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Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

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Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

Iran: Annual Report on the Death Penalty 2016

The 9th annual report by Iran Human Rights (IHR) on the death penalty in Iran shows that in 2016 at least 530 people were executed in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although this number is significantly lower than the annual execution numbers from the past five years, Iran remained the country with the highest number of executions per capita.

Commenting on the relative decrease in the 2016 execution figures, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, IHR’s Director and spokesperson, said: “We welcome any reduction in the use of the death penalty. But, unfortunately, there are no indications that the relative decrease in the number of the executions in 2016 was due to a change in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy. Our reports show that the Iranian authorities have executed at least 140 people in the first two months of 2017 alone.”

In violation of its international obligations, Iran continued to execute juvenile offenders in 2016. According to our report, at least five juvenile offenders were executed in 2016 in Iran. Two of the juvenile offenders were reportedly sentenced to death for drug offences. Iranian authorities also carried out public executions and other barbaric punishments such as amputations, and blinding of eyes. According to IHR’s reports, 33 people were hanged in public spaces, in front of hundreds of citizens including children.

This 2016 annual report is being published only a few months before the end of Hassan Rouhani’s first presidential period. A review of Mr. Rouhani’s 3.5 years as President shows that, despite good diplomatic relations and dialogue with the EU, the number of executions under his presidency was significantly higher than the annual executions under the previous two periods under Ahmadinejad.

To launch the 2016 annual report on the death penalty in Iran, Iran Human Rights (IHR) and ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) call on Iran’s European dialogue partners to push for a moratorium on use of the death penalty in Iran and for major reforms in the country’s judicial system which does not meet minimum international standards.

The report focuses particularly on the role of the Revolutionary Courts as a major source of arbitrariness and violations of due process in the Iranian judicial system. The Revolutionary Courts are responsible for the vast majority of the death sentences issued and carried out over the last 37 years in Iran. According to IHR’s 2016 report, at least 64% of all executions in 2016 and more than 3,200 executions since 2010 have been based on death sentences issued by the Revolution Courts. The Revolution Courts are less transparent than the Public Courts and Revolutionary Court judges are known for abusing their legal powers. Trials lasting less than 15 minutes, lack of access to a chosen lawyer, and sentences based on confessions extracted under torture are the hallmarks of the Revolutionary Courts.

Revolutionary Courts also play a key role in the crackdown against human rights defenders and the abolitionist movement. In 2016 the Revolutionary Courts sentenced the human rights defenders Narges Mohammadi and Atena Daemi to 10 years and seven years in prison respectively for their activities against the death penalty.

On the issue of the lack of due process, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “A sustainable reduction in use of the death penalty is impossible as long as there is no due process. Revolutionary Courts which sentence hundreds of people to death every year are among the key institutions responsible for Iran’s violations of due process and must be shut down.”

ECPM’s Executive Director, Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, said: “We call on every democratic State and all Iran’s European partners to make serious efforts to reduce the death penalty in Iran, and to include human rights, especially the situation of the death penalty in Iran, in their bilateral and multilateral dialogues. A good outcome can only be achieved through constant and permanent pressure in the dialogue with Iran.”

IHR and ECPM also call on the Iranian authorities to release Narges Mohammadi and Atena Daemi immediately. These human rights groups also call for an end to the crackdown on civil society and the prosecution of peaceful civilian activists.

➤ Click here to download the full report (pdf)

Source: Iran Human Rights, April 3, 2017

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