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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…

Taliban Publicly Execute Two Women in Northern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents publicly executed two women, one of them in an apparent honor killing, in northern Afghanistan recently, according to Afghan officials, members of the victims’ families and a video posted online.

The killings, which were thought to be unrelated, took place in recent months in northern Jowzjan Province, in predominantly Uzbek areas where Taliban presence has traditionally been weak except among ethnic Pashtuns.

The killings came to light after a video was circulated of one of them and officials discovered evidence of the other.

In one of the cases, a pregnant 22-year-old woman named Rabia, a mother of two young children, was accused by her husband of adultery, tried and convicted by the Taliban on the spot, and then publicly shot three times. Members of her family said that her husband had concocted the adultery charge because of a land dispute between their families, and that he had wanted to inherit his wife’s interests in the land.

“They buried her without even allowing her family to participate in her funeral,” said Shakera, her aunt, who like many Afghans has only one name.

“I know she was a very innocent woman,” Shakera said, speaking by telephone from her home in the provincial capital, Shibarghan. “She did not have the heart to be unfaithful.”

Another motive for the Taliban to kill her, Shakera said, was that two of Rabia’s uncles were militia commanders loyal to the Uzbek leader, Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is also first vice president of Afghanistan.

According to the deputy police chief of Jowzjan Province, Col. Abdul Hafeez, the apparent honor killing took place in Memlek village in the district of Faizabad. The district governor of Faizabad, Saira Shekib, who is one of Afghanistan’s few female governors, said it had been personally carried out by the Taliban’s shadow governor in the district, whom she identified as Qari Rasool.

Public execution of Zarmeena, mother of 7, found guilty by
a Taliban court of killing her husband, November 17, 1999.
The killings were reminiscent of similar executions carried out frequently from 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan and killed many women convicted of so-called moral crimes by shooting them in the head at the National Stadium before large crowds. In rural areas, where the group holds sway, they have often stoned women to death for suspected moral offenses.

The second Jowzjan execution is believed to have taken place four months ago, though the video surfaced only in the past couple days. The victim is seen in a blue burqa, sitting on the ground. A Taliban court convicted her of killing her husband, whose family crowded around the execution site and loudly voted to execute her.

The victim’s identity was not known, but Colonel Hafeez said that the authorities believed that the video was genuine and that the execution had taken place in the Khanaqa district. The executioner’s face is covered, but he was believed to be the district’s Taliban commander.

The children of Rabia, the victim in the suspected honor killing, were not present when the Taliban official summarily executed her in the yard of her home. But according to Shakera, Rabia’s 3-year-old daughter found her mother’s bloodied sandals after the killing and recognized them.

“She ran to her grandma asking where is her mother,” Shakera said. “The grandma did not have an answer for her.”

Rabia’s 6-month-old son had still been breast-feeding at the time his mother was killed, Shakera said, and members of the family say they have been unable to afford enough powdered baby formula for the infant. Both children remained with the father’s family.

On Saturday, two coalition soldiers were killed in what may have been an insider attack in southern Afghanistan, according to a statement from the American-led coalition.

The attack took place at Kandahar Air Field, inside an Afghan Special Forces compound, Afghan officials said. Samim Khapalwak, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor, described one of the gunmen as an Afghan police officer, and said four NATO soldiers had been wounded in all. The attack occurred during a training exercise, he said.

While the coalition did not confirm the victims’ nationality, Afghan officials said they were Romanian soldiers.

The coalition statement said that the victims had been shot by two gunmen wearing the uniforms of Afghan security forces, and that other coalition soldiers had shot and killed the attackers.

Source: The New York Times, May 7, 2016

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