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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Facebook Meets With Pakistani Officials Over Blasphemy Death Sentence

A senior Facebook official met with Pakistan's interior minister on Friday to discuss a demand that the company prevent blasphemous content or be blocked.

The meeting comes after a Pakistani counter-terrorism court sentenced a 30-year-old man to death for making blasphemous comments on Facebook, part of a wider crack-down.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of public policy, met Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, who offered to approve a Facebook office in Pakistan, which has 33 million users of the network.

Khan said Pakistan believes in freedom of expression, but that does not include insulting Islam or stoking religious tensions.

"We cannot allow anyone to misuse social media for hurting religious sentiments," Khan said.

Facebook called the meeting "constructive".

"Facebook met with Pakistan officials to express the company's deep commitment to protecting the rights of the people who use its service, and to enabling people to express themselves freely and safely," the company said in an email.

"It was an important and constructive meeting in which we raised our concerns over the recent court cases and made it clear we apply a strict legal process to any government request for data or content restrictions."

Pakistan's social media crack-down is officially aimed at weeding out blasphemy and shutting down accounts promoting terrorism, but civil rights activists say it has also swept up writers and bloggers who criticize the government or military.

1 of 5 prominent writers and activists who disappeared for nearly 3 weeks this year later told a U.N. human rights event in March that Pakistan's intelligence agencies had kidnapped him and tortured him in custody.

Others' families said right-wing and Islamist parties had filed blasphemy accusations against them to punish them for critical writings.

Anything deemed insulting to Islam or the Prophet Muhammad carries a death penalty in Pakistan, and sometimes a mere allegation can lead to mob violence and lynchings. Right groups say the law is frequently abused to settle personal scores.

In April, a Pakistani university student, Mashal Khan, was beaten to death by a mob after being accused of blasphemous content on Facebook. Police arrested 57 people accused in the attack and said they had found no evidence Khan committed blasphemy.

Source: Reuters, July 8, 2017


Pakistan is using death penalty as a political tool, says report


The Justice Project Pakistan document said Islamabad had executed 44 people in 2017 so far.

A human rights group has ranked Pakistan the "5th most prolific executioner" in the world, AP reported. Islamabad has awarded death sentences to 464 prisoners since it reinstated capital punishment after a Taliban attack on a school in 2014.

Justice Project Pakistan said the country followed China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq on the list of nations that executed the most number of people. The document said Islamabad had executed 44 people in 2017 so far and that 8,200 people were on death row. The province of Punjab had the highest number of executions, Dawn reported.

"Pakistan's troubling and continued use of the death penalty has continuously fallen short of meeting its international human rights commitments and fair trial standards, as well as our own domestic laws," JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal told PTI.

Demands from rights groups had prompted Pakistan to stop executions in 2008. "The use of the death penalty has failed to curb crime, including terrorism, but it is exceedingly used as a political tool, sometimes even as a jail overcrowding solution,' the report said.

It said the government has cited lifting the moratorium on the death sentence as a deterrent to "terrorist threats", PTI reported.

On May 18, the ICJ had ordered Pakistan not to executed Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

Source: Scroll.in, July 8, 2017

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