Rwanda Likely to End Death Penalty to Bring Closure to War

The Justice Minister of Rwanda, Tharcisse Karugarama, announced that the country will likely pass a law by December 2006 ending capital punishment.  This move would allow Rwanda to try suspects charged with atrocities in the 1994 war who are currently in countries that refuse to extradite prisoners if they face the death penalty.  Karugarama said that abolition was necessary in order to achieve a sense of closure.  Unless the country abolishes the death penalty, countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland will not extradite suspects to be tried in Rwanda's national courts.  Only the U.S. has extradited a suspect to Rwanda.  Suspects held under United Nations auspices also cannot be sent to Rwanda if the death penalty is to be sought.

INTERNATIONAL RESOURCE: "A Rare and Arbitrary Fate" - the Death Penalty in Trinidad & Tobago

A new study on the use of the death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago has been published by Roger Hood and Florence Seemungal.  The authors closely examine prosecutions under the country's mandatory death penalty statute, which requires imposition of a death sentence whenever a defendant is found guilty of murder.  The study found that, despite a high number of killings, relatively few people were convicted of murder, and not necessarily those who committed the most heinous crimes.

INTERNATIONAL: Worldwide Organizations to Focus on the Death Penalty October 10

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty was created in Rome on May 12, 2002, and consists of 52 organizations throughout the world: NGOs, attorneys' associations, trade unions, local communities, and other organizations (including many that are active in the U.S.) challenging capital punishment.  The Coalition has chosen October 10, 2006 as the day to put particular focus on problems with the death penalty around the world.

INTERNATIONAL SECOND THOUGHTS: Great Britain Moves to Pardon 300 Soldiers Executed During War

The British Government plans to seek Parliamentary approval of a pardon for more than 300 soldiers executed for military offenses during World War I.  The announcement came just after a pardon was revealed for Private Harry Farr, who was executed at age 25 for refusing to fight.

Defense Secretary Des Browne said:

"I believe a group pardon, approved by Parliament, is the best way to deal with this. After 90 years, the evidence just doesn't exist to assess all the cases individually.

"I do not want to second guess the decisions made by commanders in the field, who were doing their best to apply the rules and standards of the time.

"But the circumstances were terrible, and I believe it is better to acknowledge that injustices were clearly done in some cases, even if we cannot say which - and to acknowledge that all these men were victims of war."

U.N. Human Rights Committee Urges U.S to Place Moratorium on Death Penalty

Citing the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a United Nations panel recommended that the United States impose a moratorium on executions.  The report, issued on July 28 by the U.N. Human Rights Committee, stated the panel was "concerned by studies according to which the death penalty may be imposed disproportionately on ethnic minorities as well as on low-income groups, a problem which does not seem to be fully acknowledged."

The panel, made up of 18 independent experts who review the practices of 156 countries who have ratified the covenant, urged the U.S. to limit the number of crimes that carry a penalty of death to the most serious crimes. It also requested that the federal government assess the extent that death sentences are handed down disproportionately on minorities and poor people.

The U.S. mission issued a statement in response to the report, but did not specifically mention the committee's proposals relating to capital punishment.

Criticism by the panel brings no penalties beyond international scrutiny. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1992 with a number of reservations, including provisions on the death penalty.

Internacional y Opinión Pública

Países Abolicionistas y Retencionistas

La Pena de Muerte y los Individuos

NEW RESOURCE: Amicus Journal Features Articles on International Death Penalty Developments

The latest edition of the Amicus Journal is now available and features articles related to death penalty topics such as gender bias and jurors, as well as information on international capital punishment developments in the Caribbean and Africa.  The journal features a story on the Middle Temple Library's Capital Punishment Collection in Great Britain, an archive of textbooks, case-preparation aides, film documentaries, and other primary sources on the death penalty.  The Amicus Journal highlights death penalty developments from around the world in an effort to broaden readers' understanding of capital punishment.