UN condemns botched execution by lethal injection in US

Death row inmate Clayton Lockett is seen in a picture from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections dated June 29, 2011. The United Nations human rights office on Friday, May 2, 2014, condemned a botched execution by lethal injection in the United Stat
Death row inmate Clayton Lockett is seen in a picture from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections dated June 29, 2011. The United Nations human rights office on Friday, May 2, 2014, condemned a botched execution by lethal injection in the United States which left Lockett writhing in agony before he died. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nations human rights office on Friday condemned a botched execution by lethal injection in the United States which left a prisoner writhing in agony before he died.

Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer and rapist, was put to death in the state of Oklahoma on Tuesday after he was administered a new, untested three-drug protocol. He died of a massive heart attack 43 minutes after the start of the lethal injection. The process usually takes 10 minutes.

"The suffering of Clayton Lockett during his execution in Oklahoma on Tuesday, April 29, may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to international human rights law," said Mr Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

He said the execution also appeared to run counter to the US constitution, which bars "cruel and unusual punishment".

"The prolonged death of Clayton Lockett is the second case of apparent extreme suffering caused by malfunctioning lethal injections reported in 2014 in the United States," he told reporters.

The other case was that of Dennis McGuire, executed in Ohio in January with an allegedly untested combination of drugs.

"The apparent cruelty involved in these recent executions simply reinforces the argument that authorities across the United States should impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty and work for abolition of this cruel and inhuman practice," said Mr Coville.

Thirty-two out of the 50 US states still have the death penalty in their laws, in addition to the US federal government and the military. Eighteen states have abolished the death penalty, most recently Maryland in 2013 and Connecticut in 2012.

"The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances," Mr Colville said.