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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

International lawyers rush aid for Mary Jane Veloso

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso. Photo by Suryo Wibowo, AFP
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso. Photo by Suryo Wibowo, AFP
MANILA - The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) has asked Indonesian President Joko Widodo to overturn the death sentence of Filipino migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso.

IADL President Jeanne Mirrer urged Widodo to take into account the mitigating factors in Veloso’s case, including reports that she had been deprived of the right to a fair trial and adequate legal representation.

“We are gravely concerned about her case because of the numerous reported violations of the Veloso’s human rights, including the right to a fair trial and due process as guaranteed under both domestic and international law,” Mirrer said in the letter dated April 9, 2015.

“IADL understands that Ms. Veloso was forced by economic circumstance to seek work outside of her country. Her intention was not to smuggle heroin into Indonesia. She only found out that was used to smuggle the contraband after arrival and arrest. Her sole intention was to find employment but fell victim to drug traffickers.

“IADL further understands that Ms. Veloso did not receive sufficient legal services or the right to translators, and had no legal representation at all stages of her trials.

“We hope that the Government of Indonesia and its Courts will carefully consider this letter and other evidence put before it in respect of these violations.”

The lawyers’ group, the first non-government organization accredited by the United Nations, reminded Widodo that execution is “final, irreversible, and engages the most fundamental of all human rights, namely, the right to life.”

It said focusing on the category of the offence rather than the individual circumstances of the offender is “arbitrary, disproportionate and contrary to the basic norms of due process.”

IADL said: “Central to the principle of an individualized sentencing is the consideration of mitigating evidence. The evolving standards concerning the application of the death penalty under Indonesian law, domestic laws of foreign jurisdictions, as well as the practice of international and regional bodies no longer allow for the imposition of a death sentence without consideration of mitigating circumstances.”

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCE

IADL’s legal brief, contained in its letter to Widodo, said a mitigating circumstance does not bear on the question of guilt.

It is, however, considered in sentencing to lessen the severity of a penalty, the group emphasized.

“Not to do so would violate an individual’s right to not be arbitrarily deprived of one’s life, to be free from inhuman and degrading punishment, to a fair trial, and to access to justice," the lawyers’ group stressed.

The need for individualized sentencing in every capital case, resulting in a just and proportionate sentence, “is inherent in any functioning criminal justice system,” it added.

“As noted above, Ms. Veloso was forced by economic circumstance to seek work outside of her country. Her intention was not to smuggle heroin into Indonesia. She only found out that was used to smuggle the contraband after arrival and arrest. Her sole intention was to find employment. Ms. Veloso did not receive sufficient legal services or the right to translators, and had no legal representation at all stages of their trials.”

The group also said international human rights bodies and agencies within the UN system see drug-related offences outside the scope of the “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty may be imposed. It cited published positions by the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The letter, dated April 9, followed moves by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) of the Philippines to help Veloso’s family seek a new review of her case.


Source: Abs-CbsNews.com, April 10, 2015

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