United States: A World Leader in Executing Juveniles

Human Rights Watch opposes the imposition of the death penalty on all criminal offenders in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. In addition, Human Rights Watch is concerned that the death penalty is most often carried out in a discriminatory manner on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds. Furthermore, the inherent fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even when full due process of law is respected, innocent persons are sometimes executed. Because an execution is an irrevocable violation of the right to life, such miscarriages of justice can never be corrected. Human Rights Watch strongly opposes the imposition of the death penalty on offenders whose crimes were committed when they were below the age of eighteen. The United States is a world leader in executing juvenile offenders. Few other countries on which the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Project has information can match its record. Nine juvenile offenders have been executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and executions of juvenile offenders are on the rise four of the nine were executed during the last six months of 1993. In addition, more juvenile offenders sit on death row in the United States than in any other country.