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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

UN experts urge Sudan to drop charges carrying death penalty against six human rights activists

UN Building in NYC
31 August 2016 – A group of United Nations human rights experts today urged the Sudanese authorities to drop charges – which carry the death penalty – brought against six human rights activists in the country.

“The charges brought against them appear to be directly linked to their work in the defence of human rights, while exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“This sentence is likely to have a chilling effect among activists and human rights defenders in Sudan,” he added.

The six individuals were either working with or affiliated to a prominent Khartoum-based human rights organisation, Training and Human Development (TRACKS). They were detained about three months ago, but are yet to face trial, the human rights offices noted. The six have been charged by the country’s State Security Prosecution Office with criminal conspiracy, undermining the constitutional system, waging war against the State, espionage, and terrorism – charges which all carry the death penalty.

“The death penalty is an extreme form of punishment. lf used at all, it should only be imposed after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law,” the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, said in the news release. “I am seriously concerned that any trial of these six people would not uphold such principles.”

According to OHCHR, the activists faced constant targeting by agents from the Sudan’s Intelligence and Security Service over the past two years. Their offices have been raided twice, and their documents, equipment and passports confiscated. They were also allegedly detained and tortured several times at the intelligence services office, where they were questioned about TRACKS’ activities.

In the news release, the experts also voiced their concern at the increasing harassment and intimidation of key civil society members in the country and curbs to freedom of expression and association, which are also guaranteed under the country’s constitution.

“There is an urgent need for the Government of the Sudan to allow them to carry out their activities in an open, safe and secure environment,” the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, said.

Mr. Nononsi had previously expressed concern regarding the case against the TRACKS members to the Sudanese authorities. He last visited the country in April 2016. The news release added that the experts’ appeal to the Sudanese Government has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

The activists facing the charges are the Director of TRACKS, Khalafalla Mukhtar; TRACKS employees Arwa Elrabie, Midhat Hamadan and Alhassan Kheiri; and Mustafa Adam and Raye Imany Leyla, who are both affiliated to the organisation.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Source: UN News Center, August 31, 2016

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