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'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

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Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Belarus execution shows 'callous disdain' for international human rights law - UN experts

United Nations human rights experts today condemned Belarus' continued use of the death penalty following reports that a man whose complaint was before the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) had been executed, despite a specific request from the Committee for a stay of execution.

"I am appalled by reports of the recent execution of Sergey Ivanov by the Belarusian authorities," said Miklos Haraszti, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Reports indicate that Mr. Ivanov, who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in 2015, was executed on around 18 April this year.

Mr. Ivanov's brother had petitioned the Committee, arguing that Mr. Ivanov's trial had been unfair. During the trial, he remained handcuffed and was obliged to wear special clothes with the label "capital punishment" on them. It was also alleged that he was not brought promptly before a judge upon arrest and had limited access to a lawyer.

Mr. Ivanov's execution means Belarus, since 2010, has executed 8 people whose cases were registered for examination by the Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Belarus is a State party.

Belarus remains the only country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty, despite repeated calls for its abolition from many in the international community, including the members of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

Mr. Haraszti once again urged the Belarusian authorities to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, as an interim legal step towards it full abolition.

The human rights expert also voiced grave concern at news that another defendant, Sergei Khmelevsky, was sentenced to death by a court on 6 May. "The news testifies to the lack of progress on the human rights situation in Belarus," he said.

The Human Rights Committee had requested the Belarusian authorities not to carry out the sentence, pending the examination of Mr. Ivanov's case.

Non-compliance with the Committee's request for interim measures constitutes a violation, by Belarus, of its obligations under the Optional Protocol to ICCPR.

"The decision to proceed with the execution of the death penalty amounts to both a callous disdain for and a grave breach of Belarus' international human rights obligations," said Nigel Rodley, Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Source: UN News Centre, May 13, 2016


UN rights experts criticize reported Belarus execution

U.N. human rights experts are criticizing a reported execution of a murder suspect in Belarus, saying the move violates the country's international commitments.

The experts cited reports that Sergey Ivanov was executed on around April 18, despite a specific request by a U.N. panel to allow a review of the case first. Ivanov was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death last year.

Nigel Rodley, a special rapporteur for the Human Rights Committee, said the execution "amounts to both a callous disdain for and a grave breach of Belarus' international human rights obligations."

A U.N. statement Friday said Ivanov's brother had appealed to the committee and argued that the trial was unfair. It said Belarus is the only country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty.

Source: Associated Press, May 13, 2016

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