Oklahoma May Have Violated International Law – So What?

The United Nations Human Rights Office claims Oklahoma may have violated international law after failing to provide a humane execution for Clayton Lockett.

Lockett was lethally injected on April 29, 2014 after being convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999. An execution by lethal injection typically lasts seven minutes until the inmate is pronounced dead; but in Lockett’s case, it took a full 43 minutes after the drug was administered before he died. During the process, he writhed, screamed, and attempted to lift himself off the gurney.

Activists and media are calling it a “botched” execution. Some of the drugs used never made it into Lockett’s system because his vein collapsed 21 minutes after the injection began. According to a report by Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections detailing Lockett’s last day, officials tried for almost an hour to find a vein in his arms, legs and neck before finally inserting an IV into his groin.

After the process began, a doctor lifted the sheet covering Lockett and noticed the line had been dislodged. But, it was too late. All the drugs had been injected, and there was no other suitable vein.

UN Human Rights Spokesperson Rupert Colville reporters Friday in Geneva that “the apparent cruelty involved in these recent executions simply reinforces the argument that authorities across the United States should impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty and work for abolition of this cruel and inhuman practice.”

You can read more about the UN’s convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments here.

But what would happen if UN finds that Oklahoma violated international law? Probably nothing.