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    UN Experts Urge US, Texas Authorities Not To Execute Mentally Ill Prisoner

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    It is a violation of death penalty safeguards to impose capital punishment on individuals suffering from psycho-social disabilities, a UN human rights expert said the day before a mentally ill prisoner is set to be executed in Texas.

    UNITED NATIONS, December 2 (Sputnik) — The day before Scott Panetti, a mentally ill prisoner, is set to be executed in Texas, United States, two UN human rights experts on Tuesday urged the authorities to call off the planned killing.

    In a statement released on the United Nations Human Rights website the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Mendez "urged the United States Government and the authorities of the State of Texas to halt the execution of Scott Panetti, a prisoner with proven psycho-social disabilities."

    "It is a violation of death penalty safeguards to impose capital punishment on individuals suffering from psycho-social disabilities. Implementing the death penalty under these conditions may amount to an arbitrary execution," Heyns said as quoted in the statement.

    The UN said that Panetti was hospitalized between 1981 and 1992 for several mental illnesses, including chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia, depression, brain dysfunction, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and homicidal ideation towards his family. In September 1995, he was sentenced to death for killing his parents-in-law in Gillespie County, Texas, on 8 September 1992.

    For two decades, Panetti has appealed the courts' decisions on the basis of his competence to be executed, based on various expert assessments of his serious mental health conditions. However, his death sentence has been upheld despite a federal ban on such executions.

    "I am seriously concerned that Scott Panetti's capital trial, held in 1995 after an authorization to waive his right to counsel and to represent himself, despite his severe mental health condition, may have influenced the subsequent decisions of the courts," UN expert Heyns said, adding that the death penalty may only be imposed when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence, leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts.

    UN Special Rapporteur on torture Mendez noted that enforcing the death penalty on persons with mental disabilities violates the international prohibition of torture and other inhuman punishment. "There is no doubt that it is inherently cruel and unworthy of civilized societies to execute persons with mental disabilities." Mendez said.

    Earlier on Tuesday Huffington Post reported that a group of US conservative leaders including the former Attorney General of the state of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli, addressed Texas Governor Rick Perry asking him to commute Panetti's sentence to life in prison.

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    Tags:
    human rights violations, mental illness, death sentence, UN, United States, Texas
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