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“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

Torture, flogging, amputations and executions continue in Iran: Amnesty International

Iran: A theocratic regime meting out medieval and barbaric punishments
Iran: A theocratic regime meting out medieval and barbaric punishments
The authorities in Iran have “severely curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, arresting and imprisoning journalists, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others who voiced dissent, on vague and overly broad charges,” Amnesty International said in its annual report on violations of human rights in Iran.

“Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common and was committed with impunity; prison conditions were harsh. Unfair trials continued, in some cases resulting in death sentences.”

“Women and members of ethnic and religious minorities faced pervasive discrimination in law and in practice. The authorities carried out cruel punishments, including blinding, amputation and floggings. Courts imposed death sentences for a range of crimes; many prisoners, including at least four juvenile offenders, were executed.”

Detainees and sentenced prisoners were denied adequate medical care; in some cases, the authorities withheld prescribed medications to punish prisoners, or failed to comply with medical doctors’ recommendations that prisoners should be hospitalized for treatment. The authorities also frequently subjected detainees and prisoners to prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture or other ill-treatment.

"Prisoners were kept in severely overcrowded and insanitary conditions with inadequate food and exposed to extreme temperatures. This included prisoners in Dizel Abad Prison in Kermanshah, Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, Gharchak Prison in Varamin, and Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad. According to some former detainees, in Tabriz Central Prison, some 700 to 800 prisoners were held in three poorly ventilated, insanitary cells with access to only 10 toilets."

"Courts continued to impose, and the authorities continued to carry out, punishments that violate the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. These were sometimes carried out in public and included flogging, blinding and amputations. On 3 March the authorities in Karaj deliberately blinded a man in his left eye after a court sentenced him to “retribution-in-kind” (qesas) for throwing acid into the face of another man. He also faced blinding of his right eye."

The report by Amnesty said: “The authorities continued to use the death penalty extensively, and carried out numerous executions, including of juvenile offenders. Some executions were conducted in public.”

Source: NCRI, Feb. 25, 2016

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