We are writing to urge you to grant clemency to Timothy McVeigh, whose execution is now scheduled for June 11, and to commute his sentence to life imprisonment without parole.
As an international organization committed to the defense of basic human rights, we oppose all executions, including that of McVeigh. But executing McVeigh would also have the unfortunate consequence of ending the de facto moratorium on federal executions, in effect since 1963. The last-minute revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation withheld from McVeigh's defense counsel massive quantities of materials-especially in a case as closely scrutinized as this one-underscores the inherent imperfections and fallibility of criminal prosecutions and the unacceptable nature of irreversible punishments.
We recognize the appalling nature of the crime for which McVeigh has been convicted and the horror, anger, and sorrow about the tragic loss of life and injury that his bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City caused. What he did cannot be excused. But executions must be rejected as a punishment no matter how heinous the crime.
Recognition that the death penalty violates basic human rights has fueled a growing movement to abolish capital punishment around the world. However, the United States thus far remains wedded to a practice that its democratic allies rightly consider unworthy of modern societies. It is significant to note that the treaty to create an International Criminal Court does not include the death penalty as an option for punishing war criminals, providing another clear indication of the international community's rejection of capital punishment in all cases.
The cornerstone of human rights is respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person. These principles cannot be squared with the death penalty, a form of punishment that is unique in its barbarity and finality, and, as practiced in the United States, a punishment inevitably plagued by arbitrariness, prejudice and error. The intrinsic fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even when full due process of law is respected, innocent persons may be executed.
We urge you to exert human rights leadership with regard to the death penalty and to use your presidential powers to commute McVeigh's death sentence to life imprisonment without parole.