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Death penalty


International Law


In recent years, international law has played an increasingly prominent role in the development of death penalty jurisprudence in both domestic and international tribunals. In the United States, the citation of foreign jurisprudence by the Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons and Atkins v. Virginia has generated an intense debate within the Court, Congress, and the media. In the Caribbean, decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights have resulted in commutations of numerous death sentences. While abolitionists have celebrated these developments, the death penalty remains a popular sanction, and human rights advocates in the Caribbean have been particularly frustrated by antiquated laws that have effectively impeded important death penalty reforms. These developments are discussed below and in accompanying papers. In litigation challenging the application of the death penalty in the United States, assiduous defense attorneys have been citing international human rights norms for decades. Foreign governments have also played a prominent role in promoting the acceptance of international norms that support restrictions on the application of the death penalty. These efforts led directly to landmark decisions regarding the execution of juvenile offenders and the execution of foreign nationals whose consular rights had been violated.


This publication pre-dates the author's affiliation with Cornell Law School.