(AA) — Human rights groups on Tuesday criticized a decision by the state of Utah to reinstate the firing squad as a method of execution.
“Instead of finding new ways to kill those on death row, the governor of Utah should be acting to abolish the punishment all together,” James Ross, Legal and Policy director at Human Rights Watch, told The Anadolu Agency.
Gov. Gary Herbert signed the measure into law on Monday, making Utah the only state to use the firing squad for capital punishment.
Utah banned the practice more than a decade ago.
“Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel punishment. Replacing one method of cruelty with another does not lessen the grave inhumanity of the act,” Ross said.
The measure allows firing squad executions when drugs needed for lethal injection are not available.
Although lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the U.S., states have been in short supply in recent years as European pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell the drugs in objection to capital punishment.
Karen McCreary, who directs the Utah branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, told AA that the decision was “a huge step backward.”
Gov. Herbert’s ratification scored a “huge missed opportunity” to discuss ways to abolish the death penalty altogether, she said.
Utah discontinued firing squads in 2004, but a handful of death row inmates who had been sentenced prior to the ban could still opt for being shot to death.
Ronnie Lee Gardner, a convicted killer who had spent almost 25 years on death row, was the last inmate to be executed by firing squad in 2010.
It was the third firing squad execution in the U.S. — all in Utah.