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Showing posts from June, 2016

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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Why the World Needs a Heterosexual Pride Day

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If you're wondering why the world needs a Heterosexual Pride Day, check out the map below.
All the countries marked in red are the places where you can be arrested, verbally abused, beaten, physically assaulted, jailed, stoned to death, thrown off building tops, executed, hanged, killed, demonized, or outcast for being straight. 
The struggle is quite real.





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Indonesia's Supreme Court sentences 5 to death for drug offenses

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The Supreme Court has added five new death row inmates to the Attorney General’s Office’s (AGO) executions list, with the recent sentencing of five drug dealers.
The move at country’s highest court comes just four days after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on law enforcement institutions and judicial bodies to unite in supporting the heaviest possible punishment of drug dealers. Jokowi made the comments at an event for the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Jakarta on Sunday.
The Supreme Court said the five people, including Hong Kong citizen and international drug syndicate kingpin Wong Chi Ping, deserved the punishment because drug-related mortality had gotten worse in recent years with the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) recording around 50 deaths every day due to drugs.
“If some people say that the death penalty is a cruel punishment, then is it not cruel for us to let 50 people die every day because of the drugs that these syndicates brought in…

Vietnamese court sentences 73-year-old Vietnam-born Australian woman to death for trafficking heroin

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A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced a 73-year-old Vietnam-born Australian woman to death for trafficking heroin hidden in bars of soap, several state-run media outlets reported on Thursday.
The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court found Nguyen Thi Huong guilty on Wednesday of possessing 36 bars of soap stuffed with 2.8 kg (6 lb) of heroin in her baggage as she was boarding a flight to Australia in December 2014, the Ho Chi Minh City Police newspaper said.
Court officials and Australian diplomats in the city could not be reached for comment about the case.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "concerned that an Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in Vietnam" but added that under Vietnamese law the woman can appeal the sentence "so there is still some way to go before this legal process concludes".
"We will continue to provide consular assistance and support to the woman and her family. Universal opposition to capi…

Hope and Fear as Duterte Takes Over Philippines

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Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in Thursday as president of the Philippines, with many hoping his maverick style will energize the country but others fearing he could undercut one of Asia's liveliest democracies amid his threats to kill criminals en masse.
The 71-year-old former prosecutor and longtime mayor of southern Davao city won a resounding victory in May's elections in his first foray into national politics. He has described himself as the country's first leftist president and declared his foreign policy would not be dependent on the United States, a longtime treaty ally.
The frugal noontime ceremony at Malacanan, the Spanish colonial era presidential palace by Manila's murky Pasig River, was a break from tradition sought by Duterte to press the need for austerity amid the country's pestering poverty. In the past, the oath-taking had mostly been held at a grandstand in a historic park by Manila Bay, followed by a grand reception.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a h…

‘El Chapo’ extradition to US halted by Mexico judge over death penalty fears

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A judge in Mexico temporarily blocked the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the US after his lawyers appealed the move over fears that the infamous drug cartel leader might face the death penalty.
Guzman’s extradition request was suspended Tuesday after two injunctions were filed by his lawyers. He is set to face murder and drug smuggling charges in the US.
The judge granted a stay on the drug kingpin’s extradition until appeals can be heard. 
For now, “El Chapo” will be held in a maximum security jail near the US border.
Jose Refugio Rodriguez, one of Guzman’s lawyers, told the Associated Press that the appeals are based on the statute of limitations on some of the charges as well as their contention that some of the accusations against Guzman are based on hearsay rather than direct evidence.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry approved Guzman’s extradition when the US guaranteed that Guzman would not face the death penalty. 
Mexico has abolished capital punishment and will not e…

Two Christians and a Muslim man get death penalty in Pakistan for blasphemy

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2 Christians and a Muslim man were on Tuesday sentenced to death by a Pakistani anti terrorism court for committing blasphemy.
The Anti-Terrorism Court of Gujranwala district announced the verdict in the case which was pending for the last one year.
ATC Gujranwala Judge Bushra Zaman handed down death penalty to Anjum, Javed Naz (who are both Christians) and Jaffer Ali for committing blasphemy. Naz and Ali have been sentenced to an additional 35 years each.
The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 5 million on Anjum and Rs 8 million each on Naz and Ali.
Gujranwala city police had arrested Anjum, Naz and Ali a year ago on blasphemy charges.
The judge announced the verdict after prosecution presented all witnesses.
Anjum, a resident of Farid Town, some 80km from Lahore ran a chain of Locus Schools System in Gujranwala. Asif, Anjum's brother, told PTI that his brother never committed any blasphemy.
"Javed Naz was a cousin of Anjum and employed at one of his schools. When Anjum fired …

Iran under pressure to abolish death penalty for drug trafficking

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Several European countries cut off financial contributions to republic's counter-narcotics campaign
Iran is under pressure to end its use of death penalty against drug traffickers after facing a serious shortfall in the international funding of the country's counter-narcotics campaign.
An increasing number of European countries have decided to cut off contributions even though the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) last year approved a 5-year country partnership programme for Iran that was aimed at providing about $20m (then 14.4m pounds).
The agency's latest annual appeal document, obtained by the human rights group Reprieve, which works for the abolition of death penalty, shows that Tehran has received zero in funding for 2016. The UK has confirmed in writing that it is no longer contributing. Similar indications have come from Italy, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Norway.
2 senior Iranian officials have recently complained about the lack of international suppo…

Guarding Solitary Confinement

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Interview with a Former Corrections Officer Who Worked in Prison Isolation Units
Recently, Solitary Watch had the opportunity to sit down with “X,” a former corrections officer who spent almost two years working on a segregation unit in Pennsylvania. (The guard requested complete anonymity in exchange for the interview). 
X, now 48, worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections between 2006 and 2009, and in the Special Housing Units (SHU) from 2008-2009. He spoke candidly with journalist Aviva Stahl about what drew him to work “in the hole,” what he saw while he was there, and what he thinks about the growing movement to reform the use of solitary. 
This interview has been edited for length and clarity
AS: Did you start working in the SHU or did you work in general population first?
X: It’s always general population first. Always. You don’t work in solitary confinement until you’ve established yourself as a CO. They want to see how you react. How you handle yourself. How you a…

Situation of Iran's Minorities Raised at 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty

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ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) convened the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty on 21-23 June 2016 in Oslo, Norway, to discuss ways forward in the abolition of the death penalty. 
The event gathered around 1000 participants (ministers, diplomats, parliamentarians, academics, lawyers and members of civil society), among which Ms Monireh Shirani (Balochistan Human Rights Group, Sweden) who presented her view on the state of death penalty among migrants and minorities in Iran. 
Baloch, Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks and Turkmen are being systematically discriminated against and have less access to legal resources to defend themselves than the rest of the population, which results in minorities being the most threatened by executions. 
Iran is currently among the top countries when it comes to the number of executions in the past 5 years.
Below is the speech of Ms Monireh Shirani:
Ethnic minorities have long suffered discrimination as they have been viewed with s…

Arkansas judge criticizes secrecy in U.S. executions

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An Arkansas judge who last year declared unconstitutional a law that allows the state to keep confidential the source of drugs used for execution by lethal injection has lamented a 5-4 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court reversing his ruling.
In a breakout session on the death penalty at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly June 24, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen said that since the Supreme Court upheld the use of capital punishment for certain crimes, the death penalty debate has shifted to whether specific execution procedures satisfy the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
"How it's being done now is we'll make sure it's nice by making sure it's secret so you don't know how barbaric it is," said Griffen, who also serves as pastor of CBF-affiliated New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark. Griffen said legal action surrounding capital punishment now focuses on "seeking to discover the chemic…

Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte calls human rights activists and opponents of the death penalty “stupid”

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During a speech Monday, Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte — who has sworn off interviews with the press — reiterated his support for capital punishment as a retaliatory measure and not a deterrent, disparaging human rights activists and opponents of the death penalty as “stupid.”
“I believe in retribution. Why? You should pay. When you kill someone, rape, you should die,” Duterte said in a speech Monday in Davao City, where he was mayor for two decades before winning the presidency this year and has been succeeded by his daughter, Sara Duterte. “These human rights (groups), congressmen, how stupid you are,” he added, promising to restore the death penalty. “He promised that tens of thousands of people would die, with security forces being given shoot to kill orders,” Agence France-Presse notes.
“When they describe or characterise a human rights violator, these fools make it appear that the people you kill are saints, as if they are pitiful or innocent,” he said of human rig…

Clock Ticks as Indonesian Execution Spree Looms

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Hope and Hypocrisy: Despite fighting for the freedom of hundreds of its own citizens facing the death penalty abroad, Indonesia looks set to carry out a spate of executions of foreign nationals. Can international and local activists force the populist Jokowi administration to change its course?
Sixteen executions are expected to soon take place in Indonesia, and most of the people are foreigners convicted of drug crimes.
Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, says Indonesia’s “tragically misguided and wrongheaded” policy could see more than 40 people executed by the end of 2017. “We are greatly concerned because the Indonesian government has made it clear that as soon as Ramadan is over, in early July, they will begin executions again,” Kine told The News Lens International.
Indonesia had a de-facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty until 2013, and human rights activists blame President Joko Widodo (often referred to as Jokowi) and his "W…

Japan: Capital punishment for a minor

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The Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the death sentence given in a lay judge trial to a 24-year-old man for murders he committed when he was a minor raises questions about the lay judge trial system and capital punishment. These include whether the lay judges correctly understood the spirit of the Juvenile Law in sentencing the defendant to death. It was the 1st death sentence handed down on a minor in a lay judge trial.
The murders took place in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in 2010 when Yutaro Chiba was 18 - meaning he fell under the purview of the Juvenile Law. Chiba was convicted of entering his ex-girlfriend's house and stabbing to death the girl's sister and a female friend of the girl with a butcher knife, seriously injuring a male friend of the sister and abducting the girl. Prosecutors said Chiba killed the victims because they were trying to separate him and his former girlfriend.
Since Chiba pleaded no contest to the key facts presented by the prosecu…

Maldives state ready to kill Humam, and a way of life

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In the early hours of the morning on the 19th day of Ramadan, as most of the country slept, the Maldives Supreme Court upheld the verdict by lower courts to kill Hussein Humam Ahmed. The 22-year-old man was convicted of killing MP Dr Afrasheem Ali on 2 October 2012 in a trial laden with irregularities.
Regulations introduced recently say the sentence must be carried out within 30 days. Umar Naseer, Home Minister until a sudden resignation on Tuesday this week, has said the State is now ready to kill by hanging - the only thing missing was someone’s neck to put the noose around and squeeze the life out of. The Supreme Court delivered that last night in the shape of Humam.
Humam’s killing will be the first in the Maldives since 1953, even then a rare thing. 
The Supreme Court’s decision is political in another way. It panders to the strict Salafi clerics and their philosophy of ‘progression through regression’ that now dominate Maldives society. It caters to their demands for a legal s…

Penn State researchers analyze death penalty findings

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Penn State researchers studying whether racial bias affects the imposition of the death penalty have begun crunching the data, a move signaling the end of a 4-year saga of waiting on a state report that has officially halted executions in the state.
The Penn State findings might be made public before year's end.
While the analysis is in the early stages, the professor leading the research said he expects similar findings to what the Reading Eagle reported last week on the distribution of death sentences in Pennsylvania.
"I think it'll be a good complement to what you've done, with some details that will flesh out the issues that you've raised," said John Kramer, a retired Penn State criminology professor. "I don't suspect that it will erase the (Eagle's) findings."
In an investigation spanning 5 months, the Eagle found Pennsylvania has sentenced 408 defendants to death since 1978, at a rate of 1.6 death sentences for every 100 homicides. Th…