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UN human rights agent charges Alabama with execution of innocents

UN human rights agent charges Alabama with execution of innocentsNew York  - A United Nations human rights rapporteur charged Monday that government officials in the US state of Alabama have remained "indifferent" to the possibility that innocent people had been executed.

Philip Alston, the rapporteur, called for Alabama to "engage in a dialogue on due process concerns in its death penalty" with the international community, which he noted has been generous with investments in the state, especially the European Union.

The report provided no numbers of executions, nor did it cite individual cases.

"The reality is that the system is simply not designed to turn up cases of innocence, however compelling they might be," Alston said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, which was made public at UN headquarters.

"It is entirely possible that Alabama has already executed innocent people, but officials would rather deny than confront flaws in the criminal justice system," Alston said.

He said the government in Alabama has systematically rejected concerns that it violated international standards on the death penalty.

Alston noted that Alabama exported more goods to Germany in 2006 than any other of the 50 states.

Alston noted the United States had exonerated a total of 129 people waiting on death row since 1973 and the number of exonerated people continued to grow.

The UN rapporteur said people in and out of Texas and Alabama governments have called for reforming their justice systems, but the judicial system in Alabama has remained "highly problematic."

Alston, a law professor at New York University, was mandated by the Human Rights Council in Geneva to study extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in the United States and he visited that country in the last two weeks of June before writing his report.

Turning to the US-run detention centre in Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, he said the US Department of the Defence provided little information about the five deaths of detainees, four of which were classified as suicides and one attributed to cancer in 2006 and 2007.

Alston said the Pentagon had reportedly conducted autopsies on the dead, but the results had not been made public, even to families of the deceased.

Guantanamo has been used by the Bush administration to jail hundreds of terrorists suspects without trial since the terrorist attacks against the United States on September
11, 2001. (dpa)