The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or Commission) urges the United States of America, to refrain from applying the death penalty imposed on Michael Tisius, set for June 6th, 2023. On June 5, 2023, the United States Supreme Court, the federal court of last resort, denied a request to stay the execution. Any reconsideration or further delay in the imposition of the sentence would need to be initiated by the state of Missouri.
Michael Tisius is beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by Resolution 22/2023 of April 16, 2023 and has been held in Missouri on death row, in solitary confinement, for 21 years. By means of that resolution, the IACHR requested that the United States to adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of Michael Tisius, and refrain from carrying out the death penalty until the Commission has had the opportunity to reach a decision on his petition that is pending before the IACHR Petition and Case System.
In granting precautionary measures, the Commission observed that the applicants alleged that Mr. Tisius’s defense at the time of his trial conducted a superficial investigation into the proposed beneficiary’s life history, overlooking mitigating evidence, and that his counsel failed to present available evidence establishing two statutory mitigating circumstances regarding Mr. Tisius’s impaired mental state at the time of the offenses; among others due process allegations.
While the imposition of the death penalty is not prohibited per se under the American Declaration, the Commission has recognized systematically that the possibility of an execution in such circumstances is sufficiently serious to permit the granting of precautionary measures to the effect of safeguarding a decision on the merits of the petition filed.
Accordingly, the Commission requests that the United States of America adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of Michael Tisius; refrain from executing the death penalty until the IACHR has had the opportunity to rule on his petition.
The Commission recalls that, as stated in the report The death penalty in the Inter‐American System of Human Rights: From restrictions to abolition, the main concerns identified in relation to the application of the death penalty are the risk of executing innocent people, the arbitrariness and injustice in the application of this penalty, and the inhuman treatment that characterizes the stay on death row.
In this sense, the IACHR calls once again to eliminate the death penalty, or alternatively, to impose a moratorium on executions as a step towards its gradual abolition. In the same way, the IACHR reiterates its recommendation to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the highest standards of due process.
The IACHR recalls that the precautionary measures granted seek to preserve the legal situation of Mr. Tisius while his situation is being considered by the IACHR. The precautionary function aims to safeguard the rights at risk until the petition is resolved, in order to ensure the effectiveness of an eventual decision on the merits, stage in which the Commission decides whether or not there were violations of human rights. In this regard, precautionary measures enable the State concerned to comply with the final recommendations made by the IACHR.
The decision to grant these precautionary measures and its adoption by the State do not constitute a prejudgment of any petition filed with the inter-American system alleging violations of the rights protected in the American Convention and other applicable instruments.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.