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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Maldives' dark side: Death penalty threatens trouble in paradise

The Maldives
The Maldives, famed for its crystalline waters and long tongues of white sand, lies at the centre of the Indian Ocean.

Holiday firms offering trips to the Maldives have been urged by human rights activists to condemn the expected execution of 3 men that will bring a brutal end to the country's 60-year moratorium on the death penalty.

Sir Richard Branson last week described the reported decision by Abdulla Yameen, the Maldivian president, to revive executions as "an awful political move that will send the country back to the Dark Ages of human rights".

In a blog post, the creator of the Virgin brand threatened to remove his holiday business from the Maldives and urged other tour operators, governments and businesses to follow suit if the executions went ahead.

Richard Branson is asking other tourism operators to boycott the luxury location.

"It's been heart-breaking to watch what is happening on the beautiful island nation of the Maldives, a country for which I have long had such great affection and respect," he said,

Reprieve, the anti-death penalty campaign group, has issued a plea for Kuoni and Thomas Cook, travel companies who operate luxury holidays in the Maldives, to follow Branson's lead and urge President Yameen to halt the executions, believed to be imminent.

In a letter to the firms, Reprieve claimed that the sentenced men, Hussain Humaam Ahmed, Mohammed Nabeel and Ahmed Murrath, were convicted for murder after "seriously unfair" trials.

Their deaths would be an "irreparable miscarriage of justice" and would follow a pattern of human rights failings since President Yameen came to power in 2013, they said.

Of 20 convicts on death row, 5 were juveniles at the time of their arrest. Reprieve believes that lethal injections have already been found for the first 3 deaths, while a search is under way for an experienced executioner.

Maya Foa, Reprieve director, said the executions were "a naked attempt by President Yameen to suppress dissent and tighten his grip on power", calling on him to "start the democratic reforms needed to bring stability back".

Kuoni said: "We do not condone any abuse of human rights and are naturally concerned when news of this nature is brought to our attention. The people in the Maldives depend on a thriving tourism industry for their livelihood and we believe we bring positive change by supporting them."

Thomas Cook said: "We believe our influence is best exerted through responsible tourism."

Tourists see very little of the political turmoil or human rights abuses that have gripped the country in recent years. Last week the British Foreign Office updated its travel advice, urging tourists to avoid large gatherings in the capital, Male, which could turn violent.

Ibrahim Hussain Shahib, the president's international spokesman, said the government was implementing the law to protect its people.

"[They] have been charged and convicted of murder in the first degree, their cases were tried at all stages of appeal... due process was followed at all stages. There has been no doubt created in any of these cases as to whether the convicted had carried out the crimes," said Mr Shahib, adding that the constitution did not allow the head of state to grant clemency.

"This administration will not be deterred by a political opposition who seeks to exploit policies to score points back home and abroad while not even pretending to engage in positive political dialogue."

Source: stuff.co.nz, July 31, 2017


Maldives executions to start 'within days'


The Maldives is preparing to execute prisoners within days, according to fresh reports – breaking a moratorium that has lasted 60 years.

According to the Maldivian newspaper Vaguthu, Home Minister Azleen Ahmed has confirmed that the government will carry out executions in “a few days time.” While Mr Ahmed did not confirm the date on which executions would take place, he said efforts to initiate executions hadn’t lost their “fast pace.”

International human rights organization Reprieve is concerned that three men who have had their death sentences confirmed by the Supreme Court could be the first to be executed.

A de facto moratorium on the death penalty has been in place in the Maldives for more than 60 years. However, after coming to power in 2013, President Abdullah Yameen enacted a regulation reintroducing the death penalty, bypassing the country’s Parliament after it rejected a proposed new death penalty law. Since then Mr Yameen has repeatedly threatened to carry out executions.

Forced confessions, politically-motivated charges, and other abuses are commonplace in the Maldives. Children and those suffering from mental illness have been sentenced to death, in violation of international law.

Today’s reports come amid growing concerns about the government’s plans. Maldivian experts including the Maldivian Democracy Network, Transparency Maldives, late liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed, and former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed have all warned against the move.

The UK government has also called on the Maldives to prevent executions, while earlier this week, Sir Richard Branson – an investor in the country – similarly urged President Yameen to “back away from the damaging path he has chosen for his country.”

Commenting, Director of Reprieve, Maya Foa said: “To break a moratorium on executions that has held for half a century would be a wanton, destructive and futile act by a President seeking to distract from the turmoil in his own government. Resuming executions now will do nothing to make the Maldives safer – and amid serious fears over the fairness of trials and the independence of the courts, it could lead to grave miscarriages of justice. President Yameen must urgently heed the warnings from Maldivian experts and the country’s international friends, and halt these ill-advised executions.”

Source: Reprieve, August 1, 2017

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