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

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…

At least 90 people on death row in Iran aged under 18, say UN experts

Executing adolescents in Iran, not a rare occurrence
Executing adolescents in Iran, not a rare occurrence
At least 90 people on death row in Iran are under the age of 18, says a group of UN experts who are calling for authorities in the Middle Eastern nation to immediately put an end to the execution of those aged who were under 18 at the time of sentencing.

3 UN experts - Asma Jahangir, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and, Benyam Dawit Merzmur, chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child - made the call late last week amid news that a man who was aged 15 at the time of his sentencing will be executed next week.

Peyman Barandah was just 15-years-old when he was sentenced to death in 2012 for the fatal stabbing of a teenager. His execution will now be carried out on 10th May.

The announcement of the date comes after another execution - that of Mehdi Bohlouli who was 17-years-old when sentenced to death in 2001, also for the fatal stabbing of a man - was halted just a few hours before it was due to take place on 19th April. It is not clear when Mr Bohloudi's execution will now be carried out.

"We are dismayed by the unprecedented rise in the number of cases of execution of juvenile offenders in Iran," the experts said in a statement. "The psychological suffering inflicted on adolescents kept languishing for years in prison under a death sentence is appalling, and amounts to torture and ill treatment."

Calling for both of the executions to be "halted immediately" and the death sentences quashed, the 3 experts also called on Iran to "commute without delay all such sentences imposed on children".

The experts said the 2 cases take to 6 the number of juvenile offenders scheduled for execution in Iran since January, including the cases of 2 whose sentences have been carried out. They added that while the Iranian Government had assured the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016 that a 2013 amendment to the country's penal code opening the possibility for juveniles sentenced to death to be allowed retrials would be systematically applies to all juveniles then on death row, "these promises have not been fulfilled".

They noted that by ratifying both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran had committed itself to protecting and respecting children's right to life as well as to outlaw the death penalty for all those under the age of 18.

"Any assumption that a girl over 9 years old or a boy older than 15 can be considered mature enough to be sentenced to death, infringes on the very basic principles of juvenile justice and violates both treaties," they said. "Furthermore, any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a government's international obligations, notably its duty to establish a juvenile justice system in line with international human rights standards, is unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution."

Source: sightmagazine.com.au, May 1, 2017

Public Executions Part of Life In Iran

Watching a public execution in IranWithin the borders of Iran, executions are not just carried out behind the doors of the prisons, but something that is part of the public sphere.

Public executions are common, meant in part to be a deterrent for crimes and drug use.

But the reality is that they have become a level of entertainment and are not the real deterrent that the regime claims.

Children and families are often present at these executions, such as the one for a 21-year old inmate, who was publicly hanged in Babol, which is in northern Iran.

The victim was only identified by his initials and had been found guilty of murder. His sentence was issued by the first criminal court of the province and was carried out on Saturday after being permitted the "Head of the Judiciary", according to the public prosecutor of Mazandaran.

Watching a public execution in IranAnother prisoner was hanged at dawn on Saturday, April 22. He was sentenced for drug related charges and Mehdi Mirzaei, the individual who was hanged, had been held in Parsilon Prison for the past three years.

This is just another example of how these executions also are used to address the drug issues within their society.

Other realities of public executions are that the individuals being executed could be prisoners sentenced when they were juveniles.

One man was publicly hanged on April 22, in the city of Babol, according to the state-run Iranian news agencies.

The state controlled YJC news agency reported that the 21-year old was identified as HR, and he was sentenced to the Qisas death penalty, which is a retribution penalty.

Iran executes more individuals per capita than any other country in the world, according to Amnesty International's annual report. 

At least 197 individuals have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2017.

Watching a public execution in Iran
The first deputy of Iran's Chief Justice, Mohseni Ejeie, cited criticism regarding a number of executions of criminals in a press conference.

He cited several examples of individuals who were executed for moving narcotics. "Or in Kerman, two people identified as Abdulhamid Hossein Zehi and Faramarz Kohkan, who were active in a drug trafficking ring, were hanged...or in Karaj a person was sentenced to death for carrying drugs...what else can we do with these people except execute them? At any rate, we will act according to our laws...and will not show leniency," said Ejeie.

The result is that public executions will continue, despite the evidence that they are not a necessary deterrent and can have a significant impact on the mental and emotional well-being of society as a whole.

Source: The Media Express, May 1, 2017

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