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USA (Nevada): Death penalty / legal concern: Kenshawn Maxey

, Index number: AMR 51/125/1999

At a trial due to begin on 7 September 1999, the prosecution will seek a death sentence against Kenshawn Maxey for a murder he is accused of committing when he was 17 years old. International law forbids the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by under 18-year-olds.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/125/99
UA 203/99 Death penalty / Legal concern 10 August 1999
USA (Nevada)Kenshawn Maxey, aged 18
At a trial due to begin in Clark County, Nevada, on 7 September 1999, the
prosecution will seek a death sentence against Kenshawn Maxey for a murder
he is accused of committing when he was 17 years old. International law forbids
the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by under 18-year-olds.
Kenshawn Maxey is charged with shooting bartender Salvatore Zendano Jr. during
a robbery of O’Aces Bar and Grill in Las Vegas in May 1998.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Article 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
and Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) ban the
use of the death penalty against those under 18 at the time of the crime. This
article is so widely accepted, and adhered to, that it has become a principle
of customary international law, binding on countries no matter which
international instruments they have or have not ratified.
The USA attempts to justify its use of the death penalty against child offenders
by arguing that it reserved the right to continue this practice when it ratified
the ICCPR in 1992. Article 4 of the ICCPR states that there can be no derogation
from Article 6, even in times of public emergency. The UN Human Rights Committee,
the expert body set up to monitor countries’ compliance with the ICCPR, has
stated that the US reservation should be withdrawn as it contravenes the object
and purpose of the treaty.
International standards ban the death penalty against children, not to excuse
their crimes, but in recognition of their immaturity and potential for change.
The global consensus on this issue has been confirmed by ratifications of the
CRC. The USA is one of only two countries not to have ratified the CRC (the
other being Somalia, a collapsed state with no recognized government). All
of the 191 countries which have ratified this treaty have done so without making
a specific reservation to Article 37(a). In 1997 China abolished the death
penalty for offenders under 18 at the time of the crime, in order that its
law be in compliance with its CRC obligations.
Since 1990, 19 people are known to have been executed worldwide for crimes
committed when they were under 18. Ten were executed in the USA, while the
other nine were put to death in Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen
(Yemen has since abolished the death penalty for child offenders). Two-thirds
(13) of these 19 executions occurred before August 1993. In the six years since
then, there have been six known judicial executions of child offenders in three
countries, one in Nigeria (1997), one in Pakistan (1997) and four in the USA.
These four - three in 1998 and one in 1999 - are the only such executions known
in the world in the past 22 months.
Some 70 people are on US death rows for crimes committed when they were 16
or 17 years old (see On the Wrong Side of History: Children and the Death Penalty
in the USA, AMR 51/58/98, October 1998). The US federal government is the
authority ultimately responsible for ensuring nationwide adherence to the
country’s international obligations.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes/express/airmail letters in English or
your own language:
2
- expressing deep concern that Clark County, Nevada, is seeking the death penalty
against Kenshawn Maxey, in violation of the global ban on the death penalty
against those who were under 18 at the time of the crime (you may add that
you are not writing to express an opinion on the guilt or innocence of Mr Maxey,
or to condone the crime of which he is accused);
- explaining that this ban is now so widely recognized and adhered to worldwide
that it has become a principle of customary international law, binding on all
countries regardless of which international instruments they have or have not
ratified;
- pointing out that neither individual US states, nor the US federal government,
has the legal right under international law to allow such use of the death
penalty;
+ to Deputy District Attorney (prosecutor): urging that the prosecution drop
its pursuit of the death penalty against Kenshawn Maxey.
+ to federal addressees: urging the federal authorities to intervene to stop
this imminent violation of the USA’s international obligations.
APPEALS TO:
The Honourable David Schwartz
Deputy District Attorney
200 South Third Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101, USA
Fax: +1 702 383 8465
Tel: +1 702 455 3156
Salutation: Dear Deputy District Attorney
The Honorable Harold Koh
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520, USA
Fax: + 1 202 647 5283
Salutation: Dear Assistant Secretary
The Honorable Janet Reno
Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Room 440
Washington, DC 20530, USA
Faxes: +1 202 514 4371
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of the USA accredited to your country.
You may also write your concerns (in no more than 250 words) to:
The Editor, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1111 West Bonanza, Las Vegas, NV 89106,
USA. Fax: +1 702 383 4676
The Editor, Las Vegas Sun, 800 South Valley View, Las Vegas, NV 89107, USA
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 21 September 1999.

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