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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 drugs agency ignores global drug execution crisis in annual report

UN Building, NYC
A new report by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime fails to mention the use of the death penalty for drug crimes, despite a surge in executions of alleged drug offenders in countries where the UN agency funds counter-narcotics police.

UNODC unveiled its 2016 World Drug Report today (23 June) and warned that the number of drug users has risen worldwide. However, the 174-page document included no reference to the increased number of death sentences and executions in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. 

While the UNODC’s report lamented the number of deaths from drugs overdoses, it made no reference to the 638 alleged drug offenders who were hanged in Iran last year, up from 367 in 2014.

UNODC recently announced a new $20m funding deal for Iranian drug operations, which will support law enforcement training and equipment that has previously been linked to arrests and executions.

Earlier this year 56 countries, including all 28 EU member states, signed a statement condemning the failure of a UNODC-administered summit to address the death penalty for drug crimes.

The statement also appeared to warn the UNODC over its human rights record, noting the need to “prevent criminal justice or other forms of international assistance resulting in a death sentence being applied, and to hold international agencies to account for compliance with this and all other human rights obligations.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, said:

“The UN’s World Drug Report completely ignores the global resurgence in the death penalty for drug crimes, which has seen states like Iran and Saudi Arabia execute hundreds of alleged drug offenders.

“This seems all too convenient an omission given that the body which authored the report, the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, continues to fund Iranian and Pakistani drug raids which routinely send drug mules to death row.

“Instead of whitewashing the world’s drug executions crisis, UNODC should face up to its human rights responsibilities, and freeze its support for drug police in countries which apply the death penalty for narcotics offences.”

The UNODC report is available here.

Source: Reprieve, June 23, 2016

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