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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

UN rights experts call on Iran to halt execution of second juvenile offender in as many weeks

Juvenile offenders are executed in Iran
GENEVA (16 January 2018) – UN human rights experts* have appealed to Iran to halt the execution of Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, who was 15 when he was sentenced to death. He is due to be executed on Wednesday [Jan. 17], less than two weeks after the execution of another juvenile offender.

“The Iranian authorities must immediately halt the execution of this juvenile offender and annul the death sentence against him and afford him a fair trial in compliance with their international obligations,” the experts said. “This planned execution represents a flagrant disregard for international human rights law, which is all the more shocking given the most recent execution of another juvenile offender.”

Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for a crime that he was convicted of committing at the age of 15. He was sentenced to death in 2014 after being convicted of murder for the fatal stabbing of a man during a fight. In sentencing him to death, the court cited an expert opinion that stated he had attained “mental growth and maturity” at the age of 15. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court later that year.

In 2015, he submitted a request for retrial on the basis of Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code. The request noted that the medical commission assessing his maturity at the time of the crime did not include a child psychology specialist. The Supreme Court rejected the request. 

In January 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Iran to end the execution of children and persons who committed a crime while under the age of 18. Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which unequivocally prohibit the passing and carrying out of the death penalty against anyone below 18 years of age.

Despite this, reports received indicate that there are at least 89 juvenile offenders on death row in Iran but the number could be much higher. On 4 January 2018, Amirhossein Pourjafar, a juvenile offender who was sentenced to death aged 16, was executed despite multiple interventions from human rights experts. At least four juvenile offenders were executed in Iran last year.

The experts deplored the continuing executions of juvenile offenders in Iran in contravention of international standards, and urged the Government to end the practice of sentencing to death people below the age of 18 years of age when the crime of which they were convicted was committed, and to commute all death sentences issued against such individuals.

* The UN experts: Ms. Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;  Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Ms. Renate Winter, current Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors the Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; as well as a third Optional Protocol which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity

Source: United Nations OHC, January 16, 2018


A Juvenile Offender to Be Executed on Wednesday


Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi, an underage offender who is sentenced to death on murder charges, has been transferred to solitary confinement and is scheduled to be executed at Qom Central prison on Wednesday. IHR calls on the international community to react before it is too late.

According to a close source, the authorities informed Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi's family that his execution would be carried out on the morning of Wednesday, January 17. He is sentenced to death on the charge of murder during a street fight.

Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi, son of Asghar, was born on January 16, 1999, and he was only 15 at the time of committing the crime on December 26, 2013.

Abolfazl's public defender asked for a checkup by the forensics on July 20, 2014, and the forensics report states, "The 15-year-old defendant committed murder last winter and is mentally mature and aware of his action (murder)."

As a result, the court issued a death sentence and sent the case to the Supreme Court after Abolfazl objected to the verdict. The Supreme Court rejected the verdict based on the defendant's age and the forensic reports and sent the case to a parallel court.

The 2nd court also issues death sentence and this time the Supreme Court approves the verdict.

According to the latest reports, Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi has been transferred to solitary confinement at Qom Central Prison, and he is scheduled to be executed.

Another juvenile offender was executed on January 8.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) calls for an immediate halt of execution of Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi and a retrial based on Iran's international commitments.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights (IHR), says: "The European governments should not be indifferent to the execution of juveniles, especially those who have a closer economic and political relationship with Iran."

Amiry-Moghaddam insists: "We demand the European governments to force Iranian authorities to immediately halt the execution of Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi and put a stop to the execution of juveniles."

According to the Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 5 juveniles have been executed in 2017. The international laws ban the execution of juveniles.

IHR calls on the international community to react before it is too late.

Source: Iran Human Rights, January 15, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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