GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations human rights investigators called on the state of Texas and U.S. federal authorities to halt the execution of a man with a history of mental illness, scheduled for Wednesday.
Scott Panetti is due to be executed for killing his parents-in-law in Gillespie County, Texas, in September 1992. The U.N. experts said he had “proven psychosocial disabilities” and killing him would breach international norms on the death penalty, as well as a global ban on torture and cruel and inhuman punishment.
“Given the irreversible nature of the death penalty, we urgently appeal to the Government of the United States and the state of Texas to find a way to stop the scheduled execution, and we hope that serious consideration will be given to commuting the sentence,” Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, and U.N. torture investigator Juan Mendez said in a statement.
Panetti is reported to have been hospitalized for chronic schizophrenia, depression and delusions between 1981 and 1992. Carrying out the death penalty of someone with mental illness may amount to an “arbitrary execution”, Heyns said.
“There is no doubt that it is inherently cruel and unworthy of civilized societies to execute persons with mental disabilities,” said Mendez.
It is the second time in less than a week that U.N. rights experts have raised problems with the United States. On Friday, the U.N. Committee against Torture urged Washington to investigate cases of police brutality and also criticized “excruciating pain and prolonged suffering” caused to prisoners during “botched executions”.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Robin Pomeroy