Sunday, June 10, 2007

Still a death penalty paradox

To Anna's excellent post above must be added a couple notes, 2 of caution, 1 of cautious optimism:
It is true that the Rwandan government seeks to end what some have called the "Rwanda Paradox" -- the fact that persons convicted in national courts have been executed, while defendants at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, charged with prosecuting the "most responsible" génocidaires, fear no worse than imprisonment. But not all in Rwanda are happy about the proposed legislative change, which would not only ban future death sentences but also commute to life imprisonment the sentences of 800 persons now on death row. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton (above), Dakar-based correspondent for America's National Public Radio, reports that
a national referendum in 2003 voted overwhelming for the retention of the death penalty in Rwanda. And there has been a mixed reaction to parliament's new law. Many genocide survivors are strongly opposed to the abolition of the death sentence. They say parliament has moved too hastily and failed to consult the people first.
Confounding the U.S. Supreme Court precedents that Anna cites, meanwhile, is Uttecht v. Brown, last week's 5-4 decision making "it easier for prosecutors to exclude people who express reservations about the death penalty from capital juries," a decision that experts quoted by New York Times' Adam Liptak predict will result in juries that are more "'male,'" "'white,'" and "conviction-prone."
As for the country that executes by far the most persons each year, China, there's a possibility that change may be on the horizon. (Something about which we've posted, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, may have a bit to do with this.) Thanks to a new law, China's highest court again has authority to review the validity of death sentences, a move that observers believe may result in the carrying out of fewer executions.

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