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The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, and that’s why Amnesty International opposes it in all cases and works to abolish it.

We are making tremendous progress – today, 19 states in the U.S. and two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty.

The Problem

Human rights violations

All people have the right to life, and we all have the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. These are human rights that people have, regardless of whether they have been convicted of crimes.

A Broken System

The flaws in the death penalty are too deep to fix.

  • The risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated. More than 150 people sent to death row in the U.S. have later been exonerated, and others have been executed despite serious doubt about their guilt.
  • There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime or improves public safety.
  • The death penalty is applied disproportionally against people of color and poor people.
  • In some countries, the death penalty is used by people in power to punish their political opponents.
Amnesty In Action

Changing lives and policies

Amnesty International has helped delay or overturn death sentences in individual cases, and has helped abolish the death penalty in several states in the U.S. and in other countries.

Case Study

Ivan Teleguz

In 2006, Ukranian national Ivan Teleguz was sentenced to die for allegedly hiring someone to murder a woman in Virginia. The alleged hit-man was spared the death penalty in exchange for his testimony against Ivan. Another man testified that Ivan arranged a murder in Pennsylvania, and prosecutors used that “pattern” to persuade jurors to give Ivan the death penalty. Years later, the man who testified about the Pennsylvania case admitted he fabricated most of his testimony against Ivan to avoid the death penalty himself.

Ivan maintained his innocence throughout. In March 2017, a month before he was scheduled to be executed, Amnesty International launched a campaign pressing the Governor of Virginia to commute his death sentence. Thousands of people across the United States and around the world wrote to the governor.

Just five days before Ivan was set to be executed, Governor Terry McAuliffe commuted his sentence, permanently sparing him the death penalty in the case. Ivan’s attorney thanked Amnesty International’s activists, noting: “He is incredibly touched that people from all over the world – who do not even know him – have been speaking out on his behalf. And it worked.”