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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…

Irish juvenile Ibrahim Halawa marks 1000 days facing death penalty in Egypt

Egypt protests
An Irish student who was arrested in the wake of protests in Egypt marks 1000 days of detention facing a potential death sentence.

Ibrahim Halawa faces the death penalty despite having been a juvenile - aged just 17 - at the time of his arrest in August 2013. He is being subjected to an ongoing mass trial alongside hundreds of adults, which has been delayed on multiple occasions.

Following his arrest, the Egyptian police beat Ibrahim and denied him medical treatment. He has since been subjected to periods of solitary confinement in cells with no light or toilet.

Despite the fact that Ibrahim was a juvenile when he was arrested he has been held in adult prisons and is being tried by adult courts. International human rights organisation Reprieve has discovered that hundreds of children - including some as young as 6 - were arrested in the same breakup of protests as Ibrahim. Efforts to have Ibrahim's case transferred to a juvenile court have been rejected.

The 493 defendants in Ibrahim's mass trial are charged with attending an illegal protest during which protesters allegedly caused deaths and criminal damage. They are being held jointly responsible for these offences, despite a lack of specific evidence linking the vast majority of them to these crimes.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, Deputy Director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim, said:

"Ibrahim has now suffered 1000 days of appalling mistreatment in violation of both international and Egyptian law. It is a scandal that the Egyptian authorities continue to seek the death penalty for Ibrahim despite his having been a child at the time of his arrest. The Egyptian authorities must immediately call an end to this mass trial and others like it and release Ibrahim and the hundreds of others like him who have been illegally detained for so long."

Source: reprieve.org, May 12, 2016

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