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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…

Pakistan's Sharif orders social media blasphemy removed

Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty. 

 Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday ordered that “blasphemous” content on social media websites be removed or blocked and those posting such material “strictly punished.”

Sharif’s tough talk against blasphemy will appeal to his conservative voter base ahead of elections likely to take place next year.

“Effective steps must be taken immediately to remove and block such content,” the prime minister said in a statement.

He instructed Pakistan’s foreign ministry to contact international foreign social media firms and demand the blocking of blasphemous posts. He did not mention any company by name, but social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are popular in Pakistan.

“All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law,” Sharif said.

Blasphemy is a highly charged issue in Pakistan.

Dozens have been murdered over blasphemy allegations, according to the Centre for Research and Security Studies.

In one high profile case in 2011, the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards after he called for reform of the country’s blasphemy laws. Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed last year, but not before becoming a hero in the eyes of the religious right.

Sharif also called for punishment for those who used the country’s blasphemy laws to settle private disputes, which critics of the religious law say happens frequently.

When a group of five liberal activists went missing earlier this year, they were accused by religious hardliners of blasphemy. Some among the group had previously criticised the political influence of the military and spoken up for the rights of religious minorities.

They later reappeared in public in Pakistan. The activists, one of whom claimed to have been tortured by a state institution linked to the military, denied the accusations of blasphemy. The military and the government denied any involvement in their brief disappearance.

Earlier on Tuesday, at a ceremony in the port city of Karachi to commemorate the Hindu religious festival of Holi, Sharif said he would fight for Pakistan’s minority communities who were “unjustly treated.” “It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Pakistani nation has always rejected politics of hate,” he said.

In January, Sharif inaugurated the restoration of an ancient Hindu temple complex in Punjab, a gesture seen by many as an appeal to the Muslim nation’s minority communities and an attempt to soften the country’s image abroad.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 15, 2017

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