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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…

Hamas Calls for Resumption of Death Penalty in Gaza

Execution of alleged "collaborators" with Israel by Hamas militants in Aug. 2014
Execution of alleged "collaborators" with Israel by Hamas militants in Aug. 2014
GAZA CITY — Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, called on Wednesday for the resumption of the death penalty for certain crimes. Several Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel or of murder are now facing execution.

In a terse statement, Hamas called on “the competent judicial authorities to undertake its duties.” The statement was widely seen as a green light to begin executions, because Hamas officials had been arguing for days about reinstating the death penalty.

“We found it was important to implement the death penalty rule to maintain civil peace in society and to prevent cases of murder,” said Yehia Mousa, a Hamas legislator in Gaza.

“The death penalty exists in America,” he said. “Killings warrant the death penalty.”

“We have three or four cases that are ready for the death penalty,” Mr. Mousa said, adding that the executions would be carried out in police stations.

He did not provide more information, but on April 18, a military court in Gaza sentenced three men to death for collaborating with Israel, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Palestinians consider such collaboration treasonous.

Hamas officials began imposing the death penalty after they took control of Gaza in 2007. Since then, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has documented 67 executions. That figure does not include Hamas gunmen’s killings of people accused of being collaborators during wartime.

Hamas mostly stopped the executions after June 2014 because a national unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority was officially placed in charge of Gaza.

An exception was the case of Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a Hamas commander, who was fatally shot in April for “moral crimes” after he was accused of theft and of having sex with another man.

As president, Mr. Abbas is required to ratify each death sentence before it is carried out. But he opposes the death penalty and has not ratified a sentence since he came to power in 2005.

The national unity government fell apart last year, and Hamas reasserted control over Gaza.

Hamdi Shakour, the deputy director of programs at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said Hamas appeared to have revived the death penalty in response to the popular sentiment that crime is increasing in Gaza, a product of years of unemployment and poverty, tight restrictions on travel and three wars in the territory.

“Instead of talking about the collapse of the economy, the social fabric and people’s living standards, they are arguing that there is no preventative punishment,” Mr. Shakour said.

Sari Bashi, a spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch, said: “It’s terrible. The court system in Gaza is rife with coercion, torture and compromised procedures, and so to execute people in Gaza is particularly egregious.”

Source: The New York Times, Majd Al Waheidi, Diaa Hadid, May 25, 2016

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