Friday, September 30, 2011

Double standard in fight against death penalty

Since the execution of Troy Davis on 21 September 2011, a lot has been said and written about the death penalty and why all modern states should abolish the ancient practice. The controversial Troy Davis execution fueled the fight against the death penalty, as many who joined the cause to stop his execution pledged to fight on.

However, other death row inmates have been executed after Troy without any protest or concern from the millions of people who opposed the execution of Troy - suggesting "double standard" in the struggle against the death penalty.

Some people who opposed the killing of Troy Davis were even outraged by the fact that the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Samuel David Crowe clemency way back in 2008 and commuted his sentence to life in prison without parole. What a shame!

Real death penalty opponents welcome every clemency decision and commutation, and oppose ALL executions.

The following video, aired on Msbc's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell on 22 September 2011, puts double standard in the fight against the death penalty into perspective.

For the fight against the death penalty to succeed, there should be "coast to expressions of outrage" against all executions, irrespective of guilt, innocence or too much doubt. The death penalty is flawed because innocent individuals could be executed and it undermines respect for human life and dignity.

Selective outrage weakens the cause. Everyone, including death penalty supporters, who saw something wrong with, and opposed the execution of Troy Davis should oppose all executions. There are many Troy Davises on death row.

*Photo: Colorlines.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Troy Anthony Davis vs. Samuel David Crowe

While anti-death penalty proponents and those who opposed the recent controversial execution of Troy Anthony Davis by the state of Georgia are struggling to come to terms with the killing of a possibly innocent man, news of the case of Samuel David Crowe, a white male criminal sentenced to death and spared by the parole board in Georgia, has sparked debate and fueled allegations of racism and inequality before the law in the state of Georgia.

Samuel David Crowe killed a store manager in March 1988 during a robbery in Douglas, west of Atlanta. Crowe shot the victim three times with a pistol. He pleaded guilty of murder and armed robbery. [Source].

He was sentenced to death.

In May 2008, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles spared the confessed murderer from death, three hours before his execution and commutated his sentence to life imprisonment. Samuel David Crowe's lawyer reportedly presented the board with evidence of "remorse and good behavior in jail."

The action of the parole board in this case, although welcomed, is in sharp contrast to the way the board handled the controversial case of Troy Davis, an African-American male convicted of murder in 1991 and executed on 21 September 2011.

In the case of Troy Davis, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency, despite the fact that too much doubt surrounded his conviction. Troy's conviction was based on eyewitness accounts. No murder weapon was found and there was no DNA evidence linking him to the crime. Seven out of the nine star eyewitnesses changed or recanted their testimonies. Some witnesses said they were coerced by the police to testify against Troy Davis.

The board that spared the life of a confessed murderer refused clemency for a possibly innocent man - ignoring almost a million petitions from rights groups like Amnesty International USA and individuals, including former U.S president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, civil rights activist Al Sharpton and many members of the U.S Congress.

Even a juror in the Troy Davis trial expressed concern about his conviction.

The handling of the Troy Davis case and Samuel David Crowe case by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles attracted some strong criticism online - where many argued that the granting of clemency for Samuel David Crowe and the execution of Troy Davis despite too much doubt surrounding his conviction had something to do with racism.

Some comments posted on Facebook in relation to the Samuel David Crowe case include the following:

"... wow, this dude actually confessed to killing but was never executed?... wow...".

"Stupid, racist, demonic justice system...".

"... I wanna be white :-)"

Many are concerned about racism in the U.S legal system, as illustrated in Press TV program "American Dream." However, it is important to remember that people of different racial and ethnic groups spoke out in opposition to the execution of Troy Davis, and stood shoulder to shoulder with him till the end. The death penalty is a common enemy and all executions are wrong. It is important to welcome every death sentence clemency decision or commutation - irrespective of the beneficiary's race or ethnicity.

The decision to spare Samuel David Crowe from execution was a move in the right direction and should be celebrated by all people of goodwill, irrespective of emotions sparked by the Troy Davis controversy. The death penalty is flawed in many ways and should be abolished. There is always the possibility of the execution of an innocent individual, given that there is always the possibility of a wrongful conviction.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Troy Davis execution fuels fight against death penalty

It is no secret that the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis earlier this week - ignoring millions of petitions and days, weeks, months and years of campaigning to stop the execution due to so much doubt surrounding the conviction.

Human rights groups and millions of people around the world expressed concern about the possibility of Troy Davis' innocence and urged the state of Georgia to stop the execution.

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 for the murder of a police officer. His conviction was based on nine eyewitness accounts. There was no murder weapon or physical evidence linking Troy Davis to the murder. There was no DNA evidence. As if this was not enough, seven out of the nine star prosecution witnesses changed or recanted their testimonies. This raised genuine questions about the conviction.

On 21 September 2011, Troy Davis was executed and pronounced dead at 11:08pm local time. This marked a shameful victory for the state killing machine and highlighted flaws in the U.S. legal system.

Despite the grave injustice demonstrated by the state of Georgia in the Troy Davis case, there is a glimmer of hope for the abolition of the death penalty in the U.S. - the only country in the Americas that still kills its citizens in the name of justice.

The case inspired millions to join the cause against the death penalty. Many have seen the reality of the possibility of the execution of an innocent individual. Many realized that "we are all Troy Davises." Anyone could be convicted based only on eyewitness accounts and executed despite recantations and doubts.

Before you support the death penalty and "feel relief and peace" after someone is executed, think again. Keep in mind that anyone, including you, could be wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully executed in a country where the death penalty is exacted.

The execution of Troy Davis marked a low point in the U.S. legal system and highlighted the reason why the death penalty should be abolished in the U.S. and all other countries that still have capital punishment in legislation.

Troy Davis is dead, but the fight against the dead penalty in the U.S. is stronger than ever.

"If one of our fellow citizens can be executed with so much doubt surrounding his guilt, then the death penalty system in our country is unjust and outdated." 
- Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President.
*Photo: MailOnline.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Clemency for Troy Davis denied

A sad day for human rights and the rule of law, following news that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Troy Davis clemency. This means that, in the words of Laura Moye, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director at Amnesty International USA, "... very little is standing in the way of the state of Georgia executing a potentially innocent man this Wednesday, September 21st at 7pm."

The denial of clemency by the Board follows weeks of rigorous campaigning by human rights groups and individuals of goodwill to stop the execution due to "too much doubt" in the Troy Davis case. Amnesty International USA alone collected and delivered more that 650,000 petition signatures to the Georgian Board of Pardons and Paroles on Thursday, 15 September 2011.

According to Amnesty International USA, almost 1million signatures were collected from other organizations seeking to stop the execution.

Troy was convicted in 1991 for murder of a police officer. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. The murder weapon was not found and there was no DNA evidence. The conviction was handed down based on eyewitness accounts. However, seven out of the nine eyewitnesses have retracted their accounts, with some saying they were coerced by the police to testify against Troy.

So much doubt surround the conviction.

It is a shame that the Board of Pardons and Paroles have ignored the loud voices of millions of people around the world who see something wrong with the looming execution of Troy Davis.

Considering the fact that Troy was convicted based on eyewitness accounts and many of the eyewitnesses have recanted, there is a high possibility that Troy is innocent. It therefore follows that the state of Georgia could execute an innocent man.

Although close to a million petitions were ignored by the Board, we cannot give up - only one day to the execution date.

Please, join Amnesty International USA in calling on the Board to reconsider its decision and on the Savannah District Attorney to do the right thing.

Troy Davis has survived three previous execution dates because those who oppose his execution refused to give up on him. Help stop the September 21st execution.

"It is with a very heavy heart and a deep sense of outrage that we let you know that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to deny clemency to Troy Davis. The action of the Board are astounding in the face of so much doubt." - Amnesty International USA, Facebook status update, 20.9.2011.

*Photo of "I'm Troy Davis" vigil: Foreign Policy Association.
*Photo of Troy Davis Petitions: Amnesty International USA.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Human Rights Clash with Fashion on Catwalk, Gulnara Show Cancelled

First Published in: Dunia Magazine

It is not very often that human rights clash with fashion on the catwalk, but recent history suggests that when they do come head to head in a democratic and free society, human rights carry the day. We saw it in France in March 2011 when French fashion powerhouse – Christian Dior – fired its artistic designer, John Galliano, one of the best designers in the business, for uttering racist and hateful comments in a Paris pub. The courts took it a notch further by slapping Galliano earlier this month with a 6000 euro ($8,421) suspended fine for his derogatory comments.

The recent cancellation of a New York Fashion Week show this September, due to pressure from rights groups adds weight to the assertion that abuse – in any form whatsoever – is never fashionable.

On 9 September 2011, IMG Worldwide Inc (IMG), the organizer of New York Fashion Week, announced the cancellation of the show of Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the President of Uzbekistan*. She doubles as Uzbekistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations and Ambassador to Spain. Her show was called off due to her country’s “atrocious human rights record” and her links to the repressive regime that denies its people, including children, basic rights and freedoms.

Gulnara Karimova, 39, was scheduled to showcase the 2012 Spring Collection of her clothing line – “Guli” – at the Lincoln Center during Fashion Week on 15 September 2011 but the show was nicked thanks to rigorous campaigning by Human Rights Watch and other rights groups and individuals of good will in New York.

Some of the rights violations linked to President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and his daughter Gulnara include forced child labour in cotton farms, widespread and systematic torture and brutal repression of political dissent. The government of Uzbekistan also stifles free association, free assembly and free speech by throwing journalists and human rights activists behind bars. This government to which Gulnara is associated has forced several non-governmental institutions like Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and others in the country to shutdown.

Human Rights Watch reports that in order to stop Gulnara Karimova from showcasing her clothing line, the organization reached out to IMG and Fashion Week’s official sponsor, Mercedes-Benz. The Executive Director of Human Rights Watch spoke with the management of IMG about the need for the prestigious Fashion Week to distance itself from abusers and their cronies.

In Uzbekistan, about 2 million children, according to Human Rights Watch, are required by the government to drop out of school each year and work for two months “in difficult and dangerous conditions” picking cotton – some of which is used in Gulnara’s Collections.Perpetrators of rights violations, those associated with abuse or and those who benefit from abuse must be challenged on all fronts – even if it means taking the fight to the catwalk. The cancellation of Gulnara’s show is a move in the right direction and a testament to the conviction that when human rights clash with fashion on the catwalk in a free society, rights should prevail.

It is now up to Gulnara Karimova to use her positions of influence as eldest daughter of a dictator, Uzbekistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador to Spain, to restore the dignity of child labourers and all individuals with limited rights in Uzbekistan — or at least, distance herself from the repressive Uzbek regime.

If she decides to stay on the wrong side of history, she should keep in mind that, in the words of Steve Swerdlow, Human Rights Watch’s Uzbekistan researcher, “enslaving children and torturing dissidents is never chic.”

*The Republic of Uzbekistan is located in Central Asia. It was part of the Soviet Union.
*Photo of Gulnara, Cannes Film Festival 2010: Style Guru.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stop the Execution of Troy Davis, Too Much Doubt

With only one week to the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, people of good will around the world cannot afford to remain silent. Today, Amnesty International USA, Amnesty International Sweden, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and many rights activists and supporters across the internet replaced their profile pictures on Facebook with the following picture of Troy Davis.

The goal is to raise awareness about the case of Troy Davis.

Troy Davis was convicted for murder in 1991. His conviction was based on eyewitness accounts and since his conviction, seven out of the nine star eyewitnesses have recanted their testimonies. There is no physical evidence linking Troy Davis to the murder and some witnesses reported that they were coerced by the police to testify against Troy.

One juror in the case told CNN, "if I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row."

Despite all the doubts surrounding this case, the state of Georgia has set an execution date for 21 September 2011, next Wednesday.

On 12 September, a letter signed by more than 50 Members of Congress was sent to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles - calling for a stay of execution for Troy Davis.

With only one week to go, the stakes are high and inaction is not an option. You are encouraged to sign a petition by Amnesty International to help stop the execution.

Troy Davis could be innocent. Many doubts surround his conviction.

The death penalty is flawed and its implementation should be reconsidered. Innocent people could be executed because of wrongful convictions and wrongful convictions are not uncommon. According to Amnesty International, more than 130 people have been released from death row in the U.S. alone due to wrongful convictions. They could have been executed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Troy Davis scheduled to be killed

On 7 September, Amnesty International, a human right organization, sent an email alert to supporters about the scheduled killing of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia. According to the email, Troy Davis is scheduled to be killed on 21 September 2011, just 11 days from today.

Troy Anthony Davis was convicted for the murder of a police officer in Savannah, Georgia, USA. He was sentenced to death and has been on death row since 1991.

Seven out of the nine main eyewitnesses who testified during the trial of Davis and linked him to the killing have recanted their testimonies, and the convict has maintained that he is innocent. Some of the witnesses said they were coerced by the police to testify against Davis. The murder weapon has never been found and there is no physical evidence linking Troy Davis to the murder. Even some jurors who convicted Davis have expressed concern about the looming execution. [Source].

Despite the many questions surrounding his guilt, the state of Georgia has scheduled the execution of Troy Davis. His guilt has not been proven "beyond reasonable doubt."

An innocent man could be executed on 21 September 2011.

Amnesty International is running a campaign to stop the execution of Troy Davis. The organization is asking rights supporters to sign a petition opposing the death penalty for Troy Davis because doubts about his guilt have not been cleared.

Many prominent individuals, including former US President Jimmy Carter and civil rights activist Al Sharpton oppose the killing of Troy Davis because "the doubts about the Davis case have not been resolved..." and "Georgia might execute an innocent man..."

Photo source.
You are encouraged to sign the petition. Do not let Georgia kill Troy Davis.

Troy's story evokes memories of the fictional case of Donte Drumm, a prisoner sentenced to death in John Grisham's book - The Confession.

Facts About Capital Punishment published by Amnesty International reveal that capital punishment is deeply flawed and more than 130 people have been released from death rows in the US due to wrongful convictions.

"I cannot support a system which, in its administration, has proven so fraught with error and has come so close to the ultimate nightmare, the state's taking of innocent life... Until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty, until I can be sure with moral certainty that no innocent man or woman is facing a lethal injection, no one will meet that fate." 
[George Ryan, 39th Governor of Illinois].

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cameroon: Government failing Barri school children

The government of Cameroon has a legal obligation to ensure that children within its borders have quality education. Despite this obligation, the government is failing children in Government School Barri.

Government School Barri is a primary school located in North West Cameroon, precisely in Menchum valley, Menchum Division.

The poor quality education received by children in Government School Barri is better explained in pictures obtained thanks to Civitas.

It is worthy to note that Government School Barri is not the only government-run school in Cameroon that is in desperate need of a makeover. 

Government School Kitiwum, for example, is also a case in point.

Hats off to struggling parents and teachers, many of whom live far below the poverty line, who have stepped up to the plate to better conditions for children in Government schools.

Civitas is working in Cameroon to ensure that all person enjoy all rights laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), including the right to quality education

Join Civitas on Facebook and Twitter and help make respect for basic rights a reality in Cameroon.

"It is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all."
- Nelson Mandela.

Photos: Civitas.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Racism in the US legal system

Racism and discrimination based on skin color are social ills that prey on millions of innocent people - men, women and children - every single day, all around world. Victims of racism and discrimination are uncountable; perpetrators are known and are within reach, but very few face justice for the crime - either due to lack of political will to uphold the dignity of a group of people or the absence of appropriate legislation to clamp down on racists.

An interesting program that airs on Press TV every week puts racism in the US into perspective. The program, titled "American Dream" is described on Press TV's website as "a weekly program giving a warts-and-all of life in the USA from ghettos to gated communities to the White House."

The 8 August 2011 edition shines the spotlight on racism in the US legal system.

This edition, according to Press TV, is based on a study that shows a correlation between racism and injustice in the US legal system.

Institutionalized racism and racism in all other forms must be unequivocally condemned.

Alleged racism in the US legal system is unacceptable and undermines the position of the US as the "land of the free." Institutionalized racism in the US contravenes the respected US Constitution and all internationally accepted standards.

People should not be judged or treated based on race or skin color.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1

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