FEATURED POST

Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Indonesia’s Death Penalty Debacle Exposed

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The official Ombudsman of Indonesia has accused both the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the Supreme Court of “maladministration” in denying a Nigerian citizen, executed for drug trafficking in July 2016, his legal rights.

Ombudsman official Ninik Rahayu outlined a checklist of procedural failures that could have prevented Humphrey Jefferson’s execution, including the Supreme Court’s refusal to conduct a second review of his case, and the AGO’s decision to proceed with the execution despite the fact that Jefferson had filed a clemency request with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

The denial of due process to Jefferson raises troubling questions about Jokowi’s signature policy of executing convicted drug traffickers. Indonesia ended a four-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, and Jokowi has made the execution of convicted drug traffickers a prominent issue of his presidency. Jokowi has sought to justify the use of the death penalty on the basis that drug traffickers had “destroyed the future of the nation,” despite international human rights obligations under which drug-related offenses are deemed as falling outside the scope of “most serious crimes,” for which the death penalty can legitimately be retained. In December 2014, he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an “important shock therapy” for anyone who violates Indonesia’s drug laws. Since Jokowi took office in 2014, his government has executed 18 convicted drug traffickers in 2015 and 2016 – the majority citizens of other countries. Jokowi has routinely rejected their government’s calls for clemency, citing national sovereignty.

Even worse, on July 21 of this year, Jokowi indicated the police could skip due process entirely and summarily execute any foreign drug dealers who resist arrest. “Gun them down. Give no mercy,” Jokowi urged police in a speech. National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian and Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso, the head of the National Narcotics Agency, have echoed similarly unlawful approaches to drug crimes modeled on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s unlawful and abusive “war on drugs.”

Jokowi and senior police officials should recognize that the cruel and unusual punishment of the death penalty and the barbarity of extrajudicial killings have no place in a rights-respecting country. Instead, Indonesia should restore the unofficial moratorium on the death penalty and ensure the rights of criminal suspects, including those implicated in drug crimes, are respected rather than steamrolled.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harson, July 31, 2017

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