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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 chief expresses concern about Iraq's fast-tracking of executions

UN Building NYC
The United Nations human rights chief today expressed serious concern that Iraq has created a committee to accelerate implementation of death sentences.

The committee, announced by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, has been mandated to identify procedural or legislative delays in implementation of death sentences passed by Iraq's courts.

"Given the weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system, and the current environment in Iraq, I am gravely concerned that innocent people have been and may continue to be convicted and executed, resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a news release.

"Fast-tracking executions will only accelerate injustice," Mr. Zeid added, urging the Government not to take any actions that may further weaken the administration of justice and diminish the rights of those subject to criminal legal procedures.

Monitoring by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq (OHCHR) has revealed a consistent failure to respect due process and fair trial standards, including a reliance on torture to extract confessions.

UNAMI and OHCHR have also noted the lack of transparency, with the authorities failing to provide timely public information on executions.

On 6 July, the Iraqi Minister of Justice announced that 45 death sentences have been carried out since the beginning of 2016, 3 more executions were forthcoming, and amendments to the legal framework to accelerate the implementation of death sentences would be put to the Iraqi Parliament.

On 23 July, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the committee. An estimated 1,200 individuals are on death row in Iraq, including possibly hundreds who have exhausted appeals processes and have received the final decree of the President.

The Government of Iraq has not publicly confirmed these figures and usually only announces that executions have taken place long after the event.

Mr. Zeid called on Iraq to end the use of the death penalty by establishing an immediate moratorium on capital punishment and to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed.

Source: un.org, August 1, 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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