America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

UN human rights agency, U.E., Germany regret Japan's executions of AUM members

UN flag
Cult's founder and 6 others involved in 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed regret Friday over Japan's executions of AUM Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara and 6 other former members of the cult, calling for a national debate on the death penalty.

"We regret that 7 people were today executed in Japan," Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights agency, told Kyodo News in a written statement, while extending its sympathy to the victims of crimes committed by AUM, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

"Undeniably, it is crucial to deliver justice to the victims of these heinous crimes. But the death penalty only compounds injustice and is no greater deterrent than other forms of punishment," Shamdasani said.

A fervent advocate of the full abolition of the death penalty, the Geneva-based human rights promotion agency has repeatedly asked the Japanese government to establish a moratorium as a 1st step toward the final abrogation of the punishment.

"This is essential to be able to hold an informed national debate on the use of the punishment," Shamdasani said, calling on Japanese authorities to increase transparency on the use of the death penalty to promote discussions.

"We will follow up for more information, including on the six other (AUM) inmates on death row in relation to this case," she added.

Source: Asia Nikkei, July 6, 2017

German government says death penalty cruel

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The German government has described the death penalty as "inhumane and cruel" after Japan hanged seven members of the doomsday cult that poisoned commuters in a deadly subway attack in 1995.

The government's human rights envoy, Baerbel Kofler, called the poison gas attack on rush-hour commuters in Tokyo's subway that killed 13 people and sickened more than 6,000 a "terrible deed."

But Kofler said "despite the seriousness of this crime the German government stands by its principled rejection of the death penalty as an inhumane and cruel form of punishment" that should be abolished worldwide.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Friday that Germany wants "the unconditional abolition of the death penalty and we convey this position toward friendly states as well."

Source: The Associated Press, July 7, 2018

EU urges Japan to abolish death penalty

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The European Union and its member states have criticized Japan for the executions of the former leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult and 6 of his former disciples.

The Delegation of the European Union to Japan and ambassadors of European nations issued a joint statement on Friday.

The statement says that the diplomats recognize this is a particularly painful and unique case for Japan and its citizens.

It also says that they convey their heartfelt sympathy, share the suffering of the victims and their families, and absolutely condemn terrorist attacks, whoever the perpetrators and for whatever reason.

However, the document says the death penalty is cruel and inhuman, and fails to act as a deterrent to crime.

It says that errors are inevitable in any legal system and are irreversible, calling on the Japanese government to adopt a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing them.

Source: NKH, July 6, 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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