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

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…

Pakistan: World Day Against Death Penalty observed

The Hyderabad chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) observed the 'World day against death penalty'
The Hyderabad chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
observed the 'World day against death penalty'
Activists of the Hyderabad chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) observed the 'World day against death penalty' on Monday and urged the government to abolish the death sentence.

They gathered outside the local press club carrying banners and placards and shouting slogans against death penalty in the country.

Leading the demonstration, Hyderabad HRCP task force coordinator Dr Ashothama Lohana and activists Lala Abdul Haleem, Prof Imdad Chandio, Makhdoom Aqil, Ghufrana Arain and others appealed to the government to do away with the capital punishment in the country immediately.

They also urged the government to ratify the UN convention against death penalty.

They said the criminal justice system of the country and method of the police investigation were so poor that innocent people often were hanged while powerful and influential persons, who committed crimes, were exonerated and released.

Source: dawn.com, October 10, 2016

'Countries without the death penalty have lower crime rates'

A large number of civil society activists and residents of the federal capital held a protest against the death penalty in Pakistan at F-6 Markaz on Monday.

The protest was organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in connection with the World Day against the Death Penalty.

Speaking at the protest, HRCP representative Nasreen Azhar said the severity of punishment cannot reduce the crime rates though the certainty of punishment can.

"Our law enforcement agencies do not investigate cases due to which poor, innocent people suffer. We have precedent of those people being executed who were not mentally stable, or had not reached the age of criminal liability when the crime was committed."

She added that some countries which do not have the death penalty enjoy lower crime rates than those which do.

"We have to improve our police system in order to reduce the crime rate and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) also needs to be improved," she said.

Rights activist Farzana Bari said Scandinavian countries did not have the death penalty but had the lower crime rates, which, she said, proved the perception of executions leading to decreased crime rates wrong.

"I believe that God gives life and only He has the right to take it back too. It is better to award a sentence of life time imprisonment than to execute them, because putting someone behind bars for life is more painful than killing them," she said.

"The Pakistani judicial system is very weak. Even a prime minister was executed and the judges later said the decision was not right," she said.

Another rights activist Tahira Abdullah said there was also the precedent of a person dying after spending 25 years in jail and the courts declaring him innocent after his death.

"A country which does not have justice should not have the death penalty. We demand that Pakistan sign the UN convention against the death penalty. We want to enjoy the facilities of the Generalised Scheme of Priorities Plus but do not want to implement the European Union' s recommendation for a ban on the death penalty," she said.

Since the start of carrying out the death sentence in December 2014, Pakistan has hanged 425 individuals and by executing 333 convicts in 2015 alone Pakistan joined the ranks of the countries which carry out the most executions.

Pakistani courts continue to award capital punishment with 225 death sentences awarded in 2014 and 411 in 2015 while the number of death sentences awarded till September this year is 301.

Meanwhile, in a joint declaration, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland said the EU reaffirms strong and unequivocal opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and for all cases. They said the death penalty was incompatible with human dignity and did not have any proven significance as a deterrent. It does, however, allow judicial errors to become irreversible and fatal.

The abolition of the death penalty is a distinctive achievement in Europe and is a prerequisite for membership to the Council of Europe as inscribed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, the statement added.

"The Council of Europe and the European Union welcome the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment. Today more than 2/3 of all countries have abolished the death penalty in either law or practice. However, the Council of Europe and the European Union regret that the number of executions have risen in some of those countries that retain the death penalty and that some countries which had a de facto moratorium carried out executions," said the statement.

"Both the organisations are particularly alarmed when this involves the execution of minors which is contrary to the international law. Some countries continue to apply the death penalty for drug-related offences, also in violation of the international law," it said.

Source: dawn.com, October 10, 2016

Asia Bibi prepares for final appeal on death sentence; non-stop prayer campaign for her freedom continues

The Hyderabad chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) observed the 'World day against death penalty'
The Hyderabad chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
observed the 'World day against death penalty'
Christians around the world are pledging to join in the 24-hour prayer rally that has been organised in support of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for her faith.

Bibi, from Pakistan, is a mother of 5. She is gearing up to fight her case at the final appeal before Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday. The persecution watchdog group that has organised this event warns that after the hearing this week, the Islamic extremists who are involved in this case may lash out violently against Christians.

Bibi's battle for her faith began back in June 2009, when she had an argument with her Muslim coworkers. Upon defending her faith, she was accused of insulting Prophet Mohammed.

Christian Post reports that she denied the charges, but was sentenced to death by a local judge. This week, Bibi's final appeal is all set to take place in Islamabad. The appeal's outcome will determine whether Bibi will escape the death penalty. Should she be sentenced to death, this would make her the first woman in the country to face such an extreme sentence for blasphemy.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is now calling upon Christians all over the world to take part in a 24-hour prayer rally in support of Bibi.

Kiri Kankhwende, the Senior Press Officer at CSW, explained in an interview with Christian Post, "Unfortunately, when a non-Muslim is accused of blasphemy, their entire community is vulnerable to attack and Asia Bibi's case is no different."

She went on to add, "We hope for an acquittal in her case and we pray that there will be no reprisals against her, her family or the Christian community, but any situation that involves an accusation of blasphemy is highly dangerous for all involved. It's vital that we pray."

Source: christiantoday.com, October 10, 2016

Pakistan: Activists demand end to capital punishment 

Death penalty, a slap of retributive justice in ancient times, should have no place in modern society

Activists of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and civil society on Monday held demonstration to call for putting an end to capital punishment on the eve of October 10 World Day against the death penalty.

The protest led by renowned HRCP activist Akhtar Baloch and PFUJ leader Khurshed Abbasi, Asad Iqbal, Nida Palwasha and others holding banners and placards chanted slogans of stop execution, stop death penalty etc here before the Karachi Press Club.

Speaking to gathering, the HRCP activists said highlighted that in present circumstances, it is imperative to immediately halt executions and restore the moratorium to move towards abolition of the death penalty in Pakistan.

The HRCP activists disclosed that Pakistan is the top ranking in the executions of the world over, which the data shows since resuming executions in December 2014 Pakistan hanged 425 individuals, while 33 convicts in 2015 alone they said.

They said courts have continued to award capital punishment to suspects at a rapid rate, as many as 225 individual were sentenced in 2014 and 411 in 2015 report said. The number of convictions had already reached 301 by the end of September 2016.

HRCP coordinator told that the authorities have decided to put execution of death sentences convicts at the top of the 20th point of National Action Plan (NAP), so that it is essential to assess, if the objectives for resumption of executions have been achieved.

HRCP leaders have expressed grave concern over the rising denial of fair trial and due process rights in trial by military court in a situation, added due to the critical and well-documented deficiencies of the law and administration of justice in Pakistan. The death penalty allows for very high probability of miscarriage of justice, which is unacceptable in any civilized society.

HRCP activists claimed that the religion has often invoked to justify capital punishment, yet the fact is that no more than a couple of 27 death penalty offences on the statute books in Pakistan are mandated by religion. Capital punishment smack of retributive justice from ancient times that should have no place in modern society they said.

They demanded of the investigation methods' of the police and chronic corruption also add to the troubles of those accused of death penalty offences at a serious disadvantage. The system of justice is loaded against the poor and the lack of financial means puts those accused of death penalty offences at serious drawback.

Source: Daily Times, October 10, 2016

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