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

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…

Uganda Passes Law Punishing Homosexuality With Life in Prison; removal of the death penalty is a concession

Uganda’s parliament passed a bill that seeks to punish homosexuality by giving sentences to offenders of as long as life imprisonment.

The bill was passed today after a voice vote and will become law when President Yoweri Museveni gives assent, Mohammed Katamba, a spokesman for the Parliament, said by phone from the capital, Kampala.

Lawmaker Fox Odoi will challenge the bill in court, according to the Parliament’s Twitter feed.

“Two members on the committee which drafted the bill opposed it and wrote a minority report,” Katamba said, without naming the people.

The bill initially sought a death penalty for offenders with minors, which was dropped for a life sentence because of the East African nation’s plans to ratify the United Nations convention against capital punishment, Simon Lokodo, the minister of state for ethics and integrity, said in December last year.

“The removal of the death penalty is a concession, but life imprisonment and a raft of other alarming provisions remain,” Maria Burnett, senior researcher in the Africa division of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “President Museveni should reject the bill and send a clear message that Uganda doesn’t stand for this type of intolerance and discrimination.”

Lawmaker David Bahati in February last year reintroduced the bill that he first proposed in 2009, arguing that penalties for offenders under the current laws are lenient.

Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, December 20, 2013

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