The miserable job of Obama's Gitmo envoy

By all accounts, former Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried is a very talented diplomat, but as Obama's "Gitmo czar," he's been given one thankless task. Despite some successes -- Hungary this week joined the ranks of Bermuda and Palau in agreeing to take in detainees -- he tells the BBC that progress has been infuriatingly slow:

He says his job is miserable because he is "cleaning up a problem".

He also revealed he was reprimanded by the UK over his decision to send four detainees to Bermuda.[...]

Working out what to do with the remaining detainees is "a huge problem and a complicated one," says Mr Fried.

So far, the number being held there has been reduced by just 16 - and one of those committed suicide. There are now 226 left.

At this rate, Fried's job should be done around 2018. No wonder he's pushing for the U.S. to take some of the detainees in.

Hat tip: UN Dispatch

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Japan suspends death penalty

Two days into its new government, the Democratic Party of Japan is wasting no time setting new policies for the country. Yesterday, the Defense Minister suggested a withdrawl from Afghanistan; today, the country looks set to suspend use of the death penalty.

The new Japanese Government has in effect suspended the death penalty by appointing an outspoken opponent of capital punishment as Justice Minister.

Keiko Chiba, 61, a lawyer and former member of the Japan Socialist Party, has the final say in signing execution orders for Japan’s 102 death row inmates.

Although she has declined to say explicitly whether or not she will authorise them, her 20-year-long record as a death penalty abolitionist makes it a certainty that hangings will be put on hold.

The article goes on to note that the United States would now be the only "industrial democracy" to still use capital punishment. However, a look at Amnesty International's list of "retentionist" countries does show that the death penalty remains on the books in several of the largest developing nations, including India and China. Those looking for meaningless correlations should also note that other "retentionist" countries include North Korea, Chad, and Sudan.

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