Saturday, 14 October 2017

Indonesia’s Contradictory Death Penalty Rhetoric

Source: Human Rights Watch (11 October 2017)

Indonesia’s government on Tuesday marked World Day Against the Death Penalty by issuing a self-serving and contradictory statement on its death penalty policy.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly reaffirmed the government won’t seek to abolish the death penalty, but would pursue a “win-win solution” designed to appease both death penalty supporters and opponents. That might include mandatory judicial reviews of death penalty judgments and possible sentence commutation for death row prisoners.

Indonesia ended a four-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made the execution of convicted drug traffickers a signature policy issue. Since Jokowi took office in 2014, 18 convicted drug traffickers were executed in 2015 and 2016 – the majority citizens of other countries. Jokowi has routinely rejected their governments’ calls for clemency, citing national sovereignty. The government’s apparent newfound flexibility on its death penalty policy, including a temporary suspension of executions in 2017, was linked by the attorney general to its ambitions to secure United Nations member support to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Recent evidence uncovered by the ombudsman of “maladministration” by the Indonesian government in denying the legal rights of a Nigerian citizen executed for drug trafficking in July 2016 underscore the need for the death penalty’s abolition. But Laoly’s claims of a more flexible death penalty policy are contradicted by Indonesia’s performance last month during the UN Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia’s rights record. Jakarta rejected recommendations by UN member countries that the government enhance safeguards on the use of the death penalty, including adequate and early legal representation for defendants and not executing people with mental illness. It also rejected a recommendation to review all cases with a view to commuting death sentences or at least ensuring “fair trials that fully comply with international standards.”

Jokowi’s government should stop its cynical efforts to use the cruel and irreversible punishment of the death penalty as a bargaining chip for a Security Council seat. Instead it should publicly recognize that the death penalty has no place in a right-respecting country and immediately move toward abolition.

8 Years Since Last Thai Execution, Future of Death Penalty Uncertain

Source: Khaosod English (12 October 2017)

BANGKOK — Those campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty may take solace in the fact that no one has been executed for eight years. There have been no actual executions, but a senior government official said it’s simply impossible to predict when capital punishment will be abolished in Thailand.

Pitikan Sitthidej, Director General of the Department of Rights and Liberties said it’s impossible to pin down when Thailand will do away with death penalty despite having observed a de facto moratorium since 2009.

“I can’t say when it will end but in practice it will soon be 10 years since no execution has taken place,” Pitikan said. “We don’t know when death penalty will be abolished.”

Pitikan was vague on whether it would be.

At present there are 63 crimes that merit death sentence under Thai law, ranging from people found guilty of the rape and murder of girls under 15 or their parents to big time drug dealers and extremists. Pitikan pointed out that under the Thai penal code, any criminal sentenced to death will automatically be required to apply for a royal pardon to the king in hope of having the sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

According to a document of the justice ministry, there were 444 inmates sentenced to death at various stages of the judiciary system as of April 2017. The document also states that during the 65th UN General Assembly in 2010, Thailand no longer voted to oppose a move to end the death penalty but had decided to abstain from voting.

However, according to the same paper, the ministry conducted a survey on the possible abolition of the death penalty on 1,073 people in all the four regions of the country as well as in Bangkok and discovered that 73 percent of respondents still supported death penalty.

Campaign groups such as Amnesty International Thailand took the opportunity on the World Day Against the Death Penalty on Tuesday to renew its call for the abolition of capital punishment in Thailand.

Knowing that it is still far from being realized, the organization’s director Piyanut Kotsan said she wanted to see the Thai government announce a formal moratorium on capital punishment and decrease the number of crimes punishable by death.

“We’re quietly lobbying and maintain the trend for the end of death penalty,” said Piyanut on Tuesday.

Pitikan said there will be no formal announcement of moratorium as in reality Thailand is also a de facto moratorium state on the matter.

“What announcement? I am confused. How do we make such announcement?” said Pitakan, adding that the Third National Human Rights Plan, covering 2014 to 2018, clearly stated that the state shall conduct studies on the possible abolition of the death penalty. When asked about a campaign to educate the public about the negative repercussion of death penalty such as the violation of the right to life, Pitikan said the department lacks funding to engage in such campaign as it has only 300 million baht budget per annum.

In the end, said the director general, whether Thailand will abolish capital punishment or not depends not on international organizations such as Amnesty International or the government but on the society’s consensus itself.

“We must consider the direction of our society as well,” Pitikan said.

While it’s still common for some Thais on social media to keep calling for some criminals – particularly those who have committed rape and murder – to be executed, the anti-death penalty argument is slowly becoming known.

Pitikan for example stressed that a wrongful death penalty means those executed can no longer be brought back to life.

“It’s against the basic human rights principle of the right to life. Most of those [sentenced] tend to be poor and underprivileged.”

Chamnan Chanruang, a prominent campaigner for the end of death penalty said ending the death penalty is not about not punishing the wrongdoers while death penalty is vindictive and about revenge.

“What should be done is not to eliminate these people but to find out the root cause and eliminate it. If we hate what they did we shouldn’t commit the same things which is to become criminals by allowing acting as executioners on our behalf,” said Chamnan.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Amnesty: Singapore's death penalty reform flawed

Source: The Star Online (11 October 2017)

Singapore (AFP) - Singapore's reforms to its use of the death penalty are flawed, with some low-level drug offenders still being denied leniency and sent to the gallows, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

After years of criticism from rights groups, the city-state in 2013 eased the requirement for mandatory death sentences in some drug trafficking and murder cases.

The changes gave judges discretion to impose life imprisonment instead of the death penalty in certain cases.

In a new report, Amnesty acknowledged the number of people sent to the gallows had fallen but added that courts still impose death sentences when more leniency could be shown.

After the changes, judges can impose life imprisonment on drug couriers who give "substantive" cooperation to the authorities during investigations.

However Amnesty said decisions on who meets the criteria rest with the public prosecutor and not the judge, and are taken "behind closed doors in a murky and non-transparent process".

The group said the majority of people sentenced to death for drug offences in the past four years possessed relatively small amounts of narcotics. Many said they were driven by unemployment or debt.

"Singapore likes to paint itself as a prosperous and progressive role model, but its use of the death penalty shows flagrant disregard for human life," Sangiorgio said, urging the government to end capital punishment once and for all.

Amnesty said 17 death sentences were handed down over the past three years for murder and drugs offences and 10 convicts were hanged.

There was no immediate response from the government to AFP queries on the Amnesty report. Singapore has long defended its use of the death penalty as an effective deterrent against crime.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Death penalty has 'no place in 21st century'

Source: Channel News Asia (11 October 2017)

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an end to the death penalty on Tuesday (Oct 10), insisting it has "no place in the 21st century".

He urged member states that still execute convicts to join the 170 countries that have halted or abolished the practice, warning that the risk of a miscarriage of justice is an "unacceptably high price" to pay.

"I want to make a plea to all states that continue this barbaric practice: please stop the executions," Guterres said at an event marking the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Capital punishment "does little to serve victims or deter crime," Guterres said, adding that most of the UN's 193 members do not carry out executions.

"Just last month, two African states - The Gambia and Madagascar - took major steps towards irreversible abolition of the death penalty," he said.

"In 2016, executions worldwide were down 37 per cent from 2015. Today just four countries are responsible for 87 per cent of all recorded executions," he added.

Those four countries are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, a UN official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Guterres also called for transparency from states where the death penalty is legal, asking them to let lawyers do their job.

"Some governments conceal executions and enforce an elaborate system of secrecy to hide who is on death row, and why," Guterres said. "Others classify information on the death penalty as a state secret, making its release an act of treason."

This lack of transparency "shows a lack of respect for the human rights of those sentenced to death and to their families."

Source: AFP/de

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Is there more to the death sentence for graft in Vietnam?

Source: The Straits Times (3 October 2017)

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Conviction for corruption in high places in Vietnam can bring a sentence of death, and yet even that doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent there. As earnest as the ruling Communist Party is in consistently cracking down on graft among politicians and businesspeople, the situation has improved little in recent years.

Last week it was the turn of a former chairman of state-owned PetroVietnam to be handed a death sentence and a bank's former chief executive was jailed for life in what has been called the biggest fraud trial in modern Vietnamese history, involving 51 defendants.

The People's Court of Hanoi found Nguyen Xuan Son and Ha Van Tham guilty of mismanagement, property appropriation and abusing their authority. At PetroVietnam, Son embezzled US$2.15 million (S$2.94 million) and scooped another US$8.7 million from Ocean Bank, which is partially owned by the state.

He'd worked there previously. Tham, chairman of the board at Ocean Bank, and accomplices also affiliated with the bank violated credit regulations that seriously undermined state monetary policies and cost the bank US$88 million. The massive trial resulted in jail terms ranging from three to 17 years as well as suspended sentences of between 18 and 36 months.

Vietnam is routinely harsh in punishing high-ranking officials convicted of corruption. In late 2013, in a high-profile corruption scam that riveted the nation, two former bosses of state-run Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) received death sentences for embezzling nearly US$one million.

The tough stance, though, has barely made a dent in the country's "corruption perception index", as measured annually since 2012 by Transparency International. The watchdog's 2016 report released early this year placed Vietnam at 113 among 176 countries and territories. Its point score out of 100 was 33 last year and 31 from 2012-2015.

What's wrong with this picture? Ask most Vietnamese and they'll say the ferocious, highly publicised crackdowns on corruption mask an underlying political struggle among the powerful elite.

The case against the PetroVietnam and Ocean Bank officials had been brewing for some time. In May, the "mayor" Ho Chi Minh City, Dinh La Thang, was ousted from the inner circle of the decision-making politburo over alleged fraud involving PetroVietnam. Observers believe he might well have committed fraud, but the main reason for his purging was that he was close to Nguyen Tan Dung, the prime minister bumped from office last year.

It falls to current party chief Nguyen Phu Trong to establish for the world community that his seriousness in tackling corruption does not stem from a desire to get rid of political enemies. By all accounts a highly intelligent man, Trong must know that tough penalties alone will not curb corruption.

In fact, it is more often a matter of thuggish authoritarianism serving as a catalyst for graft and other abuses of power. Corruption flourishes in dark places. Only by ensuring that the workings of government are transparent to all, and that the rule of law is effective and efficient, can it be uprooted at the base.

If corruption genuinely concerns the leaders of any government, they must determine where in their administrative systems serious reform is required. That applies to state agencies and state-owned enterprises too. The problem will not go away without sincerity, transparency and accountability.

The Nation is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Malaysia’s Planned Drug Reform Highlights Divide in SE Asia’s Drug War Approach

Source: Talking Drugs (10 August 2017)

Malaysia is set to repeal legislation that imposes a mandatory death penalty for people who sell drugs, despite most of its neighbouring countries implementing increasingly brutal drug policies.

On August 8, Minister Azalina Othman Said tweeted to corroborate a story in the press: Malaysia’s cabinet had "agreed to amend the colonial-era Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952 to give courts a choice in sentencing". Under current legislation, anyone found guilty of trafficking drugs faces a mandatory death penalty; the planned reform would give judges discretion in sentencing. While the proposed amendment has support from the cabinet, it must first be tabled in the parliament, which is expected to pass it in October, The Australian reports.

As TalkingDrugs reported in 2016, Malaysia seems to have placed a “secret moratorium” on the execution of people for drug offences for several years. Despite executing 229 people for drug offences between 1983 and 2013, Malaysia is not believed to have executed anyone for such an offence since then. Numerous people have, however, been sentenced to death for drug trafficking, but the executions have not taken place.

Malaysia also seems to be moving in a gradual progressive direction in relation to drug use. The country’s Ministry of Health has received acclaim from international non-profits, including Harm Reduction International, for its strong and successful policies that reduce the harms of drug use, including needle syringe programmes (NSPs) and methadone maintenance therapy. However, Malaysia is by no means a bastion of evidence-based drug policy, as it continues to force some people into compulsory “rehabilitation” centres, which a recent study suggests may increase the risk of relapse when compared to voluntary methadone treatment.

Regardless, Malaysia’s gradual shift away from executions marks a sharp contrast with many of its neighbouring countries in the Southeast Asia region.

Across the Straits of Johor, to the south of the Malaysian Peninsular, is Singapore, which was estimated in 2004 to have the highest per capita execution rate in the world. While the city state may no longer hold this grisly title, it continues to execute people for relatively low-level drug offences with considerable regularity and highly questionable judicial standards. Most recently, on July 14, the Singaporean state executed a Malaysian man who was given a mandatory death sentence after heroin was found in a car that he had borrowed. Such punitive measures are part of the country’s approach to drugs, which it calls "harm prevention"; a senior minister recently described this as including “tough, swift, and uncompromising… robust [law] enforcement” to prevent the distribution or use of drugs.

A few miles from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, across the Malacca Strait, is Indonesia, where the government has been waging an increasingly vicious war on people involved with drugs in recent years. Within four months of the inauguration of President Joko Widodo in October 2014, the government had executed 14 people for drug offences. As TalkingDrugs has reported, the country’s approach has taken a significantly more draconian turn: in July 2017, Widodo told police to commit extrajudicial killings of foreigners if they are alleged to have sold drugs and resist arrest. The country's national police chief justified the approach by asserting that “when we shoot drug dealers, they go away”.

The Philippines, with which Malaysia shares a maritime border in the South China Sea, is currently implementing some of the most repressive drug legislation in the world. As TalkingDrugs has extensively reported on, President Rodrigo Duterte has presided over a drug war slaughter that has led to the deaths of an estimated 9,000 people since July 2016. In one of the more recent harrowing developments, Duterte called for the introduction of the death penalty in the Philippines for a range of offences – including drug possession.

Malaysia has perhaps only one neighbouring country with a relatively less punitive drug war: Thailand. Thailand’s Ministry of Justice launched a comprehensive nationwide harm reduction programme in January 2017, including methadone provisions and counselling, as well as job training to prepare people with problematic drug use for entering the work force. While Thailand does technically allow the death penalty for drug offences, it has not executed anyone under this law (or for any offence) since 2009.

If countries in the Southeast Asia region continue in their current trajectory, more successful harm reduction measures, and relatively less harsh punishments for trafficking offences, may be implemented in Malaysia and Thailand. Conversely, the near future seems increasingly harrowing for Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Asia-Pacific Countries – Death Penalty Status, Population, etc

Source: Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (18 August 2017)

ASIA-PACIFIC COUNTRIES – Death Penalty Abolition Status


Eastern Asia

China (1,367,820,000) **

China, Hong Kong SAR (7,298,600)**
China, Macao SAR (644.900)
China Tibet (3,002,000)   
Japan (126,920,000) **
Korea (North) (25,000,000 )
Korea (South) (50,800,000 ) **
Mongolia (3,061,000 )**
Taiwan (23,526,000 ) ** 

Northern Asia

Russian Federation (146,544,000)

South-Central Asia

Afghanistan (26,556,000 )  **         
Bangladesh (158,226,710 )  **        
Bhutan (760,000)
India (1,326,000,000) **   
Iran (78,226,000)         
Kazakhstan (17,713,300 )
Kyrgyzstan (5,895,000 )
Maldives (341,000)                       
Nepal    (31,000,000)   **
Pakistan (188,144,000 ) **
Sri Lanka (21,203,000 )  **
Tajikistan (8,352,000 )
Turkmenistan     (5,400,000 )
Uzbekistan          (31,000,000 )

South-East Asia

Brunei Darussalam * (417,200 )                
Cambodia * (14,676,591)
Indonesia * (258,705,000)     **      
Lao PDR * (7,000,000)
Malaysia * (31,660,000)     **          
Myanmar (Burma) * (51,419,000)
Philippines * (100,981,000)    **     
Singapore * (5,535,000)    **           
Thailand * (67,959,000)     **          
Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Vietnam * (90,730,000)  **             

Western Asia and Middle East

Armenia (3,000,000)
Azerbaijan (9,705,600)
Bahrain (1,234,000 )      
Cyprus (848,300)
Georgia (3,729,000)
Iraq (36,000,000 )           
Israel (8,522,000 )
Jordan (6,297,000)        
Kuwait (3,695,000 )       
Lebanon (4,460,000 )    
Oman    (4,469,500 )       
Palestinian territories (4,293,000 )           
Qatar (2,597,000 )          
Saudi Arabia (31,770,000 )          
Syria (24,044,000 )         
Turkey (78,741,000)
United Arab Emirates (8,264,070 )
Yemen (26,000,000 )      


Australia (23,792,000)    **
Papua New Guinea (8,219,000)   **
New Zealand (4,579,000)**
Fiji (867,000)
Solomon Islands (587,000)
Vanuatu (278,000)
New Caledonia (France) [273,000]
French Polynesia (France) [273,000]
Samoa (193,000)
Guam (US) (162,000)       
Kiribati (113,000)
Tonga (104,000)  **
Federated States of Micronesia (103,000)
Marshall Islands (55,000)
American Samoa (US) [55,000]   
Northern Mariana Islands (US) [47,000]   
Palau [17,000]
Cook Islands (NZ) [15,000]
Wallis and Futuna (France) [12,000]
Tuvalu   [11,000]
Nauru [10,000 ]
Norfolk Island (Australia) [3,000]
Niue (NZ) [2,000]
Tokelau (NZ) [1,000]
Pitcairn Islands (UK) [60]

RED BOLD – Retentionist Countries
BLUE  – Abolitionist Countries in Practice – RISK of return of DP
GOLD – US is a Retentionist Country – as such the status here is questionable?

1985      AUSTRALIA abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
1989      CAMBODIA abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
1993      HONG KONG abolished the death penalty for all crimes
1997      NEPAL abolished the death penalty for all crimes
1999      EAST TIMOR, TURKMENISTAN abolished the death penalty for all crimes
2002      TURKEY abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes. CYPRUS abolished the death penalty for all crimes
2003      ARMENIA abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes
2004      BHUTAN, SAMOA and TURKEY abolished the death penalty for all crimes
2006      PHILIPPINES abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
2007      KYRGYZSTAN abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.
2008      UZBEKISTAN abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
2015      FIJI abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
2016      NAURU abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
1 July 2017 MONGOLIA abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
*may not be comprehensive, some positive developments may have inadvertently left out

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Indonesia ombudsman finds rights violations in execution of Nigerian

Source: Reuters (28 July 2017)

JAKARTA (Reuters) - The office of Indonesia's ombudsman has unearthed evidence of rights violations in the execution of a Nigerian drug convict last year, an official said on Friday.

Humphrey Jefferson was still seeking clemency from President Joko Widodo at the time of his execution, which meant he still had a chance of being pardoned, said Ninik Rahayu, an official of the ombudsman's office who is overseeing the case.

Jefferson, sentenced to death in 2004, had also sought a second judicial review of his case by the Supreme Court, but his request was denied by the Central Jakarta court without proper explanation, Rahayu said, in what she called maladministration.

If the court had taken on Jefferson's case, his execution would have had to be delayed until its final verdict.

"When one is given the death penalty, all of the procedures must be done according to the laws," Rahayu told reporters at her office.

"The rights of the person must be fully met before his sentence is carried out. You can't bring back the dead to life."

Rahayu also said the Attorney General's office, responsible for conducting the execution, had not followed rules requiring it to give Jefferson and his family 72 hours' notice of the event.

The execution was done according to law, said Muhammad Rum, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office.

Telephone calls to the Central Jakarta court to seek comment were not answered.

A Supreme Court spokesman, Judge Suhadi, who goes by one name like many Indonesians, did not comment on the specific case but said the court did not generally grant a second review.

Jefferson, two other Nigerians and an Indonesian were the only prisoners to face the firing squad on July 29 last year, from a group of 14 picked initially.

The delay was due to a "comprehensive review", said Attorney General H. Muhammad Prasetyo.

The executions were the second round under Widodo, whose predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, imposed a moratorium on the death penalty.

Many international bodies and foreign governments have urged Indonesia to pardon those on death row. They have also called on Indonesia to abolish capital punishment, but the calls have gone unheeded.

Widodo has told law enforcement officers not to hesitate in shooting drug traffickers who resist arrest in the war on drugs.

The ombudsman's office has given government bodies 60 days to respond to its findings. But its limited powers mean it can only take its recommendations to Widodo in cases of failure to respond.

Jefferson's lawyer, Ricky Gunawan, said he planned to use the ombudsman's findings to file a civil lawsuit against the office of the attorney-general, seeking compensation for his client.

"We call on the Attorney General's office to stop the preparation of any future death execution ... and treat the convicts with respect and have their rights fulfilled," Gunawan said.

Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies and Clarence Fernandez

Japan executions: Inside the secretive, efficient death chambers


THERE are polished floors, clean surroundings and symbolic statues.

But this place is far from peaceful and there’s a reason why it’s known as the Tokyo death house.

This is where Japan hangs its criminals in secrecy so tight that not even the convicted know when their time is up.

Last week’s execution of two convicted murderers has once again cast light on the country’s practice of putting people to death, a method labelled cruel and inhumane by human rights groups.

Nishikawa, 61, was convicted of killing four female bar owners in western Japan in 1991, while Sumida, 34, was sentenced to death for killing a female colleague in 2011 and dismembering her body.

The government remained unrepentant despite calls from activists to stop the hangings.

“Both are extremely cruel cases in which victims were deprived of their precious lives on truly selfish motives,” Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda said.

“I ordered the executions after careful consideration.”


Japan remains notoriously secret about its use of the death penalty, with the US the only other major developed country which carries out capital punishment.

In Japan, most prisoners wait years for their fate to be carried out.

In 2010 the media was given a rare glimpse into the execution chamber in Tokyo where the condemned are put to death.

Prisoners are kept in isolation and have access to a priest before they die.

A statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, is in a nearby room, just metres from where prisoners will take their last breath.

They are then led into the chamber and a noose is put around their neck while red boxes around a trapdoor indicate where the condemned are to stand.

In the room next door, three executioners have access to the trap door which will give way once the buttons are pressed.


Human rights group Amnesty International called Japan’s use of the death penalty inhumane and said it showed “wanton disregard for the right to life.”

“The death penalty never delivers justice, it is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment,” Hiroka Shoji, East Asia researcher at the campaign group, said in a statement last week.

“Executions in Japan remain shrouded in secrecy but the government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, as the majority of the world’s states have turned away from the death penalty.”

The two men’s deaths bring to 19 the number of people executed in Japan since 2012, with 124 remaining on death row, Amnesty said.

The human rights group also said prisoners were often only given a few hours notice with lawyers and family only notified after it had taken place.

“Secret executions are in contravention of international standards on the use of the death penalty,” Amnesty said.

Nishikawa was hanged while seeking a retrial. But Mr Kaneda indicated it was mistaken to believe that death-row inmates cannot be executed as long as their retrial pleas are pending.


While the two men last week were convicted of murder, not everyone on death row is actually guilty.

In 2014 Iwao Hakamada was released after 45 years on death row after being convicted on falsified evidence.

The former boxer had confessed to murdering four people in 1966 but retracted his statement shortly after.

Once released he said he was coerced into confessing the crime.

Prosecutors claimed the case against Hakamada rested on bloodstained pyjamas. But instead of presenting the pyjamas at the trial they found five other pieces of clothing, each with blood on them, at his workplace.

A court found that a DNA analysis obtained by Hakamada’s lawyers suggested that investigators had fabricated evidence and he was eventually freed.

Iranian Deputies Push To Abolish Execution For Drug-Related Offenses

Source: Radio Free Europe (23 July 2017)

Iranian lawmakers have proposed changes to the country’s tough antidrugs laws, a move that could abolish the death penalty for some drug-related crimes.

If approved by parliament, a proposed amendment could curb the number of executions in the Islamic republic, which has one of the highest rates of capital punishment in the world.

Iran has been under mounting international pressure to curb its number of executions. Human rights groups say Iran executed at least 567 people in 2016 and nearly 1,000 in 2015, including men from Afghanistan, where the majority of illicit drugs come into Iran. Iranian officials say 70 percent of all executions in the country were for drug-related offenses.

In Iran itself, calls have been made to ease the use of capital punishment for drug-related offenses. Critics say the extensive use of the death penalty has done little to stop drug use and trafficking in the country that is on a major transit route for drugs smuggled from Afghanistan.

Iran has some of the toughest drug laws in the world. The death penalty can currently be invoked for the trafficking or possession of as little as 30 grams of heroin or cocaine.

On July 16, parliament approved a proposal to amend the law to disallow the death penalty for petty, nonviolent drug-related crimes. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, however, sent the draft bill back to the parliamentary judiciary committee for further deliberation.

"I have consulted the head of judiciary regarding this bill,” Larijani was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on July 17. “They said they agree with the principle of the bill, but there are still some drawbacks that need to be resolved.”

Before becoming law, the legislation needs to be approved by parliament and ratified by the Guardians Council, the powerful clerical body that must approve all proposed legislation.

‘Height Of Cruelty’

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has called for the government to halt all executions for drug-related crimes while parliament debated the reforms.

“It makes no sense for Iran’s judiciary to execute people now under a drug law that will likely bar such executions as early as next month,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It would be the height of cruelty to execute someone today for a crime that would at worst get them a 30-year sentence when this law is amended.”

In November, Hassan Nowruzi, the parliamentary judicial committee spokesman, called for parliament to change the law, revealing that 5,000 people were on death row for drug-related offenses, the majority of them aged between 20 and 30. He said the majority are first-time offenders.

In October, more than 150 lawmakers in the 290-member chamber called for the executions of petty drug traffickers to be halted. Lawmakers also suggested that capital punishment should be abolished for those who become involved in drug trafficking out of desperation or poverty.

In August, Mohammad Baqer Olfat, the deputy head of the judiciary's department for social affairs, said the death penalty had not deterred drug trafficking; in fact, he said, it was on the rise. Rather than the death penalty, he suggested, traffickers should be given long prison terms with hard labor.

‘Tough Stance’

But hard-liners in the judiciary appear to be resistant to the idea of tweaking the country's harsh drug laws.

In comments published in September, Judiciary head Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani defended the body’s “tough stance” against amendments to the law.

“In some cases, including drug trafficking, we’re forced to act quickly, openly, and decisively,” said Larijani, while adding that the judges should not delay the implementation of sentences.

He said in some cases “alternative punishments” can replace the death penalty while respecting “some conditions,” but added that “the death penalty cannot be ruled out.”

Afghan Inmates

Thousands of Afghans involved in the illicit narcotics trade have ended up in Iranian prisons and have been executed. Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, which is used to make heroin, and Iran is a major transit route for the drug to western Asia and Europe.

The precise number of Afghans executed in Iran over the past several years is unknown. Tehran rarely informs or provides explanations to Kabul about the execution of its citizens.

Afghan media estimates that some 2,000 Afghans have been jailed in Iran on drug-smuggling charges and other criminal acts, while hundreds more face the death penalty.

Afghan lawmakers and human rights groups have raised concerns, saying many Afghans imprisoned in Iran do not receive fair trials because they lack access to defense lawyers and are not given the opportunity to get assistance from Kabul.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Maldives: Halt first execution in more than 60 years

Source: Amnesty International (20 July 2017)

The Maldives must immediately halt its first execution planned in more than sixty years and preserve its positive death penalty record, Amnesty International said today.

The human rights organization has learned that three men, whose death sentences were made final by the Supreme Court in 2016, are now at risk of imminent execution as reports emerged that the authorities have been preparing to implement death sentences. The number and names of the prisoners involved have not been disclosed.

“The Maldives authorities must immediately halt plans to carry out any executions and establish an official moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty as a first step towards its full abolition. By sending these men to the gallows, the country will do irreparable damage to its reputation,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Senior Advisor on South Asia.

“The country was a leader in the region, with an enviable record of shunning this cruel and irreversible punishment at a time when many other countries persisted with it. Now, when most of the world has abolished the death penalty, it is heading in the wrong direction by reviving its use.”

Amnesty International has been raising serious concerns about the fairness of the proceedings that lead to the imposition of the death penalty in the country. In the case of one of the three men at more imminent risk, Hussain Humaam Ahmed, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have raised serious concerns about the use as evidence of a pre-trial “confession” that he retracted as coerced and which led to his conviction and death sentence for murder in 2012.

Ahmed Murrath was convicted of and sentenced to death for murder in 2012, and Mohamed Nabeel was convicted of and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. The Supreme Court upheld both men’s death sentences in July 2016.

Amnesty International is absolutely opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, regardless of the crime or the method of execution.

The three men have exhausted all domestic legal avenues. They have not been allowed to apply for pardon or the commutation of their death sentences.

Last year, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a binding order to stay the execution of one of the individuals, pending the consideration of an appeal filed on the prisoner’s behalf.

“When lives are at stake, it is all the more critical that safeguards of due process are strictly observed. It is also concerning that under international law, the Maldives must ensure that death row prisoners and their families are given reasonable advance notice. But in this case, they have even been denied the dignity that is their right,” said David Griffiths.


In 2014, the Maldives government under President Abdulla Yameen announced that executions would resume after more than 60 years without the death penalty being implemented.

The authorities have since amended legislation, clearing the way for executions to take place, including removing the power from the executive to grant pardons or commutations in intentional murder cases, a breach of their rights under international human rights law.

There are 20 people currently on death row, including at least five who were convicted and sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were less than 18 years old. Under international human rights law, it is unlawful to execute juveniles for any crime whatsoever.

As of today, 141 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice; in the Asia-Pacific region, 20 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and a further seven are abolitionist in practice.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

New law to enable Vietnam's corrupt officials to escape death penalty by paying back stolen money

Source: VN Express (13 July 2017)

Amendments to Vietnam’s Penal Code, which takes effect in January 2018, give those found guilty of corruption and bribery the chance to escape the death sentence if they return 75 percent of their ill-gotten gains.

Those sentenced to death for corruption or taking bribes can have their punishment commuted to life in jail if they cooperate with the authorities during the investigation and voluntarily return at least 75 percent of their illegal earnings, officials said at a press briefing called by the President Office on Wednesday.

The 2015 Penal Code had been scheduled to come into effect in July 2016 but was shelved due to multiple errors and loopholes. The National Assembly, Vietnam's top legislature, approved the revised law last month.

The clause was one of the controversial parts of the new code. Some lawmakers argued that it would weaken the fight against corruption, which the Vietnamese government has set as one of its priorities.

Under the 1999 Penal Code, capital punishment could be handed down to those who abused their power to embezzle VND500 million ($22,000) or take bribes of at least VND300 million. Vietnamese workers earned an average of $2,200 last year.

The new law also spares convicts over 75 years old from the death penalty, as well as those convicted of robbery, vandalizing equipment and works significant to national security, opposing order, surrendering to the enemy, drug possession and appropriation, and the production and trade of fake food. That will bring Vietnam's number of capital crimes from 22 to 15.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Family claims brothers’ hanging botched, signs of strangulation

Source: Malay Mail Online (4 July 2017)

PETALING JAYA, July 4 — The family of two brothers accused the Kajang prison authorities today of botching up the hanging of two men who had been executed for murder.

The family of brothers Rames Batumalai, 45, and Suthar Batumalai, 40, alleged that Suthar’s body was found to have strangulation marks around his neck area, the neck was not broken (the neck is broken clean in a proper hanging), and his face was swelled up.

“We are not contented with the death and how they were executed. Suthar’s face was swollen. He showed signs of strangulation.

“His face was swollen, there were marks on the neck and his eyes were bulging,” sister-in-law B. Devi told a press conference this morning.

Both brothers were hanged to death on March 15 for their 2010 murder conviction despite the family filing for a clemency petition in late February. The brothers were charged with murdering a man named Krishnan Raman.

The siblings were also executed on a Wednesday instead of Friday, when hangings in Malaysia are usually conducted, which raised more questions on whether their execution was botched.

The family’s lawyer, N. Surendran, demanded that the prison authorities and Home Ministry give a detailed explanation to the family on the way the execution was conducted and also on why it was done before the clemency petition’s result was known.

“From a legal point of view, both of them were executed without exhausting all legal processes.

“A prisoner who has been convicted, has the legal right for his clemency to be considered under constituency. If you don’t allow [the] process to finish, you have breached the law,” he said.

The Padang Serai MP also demanded authorities to have an inquiry on the brothers’ execution and answers to be given immediately to the family.

“We are also asking explanation on manner hanging carried out and explanation on why the neck of Suthar was in that condition. We are entitled to these explanations as family members.

“We want an inquiry by authorities. I hope the home minister and authorities respond to this as soon as possible as it is a case of public interest,” Surendran added.

Amnesty International executive director Shamini Darshini said the brothers’ hanging raised questions on the transparency of the death penalty in Malaysia.

“Legal processes around death penalty is not completely clear. This is clear indication, it is not (transparent).

“When a person is hanged, there is a science to it. In this case, there are questions whether execution was correctly done. This seems to indicate a botched execution,” she said today.

She also urged Putrajaya to declare a moratorium to prevent such incidences from happening in other death penalty cases in the future.

“The death penalty in Malaysia needs to be abolished. We need the government to put in place a moratorium to prevent this from happening again. That’s what we calling for an immediate moratorium,” Shamini said, adding that Malaysia has over 1,068 people on death row as of March this year.

In the application of clemency previously sighted by Malay Mail Online, the family had obtained a statutory declaration from the deceased’s wife to forgive the brothers.

Rames and Suthar were sentenced to death in April 2010 under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, after being convicted for the February 4, 2006 murder.