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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…

Saudi spin over juvenile on death row Ali al-Nimr

The Saudi Arabian authorities have tried to distract from their illegal use of the death penalty by publicising the brief visit of Ali al-Nimr, a young man sentenced to death for attending a protest when he was just 17, to see his father in hospital.

Ali's father Mohammad was shot in the leg by Saudi Arabian security forces during a brutal crackdown on opposition in Al-Awamiyah in eastern Saudi Arabia. Mohammad al-Nimr tweeted a photograph of Ali by his bedside on Friday.

Despite the fact they were responsible for his father's injuries, the Saudi authorities only allowed Ali to visit for one hour before returning him to prison with the threat of execution still hanging over him. Ali was escorted by Saudi security forces throughout his visit.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: "This is a cynical piece of Saudi spin. Ali should be permanently back with his family and if they had any compassion or sense of justice, King Salman and Crown Prince bin Nayef would admit he should never have been convicted of any crime and release him and all other juveniles from the threat of execution immediately. A one hour visit to hospital cannot make up for years of abuse suffered by innocent young protestors."

Ali's death sentence was confirmed by Saudi Arabia's controversial Specialised Criminal Court in 2015, following an internationally-condemned trial in which a confession extracted under torture was relied upon. Ali is among several juveniles facing execution for participating in protests, including Dawood al-Marhoun, just 17, and Abdullah al-Zahra, just 15, when he was arrested.

The Saudis have launched a widely criticised military campaign in the town of al- Awamiyah in Al-Qatif, which has seen dozens injured and condemnation by the UN.

On 6 June the Specialised Criminal Court upheld 14 death sentences against protesters, including a disabled young man Mounir al-Ahdam, amid fears their execution could be expedited.

Source: Reprieve, June 17, 2017

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