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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

UK accused of dropping commitment to oppose death penalty

Foreign Office minister makes case for Britain's re-election to UN human rights council, but no mention of government's objection to death penalty

The UK government has been accused of dropping its commitment to opposing the death penalty as Britain seeks re-election to a United Nations human rights body.

A blogpost by the Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay this week makes no mention of UK objections to the death penalty - a policy once hailed as a human rights priority for the government.

Posted on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the article presents the case for the UK's re-election to the UN's human rights council (UNHRC), a position it has held with the support of Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year WikiLeaks documents detailed diplomatic exchanges and vote-trading deals between Riyadh and London dating back to 2013. Saudi Arabia, also elected to the UNHRC in 2013, has recently increased the number of executions it carries out.

Last month Amnesty International warned that Saudi Arabia is planning to carry out 50 executions in a day. Among those thought to be at risk is Ali al-Nimr, who was only 17 when he was sentenced to death by crucifixion for participating in an illegal demonstration. Saudi Arabia has so far executed more than 150 people this year - its highest figure since 1995.

The human rights organisation Reprieve, which campaigns against the death penalty, said a consistent pattern of Foreign Office statements had emerged. Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "In the past few months we've seen the government steadily row back its commitment to human rights.

"Shamefully, this has included scrapping our commitment to end the death penalty, at a time when countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt are overseeing a surge in executions. The government should be using its seat on the human rights council to address these grave concerns - rather than skirting sensitive issues to spare the blushes of states like Saudi Arabia, where political prisoners face imminent beheading and crucifixion."

Baroness Anelay's blogpost declares: "Our pledges are grounded in UK priorities at home and abroad, and draw on a tradition of democratic and inclusive values: strengthening the protection of human rights in the UN's work; translating the 2030 agenda on sustainable development into action, leaving no one behind; making a stand for freedom of religion or belief at a time when too many are persecuted for their beliefs; working to end violence against women and promoting their full participation and leadership in political and economic life; and promoting open societies and challenging the threats to civil society."

In the past, the Foreign Office has denied that its policy has changed. In the summer, a spokesperson said: "We remain committed to advancing global abolition of the death penalty and it is wrong to suggest otherwise. The government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and we would like to see the long-term trend towards abolition continue throughout this parliament."

Source: The Guardian, December 9, 2015

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