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In a landmark decision on the death penalty, the Supreme Court has ruled the execution of child offenders is unconstitutional because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The decision throws out the death sentences of 72 juvenile murderers and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.
The United States had been one of a handful of countries in the world that still execute criminals for crimes committed before they turned 18. According to Amnesty International, half of the world’s 39 known executions of child offenders since 1990 have occurred here in the United States. Other nations still execute child offenders include China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. For years, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has prohibited the execution of child offenders but the United States has not signed the global treaty.
The Supreme Court ruling came in a split 5-4 decision. The ruling was hailed by opponents of the death penalty including Diann Rust-Tierney of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "We’re pleased that the Supreme Court said that if we’re going to have a death penalty, it has to be reserved for the 'worst of the worst' — the crimes that are the most serious, and the people that are most culpable, and to date, juveniles have been found not to fall into that category," said Rust-Tierney. "Everybody knows kids are different and while they should be held accountable for their crimes, the death penalty just isn’t appropriate."
In Iraq, a judge anonymously working on the trial of Saddam Hussein has been assassinated along with his son. The pair were shot dead by gunmen outside their home on Tuesday. Parwiz Muhammad Mahmoud al-Merani, is the first judge serving on the tribunal to be assassinated. Merani’s son is an attorney who was also anonymously working on the tribunal.
Meanwhile in Baghdad at least 13 people have died in a pair of suicide car bombings earlier today.
In other news from Iraq, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed credit for carrying out Monday’s massive car bombing in Hilla that killed 125 people. In was the deadliest attack since the start of the Iraq invasion. The Muslim Scholars Association, an influential Sunni group, denounced the attack.
Meanwhile the Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting the U.S. Marines have set up a private Iraqi security force called the Iraqi Freedom Guard to fight the Iraqi insurgency. The U.S. is insisting the force is not a private militia though it is operated separately from the regular Iraqi military.
A new State Department report on human rights has accused U.S-backed Iraqi government of carrying out serious human rights abuses including torture, illegal detention by police and forced confessions. Overall the report criticized other nations for using methods of interrogation that were similar to ones approved by the Bush administration in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. This includes sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs.
In related news, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, is opposing a request to hold a formal inquiry into detainee abuse carried out overseas by the CIA. Democratic Senator John Rockefeller of West Virginia called for an investigation that would reveal "the full facts about the detention, interrogation and rendition authority and practices" used by the government.
In news on Syria, the Bush administration for the first time blamed Syria for last week’s suicide bombing in Israel that killed five. The accusation came as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice joined with France in calling for the "immediate withdrawal" of Syrian’s 15,000 troops inside Lebanon. Rice said "Syrians have a lot to answer for."
Meanwhile Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad told Time Magazine that his country will withdraw its troops from neighboring Lebanon in "the next few months."
In Uruguay, Tabare Vazquez was sworn in on Tuesday becoming the country’s first ever leftist president. Vazquez heads a coalition of socialists, communists, social democrats and ex-guerrilla leaders. Speaking before the country’s Congress, Vazquez said he promised changes and that he will make changes. Vazquez also vowed to help the country’s poor. In one of his first moves he signed a $100 million anti-poverty program. He also restored diplomatic ties to Cuba and vowed to investigate the widespread "disappearances" of political opponents during the country’s military dictatorship between 1973 and 1985. He said "May the horrors of other eras never be repeated." Vazquez was sworn in surrounded by political allies including Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. Cuban President Fidel Castro announced he could not attend because he was still recovering from a recent injury.
In news from Afghanistan, BBC is reporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai has named controversial warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum to become the chief-of-staff to the commander of the armed forces. Dostum is a former leader of the Northern Alliance who has been repeatedly accused of carrying out human rights abuses.
In other news Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has postponed a planned visit to Canada. The decision comes just days after Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced his government would not help the U.S. in its missile defense program.
Meanwhile Russia’s Defense Minister said Tuesday that Moscow was creating a new nuclear weapon that is being designed to be able to thwart any defense system in the world. Sergei Ivanov said, "There is no defense from these missiles."
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Justice Department is investigating whether former employees at Halliburton conspired with other companies to rig bids for large overseas construction projects beginning in the early 1980s. In addition federal investigators are trying to determine if Halliburton and other companies had broken antitrust laws. Halliburton recently revealed the investigations in reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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