California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Kim's killing fields: Terrifying map reveals scale of public executions in North Korea

A stark map has revealed the 318 places in North Korea where people have been publicly executed - most commonly for theft or damage to property.

Using testimonies from more than 600 defectors the human rights researchers found executions commonly took place on river banks, fields, market places, hills and mountains, sports and school grounds.

Of the 715 mentions of charges resulting in an execution it was most commonly related to theft or damage to property, including food and livestock (238 times) followed by violent crime (115 times) and political crimes (73 times).

Witnesses also told the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) - the organisation which undertook the research - that they were often forced to watch the executions.

The size of the assembled crowds at each public execution varying in size from hundreds to thousands - with 4 in 5 of those interviewed saying they had witnessed a public execution in their lifetime - the youngest witness to a public execution was 7.

The findings and testimonies come from a report out this month titled: Mapping the Fate of the Dead; Killings and Burials in North Korea.

It analyses four years of research to present a report into what it described as state-sanctioned killings.

It is an update on a similar report first published in 2017 by the TJWG - a Seoul-based NGO of human rights advocates and researchers from five different countries.

In the 2019 report's executive summary, the authors wrote: 'Extra-judicial killings in state custody have continued under the leadership of Kim Jong-un despite international criticism of the DPRK's application of the death penalty without due process.'

It said almost all of the state-sanctioned killings were carried out by firing squad -often after a brief trial undertaken on the spot.

During the trial, which commonly took place without legal council, a charge was laid sentence given and execution carried out moments later.

While witnesses cited the most common reason for execution was related to property theft or damage, the authors said the lack of due process in North Korea meant it was difficult to know whether the charges laid at trial 'actually match the act committed by the accused'.

Following the executions, the report said, the bodies of those killed were often not returned to family members, nor were their burial sites revealed to the families.

'The inability to access information on the whereabouts of a family member killed by the state, and the impossibility of giving them a proper burial, violates both cultural norms and the 'right to know'.

'The North Korean government's routine killing of its citizens and the denial of the right of family members to give the dead a proper burial has profound effects that last long after the event,' it said.

'For many, grieving for the lost involves remembering scenes of a public execution, or wondering about the fate of a relative or friend sent to a political prison camp.'

From its research the group found 25 reports of sites, most often in remote locations such as mountainsides and ravines, where dead bodies were said to have been disposed of by the state.

7 of these sites are reported to contain more than 2 bodies together.

The researchers hoped the data gathered may one day help 'discover the truth of the injustices committed and to provide families and communities with knowledge about those who have been killed or disappeared by the state'.

It said the data could also be used in the event of an investigation into serious violations of international criminal, human rights and humanitarian law in North Korea.

Source: Mail Online, Corazon Miller, June 24, 2019

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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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