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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…

UN rights office 'deeply concerned' about possible imminent executions in Gaza

Expressing concern about possible imminent executions in Gaza, the United Nations human rights office today urged the authorities in Gaza to uphold their obligations to respect the rights to life and to a fair trial and not carry out death penalty.

"We also urge the Palestinian President to establish a moratorium on executions in line with the strong international trend towards ending the use of the death penalty," said spokesperson Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

He said that the office is "deeply concerned about recent statements made by the authorities in Gaza, including the Attorney General, of their intention to implement a number of death sentences, and fear that the first executions may be imminent."

The Gaza authorities' statements follow the demands of several families for the death penalty to be carried out against individuals accused of killing their relatives.

Death sentences may only be carried out in extremely limited circumstances, and pursuant to a trial and appeals that scrupulously follow fair trial standards, he said, adding that the office has serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards, and is concerned about reports indicating that these executions will be implemented without the approval of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law.

Media reports indicating that the sentences could be carried out in public also raise alarm, as this is a practice prohibited under international human rights law, the spokesperson said.

Source: UN News Centre, May 26, 2016

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