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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday imposed a moratorium on federal executions while the Justice Department continues its review of the death penalty, the department said in a statement.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in a statement. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

Garland said last month he was personally reviewing the department’s processes dealing with the death penalty. He told his Senate confirmation hearing in February he had concerns about innocent people being executed and about the disparate impact of the death penalty on Black Americans.

The Biden administration has faced increasing pressure from criminal justice advocates to return to a long-standing moratorium on the federal death penalty, after the Trump administration in its waning final months carried out 13 executions.

President Joe Biden pledged during his campaign to support legislation to end the death penalty.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Jane Wardell)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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