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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Fears for ‘child bride’ facing execution in Iran – Reprieve comment

Zeinab Sekaanvand
Zeinab Sekaanvand
A female prisoner in Iran who was arrested as a juvenile is facing execution after a forced ‘confession’, and could be hanged as early as today, according to reports.

Zeinab Sekaanvand was 17 when she was arrested in 2012. She was reportedly beaten for nearly three weeks before ‘confessing’ to the murder of her husband, whose abusive behaviour she had previously reported to the authorities. According to Amnesty International, she could be hanged in days. Ms Sekaanvand's execution was previously postponed because she was pregnant, and then scheduled again after she gave birth to a stillborn baby, the Times has today reported.

Iran carries out more executions per capita than any other country. Last year, the authorities executed nearly 1,000 people, the vast majority for non-violent alleged crimes such as drugs offences. Reports of unfair trials and forced ‘confessions’ under torture were common. Human rights organization Reprieve has raised concerns that the executions could be bolstered by UN counter-narcotics programmes, funded by other countries, which provide support for Iran’s police.

Last year, President Hassan Rouhani claimed that abolition of the death penalty in Iran would be “dangerous”, because “most executions” were for alleged drug offences.

News of Ms Sekaanvand’s hanging comes as Iran seeks an improvement in its relations with the international community, following the lifting of international trade sanctions earlier this year. In April, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, visited the country and announced that EU-Iranian relations had “turned a new page.” Last summer, former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond flew to Iran to reopen the UK embassy in Tehran, commenting during the visit that counter-narcotics was an area that Britain and Iran should be “ready to discuss.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: “Iran’s government is overseeing a huge wave of executions even while Iranian leaders seek better relations with the international community – including the UK, the EU and the US. Many of the prisoners facing the noose were convicted for non-violent ‘crimes’ such as drug offences – while shockingly unfair trials and forced ‘confessions’ are the norm. The international community must urgently use their renewed links with Iran to demand a halt to this appalling wave of hangings – and to call off the execution of Zeinab Sekaanvand.” 

  • Details of Federica Mogherini's visit to Iran earlier this year are here, while Mr Hammond's visit to Iran last year was reported here.
  • Details of Ms Sekaanvand's case were reported by the Times today, here.

Source: Reprieve, October 13, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.

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