July 10, 2015

IDPN 2015 Issue 28


Albania: After the murder of two Czech tourists, there have been calls to restore the death penalty in the nation.  Minister Tahiri has praised these calls, stating that “It is not a vindictive instinct, but…also the biggest encouragement for reform.”



China: The death sentence for five individuals have been upheld.  The five individuals were convicted of conspiring to kill miners in alleged mine accidents and then pose as their relatives in order to claim compensation.  The five were members of a 21 person group, which targeted migrant workers.



Ethiopia: A British man, Andargachew “Andy” Tsege, has been held in a secret location in Ethiopia for the past year.  He was abducted from a Yemeni airport in June of 2014.  Prior to his abduction, Andy was an outspoken critic against human rights abuses in Ethiopia.  In 2009, Ethiopia tried Andy in absentia and sentenced him to death for his political activities.  It is believed that Andy has been tortured during his captivity.  The United Nations has recently demanded that Andy be released and the Ethiopia violated several international laws in abducting him.



North Korea: Kim Jong Un ordered that the manager of a terrapin (turtle) farm be executed by shooting after he toured the facility.  During the tour, Kim was displeased to discover that food and water supplies some of the aquarium tanks was insufficient due to limited power to the farm and low food supplies.  Kim toured the farm in mid-May, and the execution was carried out shortly thereafter.



Sudan: Two Christian pastors, Rev. Yat Michael and Rev. David Yein Reith were arrested in December of 2014 and January of 2015, respectively, for espionage, offending Islamic beliefs, and undermining the constitution system.  They are currently on trial and could face execution if convicted.  Since their arrest, they have not been allowed to see their families (which is against Sudanese law), were held for a time without being told why, and given extremely limited access to a lawyer.   Their trial is continuing in spite of the fact that their attorney, Mohanded Mustafa, was arrested on July 1, 2015, along with Pastor Hafez, the pastor of a church where Rev. Michael spoke out against the persecution of Christians in Sudan.  


Syria: The Islamic State has killed a group of 25 government soldiers in a historic Roman amphitheater in the town of Palmyra.  The 25 soldiers were shot by young Islamic State members.  The group has since released a video of the killing.



United States of America: Following the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding midazolam, Oklahoma plans to resume executions and has scheduled the execution of three men.  These three men were participants in the lawsuit against the use of midazolam and have completed their appeals.


Inmates in Tennessee are challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol, which uses pentobarbital.  Inmates are arguing that the drug violates their 8th Amendment rights.  Although a different drug, the recent ruling by the Supreme Court may have an affect on the outcome in Tennessee.  Per the Supreme Court ruling, the inmates must prove that the state’s current protocol creates a risk of lingering death or suffering, and that there is a better alternative.  Additionally, other states have upheld the use of pentobarbital.


In 1971, Dave Keaton was arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of an off duty police officer in Florida at the age of 18.  Two years later, he became the first death row inmate in the United States to be exonerated from death row.  On Tuesday, July 7, 2015, Dave suddenly passed away in his home in Quincy, Florida.  He was 63 years of age.  After his exoneration, Dave spoke out against the death penalty and became an outstanding poet and singer.  His story was performed by actor Danny Glover in “The Exonerated.”


In 2013, death row inmates in Louisiana filed a lawsuit alleging that the conditions in the prison during the summer are cruel and unusual, a violation of the 8th Amendment.  US District Judge Brian Jackson ruled in favor of the inmates, however plans to cool off the death row in Angola were halted when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case.  The 5th Circuit has now overturned Judge Jackson’s ruling, saying that forcing the state, and thereby the residents of Louisiana, to provide death row inmates with air conditioning goes beyond constitutional requirements.  The ruling did note that exceptions should be made with inmates who have medical conditions.


The Attorney General for Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kane has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to nullify the moratorium on executions granted by Governor Tom Wolf, claiming that the moratorium is “outside the realm of his constitutional authority.”