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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights[1] has called upon the United States to postpone tomorrowís execution of Alexander Williams in the state of Georgia, in order for the Commission to investigate a human rights complaint filed on his behalf.


On November 28, 2000, the Commission received a petition on behalf of Mr. Williams, alleging that the United States had violated Mr. Williamsí rights under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The complaint alleged in particular that Mr. Williams was under eighteen years of age when he committed the offense for which he had been sentenced to death, and that executing him under these circumstances would violate his right to life under Article I of the American Declaration as well as fundamental norms of customary international law.

On December 6, 2000, the Commission informed the United States of Mr. Williamsí complaint and formally requested that the United States stay Mr. Williams' execution until the Commission had an opportunity to investigate the allegations in his petition. The Commission reiterated its request on February 15, 2002.

The Commission is gravely concerned that the United States may permit Mr. Williamsí execution to proceed despite the fact that he has a complaint pending before the inter-American human rights system. The Commission considers that failing to preserve Mr. Williamsí life in these circumstances would deprive Mr. Williams of his fundamental right to have his complaint effectively determined by the Commission, would cause Mr. Williams serious and irreparable harm, and would be incompatible with the United Statesí international human rights obligations under the OAS Charter and related instruments. The Commission therefore reiterates its call for the United States to comply with the Commission's request to postpone Mr. Williamsí execution pending the Commissionís investigation and thereby properly and fully respect its international human rights commitments.


Washington, D.C.  February 19, 2002




The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is the principal human rights organ of the Organization of American States, a regional international organization comprised of 34 states of the Western Hemisphere. The Commission, headquartered in Washington, D.C., was created in 1959 and is composed of seven members of recognized competence in the field of human rights, who act independently without representing any particular country. The members of the Commission are elected by the OAS General Assembly for a term of four years and may be reelected only once.


The mandate of the Inter-American Commission, as enshrined in the OAS Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Commissionís Statute, is to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas. As part of its functions in this regard, the Commission is authorized to examine complaints of individual human rights violations by OAS member states. These include complaints of violations of the American Convention on Human Rights of 1969 by states that are parties to that treaty, as well as alleged violations of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man of 1948 by OAS member states that are not yet parties to the American Convention.


Pursuant to Article 25(1) of its Rules of Procedure, in serious and urgent cases, and whenever necessary according to the information available, the Commission may, on its own initiative or at the request of a party, request that the State concerned adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons.

For additional information on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, please consult the Commissionís web site at

[1] A backgrounder on the Commission is attached to this press release.