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April 10, 2013

Amnesty International reports on latest state of death penalty around the globe

As reported in this New York Times article, yesterday Amnesty International released its annual compilation of capital punishment trends.  Here are the basics:

At least four countries that had not used the death penalty in some time — India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia — resumed doing so last year, the rights organization Amnesty International says in its annual compilation of capital punishment trends.... Nonetheless, its yearly review, released early Wednesday in London, said the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012.

“In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past, ” Salil Shetty, secretary general of the organization, said in a statement. Amnesty said only 21 countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the same as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier.

It said at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide in 2012, two more than 2011, and at least 1,722 death sentences were imposed in 58 countries, compared with 1,923 imposed in 63 countries the year before....

Amnesty also pointed out that its compilation excluded what it said were the thousands of executions it believes were carried out in China, where the number of capital punishment cases is kept secret. The organization said it still believed China remained the world’s top executioner.

Besides China, the top executors in 2012, Amnesty said, were Iran with 314, Iraq with 129, Saudi Arabia with 79 and the United States with 43. The report also noted that only nine American states executed prisoners in 2012, compared with 13 the year before, and that in April, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.

The full AI report and additional related information can be accessed from this link.

April 10, 2013 at 08:32 AM | Permalink

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Translation: "Our story is that the death penalty is dying, and we're stickin' to it!"

P.S. People who think anything of the death penalty's renewal in unimportant countries like Japan and India are bloodlusting savages. Besides, the people in those countries don't look as pretty as the ones in, like, Norway and Sweden and France, so they don't really count.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 10, 2013 9:29:10 AM

Bill Otis, I'm proud to be in such good company:

"Besides China, the top executors in 2012, Amnesty said, were Iran with 314, Iraq with 129, Saudi Arabia with 79 and the United States with 43."

How about you?

Posted by: onlooker13 | Apr 10, 2013 12:12:55 PM

Would you have sided with those right-wingers of 1776, or held fast to the majority of despotic and/or monarchical nations?

"One, on God's side, is a majority."--Wendell Phillips

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 10, 2013 1:31:15 PM

It is so unfortunate that knowing what God wants is so complicated.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 10, 2013 1:53:38 PM

onlooker13 --

I am proud indeed to be in the company of Washington, Lincoln and FDR, all of whom not merely supported but used the death penalty. So did Reagan and Clinton, while we're at it.

I'm also proud to be in the company of Justices Frankfurter, Powell, O'Connor, Harlan and dozens of others.

How about you?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 10, 2013 2:12:38 PM

Beccaria, Compagnoni, Verri, Rush, Franklin, Jefferson, Hugo, Garibaldi, Mazzini, Cattaneo, Ellero, Mancini, Zanardelli, Gandhi, Koestler, Camus, Wells, King, Sakharov, Badinter, Mitterandt,

Posted by: claudio giusti | Apr 10, 2013 4:38:05 PM

Sorry, I forgot Jesus Christ
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5 38 – 39 KJV

Posted by: claudio giusti | Apr 11, 2013 6:35:03 AM

Amnesty International is a front organization for lawyer rent seeking. They want to save murderers, to generate lawyer jobs. No mention of the V word by any of the appallingly self dealing abolitionists.

I demand that Claudio repeat the word, victim, 5 times in this comment section. He can't. He will choke on it first. In the US, there were 400 murder victims for every murderer put to death.

Abolitionists are irresponsible advocates who are the cause of all prison murders by their good customers, the murderers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 11, 2013 9:11:02 AM

"Thomas Jefferson and four others, authorized to undertake a complete revision of Virginia's laws, proposed a law that recommended the death penalty for only treason and murder."

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/readings/history.html

I am not aware of him completely for its abolition but maybe he made noises to that effect (without actual deeds, I'm somewhat dubious given his record). But, yes "Dr. Benjamin Rush, a renowned Philadelphia citizen, proposed the complete abolition of capital punishment." He thought it was anti-republican.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/readings/history.html

As to Jesus Christ, see former prosecutor Mark Osler, "Jesus on Death Row."

Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2013 11:13:31 AM

Claudio stated: "Sorry, I forgot Jesus Christ
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5 38 – 39 KJV"

You were right to forget at first because you are now wrong. I suspect your biblical knowledge comes from History Channel documentaries (notoriously anti-Christian) and not any prayerful studying.

The scripture you quote was an admonition against personal vengeance, not governmental application of the law. In fact, Jesus gave His personal imprimatur to Pontius Pilate for his own execution:

John 19:11- "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above …." In other words, Pilate had the GOD GIVEN authority to execute Jesus.

That the death penalty is acceptable biblically has been darn near universal for the entire 2000 years of the NT (not to mention the OT). Excuse me if I side with the interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine of Hippo over Claudio Giusti of Italy.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Apr 11, 2013 11:39:18 AM

Joe --

"Thomas Jefferson and four others, authorized to undertake a complete revision of Virginia's laws, proposed a law that recommended the death penalty for only treason and murder."

Then he supported exactly the death penalty we have now in this country. I should add him to the list of Washington, Lincoln, etc. Thank you.

As for Jesus, first, it is not clear to me that he opposed the death penalty; second, there is no death penalty in the USA for blaspheming either religion or civil authority; and third, why, in a secular and pluralistic country, are we supposed to prefer the teachings of Jesus (even if he opposed the DP) to those of, for example, Mohammed? You're not for discrimination against Islam, are you? Or for enshrining Christian teaching as a quasi-state religion??

P.S. To characterize left wing zealot Mark Osler as a "former prosecutor," while technically correct, makes as much sense as characterizing me as a "former long-haired, love beads-wearing, West Coast law student."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 11, 2013 11:43:15 AM

Bill: I read the hornbook of the Sharia.

http://www.amazon.com/Reliance-Traveller-Classic-Manual-Islamic/dp/0915957728

About 10% is daffy stuff you usually hear about.

The rest is highly effective, less procedural, and more just. One thing Islam does well is suppress crime. So daily life is more relaxing under Sharia. Is the police or court more effective? The opposite, lazy, corrupt, idiots, who cannot even read. So how do they have such low crime rates?

1) No bastardy. Kids grow up in a patriarchal family.

2) Self help is encouraged. Try grabbing a woman's purse in a crowded market. 50 people will chase you, beat you, then hand you over to the worthless police.

3) Sharia justice is rapid justice. So the consequences are associated with the criminal act in ones' mind. So, the criminal is effectively and specifically deterred.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 11, 2013 11:54:07 AM

Was Jesus against slavery? If the answer is NOT why don’t you have it ? If the answer is Yes …

Posted by: claudio giusti | Apr 11, 2013 12:03:47 PM

Claudio: The V word. Say it without choking.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 11, 2013 12:06:17 PM

“We live in a Christian society and the Bible says 'an eye for an eye'. The Bible also talks about forgiveness somewhere but this is surely a printing error, do not be fooled. Only an idiot would read the entire Bible anyway, instead of just picking out the parts that agree with him.” Edward Fella

Posted by: claudio giusti | Apr 11, 2013 12:17:13 PM

Bill Otis does a good job of using references to start new conversations though if you did that, you should be very clear, or he might accuse you of implying he was saying something he did not say.

I think the reference to Jesus doesn't mean that we should have a Christian government. He is cited as someone many deem a good model to follow, including some supporting the death penalty. Anyway, the concern is partially whatever the grounds, the death penalty will be used illegitimately. The fact Jesus was executed for reasons not in place now [though it is quite likely the real reason was some sort of treasonous activity] doesn't change this.

The word "technically" is open to misinterpretation. Often that is used to mean that really it is misleading to use the word, like "eh, technically you are right." He really was a prosecutor. The image of hippie Bill Otis is admittedly a tad amusing. Still, being a prosecutor seems more relevant when talking about prosecutions and sentencing than law students.

I'm not an expert on Sharia btw but I have read that it was ahead of its time, at least originally, in respect to family law such as guaranteed benefits to wives and such. The proper application of the rest, will there is as in other faiths, a broad division of beliefs. You have your progressive minds there.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2013 12:28:36 PM

Joe --

"I think the reference to Jesus doesn't mean that we should have a Christian government. He is cited as someone many deem a good model to follow..."

But Mohammed is ALSO someone many deem a good model to follow. So why doesn't he get cited? Because Osler is an anti-Muslim bigot? Why does Jesus get cited and Mohammed get ignored?

"Anyway, the concern is partially whatever the grounds, the death penalty will be used illegitimately."

ANY government power can be used illegitimately, including the power NOT to impose the DP -- a decision which, I have shown, has led to the murders of innocent people by a killers who could and should have been executed but weren't.

"The fact Jesus was executed for reasons not in place now [though it is quite likely the real reason was some sort of treasonous activity] doesn't change this."

Trying to compare the DP as administered by Rome in its colonies 2000 years ago, to the DP as administered by the United States today, is misleading past the point of absurdity.

"I'm not an expert on Sharia btw but I have read that it was ahead of its time, at least originally..."

The problem is that "originally" was a very, very long time ago. It's basically a holdover from the Seventh Century.

"The proper application of the rest, will there is as in other faiths, a broad division of beliefs. You have your progressive minds there."

I would be very interested if you could provide the name of a single Muslim cleric, in Saudi Arabia or any other predominantly Muslim country, who opposes the DP.

P.S. I do not mean by this that we should have the DP because Muslims (or Christians) believe in it. Unlike Osler, I don't try to get on some theocratic high horse and bully people into believing as I do on the theory that I know better what God wants. I don't. Neither does Osler, for all his holier-than-thou posturing.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 11, 2013 3:27:00 PM

Islam is cited by some people, but Christianity is the main religion in this country, so it is logical to cite Jesus more, particularly because unlike Mohammed, he was executed in the eyes of the believers unjustly.

Mark Osler, who taught at a conservative Christian law school, spoke as a believer and chose Jesus for the reason cited -- as a sort of seminal victim of the death penalty. There is no indication to my knowledge that Prof. Berman's friend Mark Osler is some sort of anti-Muslim bigot. He also doesn't claim to know the truth, he offers what he believes it to be admitting to the limits of his human knowledge. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-osler/christianity-without-arrogance_b_2533474.html

We provide extra protections to guard against wrongful loss of life, including from the government, and take special care there before government use lethal force, including in war. This is so even though governmental power can be misused in any number of ways. Some protections, including the level of proof needed before you can convict, might and have led to other harms. But, we have determined that net, such rules are justified.

A reader of Osler's book can judge per the insights provided. Believers find value in things done in that distant time in other matters that some find a ridiculous thing given times changed so much too. Judge as you may.

Sharia law like current applications of biblical law have by many religious traditions applied things in a sort of common law way that has recognized the changing times since the 7th Century. Like some Jews and Christians, some have not. I am not overly familiar with Muslim thought but have read and/or seen books from a progressive perspective there. As to the DP:

http://islamnewsroom.com/news-we-need/1422-death-to-a-killer

One thing that is suggested by that sample, which may or may not be representative, is that even if a Muslim would believe the d.p. is okay, a particular system might be too unjust to apply it rightly. A sort of procedural due process argument.


Posted by: Joe | Apr 11, 2013 5:00:53 PM

Joe --

"Islam is cited by some people, but Christianity is the main religion in this country, so it is logical to cite Jesus more..."

So while you disclaim wanting a state religion, you note with approval that Christianity "is the main religion in this country."

Wow. This forum would explode if a conservative tried to get away with saying that.

"...particularly because unlike Mohammed, he was executed in the eyes of the believers unjustly."

Oh, he was executed unjustly for sure. But the fact that there were unjust executions two millennia ago in a system that would be unrecognizable in today's America tells us zip about the subject at hand: Whether we should abolish the death penalty WE HAVE NOW.

"Mark Osler, who taught at a conservative Christian law school, spoke as a believer and chose Jesus for the reason cited -- as a sort of seminal victim of the death penalty."

Wrong on two counts. First, he chose Jesus to bully the opposition with the pretense that he speaks for God. Second, it's beyond preposterous to say that Jesus was "a sort of seminal victim of the death penalty." The "seminal" victim (as you call it) of the DP is some guy with a rap sheet time miles long who caps it off by stealing $50 from the convenience store at 3 a.m. and then blowing the terrified clerk's head off out of a combination of malevolence and calculated witness elimination.

Choosing Jesus as the "seminal" capital defendant is nothing but transparent, and transparently false, propaganda.

"There is no indication to my knowledge that Prof. Berman's friend Mark Osler is some sort of anti-Muslim bigot."

Then why did Osler choose ONLY Jesus and just ignore, as if good for nothing, the founder of a religion with a huge world-wide following?

"...governmental power can be misused in any number of ways. Some protections, including the level of proof needed before you can convict, might and have led to other harms. But, we have determined that net, such rules are justified."

We have also determined that net, the death penalty is justified. You should be equally sanguine with that determination, which has been reached with equal if not much greater deliberation over a very long time.

Osler is a religion-spouting bully, ostensibly disclaiming to know the truth (as you say) but implicitly delivering his assumed piety as Truth Itself.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 11, 2013 11:53:43 PM

"...a "former long-haired, love beads-wearing, West Coast law student."

No doubt, Prof. Berman and I would pay good money to your favorite charity to see a picture of you from that time posted on Facebook.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 11, 2013 11:59:51 PM

Speaking as a UK citizen i have no problem with the US executing murderers and just bad people in general, i would call it taking responsibility for their society.
But for those other counties mentioned i would be concerned about justice seeing the light of day.
Thomas/Divorce blog owner.

Posted by: Thomas | Apr 12, 2013 8:19:56 AM

SC --

I do have up a Facebook picture of me when I was 23 and at Stanford Law, the picture was taken at my family's South Carolina beach house, and I was sans beads. The long hair is on ample display, however.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 15, 2013 12:27:04 PM

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