016: Alabama (2), Florida (1), Georgia (9), Missouri (1), Texas (7), with Texas and Georgia, accounting for 80% of the country’s executions in 2016. The number of executions (20) has fallen to the record low in any year since 1991 and the number of executions has fallen every year since 2009 (except for 2012 when it stayed the same).
According to the EU, the executions in Arkansas, if carried out as planned, would be a serious setback in this overall development. Europe has long advocated that while capital punishment fails to act as a deterrent to crime, it represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity and cannot be justified under any circumstances. More than 140 countries in the world are now abolitionist in law or practice. The EU has called on the Governor of Arkansas to commute the sentences and grant the convicts relief from the death penalty.