Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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…

EU Confirms Execution Of 3rd Inmate In Belarus In November

Syarhey Khymyaleuski
Syarhey Khymyaleuski
The European Union says it has confirmed that Belarus carried out a total of 3 executions during the month of November -- raising the total number of executions in the former Soviet republic during 2016 to 4.

European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on December 1 that the EU had confirmed reports by the rights group Amnesty International that death-row inmate Hyanadz Yakavitski had been executed by authorities in Belarus.

Mogherini did not specify when Yakavitski's execution took place. But Amnesty International said on November 30 that Yakavitski was put to death sometime after November 5.

The EU on November 30 said it had confirmed the execution in November of 2 other death row inmates who had been convicted on murder charges -- 28-year-old Ivan Kulesh and 31-year-old Syarhey Khymyaleuski.

A 4th prisoner, Syarhey Ivanou, was executed in Belarus on April 18.

The EU condemned all of the executions, saying the death penalty runs counter to Belarus's stated willingness to engage with the international community.

Amnesty International's campaigner on Belarus, Aisha Jung, says the "sudden and shameful purge" of death-row prisoners in Belarus is "additionally shameful" because executions there "are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment's notice."

Amnesty International says the 3 executions in November were carried out with gunshots to the back of the head.

The nongovernmental human rights organization says it also is concerned about the fate of another man on death row in Belarus -- Syarhey Vostrykau.

The EU, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations have been calling on Minsk to join a moratorium on the death penalty for years.

Before April, an execution had not been carried out under the Belarusian legal system since November 2014.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.

Source: Radio Free Europe//Radio Liberty, December 2, 2016

Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini

Today, we have learnt of yet another execution that has taken place in Belarus, that of Henadz Yakavitski. Earlier this week, the executions of 2 others, Ivan Kulesh and Sergei Khmelevsky, were confirmed, adding to that of Syarhey Iwanov in April.

The upsurge in executions in 2016 is against the commitment, made by Belarusian authorities within the framework of the United Nations, to consider the introduction of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

The European Union opposes capital punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.

Steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights, including on the death penalty, will remain key for the shaping of the EU's future policy towards Belarus.

Source: europa.edu, December 2, 2016

ODIHR Urged Belarusian Authorities To Impose Moratorium On Death Penalty

The ODIHR OSCE condemned the execution of death sentences in Belarus and called on the authorities to impose an immediate moratorium on their executions. This is stated in the statement of the Director of the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Michael Georg Link, interfax.by reports.

"Carrying into execution Siarhei Khmialeuski's death sentences, as well as other reports on the execution of death sentences, are a cause for serious concern, as the ongoing death penalty executions in Belarus run counter to the growing international trend towards abolition of this inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading penalty," Link stressed.

"The majority of the OSCE participant-states have already abolished the death penalty, and I urge the Belarusian authorities to introduce a moratorium as a first step towards the complete abolition of the death penalty," the OSCE ODIHR Director said.

The Bureau also recalled that the OSCE participant-states have committed themselves to keep the capital punishment abolition under consideration.

"The secrecy of most of the death penalty executions is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners and their families. And no matter how it is carried out, the death penalty is an unacceptable denial of human dignity," Link stated.

Each year, the ODIHR publishes a report "The Death Penalty in the OSCE Area", containing information on the status of the death penalty in 57 countries - members of the Organization. Belarus and the United States are the only states OSCE members, which support the death penalty in practice.

It is to be recalled that since the beginning of this year 4 convicted have already been executed in Belarus - Ivan Kulesh, Siarhei Khmialeuski, Siarhei Ivanou and Henadz Yakavitski. 3 of them were executed in November this year. Presumably, that all the 3 of "November" condemned men were executed in the same day.

At the moment there is only 1 person in the "death row cell" - Homel resident Siarhei Ostrykau (for the rape and murder of two women).

Belarus is the only country in Europe and the former Soviet Union, which still applies the death penalty. Since the beginning of 1990, more than 400 condemned men have been sentenced to death, for all that time only 1 person's death penalty was commuted to a prison term.

The European Union once again condemned the death penalty in Belarus. The head of EU diplomacy Federica Mogherini also stressed that the issue of the death penalty will shape the EU's policy towards Belarus.

Source: Charter 97, December 2, 2016

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