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Tehran and Washington: united in death

Alarming news from Iran (again). This time it’s the fact that there’s been a death sentence over the election protests. Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani, a 37-year-old, is now facing death by hanging for the crime of supposedly taking up arms against the state. Even if you supported the death penalty generally (which I most certainly do not) I think you'd have to say that the fact that this sentence comes from the show-trial-like mass trials after the crushing of the protests hardly inspires confidence.

We shouldn’t be surprised though. Iran is a slaughterhouse of death sentences – at least 346 last year alone, the second-highest number of any country in the world. In just eight weeks between the presidential election on 12 June and the inauguration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president on 5 August, there were 115 executions in the country – an average of more than two each day.

The latest to be at immediate risk are two young men (a 20-year-old and a 21-year-old), both alleged to have committed offences when they were … children (17 years old). Please click here to read more and to send an urgent appeal to try to prevent their deaths. The first is scheduled for this Sunday (11 October). 

So no, I’m not surprised about Iran. In a way it’s just especially galling/saddening that this is happening in the week that sees World Day Against The Death Penalty (tomorrow, 10 October).

In the course of some radio interviews tied to WDATDP this week, I’ve banged on (sorry BBC Coventry and Warwickshire listeners!) about how the (diminishing) rump of countries that still cling to capital punishment nearly all have very poor human rights records. So we’re talking about Iran, of course, and also China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea. And the USA.

Hold on a minute, the USA? The US is hardly a dictatorship. True enough, but alongside Japan (also in the world’s top 10 list of most prolific executioners) it has a shameful record of allowing people to face substandard capital trials before being sent to rot on death row for decades. Troy Davis, who is 41 today (see a heartfelt birthday message to him in a new post from his sister) certainly falls into this category.

It’s cases like Troy’s that will have prompted an EU delegation to visit Washington today to press the case for the US to abolish capital punishment. After the Ohio “botched” execution fiasco and new additions to the ever-lengthening list of prisoners exonerated in the US after justice had patently failed to get things right, will the new Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama heed that abolitionist call?

About Amnesty UK Blogs
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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