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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…

UK Home Office drugs policy may contribute to executions overseas

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of UK funding for international counter-narcotics operations may be contributing to higher numbers of death sentences and executions abroad, international human rights organisation Reprieve has found.

Reprieve has written to the Home Office - the lead department on international drugs policy - to highlight new evidence that UK support for programmes operating in countries including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may be resulting in the arrest and sentencing to death of vulnerable, exploited individuals.

Britain has provided almost $200,000 in funding to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) programme, along with training for anti-drugs officers in Pakistan. The UNODC recently highlighted the success of the programme in arresting three individuals following a drugs seizure in Karachi airport in September this year.

The individuals arrested could end up facing execution because Pakistan retains the death penalty for non-violent drugs offences. In the letter to the Home Secretary, Reprieve warns that those arrested under such circumstances “at worst tend to be vulnerable and exploited mules, not ‘kingpins.’”

Reprieve has documented cases in Saudi Arabia where drug ‘mules’ arrested and sentenced to death appear to have themselves been victims of trafficking. The UN Special Rapporteur on Migrant Workers, among other UN experts, has condemned Saudi Arabia’s practices in at least eight cases involving human trafficking victims sentenced to death for drug offences, all of whom still face potentially imminent execution.

Saudi Arabia also participates in the UK-funded UNODC ‘Container Control Programme’ (CCP) responsible for the recent arrests in Pakistan. An October, 2015 report by Reprieve found that those convicted of drug-related offences formed the largest single group of people executed in Saudi Arabia during the preceding year.

Reprieve’s letter warns that “UK funding for counter-narcotics programmes may be not only contributing to the death penalty and other human rights abuses, but even leading to the arrest and execution of some of the very exploited people it is seeking to protect.”

Reprieve is urging the Government to be more transparent by publishing a full list of all such support along with any human rights risk assessments that may have been undertaken.


Source: Reprieve, October 23, 2016

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