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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…

Malaysia: Brothers hurriedly, secretively executed in violation of international law

B. Rames Batumalai and Suthar Batumalai
B. Rames Batumalai (left) and Suthar Batumalai
Despite a pending clemency application before the state’s Pardon Board, brothers Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were executed at dawn on 15 March 2017. Contrary to international standards, their family were not provided adequate notice of the scheduled executions.

The family of Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were informed, by a letter dated 13 March 2017, to visit the prison on 14 March 2017 to pay their final respects. 

Upon arrival, prison authorities informed them that the execution was to be carried out the following day on 15 March 2017.

The brothers were originally scheduled to be executed on 24 February 2017, however they were granted a temporary stay of execution, pending the hearing of a petition containing new evidence on their case. 

To date, the clemency application, filed on 23 February 2017, has not been heard by the Pardons Board of the Negeri Sembilan state.

The executions were carried out in a hurried and secretive manner. This practice has been observed by Amnesty International in other cases of imminent executions the organization has been alerted to since 2014. 

International law in para 8 of the ‘Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty’ which was approved by the Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984 clearly states that executions may not be carried out pending any appeal or other proceeding relating to pardon or commutation of the sentence. 

This hurried execution is in violation of international law and standards, as the families should be given adequate notice of the scheduled executions.

On the night before the execution, a candlelight vigil was held for the two men, attended by their family members of the two men, as well as members of civil society, in protest of their rushed and unjust execution and the continued use of the death penalty.

Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were transported back to their home state, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, after their execution. 

Their funerals were held on 16 March 2017.

Source: Amnesty International, March 17, 2017

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