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Texas: Gov. Abbott should grant death row inmate Rodney Reed a reprieve, before it’s too late

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Convicted murderer Rodney Reed is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but Gov. Greg Abbott has the power to stop it.
As it stands, there’s no indication that Abbott will. He has only stopped one execution since becoming governor 5 years ago.
Reed was sentenced to death in 1998, after being convicted of the brutal 1996 rape and killing of a 19-year-old woman from central Texas, Stacey Stites. And though the governor has yet to weigh in on this specific case, he supports capital punishment, as do most voters in the state. According to a June 2018 poll from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, fully three-fourths of Texans strongly or somewhat support the death penalty.
But the question at hand has nothing to do with the death penalty, per se. Granting a reprieve would simply be the right thing to do — and a necessary precaution against the doubts that would linger, if Reed is executed as scheduled.
Reed has consistently maintained his innocence, and legitimate questions …

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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