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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Global group of jurists asks Duterte to rethink push for death penalty revival

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
The International Commission of Jurists has written President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to express concern about his strong support for reinstating the death penalty. The ICJ said it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, has not been proven to deter heinous crime, and would run against repeated calls by the UN General Assembly for all states "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."

The ICJ, a 60-year-old global organization of judges and lawyers fighting for legal protection of human rights throughout the world, said it "considers the imposition of the death penalty to be a violation of the right to life and the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Reinstating the death penalty, said the letter signed by Sam Zarifi, ICJ's Regional Director for Asia & the Pacific, "would contravene international commitments that the Philippines has voluntarily entered into," and "place the Philippines at odds" with repeated UN calls to freeze all execution orders "and for those States which have abolished the death penalty, not to reintroduce it."

ICJ urged the incoming administration to "focus more on effective, evidence-based approaches to crime prevention," adding that, "policies and legislation that address the underlying social and economic causes of criminal activity are also vital to ensuring stability and the rule of law."

Scientific research, said the ICJ, has "failed to establish any significant impact of the death penalty on the incidence of crime." Instead, studies show "improving crime detection and investigation, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system, and addressing underlying causes, is far more likely to reduce serious crime."

Obligations under international law

The ICJ described the Philippines as "an example of global best practice on the abolition of the death penalty." Besides scuttling the death penalty in 2006, it is the only ASEAN Member State that has ratified the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which obliges the Philippines not to execute any person within its jurisdiction.

"The 2nd Optional Protocol to the ICCPR contains no provision on renunciation, and States may not unilaterally withdraw from their obligations under the Protocol," said ICJ, adding that "the resumption of executions in the Philippines would therefore constitute a violation of international law and represent an alarming disregard for the international human rights system."

No deterrence vs. crime

The incoming administration's desire to reinstate the death penalty, noted ICJ, is "largely driven by the desire to reduce the occurrence of crime in the Philippines," and yet, it added, "empirical evidence does not prove that the death penalty deters crime."

Research also indicates, said ICJ, "that increasing the chances of actually being caught and punished can be effective in deterring criminal conduct. Individuals are less likely to commit crimes when there is a high probability of actually being subjected to criminal sanctions."

Investing in improved detection and investigation techniques and capacity, and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system, is more likely to achieve real results in reducing crime, added ICJ.

HERE'S FULL TEXT OF THE ICJ LETTER:


AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT RODRIGO DUTERTE

Rodrigo R. Duterte
President-Elect of the Republic of the Philippines
31 May 2016
Dear President-elect Duterte,
We are writing to you today to express our concern regarding your recent statements in support of reinstating the death penalty.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is a global organization of judges and lawyers. For the past 60 years, it has devoted itself to promoting the understanding and observance of the rule of law and the legal protection of human rights throughout the world.
The ICJ considers the imposition of the death penalty to be a violation of the right to life and the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Reinstating the death penalty would contravene international commitments that the Philippines has voluntarily entered into. It would also place the Philippines at odds with the repeated calls by the UN General Assembly for all states "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty" and for those States which have abolished the death penalty, "not to reintroduce it."
Scientific research has failed to establish any significant impact of the death penalty on the incidence of crime. On the other hand, research indicates that improving crime detection and investigation, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system, and addressing underlying causes, is far more likely to reduce serious crime.
Obligations of the Philippines under international law
The Philippines is currently an example of global best practice on the abolition of the death penalty. It abolished the death penalty in 2006 and is the only ASEAN Member State that has ratified the 2ndOptional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Under Article 1 of the 2nd Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, the Philippines is obliged not to execute any person within its jurisdiction.
The 2nd Optional Protocol to the ICCPR contains no provision on renunciation, and States may not unilaterally withdraw from their obligations under the Protocol. The resumption of executions in the Philippines would therefore constitute a violation of international law and represent an alarming disregard for the international human rights system.
No evidence that death penalty deters crime
Your statements suggest that the intention to reinstate the death penalty is largely driven by the desire to reduce the occurrence of crime in the Philippines. We emphasize, however, that empirical evidence does not prove that the death penalty deters crime.
For instance, there is no proof that the death penalty deters crime at a greater rate than alternative forms of punishment, and the overwhelming majority of criminologists believe that the death penalty does not provide an effective deterrent.
Research also indicates that increasing the chances of actually being caught and punished can be effective in deterring criminal conduct. Individuals are less likely to commit crimes when there is a high probability of actually being subjected to criminal sanctions. Thus, heightened enforcement efforts that are highly visible send a clearer message to potential criminals. Indeed, multiple studies demonstrate that an increased likelihood of punishment is directly associated with a decrease in crime.
Based on the scientific research, then, reinstituting the death penalty in the Philippines is unproven and unlikely to have any real impact on the incidence of serious crime in the country. On the other hand, investing in improved detection and investigation techniques and capacity, and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system, is more likely to achieve real results in reducing crime.
We strongly urge that, in lieu of reinstating the death penalty, the Government of the Philippines should focus more on effective, evidence-based approaches to crime prevention. Policies and legislation that address the underlying social and economic causes of criminal activity are also vital to ensuring stability and the rule of law.
We note that there have already been initiatives in the past that, if given strong support and adequate resources, may be effective in deterring crime. For instance, the Philippine National Police has, in the past, established constructive law enforcement policies through initiatives such as the Community-Oriented Policing System, which emphasized comprehensive policing, data-driven solutions and community engagement.
Reinstating capital punishment in the Philippines would constitute a huge setback not only for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country, but also for the Philippines internationally.
As mentioned above, the Philippines has in recent years shown how strong leadership and political will can be instrumental in abolishing the death penalty. The Philippines can today rightfully claim and be presented internationally and regionally as an example of global best practice in the abolition of the death penalty.
Needlessly reversing course and losing this leading role is unlikely to have any significant impact on reducing crime in the Philippines, but it will adversely affect the Philippines' standing in the world.
We therefore hope that, under your presidency, the same strength of leadership can be applied in maintaining the current prohibition of the death penalty, and instead preventing crime in a manner that conforms to international human rights law and standards.
Very truly yours,
Sam Zarifi
Regional Director for Asia & the Pacific
International Commission of Jurists

Source: interakyson.com, May 31, 2016

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