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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Fears for juveniles as Saudi government threatens more executions

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
The Saudi government appears to be preparing to execute four prisoners convicted in the Specialized Criminal Court, raising fears for three juveniles who were sentenced to death there for attending protests.

Reports in Saudi government-affiliated media suggest that the authorities are preparing to execute four people whose death sentences have been upheld in the secretive SCC. The reports say the killings will ‘complete’ the mass execution of 47 prisoners in January this year, which saw several political protestors executed – including at least one juvenile, Ali al-Ribh. Following the killings, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond faced criticism, after claiming that the 47 prisoners executed were “terrorists.”

While details of the four in line for execution remain unclear, the reports will raise fears for three juveniles who are awaiting execution after their sentences – handed down in relation to political protests – were upheld in the SCC last year. Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher were arrested in the wake of protests in the country’s eastern Province in 2012. All were tortured into ‘confessions’ that were used to convict them in largely secret trial proceedings. Ahead of January's mass execution, reports in state-affiliated media outlets had suggested that 52 prisoners would be killed, leading to fears that the three juveniles would be among them.

News of the latest planned executions follows a Saudi appearance this week at the UN’s Human Rights Council, in which Saudi official Bandar al Ali claimed his government “promoted human rights”, and “fights torture in all its physical and moral manifestations”.

Research last year by human rights organization Reprieve found that, of those facing execution in Saudi Arabia, some 72% were convicted of non-violent crimes – including drug offences and political protest – while police torture was reported to be common.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “These reports are deeply worrying. January's mass execution included political protestors and juveniles - these prisoners weren't 'terrorists', but ordinary people who lost their lives for the so-called 'crime' of speaking out against the Saudi regime. It would be appalling if the Saudis now executed three further juveniles who were brutally tortured into 'confessing'. The British government and others must look beyond the Saudi propaganda machine, and do all they can to prevent January's outrages from being repeated."
  • Reports of the impending executions can be seen in Okaz, here
  • Philip Hammond's remarks on the mass execution in January can be seen here, while further detail on Ali al-Ribh's case is available here.
  • A transcript of Mr al Ali's remarks are available on request, while a video of his speech is available here.
  • Reprieve's research into the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is available on the Reprieve website, here.
Source: Reprieve, March 11, 2016

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