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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Three executions in Bahrain imminent without urgent action

Families of three men on Bahrain's death row fear their executions are about to take place, which would make them the first in the Gulf kingdom since 2010.

False confessions obtained under torture were used to convict the trio.

This comes just one month after Theresa May's visit to the Gulf, and in the wake of an explicit deprioritisation of human rights in favour of trade. 

The legal department at Bahrain's death-row prison called the families of Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima, and Ali al-Singace this morning (14th) and told them to visit the prison today. 

The authorities have refused to inform the families of the purpose of the meeting, leading to fears that it may be to inform them that their relatives either have been or will be executed imminently. 

Bahrain's code of criminal procedure states that under Article 330: “the relatives of the condemned will meet with him on the day appointed for the implementation of the sentence”.

Several unofficial pro-government twitter accounts have tweeted about possible executions, and heightened security measures in Bahrain's prisons have also been observed. 

The men's death sentences were upheld by Bahrain's highest court last Monday (9th) with unprecedented speed, removing any legal barrier to their executions and leaving the timing down to the King to decide. 

One twitter account which appears to be run by a Bahraini security official claimed this morning that Bahrain's King Hamad has endorsed the executions and that they will take place soon. A former Bahraini MP has welcomed reports that the King has signed off on the executions. 

All of the men were tortured by police after their arrest and at least two say they signed false confessions under duress. 

Mr Mushaima was forced to sign documents despite being illiterate. He is a relative of a prominent opposition politician, but has never been involved in activism. 

Mr al-Samea, a school teacher, was admitted to hospital for surgery as a result of his interrogation. He made complaints against the police which were investigated by UK-trained oversight institutions, however they claimed he had wounded himself resisting arrest. 

Mr al-Singace was arrested as a teenager and convicted in absentia. When he was arrested, police tortured him with electric shocks. 

The UK government has spent millions of pounds on human rights 'reforms' in Bahrain since protests swept the Kingdom in 2011, training police officers, prison guards at the death row jail and oversight bodies. 

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said: 


"Reports that Bahrain is set to carry out its first executions in six years, based on confessions extracted through torture, are deeply alarming. 

It is appalling that the families of those facing execution are being kept in the dark, and do not know whether their loved ones are even still alive. 

Britain has provided millions of pounds of funding to supposedly reform Bahrain's justice system. It must intervene to make clear that these executions cannot go ahead.”

Commenting, Sayed AlWadaei, advocacy director of Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: 


“Bahrain will enter a new dark era if the executions are carried out. This is the most heinous crime committed in Bahrain justice system and a shame to its rulers. This could have been avoided if the UK trained bodies were not complicit in covering up their torture. Bahrain was able to commit those crimes because it felt the international community was silent on its gross human rights violations” 

➤ Reprieve's research into UK support for Bahrain is available here, while further detail about the cases is available on request.

Source: Reprieve, January 14, 2017. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.

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