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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…

Pakistan executions top 200

The Pakistani government has executed 206 people since resuming executions in December, according to figures collated by Reprieve.

Yesterday’s hanging of Shafqat Hussain marked Pakistan’s 202nd execution since a moratorium on the death penalty was lifted late last year. Shafqat was executed despite concerns over a ‘confession’ extracted from him through police torture, and evidence suggesting that he was a juvenile at the time of his arrest. The issues were never considered by a court, and in the last few months of Shafqat’s life, the government confiscated key pieces of evidence – including his school record – that could have proved his young age. Days before the hanging, a statutory human rights body – the Sindh Human Rights Commission – reviewed the problems with the case, and recommended that the hanging be stayed, and a full inquiry conducted; however, these recommendations were ignored by the federal authorities.

The rate at which executions have taken place in Pakistan since December has taken the country beyond some of the world’s most prolific executioners, including Saudi Arabia and the US. The Pakistani government’s claim, made repeatedly since December, that it is executing ‘terrorists’ has been called into question, including most recently by a Reuters report finding that the vast majority of those executed – an estimated 70 per cent – had no links to militancy. With Shafqat’s killing, at least three juveniles – Shafqat, Aftab Bahadur, and Faisal Mehmood – have now been executed since December.

Last week, a group of UN experts – including the Special Rapporteurs on summary executions, torture and child rights – urged Pakistan to halt all further executions. They said that “most” of the planned hangings “fall short of international norms”, and called on the government “to continue the moratorium on actual executions and to put in place a legal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.”

Commenting, Kate Higham, Pakistan caseworker at Reprieve, said: “Over 200 prisoners killed since December marks a shocking milestone for Pakistan’s government. it is especially disturbing given that so many of them, Shafqat Hussain included, were hanged in spite of the terrible flaws with their convictions. It’s now clear that this wave of hangings has nothing to do with Pakistan’s security. Before any more senseless killings take place, Pakistan’s government must urgently allow for a full, independent review into the many problems with its justice system.”

Source: Reprieve, August 5, 2015

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