Oklahoma's botched execution of Clayton Lockett on Tuesday night "showed vividly that the death penalty is a brutal form of punishment which disregards human dignity," the office of European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton told me in a statement on Wednesday. Lockett died after spending 45 minutes writhing in pain from an experimental drug cocktail that had been secretly obtained by state officials and not evaluated by medical professionals. Charles Warner, a second inmate who was scheduled to die the same night, received a temporary stay of execution from Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, pending an investigation.
"The European Union is opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under any circumstances," said Ashton, Europe's top diplomat, "based on the conviction that the death penalty is cruel, inhumane and irreversible, and its abolition is essential to protect human dignity." France's Foreign Ministry also issued a denunciation and urged Oklahoma and other U.S. states to impose a moratorium on executions.
The death penalty's universal abolition is a major EU foreign-policy objective, and EU officials have spoken out strongly against high-profile U.S. executions in the past. Ashton condemned the state of Texas in January for executing Edgar Tamayo Arias, a Mexican national, who had been denied the right to contact Mexican diplomatic officials during his arrest in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. EU agencies also fund U.S. groups opposed to the death penalty, while EU lawyers' briefs were cited by the U.S. Supreme Court when the justices forbade executing the mentally disabled in 2002 and minors in 2005.