International

STUDIES: "The Death Penalty in Japan"

A new report from the Death Penalty Project, titled The Death Penalty in Japan, provides an assessment of that country’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty which both Japan and the U.S. have ratified. While retaining the death penalty is not itself a breach of the treaty, the report states Japan is under an obligation to develop domestic laws and practices that progressively restrict the use of the death penalty. According to the report, Japan has failed to meet the treaty's requirements for fair trials, the provision of adequate procedures for appeal and clemency, and for the humane treatment of persons under sentence of death. The report also explores the quality of opinion surveys in Japan that have reported high public support for the death penalty.  Read full text of the report. (Amnesty International reported that Japan resumed executions in 2012 after a 20-month moratorium.) 

STUDIES: Amnesty International Reports Continued Movement Away from Capital Punishment

According to a new report from Amnesty International, the international trend away from the death penalty generally continued in 2012. The number of countries in which death sentences were imposed fell from 63 to 58. The number of countries that have completely abolished the death penalty stood at 97. Ten years ago, this figure stood at 80. In total, 140 countries worldwide have ended the death penalty in law or in practice. However, 3 countries--India, Pakistan, and the Gambia--returned to carrying out executions in 2012 after many years of having none. The U.S. carried out the same number of executions in 2012 as in 2011, but in fewer states. There were 43 executions across nine states. The five countries that carried out the most executions in 2012 were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said, "In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past. Only one in 10 countries in the world carries out executions. Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind."

RESOURCES: "Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases"

A new international manual covering psychiatric and psychological issues arising in capital cases has been prepared by a team of forensic psychiatrists for use by attorneys, judges, and mental health officials. The Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases sets out model structures for psychiatric assessment and report writing for every stage of a death penalty case, from pre-trial to execution. It also discusses ethical issues, particularly with regard to an inmate's competence to be executed. The handbook is published by The Death Penalty Project (DPP) and Forensic Psychiatry Chambers, both based in England. It is available online or in print from DPP.

Lethal Injection Developments Around the Country

Controversies surrounding lethal injections continue in many parts of the country. In Georgia, the legislature passed a bill to classify the names of those involved in executions as “state secrets.” The bill requires the identity of any entity that “manufactures, supplies, compounds or prescribes” lethal injection drugs to be kept secret. In Arkansas, a state judge ruled that death row inmates cannot use the state's Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about the source, history, or quality of the drugs the state will use during execution. An attorney for the inmates claimed they should have a right to the information because of problems with drugs obtained in the past. On March 25, a federal appeals court heard arguments in a case involving death row inmates from across the country arguing that the Food and Drug Administration acted inappropriately in 2010 when it allowed some states to import lethal injection drugs from foreign sources. Eric Shumsky, an attorney representing the inmates, said, “This case is … about ensuring that illegal drugs are not used in carrying out otherwise legal executions.” Also recently, the Israel-based drug company Teva announced that it would resume manufacturing the sedative propofol, but would not allow its use in executions. Missouri has proposed using propofol for its executions.

RESOURCES: International Reports Look at Human Rights Decisions and Death-Eligible Crimes

Two new reports on the death penalty are available from the international community. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States recently released a report containing excerpts from the most important death-penalty decisions issued by the IACHR in the past fifteen years, including cases from Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. The International Commission against the Death Penalty released a report in January containing a country-by-country overview of crimes eligible for the death penalty around the world. The report analyzes whether the death penalty is really being restricted to the "most serious crimes."

FOREIGN NATIONALS: Information About Foreign Citizens on U.S. Death Rows

New information on foreign nationals facing the death penalty in the U.S. is now available through Mark Warren of Human Rights Research. This DPIC page includes information on 143 foreign citizens from 37 countries on state and federal death rows. California has the most (59 inmates), followed by Texas (24), and Florida (23). Many of these inmates were not informed of their right to contact their country's represenatives under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a treaty the U.S. has ratified and relies upon to protect its citizens when they travel abroad. Thirty-one (31) foreign nationals have been executed in the U.S. since 1976, many of whom were not properly informed of their rights under this treaty. Among countries, Mexico has the largest number (60) of its citizens on death row in the U.S. 

INTERNATIONAL: Roman Colosseum Lit to Mark Connecticut's Abolition of Death Penalty

On November 29, the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, was illuminated in honor of Connecticut's repeal of the death penalty in April of this year. The event featured former death row inmate Shujaa Graham of California and George Kain of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. Five states in the past five years have abolished the death penalty: Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York. The program also commemorated the 10th World Day of Cities Against the Death Penalty, sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a faith-based organization focusing on conflict resolution and interfaith dialoge. See a slide slow of pictures from participating cities at this link.

INTERNATIONAL: U.N. Death Penalty Resolution Backed by Record Number of Countries

On November 19, 110 countries voted for a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty. The vote marked record support for the resolution compared to previous years. Among the countries supporting the resolution were the European Union nations, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Israel. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries opposing the non-binding resolution in the Assembly's Third Committee, which addresses human rights issues. Thirty-six countries abstained. Recently, France launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would also be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure. Around the world, about 141 are abolitionist in law or in practice, while 57 countries retain the death penalty.

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