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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…

UN Rights Experts Urge Iran to Halt the Imminent Execution of Juvenile Offender Hamid Ahmadi

Hamid Ahmadi
GENEVA (2 February 2017) – A group of United Nations human rights experts has appealed to the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately halt the execution of juvenile offender Hamid Ahmadi, who is scheduled to be executed by hanging on Saturday, 4 February. This is the third time that Mr. Ahmadi’s execution is scheduled to take place. In the two previous instances, they were halted at the last minute.

Mr. Ahmadi was 17 years old when he was sentenced to death in 2009 for the fatal stabbing in 2008 of a young man during a fight between five boys. The court relied on confessions reportedly obtained under torture and ill-treatment at a police station, where Mr. Admadi was denied access to a lawyer and his family.

“To our knowledge, in the case of Hamid Ahmadi, the most stringent guarantees of fair trial and due process contained in international human rights instruments have been disrespected and, the allegations of torture and confessions extracted under duress were not taken into consideration nor did the lead to any investigation,” the human rights experts said.

“Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government’s international obligations, and particularly when a conviction is based on confessions extracted under torture, is unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution,” they stressed.

Despite this, the Iranian Supreme Court, which in November 2009 had overturned the death sentence due to some doubts about the testimony of several key witnesses, ultimately upheld the verdict a year later. Following the adoption in 2013 of the new juvenile sentencing provisions of the Islamic Penal Code, Mr. Ahmadi was granted a retrial but was eventually re-sentenced to death by a Provincial Criminal Court in December 2015.

“We strongly deplore that executions of juveniles continue to be scheduled and even conducted at an unprecedented rate in Iran since the beginning of the year,” the experts said.

“On 17 January, we already intervened to halt the execution of another juvenile,” they noted. “Since then, we have learned that two other juveniles have been hanged on 15 and 18 January. Arman Bahr Asemani and Hassan Hassanzadeh were both juveniles at the time they allegedly committed the offence for which they were sentenced to death.”

The human rights experts underlined that international standards unequivocally forbid the imposition and execution of the death penalty on persons below 18 years of age. “Iran must observe its international obligations by putting an end to the execution of juvenile offenders once and for all,” they said.

“The scheduled execution of Hamid Ahmadi must be immediately halted and his death sentence annulled. Moreover, a moratorium on juvenile executions must be adopted without any further delay,” the UN human rights experts stated.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors the Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; as well as a third Optional Protocol which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights.

Source: NCRI, February 2, 2017

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