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'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

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Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Hamas executes three 'Israel collaborators' in Gaza

Execution in Gaza City on October 2, 2013
Hamas-ordered execution in Gaza City on October 2, 2013
Three men accused of collaborating with Israel have been executed in Gaza, the Hamas-run interior ministry says.

The Palestinians - aged 32, 42 and 55 - were hanged after being convicted by a court of treason and conspiring with foreign parties, a statement said.

They are believed to have been arrested between six months to a year ago.

The executions come as Hamas investigates last month's killing of a senior militant, Mazen Fuqaha. It has blamed Israel and local collaborators.

Human Rights Watch condemned Thursday's executions as "abhorrent" and warned Hamas that they projected "weakness, not strength".

"Hamas authorities will never achieve true security or stability through firing squads or by the gallows, but rather through respect for international norms and the rule of law," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the US-based group's Middle East director.

Israel occupied the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Middle East war. In 2005, it withdrew its troops and some 7,000 settlers.

In 2006, Hamas won Palestinian Legislative Council elections. It took control of Gaza the following year after a violent rift with the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Since then, the Hamas-run authorities have carried out 22 executions, most recently in May 2016, and courts in Gaza have sentenced 106 people to death since then, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

Hamas also killed 23 people without trials during its 2014 war with Israel.

Hamas has offered no evidence that Israel was behind Fuqaha's death.

An Israeli court sentenced him to nine life terms in 2003 for directing suicide bombings, but he was freed along with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in 2011 in exchange for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

On Wednesday, Hamas offered collaborators a week to turn themselves in and seek clemency, so long as they were not involved in the Fuqaha killing.

It also maintained restrictions at the territory's main crossing with Israel that were imposed after the killing, despite criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups.

Source: BBC News, April 6, 2017


Palestine: Hamas executes three civilians tried in Gaza military courts


In response to the appalling news that three men convicted of collaborating with Israel were hanged today by the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Magdalena Mughrabi said:

“Today’s executions by the Hamas authorities in Gaza represent a bitter blow for human rights. The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Its use is deplorable in any circumstances but the fact that these three civilian men were condemned to death after being convicted in unfair proceedings in military courts makes their executions all the more outrageous.

Source: Amnesty International, April 6, 2017


Palestinian rights groups condemn Gaza executions


Palestinian human rights groups have condemned the execution by authorities in the Gaza Strip of 3 civilians accused of collaborating with Israel.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the Hamas-controlled interior ministry in Gaza hanged the men, aged 55, 42 and 32, on Thursday morning. They have been identified only by initials.

The 55-year-old was from Khan Younis in southern Gaza and had been detained since 2011, according to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. He had originally been sentenced to 15 years in prison, but a military court later changed the sentence to death.

The 42-year-old was accused of passing information about Palestinian resistance factions to Israeli occupation forces. He had also been in detention since 2011. The 32-year-old was identified as a resident of Gaza City.

PCHR called the executions "a clear violation" of the Palestinian Basic Law, which requires death sentences to be ratified by the president of the Palestinian Authority.

The current incumbent, Mahmoud Abbas, has not ratified a death sentence in a decade. In total, 38 persons have been executed since the Palestinian Authority was established in the early 1990s, 36 of them in the Gaza Strip, according to PCHR. 25 executions were carried out without ratification from the PA leader.

PCHR has long campaigned against the death penalty as a matter of principle and reiterated following the latest executions that the measure is neither just nor a deterrent.

The group also stated that "torture is systematically used against those convicted of collaboration while being interrogated."

Al Mezan reaffirmed its condemnation of the death penalty, stating that it is ineffective and "violates the human right to life."

Source: electronicintifada.net, April 8, 2017


UN rights agency condemns PLO's executions in Gaza, urges moratorium on death penalty


The United Nations human rights office today strongly condemned the execution of 3 men in Gaza for "collaboration with the occupier" and urged authorities to halt all further executions and comply with Palestine's obligations under international law.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) told reporters in Geneva that the executions took place "despite our appeal and those by other international and Palestinian organizations for the sentences not to go ahead."

OHCHR stressed that the executions "were carried out in breach of Palestine's obligations under international law," including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose conditions on the use of the death penalty were not abided.

The defendants had been convicted of treason under the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code on the basis of what is termed "collaboration with the occupier".

The conviction of "treason" does not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes," as stipulated by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Ms. Shamdasani said. These are typically understood as intentional killings.

In addition, the defendants were tried in military court, in contravention of international law.

"We are also concerned that trials in Gaza resulting in the imposition of a death sentence do not appear to meet international fair trial standards," the spokesperson said.

She said that the accusations were insufficiently investigated, raising the possibility that the confession may have been coerced.

"We urge the authorities in Gaza to halt further executions and comply with Palestine's obligations under international law," said Ms. Shamdasani.

"We also call on the State of Palestine to immediately establish an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its abolition."

Source: un.org, April 8, 2017

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