Pena de muerte (Continuación)

El pasado 30 de julio, Yakub Memon, contable colegiado y hermano de un tristemente famoso gángster que ahora vive autoexiliado, fue ahorcado por complicidad en la planificación y la ejecución de explosiones de bombas consecutivas que mataron a 257 personas en Mumbai en 1993. Esa ejecución, la primera en tres años, ha suscitado reacciones comprendidas entre la consternación y la sed de sangre apenas encubierta y ha intensificado el debate nacional sobre la pena de muerte.

Desde luego, nadie pretende decir que el sistema judicial de la India no haya funcionado apropiadamente en el caso de Memon. Fue declarado culpable conforme al debido proceso legal y su pena se ajustaba a la legislación vigente.…  Seguir leyendo »

El pasado 24 de enero el Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos admitió a trámite una demanda que cuestiona la constitucionalidad de la inyección letal como método de ejecución de la pena de muerte. Este país es la única democracia occidental que mantiene la pena capital. Es cierto que en la actualidad diecisiete estados norteamericanos la han abolido de sus legislaciones y las condenas a muerte y las ejecuciones han disminuido significativamente en los Estados que todavía la mantienen, reduciéndose igualmente el apoyo de la sociedad a este castigo. Sin embargo, treinta y cuatro Estados todavía la prevén en sus legislaciones y la población que se encuentra en el corredor de la muerte ha aumentado sensiblemente en las últimas cuatro décadas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just after midnight a few days ago, a small crowd gathered in a jungle clearing on Nuksakambangan, a prison island in Indonesia.

It was an awful, terrifying moment. And so powerful it seemed strangely holy.

A row of eight men, tied to wooden crosses, with arms outstretched and feet bound, faced a firing squad. The men wore white shirts. A black cross was taped on the chests of the condemned to show where their hearts were.

All eight refused blindfolds, choosing instead to look their executioners in the eye. As they waited for the gunfire, the men — from Australia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil and Ghana; all convicted of offenses related to drug smuggling — sang hymns.…  Seguir leyendo »

Many Australians are understandably appalled by the brutal and pointless executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

The death penalty looks anachronistic and ineffective at the best of times, but to kill two people who had clearly made the most of their long periods of incarceration to transform themselves and make amends for their actions looks gratuitous and cruel.

Consequently, Indonesia's actions raise more general questions about the powers we give to states -- or, more accurately, to those who control the coercive apparatus of the state at any particular moment. As German sociologist Max Weber pointed out, one of the key features of an effective state is that it has a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence.…  Seguir leyendo »

On May 28, 2014, some 7,000 people gathered in a stadium in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. But they had not come to watch the local football team or any other grand sporting event. Instead, the authorities paraded scores of prisoners dressed in orange jumpsuits. Armed soldiers guarded the exits. In the patently unfair, open air trial that followed, 55 people were found guilty of a range of offenses linked to violent attacks in the region and jailed. Three were sentenced to death.

The public mass sentencing was part a China's "Strike Hard" campaign against unrest in Xinjiang, a campaign the government claims was launched to combat "terrorism" and "separatism."…  Seguir leyendo »

Shafqat Hussain, the youngest of seven children, came to Karachi from Kashmir in search of work in 2003. Having struggled with a learning disability, Shafqat failed in school. He was 13 years old when he dropped out, barely able to read or write. He sought refuge in a metropolis that had no space to give and was quickly relegated to the city’s fringes. He never saw his parents again.

When he was 14, still four years under Pakistan’s legal age of adulthood, Shafqat was detained illegally by the police and severely beaten. The boy was held in solitary confinement, his genitals were electrocuted and he was burned with cigarette butts.…  Seguir leyendo »

There was an ear-splitting whistle and Kong Ning, a young supervising officer from Beijing, saw blood spurt from the bodies of the 34 prisoners, all men in their 20s and 30s, kneeling in a row in front of her. One man’s head was blown off completely. She collapsed on the muddy ground.

Ms. Kong was traumatized by the executions, which she watched over on a bitterly cold day in November 1983, when China’s first wave of “strike-hard” campaigns against rising crime was in full swing. After the event, she quit her job and became a lawyer in the hope of defending people unjustly accused of crime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pocos se acuerdan ya de D. Lucio Rodríguez Martín, el joven y modesto policía armado que, once meses después de ingresar en el cuerpo y vestido de uniforme, prestaba servicio de vigilancia en las oficinas de la compañía Iberia, en la calle Alenza de Madrid, el 14 de julio de 1975. Eran aproximadamente las diez de la noche cuando un comando del llamado Frente Revolucionario Antifascista y Patriota (el FRAP de tan triste memoria) le disparó por la espalda. Lo habían escogido al azar, después de recorrer en un coche robado diversas zonas de Madrid buscando al que les iba a resultar más fácil.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le 18 novembre, l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies a adopté sa résolution annuelle dans laquelle elle exprime sa préoccupation concernant les violations des droits de l’homme dans la République islamique d’Iran, notamment la hausse du nombre d’exécutions dans le pays. Aujourd’hui, l’Iran est le premier pays exécuteur par habitant au monde. Sa pratique de la peine de mort est particulièrement dure et peu respectueuse des lois.

Sans surprise, cette résolution a reçu un soutien important parmi les nations francophones, comme la Centrafrique, Haïti, le Cameroun et la France.

Cependant, plusieurs pays ne se sont pas joints au consensus international, notamment le Sénégal, le Rwanda, le Laos, la Tunisie et le Gabon, qui se sont abstenus de voter.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pena de muerte «voluntaria»

En la discusión norteamericana, con la expresión «pena de muerte voluntaria» (voluntary death penalty) se viene aludiendo a aquellos casos en los que el condenado a muerte (y, subsidiariamente, a una privación de libertad perpetua) renuncia a los recursos ante los tribunales o, en su caso, a la petición de gracia ante el gobernador del estado para tratar de conseguir que se le conmute la pena capital. En la tesitura de verse ante una condena de prisión de por vida, y con la incertidumbre adicional sobre si sus recursos tendrán éxito, el reo prefiere que se ejecute ya la pena de muerte.…  Seguir leyendo »

What Will Doom the Death Penalty

To opponents of the death penalty, recent accounts of botched executions and DNA-based exonerations of death-row prisoners have revived hope that judges and voters will finally see capital punishment for what it is: an intolerable affront to human dignity.

But while such optimism is understandable, it is misplaced. Support for capital punishment is, in fact, in decline — but it’s less the result of a moral awakening on the part of the public than a symptom of a 40-year-plus process of disillusionment.

In 1972, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutionally unfair, but left the door open for states to come up with new laws to remedy the arbitrary sentencing criteria it found troubling.…  Seguir leyendo »

The issue of whether the death penalty in America is administered in a cruel and unusual manner has jumped back into the headlines with botched lethal injection executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.

The Arizona case includes reports that the process took in excess of an hour and a half while the prisoner emitted sounds variously described as snoring or gasping for air.

This month, a federal judge decided to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court in striking down the California death penalty as a form of "cruel and unusual" punishment.

Judge Cormac Carney blasted a "dysfunctional" California justice system that leaves hundreds of murderers "languishing" on death row awaiting only the remote possibility of execution.…  Seguir leyendo »

I have wondered countless times over the past 30 years whether I would live to see the end of the death penalty in the United States. I now know that day will come, and I believe that the current Supreme Court will be its architect.

In its ruling in Hall v. Florida in May, the court — with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the helm — reminded us that the core value animating the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishments clause is the preservation of human dignity against the affront of unnecessarily harsh punishment. Hall, which prohibited a rigid test in use in Florida for gauging whether a defendant is intellectually disabled, was the most recent in a series of opinions in which the court has juxtaposed retribution — the idea of vengeance for a wrongdoing, which serves as the chief justification for the death penalty — with a recognition of our hopelessly complex and fallible human nature.…  Seguir leyendo »

China Rethinks the Death Penalty

Last month, China’s Supreme People’s Court overturned the death sentence of a woman who brutally killed and dismembered her husband. The landmark decision to send the high-profile case back to a provincial court was yet another sign that the country’s embrace of the death penalty is loosening.

China is believed to execute more people each year than the rest of the world combined, and 43-year-old Li Yan initially seemed a likely candidate for death row. In 2010, she beat her husband to death with an air gun, chopped him into pieces and boiled his body parts. But police photos and a medical report backed up Ms.…  Seguir leyendo »

How to kill the death penalty

Will the death penalty ever be abolished in America? Executions, and the states that carry them out, are in decline. Public support for the death penalty, though still high, has been falling. Many abolitionists are hopeful that the end of the death penalty in the U.S. is nigh. The horribly botched execution of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma in April even brought President Obama into the picture. He called the incident "deeply disturbing" and ordered a policy review.

But the president did not ask the Justice Department to look at the death penalty as a matter of principle. Rather, the department is to conduct a narrower review of how (rather than why) the death penalty is applied in the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent and ghastly botched execution of a man in Oklahoma has rekindled my thoughts on capital punishment -- a practice outlawed in most civilized countries. Indeed, most of the industrialized world looks with horror on the United States, in this regard, as a primitive and backward country.

Just in passing fact, capital punishment was banned in the Netherlands in 1870, in Costa Rica in 1877, in Colombia in 1910. In allowing the death penalty, the United States stands with Libya, Uganda, Cuba, Egypt and Equatorial Guinea, among our other peers.

It's a sad commentary on justice in this country that, in a nation so plagued by capital murder, we should make it a state practice as well.…  Seguir leyendo »

Samereh Alinejad wipes away tears at her home while talking about her son who was killed in a street brawl in Iran. Alinejad told The Associated Press that she had felt she could never live with herself if the man who killed her son were spared from execution. But in the last moment, she pardoned him in an act that has made her a hero in her hometown, where banners in the streets praise her family's mercy. (Vahid Salemi / Associated Press)

Iran is a death penalty machine. More than 600 people were executed there last year, according to the United Nations, many of them in public hangings before crowds filled with children.

So far this year, there have been an estimated 188 executions. That number would have been 189 had it not been for the family of Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, an 18-year-old knifed to death in a street fight seven years ago.

Islamic sharia law gave the young man's mother, Samereh Alinejad, the right to extract revenge by participating in the execution of the man who killed her son. As the convicted murderer stood in the gallows, a noose around his neck, she was called forward to help kick the chair out from under him and administer the ultimate punishment.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hay quienes tienen cosas que contar y las cuentan o no las cuentan, y quienes tienen cosas que callar y las callan. También los hay que sólo se las dicen a sí mismos o, como mucho, a sus parientes más próximos o amigos cercanos. Otros las cuentan a todo el mundo y hasta las pregonan a los cuatro vientos. La anterior cavilación viene al hilo de las confesiones de un ex verdugo en el V Congreso Mundial contra la Pena de Muerte celebrado la semana pasada en Madrid y que inauguró la irlandesa Mairead Corrigan, premio Nobel de la Paz. «Soy Jerry Givens y he ejecutado a 62 personas».…  Seguir leyendo »

La defensa efectiva de los derechos humanos ha sido un camino a veces tortuoso, con altos y bajos, paradas en su trayectoria e incluso retrocesos. Pero, poco a poco, ha ido consolidándose todo un corpus jurídico que hoy ya nadie o casi nadie pone en duda y que constituye la mejor garantía de los derechos universalmente reconocidos.

Una de las etapas más azarosas de ese camino está resultando ser la abolición universal de la pena capital. Hace ya más de dos siglos que el padre del Derecho Penal contemporáneo, Beccaria, afirmaba que “si llego a demostrar que la muerte no es ni útil ni necesaria, habré ganado la causa de la humanidad”.…  Seguir leyendo »

In December, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a global moratorium on the death penalty. This fourth such vote in five years was supported by a record 111 nations.

Yet in the first month of 2013, Saudi Arabia beheaded nine people. In recent weeks, Yemen has sentenced a juvenile offender to death, fueling hunger strikes by scores of imprisoned children. Iran has reportedly begun imposing death sentences for petty criminals accused of robbery.

Elsewhere, a court in Indonesia, where there have been no state executions since 2008, sentenced a British grandmother to death for drug trafficking — reportedly to gasps of disbelief in the courtroom.…  Seguir leyendo »