Saturday, 30 April 2016

Bali Nine duo families one year on from executions

Source: News.com.au (29 April 2016)

http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/bali-nine-duo-families-one-year-on-from-executions/news-story/982eafef3f15a08a2c37b17b296e5c6c

IT’S been one year today since Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by firing squad just after midnight on the island of Nusakambangan — 10 years after being found guilty of smuggling 8.3kg of heroin out of Indonesia.

The two Australians were among 14 drug traffickers executed in Indonesia last year, amid intensifying condemnation from human rights activists and international governments.

The outrage over their deaths prompted the Indonesian government to hold off on further executions between then and now.

But one year on, Security Minister Luhut Panjaitan and Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo have flagged executions are likely to resume this year.

Head of Central Java’s Corrections Division Molyanto said they were currently building more isolation cells — where those awaiting execution are kept — at Nusakambangan prison.

But he denied reports that the “execution field” is being extended.

Sukumaran and Chan’s Australian barrister Julian McMahon said it was “surprising” that executions were back on Indonesia’s agenda.

“The fact is after the international dismay in April 2015 executions have now stopped for 12 months,” he said.

“The reason has not been publicly identified, except by reference to economic priorities. But most commentators think that international reaction would be very relevant.”

Mr McMahon said “this week was proving very difficult for the families as they come to grips with their own grief and the loss of Andrew and Myuran.” In their last few years, he said the pair had “uplifted, educated and improved many prisoners.” “If they had lived that example would have so easily multiplied out for the benefit of more and more prisoners.”

Indonesian lawyer Dr Todung Mulya Lubis — who tweeted “I failed. I lost” after his clients’ executions last year — has been campaigning against capital punishment in the country since 1979. Since then he feels they have made “small progress”.

“We have made people aware of the death penalty ... I believe over time we will be able to score some wins.” While he cannot see the abolition of the death penalty happening in Indonesia “any time soon”, he hopes a bill tabled before parliament last year might prove a “middle way”.

Under the proposed changes, if people show they have rehabilitated themselves, they could see their execution commuted to a life sentence.

He also noted “the international campaign must also be more tactful not to embarrass Indonesia”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her country’s wish for Indonesia to put an end to capital punishment, during Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s recent visit to Europe.

According to the Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) in Indonesia, more than 100 people are on death row in the country. Just over half of these are for murder while two face capital punishment for terrorism offences.

The rest are due to be executed for drug offences.

When Sukumaran and Chan faced their certain death last year, pastor Christie Buckingham remembers how they sang Bless the Lord until the end.

“(I remember) their kindness, their courage ... the way that they smiled at those about to take their lives,” she said.

She said she also promised to continue their fight against the death penalty.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

China sets death penalty threshold for graft cases

Source: The Japan Times (18 April 2016)

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/18/asia-pacific/crime-legal-asia-pacific/china-sets-death-penalty-threshold-graft-cases/#.VxUUNjB97IU

BEIJING – Corruption cases involving 3 million yuan ($463,000) or more may incur the death penalty in future, Chinese authorities ruled Monday, signalling that officials could be executed for graft.

Under President Xi Jinping the country has waged a much-publicized anti-corruption campaign vowing to target both powerful “tigers” and low-level “flies,” but no Communist Party official is known to have been put to death for the offense since Xi took office.

The Supreme People’s Court and China’s national prosecuting body said that bribes or embezzlement totalling 3 million yuan or more will be considered “extraordinarily huge value,” the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Such offenders will be eligible for the death penalty if their actions had “extremely severe circumstances and caused extremely vile social impact and extremely significant losses to the state’s and the people’s interests,” Xinhua cited their joint “judicial explanation” as saying.

Capital punishment will remain an option for the courts — which in China are controlled by the ruling party — and will not be mandatory.

The intent was to punish corruption “with severity according to the law,” Xinhua said.

Supreme People’s Court judge Pei Xianding said judicial authorities would hand down death sentences “in a resolute manner,” Xinhua reported separately.

A previous threshold was set in 1997 at 100,000 yuan, but was not updated until it was abolished last year.

Xi’s crackdown has swept up scores of senior officials in the party, the government, the military and state-owned companies, including former security czar Zhou Yongkang.

So far its most severe sentences have been death with a two-year reprieve — which is normally commuted to a life term — or life imprisonment, which Zhou was given.

Former railways minister Liu Zhijun was given a suspended death penalty in 2013 for taking bribes worth 60 million yuan, which was commuted to life imprisonment last year.

The document also widened the range of benefits that can be defined as bribes, to include debt forgiveness among others, the report said.

Any acceptance of gifts by government employees that might affect the performance of their public duties will be regarded as bribery even if there was no specific request by the briber at the time, it said.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Pakistan Pledges Not to Amend Law That Imposes Death Penalty for Blasphemy

Source: CNS News (31 March 2016)

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/pakistan-radicals-end-protest-after-govt-gives-assurances-blasphemy

Muslim radicals ended a four-day sit-in in a high-security “red zone” near Pakistan’s federal parliament, claiming victory after the government late Wednesday gave assurances it will not seek to amend the country’s notorious blasphemy laws or show leniency to anyone convicted under them.

The government’s pledge to the protestors came just days after a deadly Easter Sunday bombing in Pakistan’s second-biggest city underlined anew the threats faced by minority Christians both from terrorists and from Islamist extremists like those at the sit-in in the capital.

The protestors, estimated at 25,000-strong at the peak of their demonstration, are supporters of a police officer executed a month ago for the 2011 murder of a provincial governor he was paid to protect. Bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri became a hero to many fundamentalist Muslims after killing Punjab governor Salman Taseer, whom he had accused of blasphemy.

During the sit-in some protestors, members of radical Sunni groups known for their zeal for Mohammed and the Qur’an, clashed with police and set fire to buses and bus shelters.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered that the protest be brought to an end, peacefully, by Wednesday. Pakistani media reported that protest leaders declared victory after talks with government officials netted them several of their listed demands.

They included an assurance that no amendments will be made to provision 295-C of the penal code, which states that “Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death.”

According to the private television network Geo News, Daily Times and other outlets, the government also promised that no-one convicted under the blasphemy laws will be spared.

The government agreed further to release hundreds of people arrested during the sit-in who do not stand accused of attacking property or personnel, and in response to demands that shari’a be imposed across Pakistan agreed that clerics would submit proposals on the matter to the religious affairs ministry.

Government ministers portrayed the various points as an “understanding,” saying no written agreement was signed with protest leaders. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan declared that no future protests would be allowed in the capital’s “red zone.”

On two of the protestors’ demands, the government gave no assurances: They had called for Qadri to be publicly declared a “martyr,” and for the execution of Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since her conviction in 2010 for “blaspheming” Mohammed. Qadri murdered Taseer after the governor, a liberal Muslim, came out in support of Asia Bibi and called for her pardon.

‘Appeasement’

How much of a concession the government has made to the protestors by pledging not to touch the blasphemy laws is debatable, since there has been no significant attempt to amend or annul them for years.

The last tentative effort to amend the blasphemy laws, by a lawmaker in the then-ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was dropped just weeks after Taseer’s assassination after its sponsor, who had received death threats, failed to receive the support of her own party.

Religious freedom advocates say Christians and other minorities have long been disproportionately targeted under the blasphemy laws, which at times have also been used as a pretext in instances of personal grudges or business disputes.

Individuals accused of blasphemy have frequently been attacked by mobs, and vigilantes claiming to be protecting the honor of the prophet have taken the law into their own hands.

Among many killed in such circumstances was a High Court judge, shot to death in his Lahore chambers in 1997 after acquitting a man who had been convicted of blasphemy by a lower court; a minority Ahmadi lawyer, shot dead in 2014 after agreeing to represent a university lecturer facing blasphemy charges; and a Christian couple, accused by a mob of blasphemy and burned alive in a brick kiln, also in 2014.

On Sunday more than 70 people, many of them women and children, were killed in a suicide bombing at a public part in Lahore. Claiming responsibility for the attack, a Pakistan Taliban offshoot made it clear the target was Christians celebrating Easter.

Earlier this week Xavier William, head of a Pakistani Christian human rights advocacy group, Life For All, responded to queries about both the Easter Sunday bombing and the Islamabad sit-in.

“Religious intolerance, sectarian violence and blatant terrorism is destroying the very core of our social fabric,” William said.

“In a plural Islamic society, which is what we must aspire and strive to become, there is no place for intolerance, violence and appeasement of extremist groups who are trying to make our nation hostage to their obscurantist ideology.”

Human Rights Focus Pakistan president Naveed Walter accused the government of having “no long-term strategy to eliminate terrorism from the society,” citing both its response to terrorist threats against Christians, and the sit-in in Islamabad in support of Qadri – whose execution, Walter said, “also increased hatred against the Christian community.”

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Amnesty death penalty report: The secret China won’t share with the world

Source: news.com.au (6 April 2016)

http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/amnesty-death-penalty-report-the-secret-china-wont-share-with-the-world/news-story/f8c406c3301992b28bbfc5d6f8e2eb51

Asian nations are continuing to put thousands of people to their deaths every year.

Yet while the rest of the world is abolishing the death penalty, China and North Korea refuse to reveal how many people it executes each year.

China claims its figures are a state secret while North Korea remains uncooperative with human rights organisations.

Information surrounding its figures remain so tight that the world can only sit back and guess how many people they put to death every year.

Once again Asian powerhouse China has been named as the world’s biggest executioner in Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions 2015 report.

In releasing the annual report this morning, the human rights group said it was impossible to obtain an exact figure on the number of people China has executed, but it is believed the figure is in the thousands, and is more than all the other countries in the world combined.

Amnesty International Australia spokesman Rose Kulak said the group obtained a rough figure based on non-government agencies, families who’ve had bodies returned to them and activists on the ground.

Ms Kulak, Individuals at Risk Program Coordinator at Amnesty, told news.com.au said the main issue at hand was China’s lack of transparency.

“There is close to 50 crimes that people can get executed for,” she said.

“These crimes include things like embezzlement which in Australia would amount to jail time.”

China was also named as the world’s top executioner in 2014, with Amnesty estimating it was at least 1000 — a conservative figure, and one it believes is much higher.

However this year’s report did note, there are indications that the number of executions has decreased since the Supreme People’s Court began reviewing the implementation of the death penalty in 2007.

NOT ALONE

China was not the only nation in the spotlight.

The rogue nation of North Korea was also criticised for its lack of transparency and refusal to co-operate with human rights organisations, or release figures surrounding its execution rates.

Amnesty said it continued to receive reports, which it could not independently verify, indicating that executions were carried out and death sentences imposed for a wide range of alleged offences including questioning the leader’s policies.

However, according to media reports, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has executed 70 officials since taking power in late 2011 in a “reign of terror” that far exceeds the bloodshed of his father.

In 2013, Kim executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for alleged treason. Jang was married to Kim Jong-il’s sister and was once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.

More recently, South Korean media outlet Yonhap News agency reported 15 high-ranking officials were executed in North Korea prior to April.

Last August, it also reported Vice Premier Choe Yong-gon and Defence Minister Hyon Yong-cool had been executed in May by shooting.

Ms Kulak said it was also a concern that Pakistan, another country in our region, has resumed executions on a massive scale, with 320 killed last year alone.

She said the government’s reasoning of a terror crackdown on militants simply wasn’t justified.

THE BIG OFFENDERS

The number of executions recorded in Iran and Saudi Arabia have increased by 31 per cent and 76 per cent respectively, and executions in Pakistan were the highest Amnesty International has ever recorded in that country, the report found.

Pakistan recorded a massive rise in executions after lifting a moratorium on civilian executions in December 2014.

More than 320 people were put to death in 2015, the highest number Amnesty International has ever recorded for Pakistan.

Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before — the vast majority for drug-related crimes.

In Saudi Arabia, executions rose by a whopping 76 per cent compared to 2014’s figures, with at least 158 people being executed last year.

According to Amnesty, most were beheaded, but authorities also used firing squads and sometimes displayed executed bodies in public.

The United States came in next for mention.

For the seventh consecutive year, the US was the only country to execute across the Americas, carrying out 28 executions, the lowest number since 1991 and seven less than the year before.

METHOD

The following methods of executions were used across the globe.

Beheading, Saudi Arabia; hanging, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Sudan, Sudan; lethal injection China, USA, Vietnam as well as firing squad.

DEADLY GLOBAL RISE

In the report, Amnesty noted a dramatic global rise in the number of executions recorded last year which saw more people put to death than at any point in the last 25 years.

The surge was largely fuelled by three countries including Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which accounted for almost 90 per cent of all recorded executions.

Excluding China, at least 1634 people were executed in 2015, 573 more than recorded the year before.

According to the report this represents a rise of more than 50 per cent and the highest number Amnesty International has recorded since 1989.

Amnesty International’s Secretary-general Salil Shetty said the rise in executions was profoundly disturbing.

“Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world,” he said.

“In 2015 governments continued relentlessly to deprive people of their lives on the false premise that the death penalty would make us safer.

“Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have all put people to death at unprecedented levels, often after grossly unfair trials. This slaughter must end.”

According to Amnesty, in almost all regions of the world, the death penalty continued to be used as a “tool by governments to respond to real or perceived threats to state security and public safety posed by terrorism, crime or political instability.”

This was despite the lack of evidence that the death penalty is any more of a deterrent to violent crime than a term of imprisonment.

Mr Shetty said the major upside of the report was that for the first time ever, the majority of the world’s countries were abolitionist for all crimes after four more countries abolished the death penalty last year.

Congo (Republic of), Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname repealed the death penalty during the year.

“2015 was a year of extremes. We saw some very disquieting developments but also developments that give cause for hope. Four countries completely abolished the death penalty, meaning the majority of the world has now banned this most horrendous of punishments,” Mr Shetty said.

The report found five of the 53 member states of the Commonwealth were known to have carried out executions including Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore.

Japan and the US were the only countries in the G8 to carry out executions with 28 and three respectively.

At least 20,292 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2015.

PUNISHMENT AND CRIME

According to the report, several nations, including China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, put people to death for crimes.

This included for economic crimes such as corruption (China, North Korea and Vietnam); armed robbery (Saudi Arabia); adultery (Maldives, Saudi Arabia); aggravated circumstances of rape (India), rape (Afghanistan, Jordan, Pakistan); apostasy (Saudi Arabia); kidnapping (Iraq); kidnapping and rape (Saudi Arabia); insulting the prophet of Islam (Iran).

Amnesty said these did meet the international legal standards of “most serious” to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law.

UN Human Rights Office concerned by ongoing use of death penalty in Singapore

Source: The Online Citizen (6 April 2016)

http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2016/04/un-human-rights-office-concerned-ongoing-use-death-penalty-singapore/

The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) is concerned by the Singapore Court of Appeal’s decision on Tuesday to uphold the death sentence given to Kho Jabing of Malaysia and urges the Government to immediately establish a moratorium on capital punishment.

“We are gravely concerned that Mr. Kho is at imminent risk of hanging as the court has lifted the stay of execution,” said Laurent Meillan, OHCHR’s acting regional representative in Bangkok. “We are also concerned that he has been forced to endure years of immense suffering as his sentence has been changed on a number of occasions.”

Mr. Kho, 31, was sentenced to death in 2010 after being found guilty of murder. At the time, a mandatory death penalty applied to all cases of murder in Singapore. Following a change in the legislation in 2012 which now gives judges the option of giving a life term for murders where there is ‘no intention to cause death’, he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane in 2013.

In January 2015, the Court of Appeal decided to re-impose the death penalty. The following November, Mr. Kho was granted a temporary stay of execution less than 24 hours before he was due to be hanged as a result of an appeal by his lawyer.

The UN Human Rights Office calls on the Singapore Government not to carry out Mr. Kho’s execution.

OHCHR’s Regional Office welcomes the Government’s decision to apply legislative changes to sentences related to some cases of murder and certain categories of drug trafficking. Media reports have said at least five people - one convicted of murder and four others with drug trafficking – have had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

“While we are encouraged by the recent positive steps, we call on the Government to pursue more comprehensive death penalty reforms with the ultimate aim of abolishing the death penalty altogether,” said Meillan.

The UN Human Rights Office said it was also concerned that four individuals were executed in Singapore in 2015 - one for murder and the others for drug-related offences – which is a sharp increase from previous years. Singapore executed two people in 2014 and there were no executions during the de facto moratorium from 2011 to 2013. These statistics were released in Singapore Prison Service’s annual report this February.

Several States called on Singapore to abolish the death penalty during its human rights review in Geneva in January 2016.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Malaysia hangs three men for murder in 'secretive' execution

Source: The Guardian (25 March 2016)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/25/malaysia-hangs-three-men-for-in-secretive-execution

Malaysia has executed three men for murder, their lawyer said, in what rights groups called a “secretive” hanging in which the men’s families were given only two days notice.

“The execution was done between 4:30 and 5:30 this morning,” lawyer Palaya Rengaiah told the Guardian. “They were hanged to death.”

Rengaiah said the families received a letter two days before the execution, advising them to make a last visit to the men and funeral arrangements. He said the men were told on Thursday that they would be hanged on Friday.

Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, 35, Ramesh Jayakumar, 34, and his brother Sasivarnam Jayakumar, 37, were sentenced to the gallows after they were found guilty by the high court of murdering a 25-year-old man in a playground in 2005.

The trio claimed during court sessions that they were acting in self-defence after being attacked by a group that included the victim.

The Malaysian prison’s department said there were currently more than 1,000 inmates awaiting execution, although none had been killed since 2013, according to Death Penalty Worldwide.

Amnesty International has condemned what it called a “last-minute” execution of the men accused of murder, an offence that carries a mandatory death sentence.

In Malaysia, information on scheduled hangings are not made public before, or sometimes after, they are carried out – a practice Amnesty said was “secretive” and contrary to international standards on the use of the death penalty.

Several high-level officials have spoken against mandatory death sentences in Malaysia, a decades-old law that is also imposed on serious drug, treason and firearms offences.
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These voices include the attorney-general, Apandi Ali, who said in November that he would propose to the cabinet that the penalty be scrapped, calling it a “paradox” as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.

“If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison,” he said.

Days after, government minister Nancy Shukri, said she hoped to amend the penal code to abolish the death sentence.

“It is not easy to amend, but we are working on it. I hope to table it next year in March,” Shukri told reporters, adding that the punishment had done little to reduce the number of crimes committed. The motion has not been put to parliament.

Charles Hector, coordinator for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, on Thursday called for the Sultan of Kedah and the Sultan of Perak, state royalty in the two regions where the men were on death row, to use their power to stop the hangings.

He also urged Skukri, who is the de facto law minister, and the attorney-general, to obtain a stay of execution.

The Guardian was unable immediately to reach the government for comment.

Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s deputy campaign director for south-east Asia and the Pacific, said ahead of the execution that “as discussions on abolishing the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia continue, the Malaysian government must immediately put in place a moratorium on all executions as a first step towards full abolition of the death penalty”.

Bangladesh tycoon's death penalty upheld

Source: The Straits Times (9 March 2016)

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/bangladesh-tycoons-death-penalty-upheld

Bangladesh's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Jamaat-e-Islami's chief financier, imposed for war crimes, in a major blow to the country's biggest Islamist party.

Mir Quasem Ali, a shipping and real estate tycoon, was convicted in 2014 of abducting and murdering a young fighter during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Three senior Jamaat officials and a leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have been executed since December 2013 for war crimes, despite global criticism of their trials by a controversial tribunal.

The trials have divided the country and sparked deadly protests, with supporters of Jamaat and the BNP branding them a sham aimed at eliminating their leaders.

"The court upheld his death sentence for the abduction and murder of a young freedom fighter whose body was dumped in a river," Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said yesterday.

The 63-year-old senior party leader faces the gallows within months unless his case is reviewed by the same court or he is granted clemency by the Bangladeshi president.

Dr Abdur Rob, professor of political science at the North South University in Dhaka, said the ruling was a big setback for Jamaat. "He was the main financier of the party," he said. "He also ran Jamaat's social and business enterprises and had very good connections across the world, especially in the Middle East."

The executions and convictions of Jamaat officials plunged the country into one of its worst crises in 2013 when tens of thousands of Islamist activists clashed with police in nationwide protests that left some 500 people dead.

The latest verdict is expected to widen the divide between secular groups and Islamic hardliners in the Muslim-majority nation, which has seen recent killings of secular bloggers, religious minorities and foreigners.

Opposition parties say the trials are politically motivated, aimed at weakening rivals to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's secular government. The government maintains the trials are needed to heal the wounds of the conflict, which it says left three million people dead.

Jamaat called for a nationwide strike today to protest against the verdict. The party opposed the wartime struggle for independence, and sided with the military regime in Islamabad. Independent researchers estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 people died in the 1971 conflict.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Four on death row in Saudi Arabia for terrorism

Source: Channel NewsAsia (12 March 2016)

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/four-on-death-row-in-saud/2596306.html

Death sentences against four Saudi men convicted of terrorism have been confirmed by 13 judges, a Saudi newspaper reported, raising the possibility of a new round of executions two months after 47 people including a prominent Shi'ite cleric were put to death.

International rights groups said the families of three young Shi'ite Muslim men feared their sons, arrested for involvement in anti-government protests while under the age of 18, were among those facing the death penalty. One is a nephew of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the cleric whose execution in January led to a rupture of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Officials from the Saudi justice ministry and the interior ministry were not immediately available to comment.

Saudi newspaper Okaz said: "The four terrorists awaiting the implementation of the death sentences complement the first group of 47." It said a total of 13 judges had considered the cases in three levels of hearings, but did not identify the four men.

Rights group Reprieve, which campaigns against the death penalty, said: "While details of the four in line for execution remain unclear, the reports will raise fears for three juveniles who are awaiting execution after their sentences ... were upheld in the SCC (Specialised Criminal Court) last year."

The three are Dawoud al-Marhoon, arrested in 2012; Abdullah Hassan al-Zaher, who was 15 when he was arrested in 2011; and Ali al-Nimr, aged 17 when he was detained in 2012. France has called on Saudi Arabia not to execute Nimr, arguing he was a minor at the time.

Amnesty International said: "If these executions go ahead, Saudi Arabia will demonstrate its utter disdain for international law, which prohibits executions of people for crimes committed under the age of 18."

In November last year, two Saudi newspapers reported that Saudi Arabia was planning to execute more than 50 people for "terrorist crimes" that killed more than 100 civilians and 71 security personnel.

The 47 executed on Jan. 2 were mostly Sunnis convicted of al Qaeda attacks in the kingdom a decade ago. Four, including the older Nimr, were members of the Shi'ite minority who were accused of involvement in shooting policemen.

Nimr's execution sparked demonstrations in eastern Saudi Arabia and in Shi'ite Iran, where angry crowds ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, prompting Riyadh to break off ties with Iran.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Hanging revives Pakistan capital punishment debate

Source: MWC News (1 March 2016)

http://mwcnews.net/news/centrals-asia/57543-pakistan-capital-punishment.html

Execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer in 2011, prompts muted celebration and protests.

The execution of a man who killed the head of government of Punjab province over his call to reform strict blasphemy laws has revived the question of capital punishment in Pakistan.

Mumtaz Qadri was a bodyguard for Salman Taseer when he shot the Punjab governor dead in Islamabad in 2011.

After his arrest, he told police he had assassinated Taseer because he championed the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case that arose out of a personal dispute.

Taseer had said the law was being misused and should be reformed.

Considering him a hero for defending Islam, Qadri's supporters took to the streets of Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi following his hanging early on Monday morning.

While there were protests in big numbers - and equal amount of muted celebration - the hanging prompted outcry from various quarters that called for a moratorium on executions "as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty".

Champa Patel, director of Amnesty International's South Asia Regional Office, said: "Taseer was a brave voice for religious tolerance in Pakistan and his murderer should be brought to justice, but carrying out more killings is a deplorable way to honour Taseer's life and message.

"The death penalty is always a human rights violation, regardless of the circumstances or nature of the crime.

"While it is positive that the government is committed to tackling religious extremism and is taking proactive steps to ensure perpetrators of violence are brought to justice, carrying out yet more killings only continues the cycle of violence."

Earlier, Qadri 's attorney said his client told him he had no regrets for killing Taseer.

"I have met him twice in jail. He said that even if God gave me 50 million lives, I would still sacrifice all of them," lawyer Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry said.

Protesters briefly blocked the main road between Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Monday after news of the hanging broke.

Police later dispersed them and closed off the road to prevent more demonstrations.

Chaudhry predicted larger demonstrations as a nationwide strike on Tuesday has been called by Qadri's supporters to protest against the hanging.

Late in 2011, an anti-terrorism court handed down a double death sentence to Qadri for murder and terrorism. The sentence was appealed and upheld by the Supreme Court late last year.

Jibran Nasir, a Pakistan lawyer and activist, says the country needs to unite on the issue of blasphemy laws instead of it becoming a war between Qadri's fans and Taseer's fans.

"I won't call anybody's death good news but the hanging has made a claim that when the state is challenged, it would enforce its laws," Nasir said from Karachi.

"Qadri's was a terrorist act and the Supreme Court upheld that. But when we see people celebrating or protesting, those are fringe elements. We're not talking about the liberals, moderates or even progressives here.

"What we need to remember is that Qadri was made this glorified poster boy of this huge problem. He was just the trigger, a foot soldier and the ones he was influenced by and looked up to are still roaming around freely."

National media played down news of the execution and the protests on orders of the government, two senior TV news anchors told AFP news agency.

There was no coverage of crowds of angry Qadri supporters who flocked to pay their respects at his family's house in Rawalpindi where his body was laid out on a bed, his head surrounded by roses.

The funeral is expected to be held on Tuesday.

"I have no regrets," Qadri's brother Malik Abid told AFP, tears rolling down his cheeks, while women chanted nearby.

He said the family had been called to the prison on Sunday evening by officials who said Qadri was unwell.

But when they arrived, Qadri greeted them with the news that authorities had deceived them and that his execution was imminent.

"I am proud of the martyrdom of my son," Qadri's father Bashir Awan told AFP, adding he was ready to sacrifice all five of his other sons "for the honour of the prophet".

Nasir, the lawyer, cautioned against making Qadri a hero in death, saying that by the show of affection on the streets, the common man is likely to be impressed by his actions.

"Qadri was showered with petals, sent cards on Valentine's Day, called a warrior before his death and a martyr after his hanging," he said.

"We should not make him a celebratory and not give him unnecessary coverage."

More than 100 people are charged with blasphemy each year in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, many of them Christians and other minorities.

Conviction of blasphemy carries a death sentence. No one has yet been hanged, but those convicted languish in prison.

Friday, 19 February 2016

More Malaysians want end to mandatory death penalty, online poll shows

Source: The Malay Mail Online (18 February 2016)

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/more-malaysians-want-end-to-mandatory-death-penalty-online-poll-shows

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — Over half of Malaysians surveyed in an online poll want the government to scrap the mandatory death sentence that leaves judges with no discretion to hand down lighter punishments.

Conducted by Barisan Nasional (BN) component party Gerakan, the online poll results showed 838 online respondents were in favour of abolishing the mandatory death sentence while 685 respondents disagreed with judges being given the discretion to decide sentences, the party’s Youth wing leader Chai Ko Thing told a news conference today.

“As you can see from the results of votes garnered, the ratio is those who agreed are 55 per cent and those who disagreed is 45 per cent,” the Gerakan Youth Legal Bureau chief said.

The survey results were collected from 1,523 anonymous Internet users over a three-week period from January 22 and February 15 through Gerakan’s online poll site bettermalaysiapoll.org.

The survey posed just one question: “In your opinion, should Malaysia abolish the mandatory death penalty?” and the results were based on the number of “Yes” or “No” clicks obtained.

According to Chai, the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia applies to various crimes such as murder, firearm possession, kidnapping with ransom, waging war against the King and drug offences.

However, he said the government has currently shown its intention to remove the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences, a move he said is backed by public sentiments based on the poll results.

He said Gerakan had, in 2013, initiated a petition titled “No to death penalty”, adding however the scrapping of mandatory death sentences may be a good starting point and middle path.

“So the party’s stand on this issue is we are going for total abolishment of death sentence, but as a start from the result of this poll — it seems to be divided, maybe to remove mandatory, then we work towards total abolishment of death sentence,” he said.

Chai said Gerakan will present the poll’s findings to de facto law minister Nancy Shukri who is expected to present legal amendments to scrap the mandatory death sentence in Parliament next month.

Nancy had in a written parliamentary statement last November 3 said there are currently 1,022 convicted inmates awaiting execution pending their appeals against the court’s decision, adding that there were 33 executed during the 1998-Oct 2015 period while 127 others received lighter sentences or clemency due to their pleas to the State Pardons Board.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali had last November also said that he wished the courts had discretion on sending convicts to the gallows or otherwise.

Chai said the online #BetterMalaysia poll — which only allows one vote from each device — was created as a platform for the public to express their opinions on topical issues.

The simplified nature of the ongoing polls that does not ask for any details of the respondents is also to cater to Internet-savvy Malaysians especially the youths, Chai said.

He said the third question is now open for voting until March 8, declaring it as: “Does increasing traffic fines serve as an appropriate measure to change the driving attitude of road users and reduce traffic offences?”

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Opinion: Bangladesh must abolish the death penalty now

Source: DW (12 February 2016)

http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-bangladesh-must-abolish-the-death-penalty-now/a-19044275

The Bangladeshi Law Minister Anisul Huq’s remarks on the death penalty came after a meeting with a European Parliament delegation in Dhaka on Thursday. According to reporters present, Huq responded to calls from members of the delegation to abolish the death penalty in his country by categorically ruling out any changes to the law at the present time. This was a coolly calculated slap in the face for his visitors from Europe and a clear sign that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina intends to continue her quest to call Islamist leaders to account for the crimes they allegedly committed during Bangladesh’s war of liberation in 1971.

It reinforces the view that the Dhaka government has no intention of rethinking the political impact of the so-called International War Crimes Tribunal. The Tribunal has been underway in the country since 2010 and has imposed a series of death sentences on high profile Islamist leaders, several of whom have already been hanged.

The death penalty is irreversible and when used against political opponents it creates martyrs and triggers further political instability. While the death penalty remains popular with Hasina’s Awami League and its supporters, its continued use is without doubt creating a fertile breeding ground for Islamist terror. Just recently James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence in the US, warned that Hasina’s continuing efforts to undermine the political opposition would foster the rise of Islamist terrorists.International criticism of the Tribunal’s work has been consistently damning. Defense lawyers have been prevented from carrying out their work properly, some witnesses for the defense have not been allowed to testify and some of the testimony by prosecution witnesses has been farcical and based largely on hearsay. The latter is not surprising seeing how much time has elapsed by the alleged crime and the trial. The Tribunal clearly does not meet international judicial standards. Nonetheless, it continues to impose the death penalty against the Islamist opponents of the Dhaka government.

He is right. Moreover, Clapper pointed to the fact that Islamist terrorists had claimed responsibility for the slaying of at least 11 progressive writers and bloggers since 2013. However, Sheikh Hasina remains in denial of the obvious consequences of her policies and claims that the so-called Islamic State does not have a foothold in her country, despite evidence to the contrary. At the very least she is guilty of sticking her head in the sand, at worst of an extreme form of cynicism.

While the desire to finally close the 1971 chapter in the country’s past is both honorable and understandable, Bangladesh continues to move away from the path of reconciliation between those who support secularism in the majority Muslim country and those who wish to see Islam play a greater role. With more of those convicted by the War Crimes Tribunal now awaiting execution, the need for dialogue across the political spectrum is greater than ever, as it the need to abolish the death penalty now, rather than after the damage has been done.

Friday, 12 February 2016

End death penalty, keep it only for terror: Law panel tells government

Source: The Indian Express (1 September 2015)

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/law-commission-recommends-abolition-of-death-penalty/

Over 53 years after it favoured retention of the death penalty in statute books, the Law Commission of India recommended Monday that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war against the country. This was first reported by The Indian Express last Friday.

In its report, submitted to the government by commission chairman and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah, the 10-member panel concluded that while death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment, concern is often raised that abolition of capital punishment for terror-related offences and waging war will affect national security.

However, three members of the commission including two representing the Ministry of Law and Justice — Law Secretary P K Malhotra and Legislative Secretary Sanjay Singh — submitted dissent notes against the recommendation to abolish death penalty. The third dissent note was given by Law Commission member and former Delhi High Court judge Usha Mehra who referred to the rights of “innocent victims”.

Questioning the “rarest of rare” doctraine, the panel said that administration of death penalty, even within the “restrictive environment of rarest of rare doctraine”, was constitutionally unsustainable.“After many lengthy and detailed deliberations, it is the view of the Law Commission that the administration of death penalty, even within the restrictive environment of ‘rarest of rare’ doctrine, is constitutionally unsustainable. Continued administration of death penalty asks very difficult constitutional questions… these questions relate to the miscarriage of justice, errors, as well as the plight of the poor and disenfranchised in the criminal justice system,” the report stated.

Pointing out that in the last decade, the Supreme Court had on “numerous occasions expressed concern about arbitrary sentencing” in death penalty cases, the panel said, “There exists no principled method to remove such arbitrariness from capital sentencing. A rigid, standardisation or categorisation of offences which does not take into account the difference between cases is arbitrary in that it treats different cases on the same footing. Anything less categorical, like the Bachan Singh framework itself, has demonstrably and admittedly failed.”

The commission also questioned the mercy petition system, provided for under the Constitution, saying, “The exercise of mercy powers under Articles 72 and 161 have failed in acting as the final safeguard against miscarriage of justice in the imposition of the death sentence.”

The report stated that from January 26, 1950 till date, successive Presidents have accepted 306 mercy petitions and rejected 131.

Referring to victims of crimes, the panel said in focusing on death penalty “as the ultimate measure of justice to victims”, the restorative and rehabilitative aspects of justice are lost sight of.

It said reliance on the death penalty diverts attention from other problems ailing the criminal justice system such as poor investigation, crime prevention and rights of victims of crime. It is essential that the state establish effective compensation schemes to rehabilitate victims of crime.

At the same time, it is also essential, the panel said, that courts use the power granted to them under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to grant appropriate compensation to victims in suitable cases.

“The voices of victims and witnesses are often silenced by threats and other coercive techniques employed by powerful accused persons. Hence, it is essential that a witness protection scheme also be established. The need for police reforms for better and more effective investigation and prosecution has also been universally felt for some time now and measures regarding the same need to be taken on a priority basis,” the report stated.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Man cleared of murder after over 20 years in jail

Source: Straits Times (2 February 2016)

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/man-cleared-of-murder-after-over-20-years-in-jail

SHANGHAI • A man jailed in China more than two decades ago for murder has been acquitted, the latest in a series of wrongful convictions overturned in the country.

Mr Chen Man, who is now 53, was released yesterday from Meilan Prison in south China's Haikou City, in Hainan province, after the Zhejiang Higher People's Court overturned his conviction.

Mr Chen was arrested in 1992, accused of burning down a house in Haikou in which a man died. Stab wounds had been found on the neck and body of the victim and the police later arrested Mr Chen, who is from Sichuan province, for the alleged murder, the China News Service reported.

Mr Chen was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve by Haikou Intermediate People's Court in November 1994.

However, the local procuratorate deemed the sentence "too light" and urged a higher court to adjust it to a death sentence and execute Mr Chen, according to the Zhejiang court. The procuratorate's request was rejected by the Hainan Higher People's Court in 1999, beginning a 16-year appeal ordeal for Mr Chen and his family.

China's top court ordered Mr Chen's case to be re-opened in April last year after he appealed, and the Zhejiang Provincial Higher People's Court retried the case.

Mr Chen Man was convicted solely on the basis of confessions which were "inconsistent" during two trials which convicted him, court judge Zhang Qin said in a statement yesterday.

Yesterday, the High Court of China's eastern Zhejiang province pronounced him not guilty due to "lack of evidence".

"His role in the murder is not clear and the original judgment lacks evidence, therefore, the guilty verdict cannot be confirmed," the Zhejiang court said in its statement.

It said Mr Chen had the right to apply for state compensation.

The president of Hainan Provincial Higher People's Court bowed to Mr Chen after the announcement, the state-run China Daily reported.

The case is the latest highlighting miscarriages of justice in China, where forced confessions are widespread and more than 99 per cent of criminal defendants are found guilty. Mr Chen was convicted solely on the basis of confessions which were "inconsistent" during two trials which convicted him, court judge Zhang Qin said in a statement yesterday.

The government has tried to improve the way courts handle cases of miscarriages of justice following efforts by President Xi Jinping to bolster the rule of law and increase public confidence in the legal system. Wrongful executions have stirred particular outrage, though the death penalty itself remains popular.

Of those exonerated in recent years, Mr Chen spent the longest time in prison, state media said.

For some others, the new verdicts have come too late.

A court in the Inner Mongolia region in 2014 cleared a man named Hugjiltu, who was convicted, sentenced and executed for rape and murder in 1996 at the age of 18.

The declaration of innocence came nine years after another man confessed to the crime.

Twenty-seven officials in China have been "penalised" for his wrongful execution, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Sunday. But only one person will face criminal prosecution, Xinhua said, with 26 others face lighter "administrative penalties".

Monday, 1 February 2016

China officials punished over wrongful execution of teen

Source: BBC News (1 February 2016)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35457033

Twenty-seven Chinese officials have been penalised for the wrongful execution of a teenager, state news agency Xinhua said.

Huugjilt was 18 when he was convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in a factory's public toilet in 1996.

A serial rapist confessed to the crime in 2005 and Huugjilt was formally exonerated in 2014.

Acquittals are extremely rare in China and it is even rarer for convictions to be overturned.

Twenty-six officials were given "administrative penalties, including admonitions and record of demerit", Xinhua said citing an official statement on Sunday.

Feng Zhiming, the other penalised official, was suspected of other crimes related to his job and was being investigated, according to the report.

The murder happened during an anti-crime drive and detectives in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region admitted being under pressure to secure a conviction. The use of force to get confessions is thought to be widespread in the country.

Huugjilt's parents were given 30,000 yuan ($4850; £3080) as an expression of the court's sympathy, when the conviction was overturned.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Saudi Arabia executions reach 53 in January, one-third of 2015 toll

Source: International Business Times (25 January 2016)

http://www.ibtimes.co.in/saudi-arabia-executions-reach-53-january-one-third-2015-toll-664513

Saudi Arabia has continued its spree of executions relentlessly since the beginning of this year, killing 53 people before the first month of 2016 has closed. The figure is more than one-third of the total number of executions of 158 people in the Middle Eastern kingdom last year.

Saudi Arabia sparked global outrage after it put 47 men to death on 2 January, including Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, in what the Human Rights Watch called the "largest mass execution in the country since 1980".

On Monday, Saudi Arabia executed local tribesman Mohammed bin Awadh al-Zahrani in Jeddah for stabbing a man to death, according to the Saudi Press Agency. It was not mentioned how the execution was carried out, but beheading is the common form of carrying out capital punishment in the country.

Monday's action brought the total number of executions in Saudi Arabia this month to 53, AFP reported.

The executions come even after human rights groups have claimed that 2015 was the year with the highest execution rates in Saudi Arabia in two decades.

The execution of al-Nimr earlier this month had sparked dangerous sectarian tensions in the Middle East, with Shia protesters in Iran attacking a Saudi embassy in Tehran. Saudi Arabia called off diplomatic relations with Iran following the incident, and other Gulf nations such as Bahrain followed suit.

Several cases of violence were reported in Shiite-dominated areas of Saudi Arabia following the mass executions.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are yet to restore ties despite calls for it by the international community.