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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…

France condemns Iran execution of juvenile offender Alireza Tajiki

Medieval punishments: Public execution in Iran
Medieval punishments: Public execution in Iran
France condemns the execution in Iran, on August 10, of Alireza Tajiki, a minor at the time of the events and at the time of his sentencing, and expresses its concerns about reports of the imminent execution of Mehdi Bohlouli, also sentenced to death when he was a juvenile.

This execution is contrary to the international commitments that Iran itself has signed on to, particularly the international Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is also a step backward with respect to the positive developments we have seen on human rights in Iran, most notably the Iranian Parliament’s adoption of a law on August 13 limiting the scope of the death penalty.

France reiterates its unwavering opposition to the death penalty throughout the world and in all circumstances.

It encourages Iran to continue its efforts and to establish a moratorium with a view to its abolition.

Source: France Diplomatie, August 16, 2017


Rejecting international norms, Iran speeds the execution of minor offenders


On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the judiciary in the Islamic Republic of Iran was preparing to implement the death sentence for another offender who was under the age of 18 at the time of his arrest and conviction. Mehdi Bohlouli was 17 in 2001, when he was sentenced to hanging for fatally stabbing a man during a fight. International law prohibits the execution of minor offenders, but the Islamic Republic has repeatedly ignored this fact despite being a signatory to the international documents that establish it.

Bohlouli is the second minor offender to be transferred for execution in two weeks. Last week, Alireza Tajiki was hanged as a result of his conviction for male rape, which was based on a confession elicited under torture when the young man was only 15 years old. Tajiki was the fourth known instance of a minor offender being executed in Iran this year. In an urgent call to action preceding that execution, Amnesty International pointed out that there were nearly 90 other minor offenders who were already on death row awaiting the implementation of their sentences.

Naturally, the execution of Bohlouli just one week later could raise the question of whether the judiciary is increasing the pace of these executions. As well as having the highest per-capita rate of executions in the world, the Islamic Republic also has a reputation for carrying out hangings en masse. At the beginning of this month, it was reported that at least 102 executions had been carried out in July alone. This equaled nearly half of the number that had been carried out over the previous six month period.

Since then, reports have continued to emerge of the persistence of Iran’s various internationally condemned activities with regard to the death penalty. For instance, Iran Human Rights finds that on Thursday, August 10, at least 12 inmates were hanged, with 11 of these executions taking place in the same prison, following a series of transfers. Other reports have detailed public hangings and the lack of fair trials. All of these well-established human rights issues have opened Iran to active criticism from international activists.

The trend of mass executions dates back to the start of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s, which saw its single most egregious example. In the summer of 1988, an estimated 30,000 political prisoners were hanged, some of them dozens at a time. Most of these victims were members or affiliates of the leading opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, and their families and colleagues have maintained a campaign to uncover more details of the killings and of mass burial sites, and to ultimately bring major perpetrators before an international court.

Last year, the political prisoner Maryam Akbari-Monfared wrote a letter to Iranian officials demanding answers about the 1988 massacre, which claimed the lives of four of her siblings. This week, she returned to the news when the Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that she had written another open letter, this one complaining about a tour that had recently been held for foreign diplomats at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she is being held alongside numerous other political prisoners.

The tour was limited to specific areas of the facility and carefully avoided contact between political detainees and the selected diplomats. Human rights activists quickly dismissed the publicity stunt as part of an effort to dispel foreign criticism of Iran’s human rights record at a time when awareness of abuses appears to be increasing both domestically and globally. Last year saw the release of audio recording made about the 1988 massacre by Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was at the time next in line to be the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader. The revelations by Montazeri’s son led to unprecedented levels of public dialogue about an incident that had once been subject to a conspiracy of silence imposed by the regime.

Hanging, Iran
At the same time that this dialogue is ongoing, the regime is reasserting its commitment to established practices that go against human rights standards. Some of these efforts may be tied to efforts by hardliners to disavow the notion of cooperation with Western powers following the 2015 nuclear agreement. In any event, the persistence of those practices is deeply at odds with the regime’s apparent desire to avoid harsher criticism. And this seems to leave Tehran with little recourse but to suppress public dialogue, either through deception as in the case of the Evin Prison tour or through crackdowns on those promoting such dialogue.

It has been widely acknowledged that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence have both been engaged in a widespread domestic crackdown since before nuclear negotiations with the US and five other world powers were concluded. And on Tuesday another report by the CHRI cited the political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam as one of the latest persons to be caught up in this crackdown. The report notes that Zibakalam has been arrested and charged with spreading propaganda and “disturbing public opinion” solely on the basis of comments he made in foreign media about the politicization of the Iranian judiciary, which is supposedly an independent body but has lately appeared to be increasingly loyal to the IRGC.

Apart from simply opening the Islamic Republic up to further criticisms from both foreign and domestic sources, Zibakalam’s comments may also hint at a reason for the judiciary’s conspicuously hardline activity on matters like the execution of minor offenders. That is to say, insofar as the IRGC is leading the crackdown on persons with supposedly pro-Western viewpoints, the hardline paramilitary may also be using the judiciary to reinforce the perception of independence from international norms in matters of law and human rights.

Source: Iran News Update, Edward Carney, August 16, 2017


Amnesty International Calls on Iran to Halt Execution of Man Convicted as a Juvenile for Second Time in One Week


Executing juvenile offenders in Iran
London, 16 Aug - Amnesty International called on the Iranian Regime to halt the execution of a man who was sentenced to death as a juvenile.

Mehdi Bohlouli was just 17 when he was sentenced to death by an Iranian criminal court in November 2001 for fatally stabbing a man during a fight, according to the human rights group.

Bohlouli’s execution was due to take place on Wednesday August 16. As this story was filed in the early hours, it is not known if Amnesty’s calls for a stay of execution was successful.

He was placed in solitary confinement in Raja’i Shahr Prison in Karaj, near Tehran, on Monday, and his family were told to come to the prison to attend their final visit.

This is the second time in a week that a person who was sentenced as a child will be executed in Iran.

Alireza Tajiki, who was only 15 when he was arrested for murder and sodomy in 2011, was executed last week. It was reported that his confession- the only substantial evidence against him- was extracted under torture and should have been thrown out.

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said: “By scheduling this unlawful execution when the world is still expressing outrage about Alireza Tajiki, the Iranian authorities are effectively declaring to the international community that they have no shame in remaining the world’s top executioner of those who were children at the time of the crime. The head of Iran’s judiciary must immediately intervene and stop this execution from taking place before Iran’s cruel justice system takes yet another life.”

Iran is one of the last countries in the world to execute people who are convicted of crimes before they reach adulthood, in violation of international law.

Mughrabi said: “The latest round of executions of individuals for crimes committed while under 18 shows that the sickening enthusiasm of Iran’s justice system for the death penalty knows no bound. This is nothing short of an all-out assault on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

In April, United Nations human rights experts said that there are at least 90 people on death row in Iran who were sentenced as children. The number could be significantly higher because prison records in Iran are notoriously secret.

In 2017 alone, Iran has already executed at least four people who were convicted as children.

Source: Amnesty International, August 16, 2017


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