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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Iraq executes 17 convicted criminals in one day

February 1, 2012: Iraq executed 17 convicted criminals in one day this week, the justice ministry said, bringing to at least 51 the number so far this year.

"The justice ministry carried out (death) sentences against 17 people condemned for terrorist and criminal crimes ... on Tuesday (January 31)," a statement said.

"The ministry is continuing to carry out punishments against criminals according to the law and the constitution," Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari was quoted as saying.

Last month, ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said Iraq had so far executed 34 people this year, including two women and a Syrian. That is half the entire figure of 68 for all of 2011, including three foreigners and three Iraqi women.

The United Nations estimates that more than 1,200 people have been sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004, but it does not have comprehensive statistics on executions.

Death sentences in Iraq must be signed by the country's president, currently Jalal Talabani, but the chief executive may delegate that authority to either of the two vice presidents. As Talabani is an ardent opponent of the death penalty, that is what he does.

Source: Agence France-Presse, February 1, 2012

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