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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…

Five so-called ‘crimes’ punishable by death

Have you ever invited a friend to a protest on Facebook? Had sex outside marriage? Made a joke about a religious figure? 

These simple acts may not seem like crimes at all, but in some countries, they can lead to a death sentence.

Here are five so-called “crimes” that you may not realise are capital offences in some parts of the world.

1. Adultery and premarital sex


In many countries around the world, adultery continues to be a crime punishable by severe penalties, including imprisonment, flogging and death by stoning.

Adultery in this context doesn’t always mean cheating on your spouse: in some countries, it also covers premarital sex as well.

Adultery laws have usually been drafted and almost always implemented in a manner prejudicial to women. Under such legislation, in cases of rape, the burden of proof is on the woman to provide evidence that she was raped, or be prosecuted for adultery.

Adultery can carry the death penalty in countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, UAE and Yemen.

2. Apostasy


Apostasy, or abandoning one’s faith, is an offence carrying the death penalty in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

Just this year, a young blogger in Mauritania was sentenced to death for apostasy after he published an article online entitled “Religion, Religiosity and Craftsmen “

3. Protest


Have you ever invited a friend to a protest on Facebook or gone on a march? In countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the simple act of practising your right to freedom of speech and assembly can land you with a death sentence. Authoritarian regimes across the world are using the death penalty to silence opposition and get rid of those who dare to oppose them.

In Saudi Arabia, Ali al-Nimr was sentenced to death in the wake of the Arab Spring protests that swept the country. The charges against him included attending an illegal demonstration, teaching others how to give first aid to protesters and inviting others to join the protest using his Blackberry.

In Bahrain, three men were executed by firing squad in January this year. Their supposed crime? Being linked to groups opposing the ruling regime – all three were sentenced based on ‘confessions’ extracted though brutal torture.

4. Blasphemy


Laws against Blasphemy (insulting a religion or religious figure) often target religious minorities and have been known to incite widespread violence against those who are accused. 

People suffering from mental illness are especially vulnerable in countries that hand down death sentences for blasphemy.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.


5. ‘Homosexual acts’


Countries around the world still punish LGBT relationships with life imprisonment or death. ‘Homosexual acts‘ can still carry the death penalty in Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

In Iran, for example, homosexual sodomy carries the death penalty for the ‘passive party’. The ‘active party’ can only be punished by death if he is married, forced the sexual act or if the passive party is a Muslim and the active party is not. 

Lesbianism is punishable by death if the offender has been sentenced and received a lashing on three previous occasions for the same crime.

🔗 Source: Reprieve, May 2017

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