The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Amnesty’s Death Penalty Report

Today, Amnesty International released its annual report on the use of the death penalty worldwide. Although 2013 saw more executions than in previous years and several countries resuming executions, there was also progress towards abolition in all regions of the world. Below, see the top 10 things you need to know from our newest report:

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5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

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In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.

MYTH #1
The death penalty deters violent crime and makes society safer.

FACT
There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect.

More than three decades after abolishing the death penalty, Canada’s murder rate remains over one third lower than it was in 1976.

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“I Did Not Feel Alone, I Knew People Believed in Me”

Azerbaijani youth activist Jabbar Savalan was released from prison in December 2011 (Photo Credit: IRFS).

Azerbaijani youth activist Jabbar Savalan was released from prison in December 2011 (Photo Credit: IRFS).

Azerbaijani youth activist Jabbar Savalan could hardly believe his eyes the first time guards at the prison brought him a bag full of letters.

They mostly came from people he had never met before, from countries he had never visited. They were all telling him to keep strong and that they were putting pressure on authorities in Azerbaijan to release him.

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Ten Ways to Repress a Journalist

People hold posters as they mark World Press Freedom Day in Tbilisi (Photo Credit: Vano Shlamov/AFP/GettyImages).

People hold posters as they mark World Press Freedom Day in Tbilisi (Photo Credit: Vano Shlamov/AFP/GettyImages).

Governments and other organizations across the world are perfecting techniques to prevent journalists from shining a light on corruption and human rights abuses. From trumped-up charges and removing work licenses to murder, here are 10 ways journalists are repressed and prevented from reporting freely and fairly.

1. Physical Attacks
In some countries such as Syria, Turkmenistan and Somalia, governments, military forces and armed groups attack and even kill journalists who are seen to be critical of their policies and practices.

In May 2012, 18-year-old citizen journalist Abd al-Ghani Ka’ake was fatally shot by a government sniper in Syria while filming a demonstration in Aleppo. Armed opposition groups have also attacked and killed journalists.

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Five ‘Crimes’ That Can Get You Killed

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In some countries having consensual sexual relations outside marriage, offending religion and even drinking alcohol is punishable by death © Michael Matuzak

Even though most of the world has turned its back on the death penalty, some countries continue to impose capital punishment for acts like having consensual sexual relations outside marriage, opposing the government, offending religion and even drinking alcohol.

This is despite international law barring states from handing out death sentences for any of these crimes.

Here’s a list of some “crimes” that, in some parts of the world, can get you killed.

Iran's Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery (Photo Credit: Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images).

Iran’s Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery (Photo Credit: Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images).

1.        Consensual Sexual Relations Outside Marriage
In Sudan, two women, Intisar Sharif Abdallah and Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul, were sentenced to death by stoning on charges of “adultery while married” in separate cases in May and July 2012. In both cases, the women were sentenced after unfair trials involving forced “confessions.” The sentences were subsequently overturned on appeal, and both women were released.

In Iran at least 10 individuals, mainly women, remain on death row having been sentenced to stoning for the crime of “adultery while married.”

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7 Ways for Obama to REALLY Earn that Nobel Peace Prize

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Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.

As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.

INCOMPLETE

Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

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10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012

Check out our list of 10 absurd arrests and sentences of the year. You might be surprised to learn what can get you thrown in jail in a few places around the world, and how harsh the sentences are once you’re there.

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Bears being dropped. Photo via Studio Total

1. Posting photos of teddy bears.

Anton Suryapin of Belarus spent more than a month in detention after posting photos of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane. The bears were part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising company calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Anton is charged of “organizing illegal migration” simply because he was the first upload photos of the teddy bears, and still faces a prison sentence of up to seven years.

2. Tweeting.

After allegedly “publicly insulting the King” on Twitter, a Bahraini man had his six-month prison sentence upheld on appeal, while three others are serving four-month prison sentences. Article 214 of Bahrain’s penal code makes it a crime to offend the King.

3. Opposing the death penalty.

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Tibetan Activist Talks About the Alarming Escalation of Self-Immolations in China

Tibetan activists protest after self-immolations increase

At least 88 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009, a figure that is rising daily. © Gerardo Angiulli / Demotix

At least 75 Tibetans – including many Buddhist monks and nuns – have set themselves on fire this year. Many shouted for the return of the Dalai Lama and for freedom for Tibetans as they burned and some made the same demands in written statements.

This escalation in self-immolations in Tibetan-populated areas in China, including the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring provinces, saw 24 people set themselves ablaze in November alone.

The total number of Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009 currently stands at 88, a figure that is now rising daily.

Bobpa Tsang – not his real name – is a Tibetan activist now living in London. He told Amnesty International how he respects those Tibetan protesters who self-immolate.

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The World Reacts to Syrian Violence

Burial of victims killed by Syrian forces in Houla, Syria

Syrians bury tens of victims' bodies who were killed by Syrian forces as they attend their mass funeral in Houla, Syria, on May 26, 2012. ©Sniperphoto.co.uk/Demotix

On Friday, the Syrian military brutally killed over 100 people in Houla, Syria.  Our sources tell us that the barrage of shells, mortars, rockets and raids on Friday left at least 108 dead, including 34 women and 50 children.

The horrifying violence has had geopolitical repercussions around the world:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, “The government bears the main responsibility for what is going on.”  It was a surprising departure from past statements by Russian officials that provided diplomatic cover for Syrian government violence.
  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called on “Arab, Islamic and international governments … and the people of the free world to intervene to stop these massacres.”
  • And today, at least 10 nations expelled their Syrian ambassadors and senior Syrian diplomats — the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.

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