Iran: Annual report on the death penalty 2017

IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS (MARCH 13, 2018): The 10th annual report on the death penalty in Iran by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and ECPM shows that in 2017 at least 517 people were executed in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 
This number is comparable with the execution figures in 2016 and confirms the relative reduction in the use of the death penalty compared to the period between 2010 and 2015. 
Nevertheless, with an average of more than one execution every day and more than one execution per one million inhabitants in 2017, Iran remained the country with the highest number of executions per capita.
2017 Annual Report at a Glance:
At least 517 people were executed in 2017, an average of more than one execution per day111 executions (21%) were announced by official sources.Approximately 79% of all executions included in the 2017 report, i.e. 406 executions, were not announced by the authorities.At least 240 people (46% of all executions) were executed for murder charges - 98 more than in 2016.At le…

What Is Midazolam and Why Do Protesters Claim Its Use in Executions Is Cruel?

In January 2014, convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire was strapped to a gurney in an Ohio prison execution chamber and injected with the sedative midazolam and the opioid hydromorphone.

McGuire's priest, Lawrence Hummer, who witnessed the execution, described what happened next.

"Over those 11 minutes or more, he was fighting for breath, and I could see both of his fists were clenched the entire time. His gasps could be heard through the glass wall that separated us. Toward the end, the gasping faded into small puffs of his mouth. It was much like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air that would allow it to breathe."

McGuire's death took 26 minutes, and protesters believe that the cause of his extended death was the drug that was supposed to ensure the execution was painless: midazolam.

Midazolam slows brain activity, allowing for relaxation and sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is sometimes used as a sedative before anesthetics are administered in operations.

States first started using the drug as part of a cocktail of chemicals for executions after pharmaceuticals companies stopped selling them the anesthetic sodium thiopental. The companies said they didn't want the drug used in executions.

5 U.S. states have used midazolam as part of their chemical cocktails for executions: Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Virginia and Arkansas.

McGuire's execution is 1 of a series in which prisoners injected with the drug have appeared to suffer agonizing deaths. In 2014, rapist and murderer Clayton Lockett moaned and writhed after being injected with drugs including midazolam in Oklahoma. His death took 43 minutes.

Prisoners Kenneth Williams, in Arkansas in April, and Joseph Wood, in Arizona in 2014, heaved and struggled for breath after being injected with the drug during their executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Alabama's use of midazolam in the execution of Ronald Smith in December 2016 was followed by Smith heaving and gasping for breath for nearly 15 minutes.

In February, several death row inmates brought a case before the Supreme Court, challenging the use of the drug for executions.

Dr. David Lubarsky testified that the drug's effectiveness as a sedative was limited if administered with drugs that cause severe pain, as in the case in executions.

"From the doses that have been looked at, [midazolam] provides sedation, but not true anesthesia," Patrick Forcelli, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Georgetown University Medical Center, told Livescience.

In the end, the justices sided with another expert, who argued that at high doses the drug in effect paralyzes the brain, meaning it is effective as an anesthetic in face of extreme pain.

However, 4 justices dissented.

"In reaching this conclusion, the court sweeps aside substantial evidence showing that, while midazolam may be able to induce unconsciousness, it cannot be utilized to maintain unconsciousness in the face of agonizing stimuli," they wrote.

Some states have rejected the use of midazolam in executions.

Florida in January stopped using midazolam in executions as part of its 3-drug protocol, and in December 2016, Arizona abandoned its use of midazolam in 2- or 3-drug protocols.

Ohio, after abandoning the drug following the execution of McGuire, reintroduced its use in 2016, to be administered as part of a different combination of drugs.

Source: newsweek.com, July 27, 2017

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