Join the dots: the death penalty is wrong

What connects these three things?

1: A 17-year old in Iran who had a violent encounter with Iran’s “strongest man”?

2: A 35-year-old Pakistani man in China accused of drug smuggling?

3: A 42-year-old African-American man in the US state of Georgia who says he is the victim of mistaken identity?

Yes, they’ve all been sentenced to death and their day of execution is … today.

In the case of the teenager from Iran, Alireza Molla-Soltani, he is already dead. He was publicly hanged this morning in the city of Karaj, reportedly in front of a large crowd.  According to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, there were members of the security forces present "to ensure the sentence was carried out without any glitches". No, we wouldn’t want any “glitches”, would we ….?

Where to start? It’s prohibited under international law to execute juvenile offenders (those under 18 at the time of their alleged crimes). Iran appears to hold international law in contempt on this point (and on numerous others). Another sad day for human rights in Iran.

In China, the Pakistani man accused of drugs offences is Zahid Husain Shah. Sadly, I've just seen news that he too is now dead. Executed within the last hour for drug smuggling. Drug smuggling – not murder. As Amnesty has pointed out, Shah’s case is just one of a disturbingly high number of instances where non-lethal crimes in China are punished with death sentences (indeed Asia-Pacific countries generally are worryingly prone to think it’s reasonable to kill someone for drugs offences).

Meanwhile, the best know of the three cases is Troy Davis’s (I blogged about him only yesterday – please skip back to that post if you’re not familiar with his case). Davis is now only hours away from his scheduled execution at midnight tonight. Think about that. Both “sides” – his executioners, and Troy Davis himself – know full well that there is a fixed time at which poisons are to be deliberately injected into a living man’s veins. He is to be killed according to a timetable.

Davis is now living through what must be the unbearable torment of what could be his final hours on earth. Legal options are running out. His legal team are requesting that he be allowed to take a polygraph, a lie-detector test. I’m sure that this would show that he maintains a claim of innocence with clarity and credibility (he’s always been rock solid about it), that he’s not the guilty man here and that he shouldn’t be executed tonight. In a sense, it’s the US justice system itself that’s on trial in Troy Davis’s case, and it’s looking extremely guilty at the moment.

There is, as over a million people have said, simply too much doubt to execute Troy Davis, and vigils around the world (including one in London) will take place to reinforce that basic message tonight. Please support the campaign throughout the day.

Meanwhile, if you join the dots between the very different cases of Alireza Molla-Soltani, Zahid Husain Shah and Troy Davis, one thing becomes clear. The death penalty is always wrong, no matter what the circumstances or where state officials kill according to the clock.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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