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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Iran hangs gay teenage student in first child offender execution of the year

Student Hassan Afshar is first child offender executed in country this year

Concerns that ‘rape’ offence may in reality have been consensual gay sex

Amnesty International has revealed that a teenager has been executed in Iran after being convicted of the rape of another boy, the first confirmed execution of a child offender in Iran this year.

Amnesty, which has been carrying out extensive research into the situation of child offenders on death row in Iran, found that Hassan Afshar, 19, was hanged in Arak’s Prison in Markazi Province on 18 July, after being convicted of “lavat-e be onf” (forced male-to-male anal intercourse) in early 2015. 

The execution went ahead even though Iran’s Office of the Head of the Judiciary had promised his family that they’d review the case on 15 September. Iran’s Supreme Court initially overturned the sentence due to incomplete investigations but ultimately upheld it in March.

Last year Iran carried out at least four executions of those who’d been convicted of offences they were accused of committing while aged below 18. For the 160 child offenders who remain on death row in Iran, news of Afshar’s execution will come as a terrifying blow, said Amnesty. 

Just days after Afshar’s execution, the authorities also scheduled the execution of Alireza Tajiki, another child offender. His execution had been due to take place yesterday, but was postponed following public pressure.

Hassan Afshar was arrested in December 2014 after the authorities received a complaint accusing him and two other youths of forcing a teenage boy to have sexual intercourse with them. Afshar maintained that the sexual acts were consensual and that the complainant’s son had willingly engaged in same-sex sexual activities before.

In Iran, men and boys who engage in same-sex anal intercourse face different punishments under Iranian criminal law depending on whether they’re the “active” or “passive” partners and whether their conduct is characterised as consensual or non-consensual.

If deemed consensual the “passive” partner faces a death sentence. The “active” partner, however, is sentenced to death only if he is married or if he is not a Muslim and the “passive” partner is a Muslim. If the intercourse is deemed non-consensual, the “active” partner receives the death penalty but the “passive” partner is exempted from punishment and treated as a victim.

This legal framework risks creating a situation where a willing “passive” partner of anal intercourse may feel compelled, when targeted by the authorities, to characterise their consensual sexual activity as rape in order to avoid the death penalty.

While the authorities must always investigate allegations of rape and prosecute those responsible in fair trials, rape does not fall into the category of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law. Furthermore, the criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults violates international human rights law.

Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Magdalena Mughrabi said:

“Iran has proved that its sickening enthusiasm for putting juveniles to death, in contravention of international law, knows no bounds.

“Hassan Afshar was a 17-year-old high school student when he was arrested. He had no access to a lawyer and the judiciary rushed through the investigation and prosecution, convicting and sentencing him to death within two months of his arrest as though they could not execute him quickly enough.”

Background

International law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Iran is a state party, absolutely prohibits the use of death penalty for crimes committed when the defendant was below 18 years of age. It also restricts the application of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes”, which refers to intentional killing. Amnesty opposes the death penalty unconditionally, for all cases and under any circumstances.

Source: Amnesty International, August 3, 2016

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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