Human Rights Commissioner Kofler on the death penalty in the USA

18.03.2016 - Press release

The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, Bärbel Kofler, issued the following statement on the decision by a court in the State of Ohio:

The latest ruling in the case of Romell Broom, who was sentenced to death in the USA in 1984 for the abduction, rape and murder of a 14‑year‑old girl, lends weight to my continued condemnation of the death penalty as a cruel and inhumane form of punishment and to my calls for it to be abolished.

Romell Broom was to be given a lethal injection in September 2009. Back then, 18 attempted injections proved unsuccessful. The details can be found on the press page of the Ohio Supreme Court. The court has now ruled that, among other things, a second execution attempt does not amount to a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

I do not agree with this assessment. Permit me to quote the words of Judge O’Neill, who, of the total seven judges, was one of three to vote against the decision. He said that the term “lethal injection” was a convenient euphemism and considered a second execution attempt to be in violation of the US Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The fact that the decision was reached with a slim majority of 4‑3 and the protests from civil society demonstrate the doubts surrounding the way in which this case has been handled, also in the USA. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that a human life, once taken, cannot be given back. The death penalty is an inhuman and cruel form of punishment. The German Government is opposed to its use, whatever the circumstances.


In 1984, Rommell Broom was sentenced to death for the abduction, rape and murder of 14‑year‑old Tryna Middleton. He had previously been convicted of other violent and sexual offences, including against children. A first attempt to execute him in 2009 failed. The circumstances of this attempt caused a furor and were, among other things, the subject of a documentary by Michael Verhoeven.

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