Death penalty in USA becomes brutal torture for prisoners

The use of lethal injections in the US has led to at least nine bungled executions, including one in which the prisoner took 69 minutes to die and another in which the condemned man complained five times: "It don't work," a report by Amnesty International says today.

The report contains a catalogue of botched executions dating from 2000, when lethal injection was adopted by 37 of the 38 US states with the death penalty.

In an execution in Ohio in May last year it took technicians 22 minutes to find a suitable vein in which to inject the lethal combination of three drugs. When the condemned man, Joseph Clark, raised his head to complain that the process was not working, the technicians closed the curtains around his trolley and spent an additional 30 minutes looking for a suitable vein.

An autopsy discovered 19 puncture marks on Clark's corpse.

In a celebrated case in Florida in December last year the condemned man, Angel Nieves Dias, suffered chemical burns along his arms after technicians struggled to find a vein. Reports at the time described Diaz as grimacing in pain, the Guardian reports.

Amnesty International's report also charts the growth of lethal injections around the world. Since the world's first lethal injection was carried out in the state of Texas, USA in 1982, over 900 such executions have occurred in the US alone. In China, where executions numbers are an official secret, it is possible that thousands of people have been executed this way since 1997. Lethal injections now account for 85% of US executions in the United States and a growing proportion of judicial killings carried out in China (the world's biggest user of the death penalty).

In recent years China has introduced 'mobile execution chambers' - converted 24-seater buses with windowless execution chambers at their rear. Prisoners are strapped down to metal beds in these bus chambers, a needle is then attached to the prisoner by a doctor before a police officer presses a button activating an automatic syringe which inserts the lethal drug into the prisoner's vein. Executions are watched on a monitor next to the driver's seat and can be videotaped.

As Amnesty International's report shows, besides the USA and China lethal injection killings have also taken place in Guatemala, the Philippines and Thailand, while legal systems in Taiwan and Papua New Guinea allow for lethal injection, and India and Vietnam have discussed its introduction.

According to even minimum figures, 1,591 people were executed in 25 countries in 2006 and Amnesty International is calling on the current session of the United Nations General Assembly to vote for an international moratorium on the death penalty.

Amnesty International has long campaigned for total global abolition of the death penalty and the organisation points out that claims about the relative 'efficiency' of lethal injections compared to other methods of killing fail to even consider other vital issues regarding the death penalty, reports.

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