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

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…

Brave Iranian mother cries out against Italian PM's silence on executions

Matteo Renzi and Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on April 12, 2016
The mother of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a young Iranian woman whose execution in October 2014 triggered international condemnation of the mullahs' regime, has written an open letter to the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi criticizing his trip this week to Tehran and his silence on the appalling human rights abuses taking place in Iran.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed for killing an intelligence agent of the Iranian regime in self-defense.

The following is the text of the impassioned open letter by her mother Mrs. Shole Pakravan to the Prime Minister of Italy on the eve of his trip to Tehran:

"The Prime Minister of Italy will travel to Iran tomorrow. He might aim to convey the messages of those who are shocked and disappointed about Iran's executions. He might intend to communicate the Pope's message - which addresses the global abolition of the death penalty - or to say: "Stop Public Executions!" He might request a halt to the execution of juvenile offenders.
Or perhaps he might not say much about executions, but surely he would mention the brutal sentences of amputation of limbs. No? They might not even discuss such issues because their meeting would then be afflicted by such bitter and creepy facts. But I am quite sure that he would mention the expulsion of religious and ethnic minorities from universities or administrations. He would talk about releasing those imprisoned people, such as Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi and Mohammad Ali Taheri, whose opinions differ from the current administration. Then again, he might not talk about these things at all. Well then, what is his aim of coming to Iran? Instead of visiting the historical monuments of Shiraz and Isfahan, he might intend to visit prisons to ask about the condition of Narges Mohammadi in order to see how she feels about being far from her 2 small children. Perhaps he wants to visit Hossein Ronaghi in order to see how he went on hunger strike although he suffers from kidney failure. He might want to see the exotic painting talents of Atena Farghadani who has unjustly been sentenced to serve 12 years in prison. Also, he might state that torture is not a decent act. No matter what title or name each human holds, beatings or hangings or any other acts of torture are prohibited against all human beings. But I doubt he will visit prisoners. He might cruise through Tehran's streets and witness the young and homeless children who beg for money with bare feet. No, then again his car's windshield has tinted glass and he cannot witness such scenes or he cannot talk about them in his meetings.
Honestly I have no idea why he is traveling to Iran. He might be seeking money, trade, oil, sanctions and things like that.
In other words, can anything else be important to him except the mentioned cases? I have no clue. Maybe this Prime Minister is a good person and he might address all of the above issues. In this case, what he will be remembered for in the future is his well-earned reputation and his good deeds. But if he only pursues his own commercial interests in Iran, then he must note that in Iran there are still a high number of executions per capita and it is still common for people to be tortured to extract 'confessions,' let alone all the other issues.
It does no harm for him to note that Italian artists and the Pope shared their dismay for Reyhaneh's execution and they called for abolition of such sentences. Despite all of the global and domestic demands, my loving daughter was executed. I am now inspired by the Italian artist, Gianni Rodari, who wished for the existence of a kiosk to sell prospect to people. Although I buried my whole hope and desire, I still go to that kiosk to buy a little bit of hope. No, I will buy all of that because I want to be hopeful that the Prime Minister's visit to Iran becomes fruitful and beneficent for us, as the helpless nation. I want to be hopeful that the Prime Minister of Italy does not seek to plunder the God-given wealth of a people at the cost of remaining silent against an infectious phenomenon called execution.
Perhaps the prime minister accepts our invitation and stands by our side in the petition for abolition of the death penalty. Perhaps he also wishes for an Iran without any execution. Maybe in his meetings, he would say: No to Execution, No to Torture!"

When she was just 19 years old, Ms. Reyhaneh Jabbari was working as a decorator when she was forced to defend herself against an intelligence agent who tried to rape her. She was jailed for 7 years and was executed on October 25, 2014 despite an international campaign to save her.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said at the time that Ms. Jabbari's execution had political motives and that it was unlawful even in the framework of the mullahs' medieval laws. Mrs. Rajavi called for an independent international probe into the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari as an example of arbitrary, extrajudicial and criminal death sentences in Iran that have taken on added dimensions since Hassan Rouhani's tenure as the regime's President.

Source: NCR-Iran, April 13, 2016

14 executions carried out as Italian PM and EU High Representative visit Tehran

On the morning of Wednesday, April 13, concurrent with a visit by Italy's Prime Minister and on the eve of a visit by the EU High Representative to Tehran, the antihuman clerical regime collectively hanged 8 prisoners in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison in Karaj. Counting 1 execution in Tabriz central prison on April 11 and 5 other executions on April 9, the number of executions in just the last 5 days reached 14. Moreover, in an Isfahan prison, 5 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on April 11 in preparation for their execution.

The increasing trend of executions aimed at intensifying the climate of terror to rein in expanding protests by various strata of the society, especially at a time of visits by high-ranking European officials, demonstrates that the claim of moderation is nothing but an illusion for this medieval regime. In their final statement, the foreign ministers of the G7 countries meeting in Hiroshima called on the Iranian regime to comply with its international human rights obligations and to end arbitrary executions carried out in violation of its international obligations.

While welcoming the G7 position, the Iranian Resistance emphasizes that solely issuing statements is inadequate. Trade and relations with the religious fascism ruling Iran at the price of ignoring the tragic state of human rights in Iran under the rule of the mullahs will only intensify suppression and in particular executions. Relations with this regime should be preconditioned to a halt in executions.

Source: NCR-Iran, April 13, 2016

UN Calls For Moratorium In Iran On Executions For Drug Offenses

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has called on Iran to temporarily halt executions for drug offenses until parliament debates a new law to end the mandatory death penalty for such crimes.

"Given the broadening recognition in Iran that the death penalty does not deter drug crime and that antinarcotics laws need to be reformed, I call on Iran to take the important first step of instituting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty," he said in a press statement issued on April 14.

Last weekend, 5 men were hanged in Iran, 3 of them on charges of narcotics trafficking.

So far this year, 60 executions have reportedly been carried out in Iran. Zeid noted that this represents a drop compared to the same period last year.

According to the latest UN report on human rights in Iran, Tehran carried out nearly 1,000 executions in 2015, the highest rate in over 2 decades, and many of them juveniles.

Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, April 13, 2016

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