Thursday, 28 May 2015

Pakistan court dismisses plea seeking death penalty abolition

Source: Webindia123 (27 May 2015)

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition seeking the abolition of death penalty, maintaining that life and liberty are not absolute under the constitution.

The petitioner, Barrister Zafarullah, had filed the petition seeking the abolition of the death penalty, arguing that the punishment was against fundamental rights in a country where the criminal justice system was ineffective, Dawn online reported.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Saqib Nisar dismissed the petition, stating that right to life and liberty were not absolute in nature.

The court stated that the death penalty was provided for in the law, and the life of a person may be taken if done under provision of law.

The court dismissed the petition and recommended that the proper forum to seek a change in laws was the parliament of Pakistan.

There were no civilian hangings in Pakistan since 2008.

Only one person was executed during that time -- a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

The moratorium on the death penalty was lifted for those convicted of terrorism offences after the December 16 Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that claimed the lives of over 140 students and staff.

In March early this year, the lifting of the moratorium was extended to cover all capital offences. Over 8,000 prisoners await execution in different jails across the country.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Australia: Adopt New Strategy to End Death Penalty Abroad

Source: Human Rights Watch (20 May 2015)

Following the executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia, the Australian government should redouble efforts to end the death penalty around the world, and overhaul the way it campaigns for global abolition, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Law Centre, Reprieve Australia, Australians Detained Abroad, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Civil Liberties Australia, and Uniting Justice Australia have joined forces to launch a new Australian blueprint to end the death penalty.

The Australian government has condemned executions in Indonesia, but it could play a larger role opposing the death penalty globally. Australia abolished the death penalty in 2010, although the last execution took place in 1967.

"The time is ripe for Australia's foreign ministry to make public a new comprehensive policy to end the death penalty worldwide, with specific and achievable goals for individual countries," said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. "The strategy should include consistent public and private diplomatic pressure to end this cruel practice, showing how the death penalty has failed to deter crime and been unjustly applied."

The groups' blueprint for change, "Australian Government and the Death Penalty: A Way Forward" details four steps the government should take to build on the current momentum to end the death penalty:

1.       Develop a new Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade public strategy document aimed at ending the death penalty, everywhere;

2.       Use Australia's aid program to support civil society organizations campaigning for abolition in countries which retain the death penalty;

3.       Join forces with other nations to push for universal adoption of a global moratorium on the death penalty; and

4.       Put in place stronger legislation so the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is required by law not to share information with other law enforcement agencies that would potentially result in suspected perpetrators facing the death penalty.

The blueprint urges the Australian government to consult widely, including with the UK government, which already has a global strategy against the death penalty, as well as with advocacy groups in countries retaining the death penalty.

The organizations said if Australia wants its opposition to the death penalty globally to be credible, it is important that Australian laws consistently reflect that opposition. Following the arrests of the so-called Bali 9 in 2005, it emerged that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) passed on detailed information about the alleged plan to smuggle heroin from Bali, without seeking guarantees that the information would not be used by the authorities to eventually seek the death penalty against the perpetrators.

Emily Howie, director of advocacy and research at the Human Rights Law Centre, said: "If the Bali 9 case happened again tomorrow, nothing would prevent the AFP from acting in the same way. Parliament should amend the AFP Act to include sufficient safeguards to prevent police sharing information which could lead to the death penalty."

"Momentum is building globally for the abolition of the death penalty. In recent months, Australian people and the government have spoken out powerfully against executions," said Ursula Noye, vice president of Reprieve Australia. "The time is right for us to take a lead role, and build a regional coalition for abolition. We should make future generations proud."

"The recent executions of eight men in Indonesia, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, was an inhuman and unjust punishment and represents exactly why the Australian government must continue to speak out against the death penalty whenever it occurs," said Claire Mallinson, national director at Amnesty International Australia. "We must now ensure Australia's stance against the recent executions is reflected in all government policy. We are asking for change across the Australian Government – through diplomacy, our aid program, our federal law enforcement agencies." 

Comparative Executive Clemency The Prerogative of Mercy in the Commonwealth (New Book)

Author: Andrew Novak

Publisher: Routledge

Publication date: September 15th 2015


This book provides a comparative constitutional analysis of executive clemency, with a focus on death penalty cases.

In the Commonwealth today, legal frameworks and clemency proceedings differ markedly. In some countries, the decision is one for the executive alone, while others have delegated this power to an advisory committee. The role of legislatures varies as well: in some countries, legislative assemblies can appoint or approve members of a clemency or pardon board. Today, international tribunals recognize a human right to seek clemency, reprieve, or pardon, and forbid such executions while such a request is pending. In general, the trend is toward rationalization of the clemency process, involving more actors in decision-making and diluting the unchecked discretion of a single individual.

Focusing specifically on death penalty cases, as these are the most urgent, this book argues that improving the rationality and transparency of the clemency process will not only benefit executive decision-making, but will contribute to death penalty abolition in the long-term by increasing the structural costs of executions, a process well underway in India and the Caribbean. Comparative executive clemency has never been the subject of a full-length comparative constitutional analysis, and the breadth of jurisdictions contained in this book— encompassing the entire English-speaking world—provides a full range of cultural and political variations in the level of deference given to executive decision-making.

This book will be of great interest to scholars of international and comparative criminal justice and international human rights law.

At least 17 Australians jailed around the world could face death penalty

Source: The Guardian (30 April 2015)

As Australia reacts to Indonesia's execution of two citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, there are at least 17 other Australians in danger of receiving the death penalty around the world.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed the number to Guardian Australia, but would not disclose the names or locations.

More than half of them are thought to have been detained in China; four known cases involve smuggling methamphetamine, commonly known in Australia as ice. In 2014, China Daily reported that of 63 foreign drug-smuggling suspects detained by officials in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, 11 were Australian.

Rao Jiyong, a deputy director at the city's anti-smuggling customs bureau, told the newspaper that drug-smuggling cases involving Australian suspects had rapidly increased over the past two years and cooperation had been strengthened with Australian federal police and customs officials.

In 2013-14, more than a third of Australians in prison overseas were there because of drug offences. Countries which apply the death penalty on those convicted of using, dealing or trafficking drugs include Indonesia, Thailand, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates.

Peter Gardner, 25 (China)
A dual New Zealand/Australian citizen, Gardner was arrested at Guangzhou airport, China, on 8 November 2014 after customs officials allegedly found 30kg of methamphetamine in his bags. Gardner's lawyer, Craig Tuck, confirmed with Guardian Australia his trial would begin on 7 May in Guangzhou's municipal intermediate court. "This is considerably earlier than expected," Tuck said. It is expected to last no more than two days.

Bengali Sherrif and Ibrahim Jalloh (China)
Sherrif and Jalloh were arrested by Chinese authorities at Guangzhou airport in June 2014, the ABC reported. Sherrif was sentenced to a suspended death penalty for attempting to smuggle methamphetamine from China to Australia, which could be commuted to life in prison after two years of good behaviour. Jalloh is awaiting trial.

Anthony Roger Bannister, 43 (China)
Australian jockey Bannister was arrested for drug smuggling in Guangzhou on 11 March 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. More than 3kg of crystal methamphetamine were found in envelopes stuffed into eight handbags in his luggage. "I do believe that I have been set up ... in this drug-smuggling scheme," Bannister told the court at his October trial. "They've used me as a mule."

Henry Chhin (China)
Chhin, then 35 from Sydney, was detained by police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on 10 May 2004 for attempting to mail 270g of methamphetamine to Australia, the Shenzhen Daily reported. The box, which allegedly contained the drugs and computer software, was intercepted by Shanghai police two days before. Local police said another 700g of the same drug was found in kitchen cabinets and the sitting room of Chhin's residence. He was given the death penalty with a two-year suspension in March 2005.

A small group of foreign nationals have been executed in China, but none have been Australian. According to these include five Japanese, four South Koreans and a Pakistani-British businessman.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 52 (Malaysia)
Exposto, from Melbourne, was arrested on 7 December 2014 after arriving at Kuala Lumpur airport, en route from Shanghai to Melbourne, with a bag authorities said contained 1.5kg of crystal methamphetamine. Exposto's lawyer, Tania Scivetti, confirmed to Guardian Australia that a chemical analysis of the substance would be submitted to court on Thursday, after which the case would probably move to the high court for a May hearing.

Malaysian law carries a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. Three Australian nationals have been executed by the state: Michael McAuliffe in 1993, and Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers in 1986.

Pham Trung Dung, 37 (Vietnam)
Dung was arrested in May 2013, when custom officials reportedly found heroin in his luggage as he boarded a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Australia, the Associated Press reported. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, "We understand that he has the right of appeal. Whether he decides to do so is a matter for the man and his lawyers."

Under the Vietnamese penal code, a person caught in possession of heroin can be sentenced to death. The five Australians who have received death penalties for heroin trafficking in Vietnam have had their sentences commuted to life in prison, reported the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties.

Monday, 18 May 2015

PNG says death penalty 'under review' after Indonesia fallout

Source: Bangkok post (11 May 2015)

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said the death penalty is "under review" in Papua New Guinea after recent global outcry over the execution of foreign drug convicts in neighbouring Indonesia.

The Pacific island nation revived capital punishment two years ago to reduce rampant crime, prompted in part by the burning alive of a 20-year-old woman by a crowd for sorcery.

While the law allows for execution by lethal injection, hanging and firing squad, no death row convicts have been killed since then due to a lack of infrastructure.

"As I have indicated publicly, that (death penalty) is under review," O'Neill told reporters in comments published by the Post-Courier on Monday, after being asked whether PNG would think again following the Indonesian fallout.

"Our agencies of government are reviewing all aspects of the death penalty in our country and we will debate this issue on the floor of parliament when parliament resumes."

O'Neill's comments came on the eve of a two-day visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, under whose brief leadership 14 drug convicts have been executed, 12 of them foreigners.

Jakarta put to death two Australians, a Brazilian, and four Nigerians on a prison island, along with one Indonesian, last month despite worldwide calls for them to be spared and heartrending pleas from their families.

Widodo was unmoved, arguing that Indonesia is facing an emergency due to rising narcotics use.

In response, Australia, a close friend of Papua New Guinea, recalled its ambassador from Indonesia for what it called the "cruel and unnecessary" executions while the United Nations expressed deep regret.

PNG has also faced national and international opposition to the reintroduction of the death penalty in a country where an execution has not been carried out since 1954.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Fear and control: The message behind brutal executions

Source: BBC News (13 May 2015)

Amid reports of Hyon Yong-chol's death by anti-aircraft gunfire, analysts say North Korea clearly wanted to send one clear message - that no one person can be more important than the state.
Paul French, who has written on North Korean state control, told BBC World News that Hyon's execution was about the "total obliteration of someone, and of any opposition, and therefore having total control".
The idea "is to render a person a non-person... so there isn't even a corpse left to give to the family for burial," said Alexander Neill, a senior fellow with think tank II-SS.
"What underlies all this is the psychology of the identity of an individual in a regime, and once they are disloyal they are effectively a non-entity."
North Korea is not alone in conducting brutal executions.
When Argentina's last military government was in power from 1976 to 1983, it executed people by throwing them out of planes into the ocean, in a practice known as "death flights".
Other countries have a history of abusing a prisoner's corpse after execution.
In Sudan and Saudi Arabia, prisoners can be crucified as punishment but it is usually done after he or she is killed by a more conventional method such as hanging or decapitation.
Ugandan despot Idi Amin reportedly fed the bodies of dead prisoners to crocodiles.
Brutally executing someone in the public eye is designed as "humiliation of the highest order", said Mr Neill.
In a similar vein, China has held mass show trials of prisoners accused of terrorism in Xinjiang.
These involved prisoners paraded in trucks in sports stadiums and physically restrained so that they are forced to bow.
These "reinforce that the collective is more important than the individual, and it's about controlling thoughts rather than behaviour," said Mr Neill.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Iran hardliners cling to death penalty

Source: BBC News (12 May 2015)

The jailing of a well-known campaigner against the death penalty and a sharp rise in executions has once again put Iran's poor human rights record in the spotlight.
Why has President Hassan Rouhani and his team failed to meet hopes for reform at home despite making gains on the international stage?
"They took my mummy to Evin prison again," says eight-year-old Kiana.
In their short lives, Kiana and her twin brother, Ali, have seen many arrests and raids on their home.
Their mother is Narges Mohammadi, a well-known human rights lawyer and campaigner, who has been in and out of jail on charges related to her work, for much of the past five years.
In 2012, after suffering severe ill-health, Ms Mohammadi was granted leave to serve the remainder of a six-year prison sentence at home.
But last week while the children were at school, intelligence officials came to the house, with no warning or explanation, and took her back to jail.
One of the charges levelled against Ms Mohammadi was that she was running an "illegal group" campaigning against the death penalty.
It is a tough cause to fight in a country that has the second highest rate of executions in the world, after China.
When President Rouhani swept to power in 2013, there were hopes his more moderate stance would mean improvements in human rights.
But since he took office, the number of executions carried out in Iran has actually risen.
The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights organisation says Iran executed 735 people in 2014 - a 10% increase on the previous year.
In April the group said it had documented 43 judicial killings in Iran in just three days.
It is impossible to independently verify these numbers, but most human right observers say they are credible.
The majority of executions carried out in Iran are for drugs-related offences And in a country with a serious addiction problem, they elicit little public sympathy.
But in the past two years, there have been a number of high-profile death row cases - mainly involving juvenile offenders or women - which have struck a chord with the public, prompting appeals for clemency.
But President Rouhani has so far kept silent about the death penalty.
The main reason is that constitutionally he has very little room to act.
Although he is the elected president, Iran's complex power structure means Mr Rouhani has no power over the judiciary, which answers instead to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Internal suspicion

The judiciary is dominated by hardliners deeply suspicious of the overtures Mr Rouhani has been making to old adversaries such as the US.
The more ground the president gains on the international stage, the more resistance the hardliners will put up to any change to the status quo at home.

Executions in Iran:

In the 18 months since the election of President Rouhani in June 2013, Iranian authorities executed more than 1,193 people. This is an average of more than two executions every day.
The number of executions in that period was 31% higher than the number in the 18 months before President Rouhani assumed power.
The number of juvenile offenders executed in 2014 was the highest since 1990.
Source: Iran Human Rights (March 2015)
"There is an internal conflict going on now between the hard-line judiciary and Rouhani's moderate administration," says Iranian human rights campaigner Taghi Rahmani.
"And it's the activists who are paying the price."
Mr Rahmani is married to Narges Mohammadi, and like his wife a veteran of the Iranian prison system. He has spent 14 years in jail for his political activities.
Ms Mohammadi is not the only campaigner to make the headlines.
In recent weeks, there has been outcry on Iranian opposition social-media sites over the judiciary's treatment of a number of well-known activists.
Ahmad Hashemi is a respected former government official in his 60s who was jailed for supporting the opposition protests in 2009.
In early May, he was allowed out of prison to visit his terminally ill wife only to discover that she had already died and he was in fact going to her funeral.
At the same time Majid Tavakoli, a charismatic student activist, was also given leave towards the end of a four-year prison sentence.
But after just three days at home with his mother, he was suddenly recalled to serve out the remaining two weeks of his sentence.
As Iran prepares to hold a general election in February 2016, the stand-off between moderates and hardliners is expected to intensify, and there are fears that this will lead to a further crackdown on opposition activists, journalists and campaigners.
Taghi Rahmani told the BBC his wife's detention was a warning shot.
"By arresting her, they are trying to send a signal to others to stay quiet," he said.
With international talks over Iran's nuclear programme now approaching a crucial June deadline, President Rouhani is focusing all his efforts on reaching a final agreement.
To clinch a deal, he needs the support of the country's supreme leader. And observers say this means that right now he has neither the time nor the will to address human rights reform or the death penalty.
Mr Rahmani says whatever happens, he and his wife are not planning to give up their political activities.
But it is clear they and their family are paying a heavy price.
Mr Rahmani now lives in self-imposed exile in France and has only seen his children once in the past three years.
With his wife back in jail, Kiana and Ali are now living with their grandmother.
"The one thing I really worry about," he told the BBC.
"Is that one day, my kids might question our decision to take a stand."

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Death Penalty in Iran – No Improvement and Broken Promises

Source: Death Penalty Worldwide Blog (16 April 2014)

Despite a change in leadership and the introduction of an amended penal code, Iran’s aggressive use of the death penalty continues unabated. Our recent assessment of Iran (which you can read here) confirms that hundreds of people are regularly executed every year.  Furthermore, Iran has resumed secretly executing large groups of people, after temporarily halting the practice in 2011 due to international criticism.  The number of people executed in one occasion has been as high as 50.
Amendments to the Islamic Penal Code in 2013 did not limit the application of the death penalty.  On the contrary, the Penal Code retained the death penalty for most crimes that were previously death-eligible and added a few more.  It expanded upon the category of national security crimes, including vaguely worded crimes like “sowing corruption” and “armed rebellion,” which further criminalize political dissent.   The Penal Code also continues to treat some “crimes” as capital offences even though they do not meet the “most serious” standard under international law, which requires that capital offenses result in the death of a person.  Particularly troubling, the amended Penal Code retains stoning as a possible method of execution for individuals convicted of adultery and apostasy.
Iran continues to be the world’s biggest executioner of child offenders, despite requests from the former head of judiciary in 2003 and 2008 that judges not issue execution verdicts for children under eighteen. Based on reports by non-governmental organizations, we estimate that nineteen juveniles have been executed in the past five years. Although the Iranian government has stated that the amended Penal Code abolishes the execution of children, it only prohibits the execution of children for drug offenses and other “discretionary crimes.”  Article 91 of the amended Islamic Penal Code permits the execution of juveniles for other offenses, such as crimes under shariah, if judges deem that the juvenile is mature enough to understand the nature and consequences of the offense. Iran Human Rights has reported that just last month, one person was executed for a murder allegedly committed when he was 17.[1]
The new Islamic Penal Code amendments do nothing to improve the administration of the death penalty in Iran.  Individuals can be executed for a great number of crimes with minimal due process protections.  Iran, regrettably, continues to steer further and further away from compliance with its international human rights obligations.

-- Shubra Ohri

[1] Iran Human Rights, Execution of a minor offender in Iran,, Mar. 7, 2014. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent

Source: The Conversation (25 April 2015)

Australia has executed no-one for half a century. Following the abolition of the death penalty by various states, the federal government abolished capital punishment in 1973.
Nevertheless, Australian citizens – like all of those from abolitionist jurisdictions – face the death penalty when they commit serious crimes in countries that retain it. Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are facing execution in Indonesia following their convictions on drug trafficking charges almost ten years ago. On Saturday, they and seven others were given official notice that they will be killed by firing squad on the prison island of Nusakambangan. Under Indonesian law, the minimum period between receiving notice and execution is 72 hours.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has insisted all along that he will reject clemency petitions for drug traffickers on death row. In January, six were executed – five of them foreigners – straining Indonesia’s diplomatic relations with Brazil and the Netherlands. These countries abolished the death penalty in the 19th century.
Jokowi claims that Indonesia is in the grip of a national drug “emergency”. He argues that it needs to execute drug offenders to deter others and thereby reduce the rate of deaths following illicit or illegal drug use. However, he, like others who support the death penalty, can produce no evidence to support this claim.
Because it would be morally repugnant to conduct random experiments in the use of capital punishment, it remains difficult – if not impossible – to find empirical data on the deterrent effects of the threat of capital punishment that would persuade a committed proponent of the death penalty to change their mind.
As far as some crimes punishable by death in several countries are concerned – such as importing or trading in illegal drugs, economic crimes, or politically motivated violence – there is no reliable evidence of the deterrent effects of executions. What evidence there is – which is mostly from the US – should lead any dispassionate analyst to conclude that it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.
One rather unsophisticated way of considering deterrence is to analyse homicide rates before and after the death penalty is abolished. This at least can show whether countries that abolish capital punishment inevitably experience more murders, as those who support the deterrent argument claim.
In Australia, where the last executions occurred in the mid-1960s, the reported murder rate has, a few fluctuations aside, fallen.
Prior to the abolition of the death penalty in Canada in 1976, the reported homicide rate had been rising. But in 2003, 27 years after abolition, the rate was 43% lower than it was in 1975, the year before abolition.
Likewise, the homicide rate in countries of Central and Eastern Europe declined by about 60% after abolition in the 1990s. In most countries, abolition, and a strengthening of the rule of law, results in a decline in the homicide rate.
While recent studies on deterrence in the US are inconclusive as a whole, and many suffer from methodological problems, they do not produce credible evidence on deterrence as a behavioural mechanism.
Therefore, the issue is not whether the death penalty deters some – if only a few – people where the threat of a lesser punishment would not. Instead, it is whether, when all the circumstances surrounding its use are taken into account, the death penalty is associated with a marginally lower rate of the death penalty-eligible crimes than the next most severe penalty, life imprisonment. There is no evidence that it is.
Click to enlarge
As far as Indonesia’s claims for a deterrent effect are concerned, Oxford scholar Claudia Stoicescu has shown that this claim is based on inaccurate statistics on the number of drug users that need rehabilitation and the number of young people that die each day as a result of drug use.
Quite simply, rigorous analysis of the available data does not support the claims made for the need to retain the death penalty to reduce social harms.
About half of the people on death row in Indonesia have been convicted of drug-related offences. Many are foreigners.
Secrecy surrounds the administration of the death penalty in Indonesia. Prisoners learn about the exact time of their execution only 72 hours in advance.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have not been able to persuade Jokowi that his belief in deterrence is misguided. However, they could perhaps remind him that his apparent approach to clemency is in breach of Indonesia’s binding obligations under Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indonesia became a party to this in 2006.
Clemency should always be considered on a case-by-case basis for each and every prisoner. Jokowi’s statement that he will reject clemency for all prisoners sentenced to death for drug offences is in clear contradiction of that principle.

Executed away from home: Africans on drugs crimes find little mercy from Asia, its new trade partner

Source: Mail Guardian Africa (30 April 2015)

FOUR African men were among eight drug offenders executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday in a case that attracted huge international attention.

Nigerians Raheem Agbaje Salami (also known as Jamiu Owolabi Abashin), Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Martin Anderson and Okwuduli Oyatanze were killed at 12:30am, local time, on the Indonesian prison island of Nusa Kambangan.

"The executions have been successfully implemented, perfectly," Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said of the controversial deaths. "All worked, no misses."

Nigeria only responded late Wednesday, expressing "deep disappointment" at the execution by firing squad of four of its citizens.

Abuja said President Goodluck Jonathan and Foreign Minister Aminu Wali had made "spirited appeals for clemency", most recently at an Asian-African summit in the Indonesian capital Jakarta last week.

Brazil and Australia both recalled their ambassadors to Jakarta for "consultation"—diplomatic speak for expressing great displeasure. Australia had made more than 50 appeals for clemency.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo who has announced his intention to clear the country's death row of drug traffickers, insisted that narcotics are "a national emergency" that require an unforgiving response. Analysts say he is looking to convey the image of a decisive leader to Indonesians.

The country, which has some of the toughest drug laws in the world,  in December said it would put to death 64 convicts, including foreigners. It is also reportedly working hard to save over 200 Indonesians on death row in foreign countries, largely on drug and murder charges.

The deaths of the four Nigerians would add to a trend where Africans have been jailed or killed for drug related offences in foreign countries, many in Asian countries which have the death sentence.

When president Widodo reactivated the death penalty for drug crimes after a five-year pause, the first victim was Adami Wilson, a 48-year-old Malawian sentenced to death in 2005. He was executed also by firing squad in 2013.

Two other Nigerians were executed in January in the same country.

In the same month, 28-year-old South African Deon Cornelius was sentenced to death in Malaysia for smuggling an illegal drug, having been arrested in 2013.

1,500 South Africans in prisons abroad

According to data from Locked Up, a South African organisation that assists nationals arrested abroad, some 1,300 South African citizens are serving prison sentences in foreign countries, mostly on drug related charges. The majority are held in Brazil and Asia.

China, Africa's biggest trading partner, regularly executes drug smugglers, though it does not make available statistics, adding to the problem of undocumented travel that makes it difficult to accurately map the magnitude of the problem for Africa.

Last year two Ugandans were executed in China for drug trafficking, despite the appeals of the Ugandan embassy. In a statement, the East African country said that 23 other Ugandans were on death row in China, 24 on life sentences and 28 on trial.

China had refused to compromise on the matter, Uganda's foreign ministry added, Beijing insisting it could not overturn a court verdict. Kampala said its investigations showed most of those arrested were job seekers recruited as mules (carriers), a common defence in many drug arrests.

In one five-week period between April and May 2010, China executed a Nigerian and sentenced a Zambian and five Kenyans to death for drug trafficking. It is unclear if they were carried out or commuted to life terms.

Hong Kong, which does not have the capital punishment sentence for drug-related crimes, has increasingly reported drug-related arrests involving Africans.

Tougher line on drugs

China's fight against drugs has received strong support from the top, with president Xi Jinping last year calling for "forceful measures to wipe drugs out." Drug-related arrests have since gone up by up to a third on the year before, many leading to death sentences.

In June, while the vast cases involved locals, Chinese officials said they had handled 1,491 drug-related crimes involving foreigners, a 15% increase on 2013, with 1,963 foreign drug suspects arrested. Most were Africans, Liu Yuejin, director of the ministry's narcotics control bureau said.

Meanwhile in November last year a Kenyan court ordered police to extradite four suspected drug traffickers—two Kenyans, an Indian and a Pakistani, to the United States, highlighting differing treatments.
Pakistan earlier this year ended a freeze on executions, and drug crimes are expected to be among those punished, according to human rights groups.

This came months after British and Australian navies seized the largest ever haul of heroin at sea, weighing 1,032 kilogrammes and valued at $235 million, off its coast.

The continued arrest and execution of Africans in foreign countries cast a spotlight on their governments' inability, or unwillingness, to extract prisoners' concessions from Asian countries, when those countries often successfully save their own in Africa.

More than 20 of the 32 countries that prescribe capital punishment for drug trafficking are in Asia, with just three in sub-Saharan Africa.

Earlier this month African governments attended the Asia-Africa conference in Bandung, Indonesia which commemorates the 1955 conference that laid the foundations for the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

It was meant to strengthen South-South cooperation, organisers said, but analysts argue the conference is more about big countries seeking to unilaterally extend their influence with other participants, often at the expense of African countries.

Lack of African clout

The lack of African countries in rescuing their citizens from foreign jurisdictions by legal means essentially is a result of their failure to use such leverage along with burgeoning trade links to their advantage.

Another major hurdle for African countries is the lack of interest in prisoner exchange agreements. International law has generally pushed for foreign sentenced offenders to serve out their terms in their home countries, largely for rehabilitation and humanitarian reasons, but also for law enforcement purposes.

For long, the objection towards this centred on the infringing of sovereignty and exclusive territoriality, but this has since been weakened in the face of the benefit to international relations between the involved countries that such deals give.

Few African countries have even simple bilateral deals, which are perceived as time and resource consuming, or are members of the multilateral agreements that would govern offender exchanges, despite giving the nod to the UN's Model Agreement on transfers.

The European Convention is one of the more prominent ones, but Mauritius is the only African country that is a member, despite 18 of the 64 member states being non-European.

Of the 53 member states in the Commonwealth, just 15 have enacted the club's rules for transferring prisoners, including Malawi and Nigeria, but not countries such as South Africa, which prides itself on its human rights laws.

No African country has signed on to the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad either.

Unless the continent takes up the issue and uses its links with Asia, Africans will continue to be pawns and makeweights in regional geopolitical battles.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Death sentence commuted for Chinese woman who killed violent husband

Source: South China Morning Post (24 April 2015)

A court in Sichuan province yesterday commuted the death sentence of a woman who killed and cut up her abusive husband, state media reported.
The Ziyang Intermediate People's Court gave Li Yan, 44, a two-year reprieve and stripped her of her political rights, the Sichuan Daily reported.
The death sentence is likely to be commuted to a prison term after two years of good behaviour. Phone calls to the court went unanswered.
Li was sentenced to death in 2011 for killing her husband, Tan Yong. The Supreme People's Court in Beijing approved her death sentence in 2013, but following a strong public outcry, it overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial in June last year. The Ziyang Intermediate People's Court upheld the murder verdict but decided to commute the death sentence, having considered that Li's husband was also at fault and that Li been honest during the investigation, the Sichuan Daily said.
In March, the Supreme People's Court and government issued new guidelines on domestic violence cases, including recommendations on sentencing for victims who commit crimes against their abusers.
In a letter to a top judge appealing against her death sentence in 2012, Li described how she endured her husband's violence before she killed him - and how her repeated calls for help were ignored.
Tan frequently beat her, pulled her hair, banged her head against the wall, stubbed cigarettes out on her face and even hacked off one of her fingers.
After an argument on the night of November 3, 2010, her drunken husband threatened to shoot her, then he beat and kicked her. She fatally struck him over the head with a gun barrel, although she said that she did not intend to kill him. She dismembered his body and boiled some of the parts, before asking a friend to report the killing to the police.
According to a 2011 survey by the official All-China Women's Federation, one in four women on the mainland have experienced abuse in their marriage.
"The reprieve for Li Yan could prove to be a landmark verdict for future cases where domestic violence is a mitigating factor," said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International. "The highest court in China has sent a clear message that judges must not ignore domestic violence."

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Luis Alfonso, Simón, José Villarreal Death Sentence: Malaysia Confirms Penalty Of Mexican Brothers For Smuggling Meth‏

Source: Latin Times (23 April 2015)

Malaysia's Federal Tribunal confirmed on Thursday that three Mexican brothers convicted of drug trafficking will be sentenced to death. The brother's legal representatives had tried a final appeal against the sentence, but they have exhausted their legal options. Police busted brothers Luis Alfonso, 47, Simon, 40 and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, 37, along with a Malaysian and a Singaporean man, in 2008. All three Mexican men are from Sinaloa, Mexico. They were smuggling 29 kg (64lbs) of meth in the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. The mandatory sentence for drug trafficking in Malaysia is death by hanging.

"Our decision is unanimous. Appeal dismissed against all five defendants. Conviction and sentence affirmed," Federal Court justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin told the court in Putrajaya,  Malaysia.

In a statement from the Secretary of External Relations (SRE), the Mexican government explained that it had worked hard to ensure that the men were treated well and had access to legal assistance during their 7 years in prison, including several in-person visits from Mexican officials and family members. In the statement, Mexico decried the imposition of a death sentence and reaffirmed its opposition to capital punishment in all countries. Mexico is one of the 153 countries who have banned capital punishment or haven't used it in the past ten years. It's last civilian execution was carried out in 1937.

The death penalty is prominent through Southeast Asia, where executions of foreigners is a constant strain on international relations. In January, Indonesia executed a Brazilian man on drug trafficking charges, causing a row between the two countries. Brazil stalled credentials for an Indonesian ambassador, and President Dilma rousseff announced that while she respected Indonesia's sovereignty, said that "the death penalty, which global society increasingly condemns, gravely affects relations." Execution of Mexican nationals has also strained relations between Mexico and the U.S., one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that still uses the death penalty. Mexico successfully stayed 5 executions of it's citizens after suing through the International Court of Justice in 2005, but that order was overturned by the U.S. Supreme court in 2008

Sydney man Peter Gardner to face Guangzhou court over drug charges

 Source: (30 April 2015)

Sydney man Peter Gardner, 25, has had his death penalty case in a Chinese courtroom brought forward by almost six months and will go on trial in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou next Thursday, May 7, for allegedly attempting to export 30kg of methamphetamine, or ice.

Gardner's lawyer, New Zealand barrister Craig Tuck, said the reasons for the fast-tracked trial were unknown.

China executes thousands of people every year according to Amnesty International, and has killed at least a dozen foreign nationals in the past 15 years.

The opaque Chinese legal system operates on three levels: police, prosecutors and courts — all come under the control of the nation's ruling Communist Party. Once cases are passed to the courts, conviction rates are 99 per cent and Gardner's lawyers have previously said his fate all but certain.

Gardner is a dual New Zealand and Australian citizen. His father and two sisters live in Sydney while his is in New Zealand. They have declined to comment.

Gardner was with Australian woman Kalynda Davis — whom he met weeks earlier through an online dating site — when they were detained by customs officials in Guangzhou on November 8 after a three-day visit. Two bags being checked in by the couple were allegedly found to have 60kg of ice inside with their zips glued shut.

In a development that stunned China watchers, Davis was released after four weeks of negotiations between her China based lawyers and Chinese authorities with her long blonde hair roughly cropped after her lawyers argued she had no knowledge of the cargo.

"I knew she was so innocent. I prayed every night that the truth would come out, I prayed for the authorities, that it was dealt with in the way that it was dealt with, and our prayers were answered," her father Larry David said upon her release.

It is understood that Gardner's case was passed from the police to prosecutors several months ago but his lawyer said earlier this month that he did not expect the case to go to trial for six months. However on Tuesday night he said the trial date had moved to May 7.

"This is considerably earlier than expected. The trial will take place in Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court and is expected to last no more than two days," he said in a statement.

"The Gardner family have requested privacy at this time and will not be making any comments to the media."
Since his detention, Gardner has been in a crowded Guangzhou detention centre with no heating or airconditioning. He has been sharing a room with up to 14 other people, according to sources.

Gardner is permitted one visit a month from a New Zealand embassy official, having travelled to China on his New Zealand passport.

Gardner is alleged to have been carrying 60 vacuum-packed plastic bags in two cases with the zips glued shut.

Chinese lawyers who spoke to News Corp Australia at the time of his detention said that his fate was all but certain. Under Chinese law anyone caught smuggling more than 50g of meth or heroin faces death by firing squad or lethal injection Gardner has been charged in the very highest level of drug exportation, his lawyer said.

If he is found guilty and sentenced to death he automatically has the right to two appeals — to China's High People's Court and the Supreme Court Guangzhou, so it may be months after the trial before his fate will be decided. China's third largest and most important city with a population of about 14 million people, once known in the west as Canton, is 100 kilometres up the Pearl River from Hong Kong.

It has a long history of criminal gangs and has been notorious for its drug trade since the Opium Wars Gangs manufactured huge quantities of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine. It is also a major importing centre for cocaine.

Under the two-and-a-half-year-old regime of Chinese President Xi Jinxing, authorities have launched a major anti-drugs campaign and several gangs in Guangzhou have been reported in the Chinese media.

Guangzhou has also gained a reputation in Australia in recent years for rough justice. Two Australian businesspeople, travel business operator Matthew Ng and tertiary institution founder Charlotte Chou, both received hefty sentences on the back of business disputes that involved.

Communist Party official and business people with close party connections.

Chou was finally released after 6 years in December last year and in March, Ng became the first person to be transferred to Australia to complete his sentence under a deal signed in 2010.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Australia recalls ambassador after Indonesia executes prisoners

Source: CNN (29 April 2015)

Australia has recalled its ambassador to Indonesia for consultations after two Australians were among eight drug smugglers executed by firing squad early Wednesday.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the executions "cruel and unnecessary" because both men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, had been "fully rehabilitated" during a decade in prison.
Abbott didn't say what permanent actions, if any, would be taken against Indonesia. "This is a dark moment in the relationship, but I'm sure the relationship will be restored," he said.
One of the men's Indonesian lawyers, Todung Mulya Lubis tweeted his apologies. "I failed. I lost," he said. "I'm sorry."
Indonesian President Joko Widodo appeared to shrug off the diplomatic recall, telling reporters that "our legal sovereignty must be respected. We also respect other countries' legal sovereignty." Foreign minister Retno Marsudi said the country had no plans to recall its own ambassador in response.
Six other inmates were executed, including Nigerians Raheem Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Okwudil Oyatanze and Martin Anderson; Indonesian Zainal Abidin and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, who was said to be mentally ill.
On Wednesday, Brazil's foreign ministry released a statement expressing "deep sadness" at Gularte's execution, saying that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had urged her Indonesian counterpart to spare him due to his "psychiatric condition."
Gularte is the second Brazilian to be executed in Indonesia this year, with the first -- Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira -- prompting the country to recall the Indonesian ambassador for consultations.

Filipina spared

The Indonesian government had originally announced that nine prisoners would be executed, but at the last moment Filipina Mary Jane Veloso was spared.
"We are so happy, so happy. I thought I had lost my daughter already but God is so good. Thank you to everyone who helped us," her mother Celia Veloso told CNN.
Philippines embassy officials said Veloso would be returned to Yogyakarta prison in Central Java later on Wednesday.
No reason was given for the reprieve but it may relate to developments in her case late on Tuesday. CNN Philippines reported that Veloso's alleged recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio and her partner Julius Lacanilao, surrendered to authorities. The report said Sergio had denied all accusations in relation to Veloso's case.
Veloso's lawyers claimed the mother-of-two was the victim of human trafficking. They say she was offered work in Malaysia, but when she arrived she was told the job had been filled and wasn't aware the bag she'd been given for the return journey to Indonesia was filled with drugs.
A tenth prisoner, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, was also scheduled to be executed but his case was delayed while a court considers a legal challenge.
No reprieve for Australians
Candlelight vigils were held for Chan and Sukumaran in the hours ahead of the expected execution. The men's legal teams had been fighting for years for a stay, but it wasn't to be.
The men -- then aged in their early twenties -- were arrested in 2005 as part of the "Bali Nine," a drug smuggling gang that intended to import 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of heroin from Bali to Australia. They failed.
The pair were transported with other prisoners to Indonesia's so-called "execution island" in March, and after being given 72-hours notice of their execution on Saturday, Chan married his longtime girlfriend, Febyanti Herewila, on Monday in prison.
The executions of Sukumaran and Chan came despite the fact that both this week received a court date of May 12 to hear an outstanding legal challenge.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the men also said Indonesia's Judicial Commission had yet to properly investigate claims of corruption during their original trial and sentencing. They said three of the men's Indonesian lawyers had been summoned to attend the commission on May 7.
However, before the executions, Indonesia insisted that all legal avenues had closed.
On Tuesday, the prisoners' families were heard wailing as they boarded a boat for the execution site. Visiting hours were extended until 8 p.m. to give them extra time before they were asked to leave.
The death penalty
Under Indonesian law, the death penalty is carried out by a 12-man firing squad, although only three guns are loaded with live ammunition.
Prisoners are given the choice of whether to stand or sit, and whether they want to wear a blindfold, hood or nothing. The shots -- aimed at the heart -- are fired from between 5 and 10 meters (16 to 33 feet), according to Amnesty International.
After the executions, the rights group released a statement condemning them as "reprehensible" and issue fresh calls for a moratorium on the death penalty.
Indonesia fighting 'drugs crisis'
While the Bali Nine have garnered much international attention, their punishment is part of a larger government effort to combat illegal drug trafficking.
Indonesian President Widodo has insisted that Indonesia would not be swayed by appeals for clemency because the country is dealing with a "drugs crisis." He told CNN in January that clemency would not be extended to drug traffickers, leading to an appeal from Chan and Sukumaran that their cases hadn't been properly considered.
Lawyers for the two men said they underwent radical rehabilitation during their 10 years in Kerobokan prison and were helping to counsel and support other inmates.
Chan was ordained as a Christian minister who led prayer meetings, while Sukumaran became an accomplished painter and established his own art classes inside the Bali prison.
Foreigners executed
The Indonesian government didn't confirm until late Tuesday that the executions were to go ahead.
Preparations were clearly underway earlier that day, with the arrival of ambulances at the port where boats leave to go to Nusa Kambangan island where the prisoners were being held.
Images showed individual crosses bearing the prisoners' names and the date April 29, 2015.
Families were in little doubt as to what lay ahead.
When reports of his death emerged, Sukumaran's cousin tweeted: "I love you more than you can imagine. Your legacy will live on. I promise. Save me a place in heaven."

China put 2,400 people to death last year, making it the world's top executioner: US-based rights group

Source: ABC News (21 October 2014)

China is the world's top executioner, a US­based rights group says, putting 2,400 people to death last year. The number sheds rare light on a statistic Beijing considers a state secret. The figure represented a fall of 20 per cent from 2012, the Dui Hua Foundation said, and a fraction of the 12,000 deaths in 2002. China is so reticent on the issue that it has done nothing to publicise the long­term decline in its use of the death penalty. But it still executes more people than every other country put together, rights groups say. The total for the rest of the world combined was 778 people in 2013, according to campaign group Amnesty International's annual report earlier this year. It does not give an estimate for Chinese executions.

Dui Hua said that it obtained its figures from "a judicial official with access to the number of executions carried out each year". But the recent annual declines were "likely to be offset" this year, it said, due to factors including the "strike hard" campaign in the violence-­wracked largely Muslim region of Xinjiang. Hundreds of people have been convicted of terrorist offences in the area and last week a court condemned 12 to death in connection with a July attack. "China currently executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, but it has executed far fewer people since the power of final review of death sentences was returned to the (Supreme People's Court) in 2007," Dui Hua said.

China's top court examines all death sentences issued in the country and sent back 39 per cent of those it reviewed last year to lower courts for additional evidence, Dui Hua said, citing a report by the Southern Weekly newspaper. The Chinese legal system is tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party and courts have a near­100 per cent conviction rate in criminal cases. The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country, leading to a number of miscarriages of justice. China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive. In one landmark case in June, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence for Li Yan, a woman who killed her abusive husband.