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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…

Rodrigo Duterte should break cycle of human rights violations, not compound them: AI

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
If President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is serious about introducing change in the Philippines, he must turn his back on the history of human rights violations and end the prevailing culture of impunity, Amnesty International said today.

Rodrigo Duterte, the former Mayor of Davao city, is set to become the newly-elected President of the Philippines after leading the voting in the 9 May 2016 election. Duterte's principal rivals have conceded defeat.

"If Rodrigo Duterte is serious about bringing change to the Philippines, he should address the dire human rights situation in the country and put an end to extrajudicial executions, unlawful arrests, secret detention as well as torture and other ill-treatment," said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International's Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

During the course of the presidential election campaign, Duterte has issued a series of inflammatory statements that, if enacted, would contravene the Philippines' international human rights obligations, including his promise to reduce crime rates by shooting suspected criminals.

"As leader of the Philippines, the President-elect must protect and uphold human rights, not reject them. This includes the right to life, due process and fair trial," said Rafendi Djamin.

"The way to bring about true and lasting change for the Philippines is by putting in place robust, transparent and accountable mechanisms to bring about an end to longstanding human rights violations. Threatening to introduce a culture of impunity, as Rodrigo Duterte has done in recent weeks, will only exacerbate the problems that he campaigned to resolve."

Background: First 100 days

In November 2015, Amnesty International published a human rights agenda for the Philippines' next President outlining 5 areas which should be top of their human rights agenda in their first 100 days. These include:

- Putting an end to extrajudicial executions, unlawful arrests, secret detention, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment.

- Issue an executive order that clearly states the administration's commitment to prioritize putting a stop to the practice of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the country.

- Ensure immediate and effective implementation of Administrative Order 35 guidelines to address torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.

- Create and prioritize a viable presidential commission to review all cases of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, including victims of vigilante groups such as the Davao Death Squad.

- Establish control and accountability over the military, police and other state-sponsored forces, and ensure witness protection.

- Revoke Executive Order 546, which directs the Philippine National Police to support the military in its counterinsurgency work, including through the use of militias and paramilitary groups.

- Ensure that the military exercises full control over all state-sponsored militias and paramilitary groups, and that the Department of National Defense clearly define and differentiate their purposes, chain of command and accountability mechanisms, or otherwise disarm and disband them.

- Disarm and disband all private armies.

- Implement through an executive order a clear and transparent mechanism that prevents the appointment or promotion of persons who face allegations or have records of grave human rights abuses from the Commission on Human Rights to senior levels of government, law enforcement and the judiciary, as well as for the provincial, regional and national command posts for the military.

- Ensure the safe and voluntary return of the displaced, and embed human rights protection in the peace process.

- Order the relevant Departments to take stock of the current situation of long-term displaced populations in Mindanao due to conflict and disasters, and ensure the full compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

- Make human rights a priority integrated across government bodies.

- Declare as a presidential priority bill the charter of the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines, facilitating its approval in both legislative branches;

- Through an executive order, integrate all human rights principles into government policies and practices.

- Ratify key treaties on human rights and international humanitarian law.

- Immediately sign the Optional Protocol of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to facilitate the process of ratification within the new administration's term;

- Immediately sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances as a step towards ratification; and, Immediately ratify the international Arms Trade Treaty.

Duterte was the only candidate who did not provide a response to the agenda.

Source: Amnesty International, May 10, 2016 (wr)

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