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Editorial: In a civilized society, not even the most vicious crimes justify a death sentence

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It is soul-bruising to contemplate the torture that 10-year-old Anthony Avalos endured in his Lancaster home for more than a week before dying last year. Whippings with a looped cord and belt. Repeatedly held upside down then dropped on his head. Getting slammed into pieces of furniture and against the floor. Hot sauce poured on his face and mouth.
The road map of the abuse stretched from head to toe on his small malnourished body — bruises, abrasions, scabs and cuts visible on the outside. Traumatic brain injury and soft tissue damage on the inside. All allegedly perpetrated by his mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva.
RELATED | California: Prosecutors seeking death penalty in Anthony Avalos torture case
If ever a set of circumstances called for the death penalty, this would be it. Few were surprised when Los Angeles County prosecutors said Wednesday that if the couple is convicted of the torture-murder, the jury will be asked to recommend a death sentence.
Such ca…

Hamas 'to publicly execute two men in Gaza'

Amnesty calls for Gaza's ruling party to halt 'inhuman and degrading' executions it says will be carried out next week.

Hamas is planning to publicly execute two prisoners in Gaza as a "lesson" to others next week, according to the human rights organisation Amnesty International, which has described the move as deeply disturbing.

A 23-year-old man has been sentenced to death for "collaboration with an enemy entity". He told his lawyer he had been beaten during interrogation, Amnesty reported.

An appeal at a military court is scheduled for Wednesday but he will be at risk of imminent execution if it is unsuccessful.

The second man, aged 27, confessed to the rape and murder of a six-year-old boy in 2000. He was sentenced to death despite being a minor at the time. According to Amnesty, he was "apparently tortured to 'confess'" to the crime.

The pair are among 40 prisoners on death row in Gaza. The most recent executions, of two men convicted of collaborating, took place in June at a police compound. One of them reportedly confessed after being tortured, according to Amnesty.

"Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in the custody of Hamas security agencies are widespread and systematic," it added.

Philip Luther, the organisation's Middle East and north Africa director, called on Hamas to immediately halt imminent executions and commute all death sentences.

"This and other recent announcements by the Hamas authorities that they will carry out further executions are deeply disturbing," he said.

"The death penalty is cruel and inhuman and there is no evidence that it deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Public executions are degrading and compound the cruelty of the death penalty."

Hamas has carried out at least 16 executions since April 2010, according to Amnesty. Six suspected collaborators were shot dead in the street by masked gunmen shortly before the end of the war in Gaza last November.

Source: The Guardian, August 9, 2013

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