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The United States has ratified the Torture and Race Conventions with certain reservations because of the death penalty. However, while the death penalty itself may not constitute a violation of these conventions, specific applications of this punishment may be contrary to the law of these treaties.

Punishments which may be unlawful in international law, such as the execution of juveniles, the mentally retarded, and those foreign nationals who were not informed of their consular rights, are not exempted from the Torture Convention. Pain and suffering which are peripheral to lawful punishments, such as the years of isolation on death row and the unnecessary infliction of pain through gratuitously cruel forms of execution, are also banned by the Torture Convention. Finally, the arbitrary and discriminatory use of any punishment is forbidden by both the Race and Torture Conventions. To the extent the death penalty is racially discriminatory, the U.S. is bound to take corrective measures to stop this discrimination. Instead of enacting legislation to prevent racial discrimination, the U.S. has expanded the death penalty to new offenses and reduced the opportunity and resources for appeal. Such actions defy not just the spirit but the letter of these important international treaties.

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