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Iran Execution Trends Six Months After the New Anti-Narcotics Law

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IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS (MAY 28, 2018): On Monday, May 10, 2018, Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported the execution of Kiomars Nasouhi, a prisoner sentenced to death for drug offenses. This execution is the first drug-related execution registered by IHR since the latest amendment to the Anti-Narcotics Law was enforced on November 14, 2017.
According to reports by IHR, at least 77 people, among them three juvenile offenders have been executed between January 1. and May 20, 2018. Four were hanged in public spaces. Of the reported executions 62 were sentenced to death for murder, seven for Moharebeh (being an “enemy of God”), seven for rape, and 1 for drug offenses. For comparison, it is reported that during the same period in 2017, at least 203 people were executed, 112 were executed for drug offenses. The significant reduction in the number of executions in 2018 seems to be due to a temporary halt in drug-related executions as the number of executions for murder charges were nearly the same as …

India: New report on death-row prisoners poses questions to the political and judicial establishment

The 1st comprehensive report on death-row prisoners by the National Law University, which identified 385 prisoners and received access to 373 of them, reveals certain infirmities that would question the basis upon which death penalties are awarded. 

Confirming studies in other countries that the death penalty is more likely to be imposed on poorer victims, the NLU report says that 74.1 % of those on death row hail from economically vulnerable groups. 

The implications of this are immense: what it tells us is the quality of legal help that they could afford, the most crucial factor that would have ensured that these prisoners were spared the gallows. 

The report also notes that 61 % of the prisoners had not completed secondary school, which explains socio-economic status and their inability to study case files and court documents to build a better defence case for themselves. 

More damningly, the report notes that of 191 of the prisoners who spoke about legal assistance, 68 % said they had never met their lawyers at the high court level and 44 % did not even know the names of the lawyers representing them in the Supreme Court. Interface between the lawyer and the client is key to a successful defence, and the lawyer gathering a better understanding of the case.

Even the role of the State's legal aid services has been questioned by the death-row prisoners who complained that these lawyers extorted money from them. 

As many as 185 of these prisoners said there was no lawyer available to them while in police custody, and 169 prisoners said there were no lawyers to represent them when first produced before a magistrate. This essentially brings out the class distinctions between a rich and a poor person and the latter's disadvantages. 

Even the role of the lower judiciary becomes suspect in this scenario as the Supreme Court has repeatedly asserted, that even a terrorist like Ajmal Kasab, deserves to get legal representation, without which the entire judicial process becomes vitiated. 

The report will energise proponents for abolition of the death penalty and their argument that life imprisonment in jail for the duration of the convict's natural life is a more humane, but equally severe punishment. 

The study also tells us that 25 % of the prisoners were Dalits or Adivasis, 34 % were OBC's, 20 % belonged to religious minorities and 24 % belonged to the general category. While this would broadly correlate with the share of these communities in the larger population, the conjunction of backward caste and lower class identities cannot be rejected outright. 

Last year, the Law Commission had recommended a gradual phase-out of the death penalty and retaining it only for terror cases. But the NLU report also reveals that it is in terror cases that the judicial process has been most vitiated. The disposal of terror cases, on average, takes over 8 years at the trial stage, and six years at the appeal process. 

In contrast, death row prisoners in other cases spent an average of 3 years in jail during the trial stage and 2 years during the appellate stage. But that is where the inhumanity also begins. The researchers found that 1,810 death penalties were awarded by trial courts between 2000 and 2015. But just 5 % of all death penalties were confirmed by higher courts. 

In the last 12 years, just three executions have taken place which indicates that the political executive is even less disposed towards death penalties than the higher judiciary. This raises the question of why prisoners have to be put through death row where they are kept in solitary confinement and not allowed to work and even tortured. 

It is time that the high court and Supreme Court pull their weight and tell trial court judges to be more circumspect when awarding punishments. It is time, again, for Parliament and the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Source: Daily News & Analysis, May 9, 2016

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