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Global Judicial Executions Fell By One-Third In 2018, Reaching Lowest in A Decade

One case it highlighted was the execution of Zeinab Sekaanvand, who reported being a victim of domestic and sexual violence at the age of 17 in West Azerbaijan Province during her "grossly unfair trial" in West Azerbaijan Province.

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Hanging
Nooses are prepared ahead of a public hanging in Mashhad, Iran. RFERL

The number of known judicial executions around the world declined by nearly one-third in 2018 compared to 2017, reaching the lowest level in at least a decade, Amnesty International says in its annual report on death sentences and executions.

Belarus was among a handful of countries that defied the trend, the human rights group said in the report released on April 10: The only European state that carries out executions put at least four people to death in 2018, it said, twice as many as in 2017.

Although Iran remains “a country where the use of the death penalty is rife,” a change in Iran’s drug laws led to a reduction of executions by “a staggering 50 percent,” Amnesty International said.

Still, the rights group said, executions in Iran often “were carried out after unfair trials.”

It said Pakistan, Iraq, and Somalia also showed “a significant reduction in the number they carried out,” helping to push down the number of global state executions from at least 993 in 2017 to at least 690 in 2018.

“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realize the death penalty is not the answer,””Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo said.

Arrest
The trend does not include figures from China,”the world’s leading executioner” where “figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret,” Amnesty International said. RFERL

‘World’s Leading Executioner’

The trend does not include figures from China,”the world’s leading executioner” where “figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret,” Amnesty International said.

The rights group said it recorded 253 court-ordered executions in Iran, the lowest number there since 2010.

It said 160 of the people executed in Iran — 155 men and five women — were convicted of murder.

Eighteen people executed by authorities in Iran in 2018 were convicted on charges of moharebeh, or “enmity against God,” including six cases related to “political activities.”

Among the “enmity” cases were the executions of ethnic Kurdish prisoners who received “grossly unfair trials” and were “denied access to their lawyers after being arrested” and claiming they had been tortured into making false confessions.

Another 14 people executed in Iran were convicted of “spreading corruption on earth,” the rights group said, noting that some of those cases involved “consensual same-sex sexual conduct.”

It said 28 executions in Iran involved rape cases, 25 were for drug trafficking, and one was for robbery. Five people were executed in Iran on charges that Amnesty could not confirm.

‘Public Hangings’

Unlike previous years, none of the executions in Iran were carried out in public by stoning. But at least 13 executions were public hangings, the report says.

One case it highlighted was the execution of Zeinab Sekaanvand, who reported being a victim of domestic and sexual violence at the age of 17 in West Azerbaijan Province during her “grossly unfair trial” in West Azerbaijan Province.

Amnesty said Sekaanvand was 17 when she was arrested for murdering her husband and had been “tortured by male police officers through beatings all over her body” for 20 days when she “confessed” to stabbing him in 2014.

Zeinab Sekaanvand
Zeinab Sekaanvand. RFERL

She later retracted her confession in court, saying that her husband’s brother had killed him and raped her. But Amnesty said the court failed to investigate her statements and relied, instead, on the “confessions” she had been forced to make under torture.

In Pakistan, Amnesty said, 14 men were known to have been executed by authorities in 2018, including one who was convicted by an antiterrorism court.

That represents a decline of 77 percent compared to 2017 and 86 percent compared to 2016, the report said.

At least four executions were recorded in Belarus in 2018, according to Amnesty International. It said that before two executions in Belarus in 2017, the last time another European country carried out executions was in 2005.

Two people executed in Belarus in 2018 were convicted murderers Alyaksey Mikhalenya and Viktar Liotau, who a fellow death-row inmate said were taken from their cells one night in May “and never returned,” according to the report.

The other two were Ihar Hershaskou and Syamyon Berazhnoy, who it said were executed “without prior notification” in November after being sentenced to death in July 2017 following convictions for murder, kidnapping, and other charges.

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Another 14 people executed in Iran were convicted of “spreading corruption on earth,” the rights group said, noting that some of those cases involved “consensual same-sex sexual conduct.” Pixabay

Amnesty said their cases were unique because the Belarusian Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of reviewing their trials following an appeal that cited alleged procedural violations, but upheld their death sentences in July 2018.

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Amnesty International also noted that the number of judicial executions in the United States increased from 23 in 2017 to 25 in 2018.

It said 13 of the executions carried out in the United States in 2018 were in the state of Texas. (RFERL)

Next Story

Plan to Protect Corals in Gulf of Mexico Close to Becoming Law

Thirteen of the areas would carry new commercial fishing restrictions, and that has attracted the attention of fishing groups, who want the government

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Corals, Gulf of Mexico, Law
FILE - In this July 20, 2010 file photo, a soft coral and a brittle star, which were collected from the Gulf of Mexico, are displayed at the Smithsonian Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD. VOA

A plan to protect corals in the Gulf of Mexico is close to becoming a law, drawing cheers from environmental groups who believe leaving the corals alone would help vulnerable ocean ecosystems to grow.

The plan would create 21 protected areas off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Thirteen of the areas would carry new commercial fishing restrictions, and that has attracted the attention of fishing groups, who want the government to take a cautious approach.

Pew Charitable Trusts has characterized the plan as a way to protect nearly 500 square miles of slow-growing coral “hot spots,” and is championing the protection plan as a way to spare vulnerable corals from fishing gear. The proposal would prohibit gear such as bottom trawls and dredges that can disrupt the corals.

Sandra Brooke, an oceanographer and coral ecology expert at Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory, said it’s important to spare the corals because of their importance to the marine environment and because they can have value for the development of new medicines.

Corals, Gulf of Mexico, Law
In this Sept. 4, 2009 photo provided by NOAA, corals are seen at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. VOA

“If we continue squandering, we are going to end up in a really bad place, because we can’t replicate what nature can do,” Brooke said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service is taking comments about the proposal until Nov. 25.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, a regulatory panel, approved the plan last year, but NOAA must still provide final approval.

NOAA Fisheries said in a statement that most of the areas slated to be protected are “extremely deep and fishing activity is sparse.” However, harvesters of valuable species such as grouper and snapper said they do fish in the areas.

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Greg Abrams, owner of Greg Abrams Seafood in Panama City, Florida, said his company also harvests golden tilefish in some of the areas slated for closure. He said the change could represent a hardship.

“Each time you close the bottom or close the area, you put all the pressure on another area,” Abrams said.

Another fisherman, Destin, Florida-based Ariel Seafoods president David Krebs, said protecting the corals is wise as long as it’s done in a way that allows fishing groups to stay in business.

“I’m the guy who has watched, in his lifetime, different fisheries get fished down pretty hard and if it weren’t for regulations, we would not survive,” he said.

Corals, Gulf of Mexico, Law
The plan would create 21 protected areas off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Pixabay

NOAA Fisheries has touted the proposal as a way to protect the corals while also sparing fish habitat from the impacts of commercial fishing. The agency has said that will ultimately support sustainable fisheries because it will improve the quality of ocean habitat where fish live, spawn and grow.

The corals provide shelter, breeding and feeding habitat for species that fishermen will ultimately rely upon for their catch, said Holly Binns, project director with Pew’s Conserving Marine Life effort.

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“We want to protect these corals because they are a habitat for these creatures that commercial fishermen who are targeting them need,” Binns said. “It’s incredibly important that we are protecting them before they get damaged.” (VOA)