The IACHR condemns the application of the death penalty to precautionary-measure beneficiary Lisa Montgomery in the United States

January 15, 2021

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Resolution 91/2020

PR 201/19

PR 149/20

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Washington, D.C.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the application of the death penalty imposed on Lisa Montgomery. According to official reports, Ms. Montgomery was executed on January 13, 2021, although precautionary measures had been granted in her favor on December 1, 2020, in the belief that she faced a serious and urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to her rights in the United States. These precautionary measures were linked to Petition 2201-20.

The available information on this case indicated that the beneficiary had mental illnesses. The petition alleged violations of various articles in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, concerning access to justice, due process, and adequate legal counsel for the beneficiary, and said that her legal defense had been inappropriate to enable her to escape a death sentence. The petition also stressed that Ms. Montgomery would be the first woman to whom the US federal government applied the death penalty in almost 70 years.

Earlier, the Commission had expressed on August 15, 2019 its profound concern for the reinstatement of the death penalty at the federal level in the United States. On June 26, 2020, the Commission had also condemned the resumed use of the death penalty at the federal level in the United States, following a hiatus of more than 17 years.

After assessing the legal and factual allegations made by the parties, the Commission had considered that the data showed prima facie that the case met the seriousness, urgency, and irreparability criteria contemplated in Article 25 of the IACHR's Rules of Procedure. The Commission had also considered that Ms. Montgomery's execution before the Commission had had the opportunity to assess the merits of this case would render any potential IACHR decisions null and void, which would cause irreparable harm. Consequently, in keeping with Article 25 of the IACHR's Rules of Procedure, the Commission had asked the United States to adopt any measures necessary to preserve Ms. Montgomery's rights to life and personal integrity, and to refrain from applying the death penalty to her until the Commission had had the opportunity to make a decision on her petition. The IACHR had also asked the State to ensure conditions of detention that reflected international standards, particularly by considering the beneficiary's personal situation; to provide adequate medical care to treat the beneficiary's physical and mental health conditions, in keeping with the applicable international human rights standards; and to come to an agreement with the beneficiary and her representatives regarding any measures that needed to be taken.

In this context, the IACHR stresses that the precautionary nature of the precautionary measures that had been granted sought to preserve Ms. Montgomery's legal status while the IACHR assessed her case. Precautionary measures seek to preserve rights that are believed to be at risk until a petition that has been taken before the Inter-American System has been assessed. These measures seek to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of a decision on merit, and therefore to prevent harm to the rights that are alleged to be at risk. A failure to preserve these rights might leave the final decision powerless or devoid its practical value. In this context, the precautionary measures granted in favor of Ms. Montgomery enabled the State to consider the IACHR's final recommendations.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 010/21