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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Global executions reach 25-year high - Reprieve comment

The number of executions carried out globally last year rose to a 25-year high, a review of the global state of the death penalty has found.

According to new figures, 2015 saw a sharp rise in executions in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran, and a total of at least 1,634 people executed overall in the year. 

The report, from Amnesty International, follows the news this weekend that in Saudi Arabia, over 80 people have been executed in the country since the start of 2016 – setting the Kingdom on course to double its 2015 total this year.

The figures come ahead of a visit to Saudi Arabia by President Obama, expected to take place later this month. International human rights organization Reprieve, which assists juveniles and others facing execution the Kingdom, is urging the US government to use the trip to raise the cases of three juveniles - Ali al Nimr, Dawood al Marhoon and Abdullah al Zaher - who face execution after being arrested at protests.

Research by Reprieve late last year found that over 70% of those facing execution in Saudi Arabia were arrested for non-violent offences, including political protest, while reports of torture and forced ‘confessions’ were widespread.

The Amnesty report also follows concerns made yesterday by the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee, over the UK government’s commitment to preventing human rights abuses abroad. In an interim report on the Foreign Office’s on the UK’s overseas human rights work, the FAC said that there was “plainly a perception” that the government had recently downgraded its commitment to the promotion of human rights.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “The huge rise in executions in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt is extremely troubling. The US and European countries must urgently speak out about these grave abuses by our allies - from mass trials and torture to death sentences handed down to political protesters and juveniles. When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia this month, he must challenge the Saudis on their appalling human rights record – and urgently press for the release of juveniles such as Ali al Nimr.”

Source: Reprieve, March 6, 2016

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