Oklahoma | I went inside death row, what I saw made me sick - Henry McLeish

The evolution of civilised behaviour, indicating a retreat from barbarism, has become a distinctive feature of most modern western democracies, but America often disappoints, retaining practices that shock, sadden, and in my case, nearly made me physically sick.
My visit to death row at McAlester State Penitentiary, Oklahoma, brought home to me, how the final setting for government sponsored killings, combined with execution by lethal injection, brought a brutal end to lives. And made a mockery of the idea of justice, offering instead a violent, humiliating, and inhuman act of revenge, with no serious pretence that any of these end of life dramas, provide any deterrence in criminal justice terms. Formerly known as “Indian Territory”, and home of the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma, with a population of over 4 million, became a state in 1907. Located in America’s “Bible” belt, where there is a strong fundamentalist Christian tradition and powerful Republican politics, Oklahoma remains a pro…

Pakistan awarded death penalty to 584 people, 17 for blasphemy in 2019: Human Rights Commission

In December, a Multan district and sessions court had handed down a death sentence to academic Junaid Hafeez on charges of blasphemy.

Last year, Pakistan awarded death penalty to at least 584 people, out of which 17 were convicted for "blasphemy", and 15 were executed.

This was revealed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report released on Thursday. The report, a copy of which has been accessed by IANS, said, "The state of human rights across the country is indeed dire."

According to a report submitted to the Law and Justice Commission, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had overturned the death penalty in 78 percent of 310 judgments between 2010 and 2018, "either acquitting the accused, commuting the sentence, or ordering a review".

Yet, "death penalty was awarded in at least 584 cases in 2019, while 15 people were executed, 12 of them in Punjab. As of December 2019, at least 17 people convicted of blasphemy were still on death row," the Human Rights Commission said in its report.

In December, a Multan district and sessions court had handed down a death sentence to academic Junaid Hafeez on charges of blasphemy. "The decision dismayed human rights observers, given that Hafeez had already spent 6 years in solitary confinement," the commission said.

The criminal code of Pakistan punishes blasphemy against Islam. Though blasphemy laws were enacted by the British colonial authorities in the undivided India, Pakistan under military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq made them more stringent in its drive to Islamise the country. Pakistani Parliament in 1974, under Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, had declared Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims.

Many people who were accused of or opposed blasphemy in Pakistan were murdered. In 2010, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging on a flimsy charge of blasphemy.

A year later, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Roman Catholic and Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs, was killed in Islamabad for defying threats over his efforts to reform blasphemy laws.

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by his security guard in 2011 for supporting Asia. Since 1990, 62 people have been murdered following blasphemy allegations, as per media reports.

Between 1987 and 2017, 1,500 people in Pakistan were charged with blasphemy and 75 of them were killed, as per the Center for Social Justice.

Source: The New Indian Express, Staff, April 30, 2020

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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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