[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 23 00:46:00 CDT 2007
The end of the death penalty
One day, in the not too distant future, the death penalty will be
eradicated throughout the world. It may take time, but it will happen. It
is an inevitable consequence of the slow but steady evolution toward ever
higher standards of civilization.
2 centuries ago, the entire civilized world abolished slavery because it
accepted that human bondage was inhumane and wrong. The death penalty will
meet the same fate. In Europe, only Belarus continues to execute people.
The tide is also turning in other parts of the world. More and more
countries on all continents are either abolishing the death penalty or
critically reviewing its application.
Europe can play a role in reinforcing the global trend toward abolition.
Some of our closest friends and allies continue to execute people.
Politely but persistently, we should encourage them to follow our example
and say yes to justice and no to cruelty.
But even in Europe, the abolition of the death penalty is still unfinished
business. Many Europeans are still in favor of the death penalty. This is
not something we can ignore. We need to go out and explain to people why
the death penalty is wrong, why it has been abolished, and why it should
Abolishing the death penalty must be accompanied by the introduction of
adequate alternative sanctions - where these do not yet exist - that
provide for the highest possible protection of the public and take into
account the rights of the victims.
We need to encourage all European countries to sign and ratify Protocol 13
to the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans the death penalty
in all circumstances. This will consolidate the legal prohibition of
capital punishment in Europe and send an important signal to other parts
of the world.
(source: International Herald Tribune;Terry Davis, Strasbourg,
FranceSecretary General of the Council of Europe)
U.S. in minority on capital punishment, treatment of juveniles
Amnesty International on Thursday expressed alarm at the new wave of
executions in Iran and said that it has already recorded almost 250
executions since the beginning of 2007, although the true total of those
put to death could be significantly higher.
The victims of the latest executions include a woman who was apparently
convicted for a murder which took place as she sought to protect herself
from an attempted rape, and one or possibly three child offenders.
On Wednesday 17 October alone, at least nine people were executed in
Tehrans Evin Prison, all of them convicted of murder, and at least another
three in Shiraz, who were convicted for the kidnapping and rape of 2
women. On 10 October, two Iranian Kurds were hanged in Sanandaj Prison for
the murder of a security official, which took place in January 2007.
With the executions in Sanandaj, Shiraz and Tehran, Amnesty International
has, to date, recorded 244 executions in the course of 2007, although the
organisation fears that the true figure could be significantly higher.
On this year's World Day against the Death Penalty, Amnesty International
is calling on the world's governments to vote for the UN resolution on a
global moratorium on executions, which will be introduced at the current
session of the UN General Assembly.
"There is a real momentum towards abolition of the death penalty," said
Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. "A total of 133 UN
member states, from all regions in the world, have abolished the death
penalty in law or in practice. Only 25 countries carried out executions in
2006, 91 percent of them in just six countries: China, Iran, Iraq,
Pakistan, Sudan and the USA. Those that chose this most cruel, inhuman and
degrading punishment are increasingly in the minority."
"Governments must endorse the UN General Assembly resolution on a global
moratorium on executions and take an important step to create a world
Recorded executions worldwide fell by more than 25 percent in 2006, with a
drop from at least 2,148 in 2005 to at least 1,591 in 25 countries in
2006. At least 3,861 people were sentenced to death in 55 countries in
Europe is a death penalty-free zone, with the exception of Belarus. In
Central Asia, there is a clear move towards abolition. Recently,
Kyrgyzstan abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in June 2007,
Kazakhstan has had a moratorium on executions since 2003 and Tajikistan
has had moratoria on executions and death sentences since 2004. Uzbekistan
is also taking steps towards abolition.
In Africa, only 6 countries carried out executions in 2006. In March 2007,
the Ghana Minister of the Interior, Albert Kan Dapaah, announced the
commutation of 36 death sentences to life imprisonment. In April 2007 the
High Court in Malawi declared the mandatory death penalty
unconstitutional. In Nigeria in May 2007, the authorities announced that
they would grant amnesty to all prisoners over 60 years old who had spent
10 years or more under sentence of death. In July 2007 Rwanda abolished
the death penalty for all crimes. Burundi, Gabon and Mali are taking steps
The USA stands alone as the only state in the Americas to have carried out
any executions since 2003. The US itself is slowly turning against the
death penalty. The 53 executions carried out in 2006 represented the
lowest annual total for a decade, and death sentences continue to drop
from its peak in the mid-1990s.
In Asia, the Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006. There has
been some progress on reducing the death penalty in China. On 1 January
2007 the Supreme People's Court formally resumed its role of reviewing the
sentences passed in China. It is expected that this review, according to
Chinese legal scholars, would probably result in a 20 - 30 percent
reduction in the total number of executions in China.
In Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia there is increasing debate about the
abolition of the death penalty. In Morocco, a Truth Commission that
concluded its work in 2005 has specifically recommended aboliton of the
Separately, the International Herald Tribune this week published a story
on a UN resolution taken in December which called for the abolition of
life imprisonment for children and young teenagers. The vote was 185 to 1,
with the United States the lone dissenter.
Indeed, the United States stands alone in the world in convicting young
adolescents as adults and sentencing them to live out their lives in
prison. According to a new report, there are 73 Americans serving such
sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14, reported the
International Herald Tribune.
The group that released the report on Oct. 17, the Equal Justice
Initiative, based in Montgomery, Alabama, is one of several human rights
organizations that say states should be required to review sentences of
juvenile offenders as the decades go by, looking for cases where parole
might be warranted.
But prosecutors and victims' rights groups say there are crimes so
terrible and people so dangerous that only life sentences without the
possibility of release are a fit moral and practical response, said the
In its sentencing of juveniles, as in many other areas, the legal system
in the United States goes it alone. American law is, by international
standards, a series of innovations and exceptions. From the central role
played by juries in civil cases to the election of judges to punitive
damages to the disproportionate number of people in prison, the United
States is an island in the sea of international law.
And the very issue of whether American judges should ever take account of
foreign law is hotly disputed. At the hearings on their Supreme Court
nominations, both John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. said they thought
it a mistake to consider foreign law in constitutional cases.
Noting that the United States was the only nation in the world to sanction
the juvenile death penalty, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the
majority, said it was appropriate to look to "the laws of other countries
and to international authorities as instructive" in interpreting the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
He added that teenagers were different from older criminals less mature,
more susceptible to peer pressure and more likely to change for the
better. Those findings, lawyers for the juvenile lifers say, should apply
to their clients, too.
"Thirteen- and 14-year-old children should not be condemned to death in
prison because there is always hope for a child," said Bryan Stevenson,
the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which represents
Jones and several other juvenile lifers.
The 2005 death penalty ruling applied to 72 death-row inmates, almost
precisely the same number as the 73 prisoners serving life without parole
for crimes committed at 13 or 14, said the IHT report.
The Supreme Court did not abolish the juvenile death penalty in a single
stroke. The 2005 decision followed one in 1988 that held the death penalty
unconstitutional for those who had committed crimes under 16.
The new lawsuits, filed in Alabama, California, Florida, Missouri, North
Carolina and Wisconsin, seek to follow a similar progression.
"We're not demanding that all these kids be released tomorrow," Stevenson
said. "I'm not even prepared to say that all of them will get to the point
where they should be released. We're asking for some review."
In defending American policy in this area in 2006, the State Department
told the United Nations that sentencing is usually a matter of state law.
"As a general matter," the department added, juvenile offenders serving
life-without-parole terms "were hardened criminals who had committed
gravely serious crimes."
Human rights groups have disputed that. According to a 2005 report from
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, 59 % of the more than 2,200
prisoners serving life without parole for crimes they committed at 17 or
younger had never been convicted of a previous crime. And 26 % were in for
felony murder, meaning they participated in a crime that led to a murder
but did not themselves kill anyone.
The new report focuses on the youngest offenders, locating 73 juvenile
lifers in 19 states who were 13 and 14 when they committed their crimes.
Pennsylvania has the most, with 19, and Florida is next, with 15. In those
states and Illinois, Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington, 13-year-olds
have been sentenced to die in prison.
In most of the cases, said the International Herald Tribune report, the
sentences were mandatory, an automatic consequence of a murder conviction
after being tried as an adult.
(source: Malaysia Sun)
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