Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Jia Jinglong: Chinese villager executed despite campaign

Source: BBC News (15 November 2016)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37985339

The execution of a Chinese villager - despite widespread calls to commute his sentence - has drawn criticism from those who say this country's courts have one way of handling the powerful and a different way of handling the poor.

In early May 2013, Jia Jinglong was preparing for his wedding day.

He wanted to have the ceremony at his family home in Hebei Province, not far from Beijing in northern China.

However, just prior to the big day, his house was knocked down to make way for a new development.

Adding to his woes, his fiancee then called off the wedding and he reportedly lost his job.

Jia Jinglong felt it was all too much. He sought revenge for the upheaval in his life following the destruction of his house without proper compensation.

In February 2015, he took a nail gun and went looking for the village chief, the man he decided was to blame. Then the groom-to-be-no-longer shot and killed the chief, 55-year-old He Jianhua.

For this he was sentenced to death.

Class and injustice

In accordance with the rules governing all death penalty cases, his went to the Supreme Court for ratification. It was cleared to proceed.

There has been a major public campaign to have his death sentence commuted because of extenuating circumstances. Even some newspapers controlled by the Communist Party have been arguing that he should be spared.

But now word has come through from an official social media account run by the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court: Jia Jinglong has been executed.

Some outside China will be wondering why the general public and Chinese media might have felt the need to campaign for somebody who admitted to murdering his local Communist Party secretary.

Well it all comes down to class and injustice in modern China.

These types of forced demolitions are routine here. It would be hard to argue against the premise that for years this country's central government has turned a blind eye while property developers, in league with corrupt local officials, have bulldozed people's houses, using paid thugs to beat up villagers if they try to resist.

It is a way of clearing out pesky residents which continues to this day.

The "compensation" paid is usually nowhere near enough to buy an apartment in the same area, forcing evicted families to move to distant, low-grade housing estates.

How can I say this so confidently? Because I've seen it first hand time and again. I've seen the houses being destroyed, I've seen the crying families and I've seen the men sent in to silence them.

Ask pretty much any China correspondent and they will tell you the same thing.
'Pushed into a corner'

We are constantly approached by desperate people claiming their homes have been effectively stolen and destroyed. The BBC could do a story on one of these cases in a different location every week if we wanted to.

Because this is seen here as such a widespread abuse of power against the lao bai xing (the ordinary punters) there has been a view that - while murder is not to be condoned - Jia Jinglong was pushed into a corner; that the crimes against him should have meant commuting his death sentence to some lesser penalty.

After all, people will tell you, government officials and those in the upper echelons of society are saved from a lethal injection for much less.

These cases are posing a real problem for the Communist Party in terms of perceived legitimacy, especially when its reason for monopoly power is supposed to be delivering a more just world for the downtrodden.

In 2009, a 21-year-old woman working as a pedicurist in a hotel building was on a break, washing some clothes.

Attached to the hotel was a massage and entertainment complex called Dream Fantasy City. Offering food, drink, massages, karaoke and often prostitution, these types of establishments are popular with government officials.

When a local Communist Party figure approached Deng Yujiao asking her to stop washing her clothes and instead provide him with "special services" he fully expected to get his way.

She told him she didn't do that kind of work there. It's said he then took a wad of cash from his pocket and started slapping her on the face with it. He then pushed her onto a lounge and got on top of her. To defend herself she stabbed him four times with a small knife. One of the blows struck him in the neck, causing the director of the local township's business promotions office to bleed to death on the spot.

Deng Yujiao was charged with murder.

Her case drew huge waves of support from Chinese people using the Internet to campaign in her favour. To many, she was seen as a hero. Finally somebody was standing up to these small-town, corrupt and arrogant officials.

The social media posts were censored but the momentum could not be stopped.

Prosecutors dropped the murder charge and granted bail. She faced a lesser charge of "intentional assault" but was never sentenced. This was apparently due to her mental state.

There are considerable parallels in these two cases but certainly not in one respect.

Despite the public outcry there was to be no sparing Jia Jinglong.

His crime was committed in the new era of President Xi Jinping. Justice now appears to be more hardline and the Communist Party remains well and truly in charge of the courts and all that takes place inside them.

UNGA 2016 Resolution – How Countries Voted

Source: Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (19 December 2016)

https://adpan.org/2017/01/10/unga-2016-resolution-how-countries-voted/

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY(UNGA) MORATORIUM ON THE USE OF THE DEATH PENALTY RESOLUTION..19/12/2016

[117 of the UN’s 193 member states voted in favour of the proposal. Only 40 states voted against it and 31 abstained at the vote]

Below the Draft Test of the Resolution (for the final text, visit UN Website)

The General Assembly,

Guided by the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations,

Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Recalling the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and in this regard welcoming the increasing number of accessions to and ratifications of the Second Optional Protocol,

Reaffirming its resolutions 62/149 of 18 December 2007, 63/168 of 18 December 2008, 65/206 of 21 December 2010, 67/176 of 20 December 2012 and 69/186 of 18 December 2014 on the question of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, in which the General Assembly called upon States that still maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing it,

Welcoming all relevant decisions and resolutions of the Human Rights Council,

Mindful that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable,

Convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to respect for human dignity and to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights, and considering that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty,

Noting ongoing local and national debates and regional initiatives on the death penalty, as well as the readiness of an increasing number of Member States to make available to the public information on the use of the death penalty, and also, in this regard, the decision by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 26/2 of 26 June 20145 to convene biennial high-level panel discussions in order to further exchange views on the question of the death penalty,

Recognizing the role of national human rights institutions in contributing to ongoing local and national debates and regional initiatives on the death penalty,

Welcoming the considerable movement towards the abolition of the death penalty globally and the fact that many States are applying a moratorium, including long-standing moratoriums, either in law or in practice, on the use of the death penalty,

Emphasizing the need to ensure that persons facing the death penalty are treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity and in compliance with their rights under international human rights law,

Noting the technical cooperation among Member States, as well as the role of relevant United Nations entities and human rights mechanisms, in supporting State efforts to establish moratoriums on the death penalty,

Bearing in mind the work of special procedures mandate holders who have addressed human rights issues related to the death penalty within the framework of their respective mandates,

Reaffirms the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations;

Expresses its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty;

Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 69/186 and the recommendations contained therein;

Also welcomes the steps taken by some States to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed, as well as steps taken to limit its application;

Further welcomes initiatives and political leadership encouraging national discussions and debates on the possibility of moving away from capital punishment through domestic decision-making;

Welcomes the decisions made by an increasing number of States from all regions, at all levels of government, to apply a moratorium on executions, followed in many cases by the abolition of the death penalty;

Calls upon all States:

(a) To respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, in particular the minimum standards, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984, as well as to provide the Secretary-General with information in this regard;

(b) To comply with their obligations under article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, particularly the right to receive information on consular assistance;

(c) To make available relevant information, disaggregated by sex, age, and race, as applicable, and other applicable criteria, with regard to their use of the death penalty, inter alia, the number of persons sentenced to death, the number of persons on death row and the number of executions carried out, the number of death sentences reversed or commuted on appeal and information on any scheduled execution, which can contribute to possible informed and transparent national and international debates, including on the obligations of States pertaining to the use of the death penalty;

(d) To progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and not to impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age, on pregnant women or on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities;

(e) To reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed;

(f) To ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to apply for pardon or commutation of their death sentence by ensuring that clemency procedures are fair and transparent and that prompt information is provided at all stages of the process;

(g) To establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

Calls upon States which have abolished the death penalty not to reintroduce it, and encourages them to share their experience in this regard;

Encourages States which have a moratorium to maintain it and to share their experience in this regard;

Calls upon States that have not yet done so to consider acceding to or ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty;

Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session on the implementation of the present resolution;

Decides to continue consideration of the matter at its seventy-third session under the item entitled “Promotion and protection of human rights”.

Some observations of a friend as follows:-

The plenary session of the UN General Assembly adopted yesterday its sixth resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with 117 votes in favour, 40 against and 31 abstentions.

The text of the resolution includes some positive new additions compared to 2014, including:

-a reference to the role of national human rights institutions in contributing to ongoing local and national debates and regional initiatives on the death penalty;

-a request to make available relevant information on any scheduled execution, in addition to other information already listed in previous resolutions;

-a call on states that still retain the death penalty “To ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to apply for pardon or commutation of their death sentence by ensuring that clemency procedures are fair and transparent and that prompt information is provided at all stages of the process;”

Unfortunately the opponents of the resolution managed this year to include in the resolution a new paragraph that recalls their sovereign right to determine their legal systems, as follows:

“1. Reaffirms the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations;”

While the number of the votes in favour remained the same as in 2014, there have been some interesting changes in the voting, both positively and negatively:

Positive changes:

-Guinea, Malawi, Namibia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka moved from abstention to vote in favour;

-Zimbabwe moved from vote against to abstention;

– Swaziland also moved from not present to vote in favour (but voted against the resolution in previous years).

-Lesotho moved from not present to abstention (but abstained in previous resolutions, so did not mention this in our AI statement); Nauru moved from not present to vote in favour (but supported the resolutions in previous years, so we did not mention this in our statement).

Negative changes:

-Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Philippines, Seychelles moved from vote in favour to abstention;

-Maldives moved from abstention to vote against;

-Burundi and South Sudan moved from vote in favour to vote against.

Several states also did not vote yesterday, for whatever reason, contributing to the final results:

-DRC, Gambia, Senegal went from abstention to not present;

-Rwanda went from vote in favour to not present.

This leaves us with a somewhat bittersweet result: on one hand, the number of votes in favour has not become higher compared to 2014; on the other hand, some of the positive changes might signal the beginning of new journeys towards abolition.

2016 has been a very challenging year all around, including for the death penalty-some of the negative vote changes were somewhat expected, some perhaps speak to greater human rights challenges.

Thank you nonetheless for your continued work to get us all here-look forward to more work together in the new year.

Amnesty International’s public statement on yesterday’s vote can be found below and at this link: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/act50/5389/2016/en/

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Duterte’s critics slam ‘barbaric’ death penalty plan to execute six criminals a day

Source: South China Morning Post (20 December 2016)


Philippine Catholic leaders and rights groups have condemned as “barbaric” President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to restore the death penalty and execute “five or six” criminals daily.

Duterte, 71, has made reviving the death penalty in the mainly Catholic nation his top legislative priority as part of a brutal war on crime that has killed 5,300 people.

“There was death penalty before but nothing happened. Return that to me and I would do it every day: five or six (criminals). That’s for real,” Duterte said Saturday.

An official at the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said the Church “totally opposed” Duterte’s plan.

“The Philippines will be viewed as very barbaric,” Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary at its public affairs office, said.

“It’s going to make the Philippines the capital of death penalty in the world.”

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce opposition to the penalty from the Catholic Church, the religion of 80 per cent of Filipinos.

Before assuming office in June, Duterte vowed to introduce executions by hanging, saying he did not want to waste bullets and believed snapping the spinal cord was more humane than a firing squad.

Duterte said he viewed the death penalty not as a means to deter crime but for retribution.

His allies in the House of Representatives quickly pushed for the bill and said they would vote on it by January.

The United Nations’ human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a letter to the Philippine congress this month that reviving the death penalty would violate the country’s international obligations.

But on Saturday Duterte insisted executions were necessary to fight the drug scourge which he said was “destroying” the nation.

While his aides dismiss his incendiary statements as hyperbole, rights advocates said Duterte’s remarks were alarming.

“Setting a quota for executions is just too much. One death is too much because we are talking about lives,” Amnesty International Philippines vice chairman Romeo Cabarde said.

Catholic leaders and rights defenders have instead urged the government to reform a slow and corrupt justice system which they said was likely to send innocent people to death row.

Secillano said bishops planned to dissuade lawmakers from voting for the death penalty and would attend congressional debates next month.

Duterte’s crime war has drawn international criticism from the United States and United Nations over concerns about alleged extrajudicial killings and a breakdown in the rule of law.

Duterte won May elections in a landslide on a promise to eradicate drugs in society - a mandate he often cited to defend his controversial campaign.

A survey by Social Weather Stations released Monday showed while a majority backed Duterte’s drug war, 78 per cent of Filipinos were worried that they or someone in their family would be a victim of extrajudicial killings.

The survey also showed 71 per cent said it was “very important” that police keep drug suspects they arrested alive.

Police have repeatedly said they only shot at criminals who fought back but the nation’s rights agency has questioned this argument and has begun investigating cases.

On Monday, Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa apologised for police killings of criminal suspects but insisted these were done in self-defence.

“Lord, I hope you forgive us even if the ones we kill are bad people,” Dela Rosa said during the police’s Christmas party.

“If the life of a policeman will be lost just to preserve the life of a criminal, that’s a great injustice.”

Dela Rosa added Duterte gave police hefty bonuses for leading the crime war.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

China court finds man executed 21 years ago innocent

Source: Straits Times (2 December 2016)

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-court-finds-man-executed-21-years-ago-innocent

BEIJING (AFP) - China's top court on Friday (Dec 2) cleared a man executed 21 years ago for murder - more than a decade after another man confessed to the killing.

The case of Nie Shubin, who was 20 years old when he faced a firing squad in 1995 after being convicted of rape and murder, is the latest miscarriage of justice in the Communist-ruled country.

"The Supreme People's Court believes that the facts used in the original trial were unclear and the evidence insufficient, and so changes the original sentence to one of innocence," it said in a statement on a verified social media account.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of 99.92 per cent, and concerns over wrongful verdicts are fuelled by police reliance on forced confessions and the lack of effective defence in criminal trials.

Overseas rights groups say China executes more people than any other country, but Beijing does not give figures on the death penalty, regarding the statistics as state secrets.

Nie was convicted of raping and murdering a woman whose body was discovered by her father in a corn field on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang city, in the northern province of Hebei.

But the time, method and motive for the murder could not be confirmed, and key documents related to witnesses and the defendant's testimony were missing, the supreme court said.

The "primary evidence was that Nie Shubin's confession of guilt corroborated the other evidence", but "there are doubts over the truth and legality of his confession of guilt", the statement added.

Nie's family had been campaigning for justice since a serial murderer arrested in 2005 confessed to the killing. But the case was only formally reopened in 2014.

"Thanks to all those who helped on Nie Shubin's case!" his mother, Zhang Huanzhi, 72, said on social media.

The Hebei high court, which convicted and executed Nie, "expressed deep, deep regrets" to his relatives and would investigate "possible illegal problems related to the trial" soon, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Philippines: Don’t Reinstate Death Penalty

Source: Human Rights Watch (3 December 2016)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/03/philippines-dont-reinstate-death-penalty

(New York) – The Philippine House of Representatives should reject a proposal to reinstate the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today. On November 29, 2016, the Judicial Reforms Subcommittee approved Congress House Bill No. 1 (Death Penalty Law), which would reinstate capital punishment for “heinous crimes,” including murder, piracy, and the trafficking and possession of illegal drugs. A house vote on the bill is likely before the end of 2016.

“The Philippine government should acknowledge the death penalty’s barbarity and reject any moves to reinstate it,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “The failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent is globally recognized and the government should maintain the prohibition on its use.”

In a joint letter drafted by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a network of nongovernmental organizations that focuses on issues related to drug production, trafficking, and use, the consortium urged all members of the Philippine House of Representatives and Senate to uphold the right to life enshrined in the 1987 Philippines Constitution. The Philippines is also party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR on the abolishment of the death penalty. The consortium also urged Philippine lawmakers to ensure proportionate sentencing of drug offenses to protect the vulnerable, and invest in harm reduction approaches to protect the health and wellbeing of Filipino people.

The Philippine government abolished the death penalty under article III, section 19 of the 1987 constitution. President Fidel Ramos reimposed the death penalty in 1993 as a “crime control” measure, but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reinstated abolition in 2006.

The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty has been repeatedly debunked. Most recently, on March 4, 2015, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, stated that there was “no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime.” Even with respect to murder, an Oxford University analysis concluded that capital punishment does not deter “murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.”

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

Reinstating the death penalty would violate the Philippines’ international legal obligations. The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR states that “no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed” and that “each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”

Where the death penalty is permitted, human rights law limits the death penalty to “the most serious crimes,” typically crimes resulting in death or serious bodily harm. In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, while urging countries to take an overall “human rights-based approach to drug and crime control.” In its 2014 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board, the agency charged with monitoring compliance with UN drug control conventions, encouraged countries to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses. The UN Human Rights Committee and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of “most serious crime.” In September 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirmed that “persons convicted of drug-related offences … should not be subject to the death penalty.”

“Reinstatement of the death penalty won’t solve any drug-related societal problems that Congress House Bill No. 1 seeks to address,” Kine said. “It will only add to the already horrific death toll that President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has inflicted on Filipinos since he took office on June 30.”

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Asia Briefs: Malaysia's 'hudud Bill' off the table for now

Source: Straits Times (23 November 2016)

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/asia-briefs-malaysias-hudud-bill-off-the-table-for-now

KUALA LUMPUR Proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 seeking to impose stiffer penalties for offences, excluding the death penalty, will not be tabled in the current parliamentary session , Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.

He said the private member's Bill brought by Marang MP Abdul Hadi Awang will merely be read a second time this week to include several tweaks. The amendments will not be tabled or debated.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Villager’s Execution in China Ignites Uproar Over Inequality of Justice

Source: New York Times (20 November 2016)

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/world/asia/villagers-execution-in-china-ignites-uproar-over-inequality-of-justice.html?_r=0

BEIJING — Zhou Yunfei, a technology executive who owns a villa in eastern China, did not have much in common with an impoverished farmer more than 500 miles away who was convicted of murdering a village chief with a nail gun.

But when Mr. Zhou heard last week that the Chinese government had executed the farmer, Jia Jinglong, he was furious. He saw it as a sign that the ruling Communist Party was imposing harsh punishments on the most vulnerable members of society while coddling the well-connected elite.

“The legal system isn’t fair,” Mr. Zhou, 57, said, adding that local officials had “turned against the common people.”

President Xi Jinping has made restoring confidence in Chinese courts a centerpiece of his rule, vowing to promote “social justice and equality” in a legal system long plagued by favoritism and abuse. Since coming to power in 2012, he has led a high-profile campaign against corruption, ensnaring thousands of low-level officials and even some of the party’s most senior leaders.

But the furor over the execution of Mr. Jia, who had sought revenge on officials for demolishing his home, has raised doubts about Mr. Xi’s efforts, with people across the country publicly assailing inequities in the justice system and asking why high-level officials often escape the death penalty.

“The perception is that the people are powerless and vulnerable against corrupt officials,” said Fu Hualing, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. “What is surprising is that Xi Jinping has been in power for four years, and that narrative has not changed.”

The uproar has placed the party, which is working to tighten its grip on courts while promoting the idea of fairness, in an awkward position.

Mr. Xi has cultivated an image as a champion of the people willing to take on corrupt officials of any stripe. Yet Mr. Jia’s case has reawakened concerns, especially among rural residents and members of the urban working class, that the Communist Party is protecting its own members.

In fiery social media posts and dinner-table conversations, some have argued for making punishments against corrupt officials more severe. Others have suggested that China, believed to be the world’s top executioner, should substantially reduce its use of the death penalty against impoverished citizens.

China’s leaders seem conflicted about how to respond to complaints of unfair treatment, which have plagued the judiciary for decades but have taken on new urgency as Mr. Xi attempts a top-to-bottom overhaul of the system.

On the one hand, party leaders might be wary of exacerbating the anger felt by many Chinese people, who often side with villagers like Mr. Jia, seeing them as folk heroes standing up against venal forces.

At the same time, Beijing might not want to be seen as endorsing an attack on a government official. And some party leaders may not like the idea of setting a precedent for using the death penalty against senior officials, at a time when critics of Mr. Xi say he is using the anticorruption campaign to go after political enemies.

“There’s a strong incentive for the elite within the party to protect itself,” said Jerome A. Cohen, a New York University law professor. “People realize today they’re free, but tomorrow they could be the targets.”

In recent days, the party’s hesitation has seeped into public view. The government at first appeared to tolerate, and even encourage, debate about Mr. Jia’s case. Lawyers issued open letters pointing to flaws in the prosecution’s argument, and state media outlets published sanctimonious editorials calling for the court to show humanity.

But as discontent spread on social media in the days leading up to Mr. Jia’s execution, the government reversed course and began censoring some online discussions about the case.

State-run media organizations adopted a scolding tone, warning that public opinion had “hijacked” the case. People’s Daily, the party’s flagship newspaper, went a step further, arguing that citizens should not express contrarian views about court cases in public.Photo

Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief, was sentenced to life in prison last year for taking bribes and revealing state secrets. Critics of the judicial system say officials often escape harsh punishment.CreditCCTV, via Associated Press

“We can see that online public opinion can deviate from reason and even become a terrifying tool that kills humanity and conscience,” an editorial in the newspaper said.

While the government has historically tolerated some debate about judicial decisions, Mr. Xi has generally sought to rein in dissent, especially when it gathers force online.

Li Wei, an activist in Beijing who was imprisoned for two years under Mr. Xi for helping organize protests demanding financial disclosures from party leaders, circulated a four-page petition online in late October calling for Mr. Jia to be spared and for the government to adopt a “more humane” justice system.

Soon his cellphone was buzzing with messages from university students, professors, security guards and others. He gathered 1,274 signatures over a few days, he said, before the authorities shut down his social media accounts.

“The so-called anticorruption campaign is not genuine,” Mr. Li, 45, said in an interview at a Beijing teahouse. “The reason why they were doing this is because they want to salvage the Communist Party regime.”

Chinese leaders appear to be working to counter perceptions that officials are being treated with kid gloves. Over the past year, party leaders have vowed to consider punishing officials who commit grave crimes, including stealing more than about $436,000, with the death penalty. They have also introduced new forms of punishment aimed at corrupt officials, including lifetime jail sentences without the possibility of parole.

But the government has yet to systematically invoke any of those punishments against prominent officials. And critics can point to a raft of recent cases in which powerful people and their families escaped the death penalty.

There is the example of Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief, who was sentenced to life in prison last year for taking bribes and revealing state secrets; he was the most senior leader to be jailed for corruption in more than 65 years of Communist rule.

And many people note the case of Gu Kailai, the wife of one of China’s most prominent politicians, whose death sentence for the murder of a British business associate was commuted to life in prison last year.

Fan Zhewang, 42, a teacher of Maoism at Xi’an University of Posts and Telecommunications in central China, said the treatment of Ms. Gu epitomized the inequities in the system.

Mr. Fan said that while the government’s decision to execute Mr. Jia was legal, he was concerned that a lingering sense of injustice and resentment among villagers would prompt more violence against officials.

“In the future,” Mr. Fan said, “I worry that people will just kill whole families of village chiefs.”

On Wednesday, a day after Mr. Jia was executed, a farmer in Yan’an, a northwestern city celebrated as a stronghold of the Communist revolution, was arrested and charged with killing a village official and several of his relatives, according to local reports. The man was said to be angry after officials seized his land.

In the days after the execution of Mr. Jia, friends and relatives in his village in the northern province of Hebei circulated a poem he wrote while in prison in which he described being in a dreamlike state. “I’ll miss the smell of flowers,” he wrote, “and the serenity of grass, something I love.”

Villagers said they did not want to talk about the case anymore. A man who gave his last name as Li said residents had grown accustomed to suffering injustices at the hands of wealthy government officials.

“Who do you turn to in order to vent your anger?” he said. “There’s no one we can seek help from.”

“Many people are angry,” he added, “but we don’t dare speak up.”

India opposes UN resolution for moratorium on death penalty

Source: Gulf News (22 November 2016)

http://gulfnews.com/news/asia/india/india-opposes-un-resolution-for-moratorium-on-death-penalty-1.1932108

United Nations: India has opposed a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, saying it goes against Indian law and the sovereign right of countries to determine their own laws and penalties.

“The resolution before us sought to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty,” Mayank Joshi, a counsellor at India’s UN Mission said on Thursday. “My delegation, therefore, has voted against the resolution as a whole as it goes against Indian statutory law.”

The resolution, however, was adopted by the General Assembly’s committee dealing with humanitarian affairs by 115 votes to 38 with 31 abstentions after an acrimonious debate and the adoption of an amendment to recognise the sovereign rights of nations to determine their own laws, which virtually nullified it.

India supported the amendment and Joshi told the committee: “Every state has the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and appropriate legal penalties.”

The amendment passed by a vote of 76 to 72 with 26 abstentions. However, it did not mollify India, which voted against the amended resolution.

Explaining New Delhi’s position on capital punishment, Joshi said, “In India, the death penalty is exercised in the rarest of rare cases, where the crime committed is so heinous as to shock the conscience of society.”

In the last 12 years only three executions — all of them of terrorists — have been carried out in the nation of 1.2 billion.

Last year Yakub Memon, who financed the 1993 Mumbai bombings, was executed. Mohammad Afzal, convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, was hanged in 2013 and Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, one of the terrorists involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack was executed in 2012.

An independent judiciary hears the cases where death penalty can be imposed and appeals are permitted at several levels, Joshi said. Moreover, the Supreme Court has decreed that “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” should be considered as mitigating factors in imposing the death penalty, he added.

The amendment about the sovereign right of nations to have their own legal systems was introduced by Singapore. Its delegate said that the original resolution was one-sided and tried to impose the values of one group of countries upon others.

New Zealand, echoing the sentiments of several other countries, said that sovereignty did not absolve nations from complying with international norms of human rights and the death penalty violated it.

The United States also opposed the resolution saying that capital punishment was legal under international law and dealing with it was a domestic matter.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Indonesia's president Joko Widodo hints at abolishing death penalty

Source: The Guardian (5 November 2016)

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/nov/05/indonesias-president-joko-widodo-hints-at-abolishing-death-penalty

Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo has indicated his country wants to move towards abolishing the death penalty.

Speaking ahead of a three-day visit to Australia, Widodo told the ABC he thinks Indonesians will change their minds on execution laws as citizens in Europe had done in the past.

“We are very open to options,” he said.

“I don’t know when but we want to move towards that direction.”

The execution in Indonesia last year of Australian drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran strained relations between the two countries. Widodo’s trip to Australia will be his first bilateral visit since Canberra withdrew its ambassador to Indonesia in protest against the executions.

“Indonesia has regulations, Indonesia has its own law, which still allows execution. That’s what I complied to,” the president told the ABC.

“We also listened to what other countries had to say. But again, I have to follow the provisions of the law applicable in Indonesia.”

But Widodo, who’s also known as Jokowi, also stressed the importance of rebuilding trust between Australia and Indonesia.

“The most important thing is definitely to have trust in between the country leaders, and then the relationship between the citizens,” he said.

Widodo also stressed the importance of the two nations working together to address the thousands of asylum seekers believed to be stranded in Indonesia.

“If we could sit down and talk through this, find the solution together I think in the future we’ll have a much better relationship,” he said.

Widodo arrives in Sydney on Sunday and is scheduled to address parliament in Canberra on Monday.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Human rights groups join global campaign to abolish death penalty after seven-year hiatus

Source: The Nation (12 October 2016)

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30297478

Human rights and legal organisations have condemned the death penalty and promised to push for reforms of the judicial process that would ban executions in Thailand.

“The death penalty is not the solution to crime suppression. Unfortunately, it even causes economic damage as it wipes out human resources,” said former deputy prime minister Veerapong Ramangkul during a seminar at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday.

As many as 140 countries, approximately two-thirds of nations worldwide, have already abolished capital punishment, Veerapong said, adding that studies showed that executions did little to deter crime. 

The seminar marked the 14th World Day Against the Death Penalty, jointly hosted by the NHRC, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department and Amnesty International Thailand.

The majority of prisoners sentenced to death are poor people who could not afford to hire lawyers or take advantage of legal protections, while influential figures often can commit crimes with impunity, Veerapong said. 

Capital punishment also violates the human right to life while inflicting harm on those sentenced to death and their families, said James Lynch, deputy director of the Global Issues Programme at Amnesty Inter-national.

He added that grievances caused by executions lead to a “circle of violence”.

Thailand has seen a relatively positive trend to abolish capital punishment due to the third NHRC master plan, said Rafendi Djamin, director of Amnesty International Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Office. The master plan addressing the possible revocation of the death penalty is in line with human rights instruments to which Thailand is party, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, said Kanchana Patarachoke, deputy director-|general of the International Organisations Department.

Also, state agencies and some private organisations have increasingly joined hands to raise awareness about the “unnecessary and cruel” punishment, she said, adding that Thailand’s progress on the issue was “moderate” when compared to other Asean countries.

During a meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2014, Thailand made a tangible positive step by abstaining from a vote calling for a temporary revocation of capital punishment, instead of voting against it, Kanchana said.

Within Asean, Cambodia and the Philippines have legally abolished capital punishment, while Laos, Myanmar and Brunei have stopped carrying out executions in practice.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand are among 58 states worldwide that still carry out executions, according to an Amnesty report.

However, Thailand has not seen an execution in seven years, said Kannika Saengthong, deputy secretary-general of Justice Ministry, adding that the country tends not to apply capital punishment as frequently as before although it has not been banned by law.

In a separate event marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty at Bangkok’s Alliance Francaise, an organisation that promotes French language and culture, EU representatives and the Justice Ministry jointly campaigned to raise awareness about the “cruelty” of the penalty.

“We have to continue campaigning and educate people about the death penalty. State-sanctioned killing still remains in part because of public support. When a horrendous crime takes place, some people support the execution of the offender,” said Pitikarn Sithidej, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department.

Pitikan said her team was working on reforming legislation to harmonise with the current domestic situation and international standards.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Pakistan’s top court upholds death penalty for mentally-ill man

Source: Gulf News (2 October 2016)

http://gulfnews.com/news/asia/pakistan/pakistan-s-top-court-upholds-death-penalty-for-mentally-ill-man-1.1902861

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal brought by lawyers for a mentally ill prisoner facing execution, and a rights group said he could now be hanged next week.

Imdad Ali, who is aged around 50, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious cleric in 2002.

He had been scheduled to hang on September 20 in a prison in the city of Vehari despite having been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Ali received a last-minute stay of execution from the Supreme Court last week. But with that stay now expired, he could receive a new “black warrant” and face execution as early as next Tuesday.

The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which is providing Ali with counsel, has sent a mercy petition to President Mamnoon Hussain along with testimony from medical experts.

“It is indisputable that Imdad suffers from serious mental illness,” said Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at international charity Reprieve.

“There is therefore no doubt that, should Pakistan execute him, it will be committing a grave violation of both Pakistani and international law.

“It is shocking that the system has failed Imdad at every turn — right the way up to the Supreme Court. The Pakistan government must immediately halt Imdad’s execution, and undertake a comprehensive review into how someone who is clearly mentally unfit to be executed has been allowed to come so near to the noose.”

Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed a school in the northwest in 2014 and killed more than 150 people — mostly children.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but later extended to all capital offences. The number of those executed since then now stands at 419 from more than 8,000 death row prisoners.

A new report by JPP and Yale Law School issued Tuesday said Pakistan’s criminal legal system is riddled with errors that prevent it from adjudicating capital cases fairly.

It accused authorities of having hanged six people who were juveniles at the time of their offences, in breach of international law, and said the length of time prisoners spent on death row — 11.5 years on average — harms their mental and physical health.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Australia should take a stand on Veloso

Source: Lowy Interpreter (23 September 2016)

http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2016/09/23/Australia-should-take-a-stand-on-Veloso.aspx

In April last year, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were among eight people executed by firing squad in Indonesia. Their deaths brought the issue of capital punishment to the forefront of Australia’s consciousness and reignited debate over the practice on a global scale.

The only woman in the group scheduled for execution that day, Philippines national Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, was given a last-minute reprieve in order to give testimony against a person accused of human and drug trafficking in the Philippines. Her death sentence has not been permanently commuted and could be reinstated. Veloso’s case attracted significant support in the Philippines and Indonesia, with many protesting her innocence and claiming that Veloso was an unwitting drug mule and victim of human trafficking.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been subject to intense international scrutiny in recent months due to his promotion of vigilante attacks and extra-judicial killings of suspected drug offenders. Duterte was elected in May promising a war on drugs and has duly delivered, with over 3000 people killed on the streets since.

Earlier this month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that Duterte intervened in Veloso’s case, telling Jokowi:‘Please go ahead if you want to execute her.’ Duterte’s spokesman denied this claim and said Duterte merely advised Indonesia to follow its own laws in the case.

Duterte’s intervention, regardless of exactly how it was phrased, was arguably out of kilter with the general expectation that governments seek clemency for their nationals facing execution in other countries. It leaves Veloso in greater uncertainty as to what outcome she can hope for, although the Philippines Justice Secretary believes it is still possible she may be spared and perhaps even released.

Both Indonesia and the Philippines have adopted hard-line stances against drug crime which allow the punishment of death for convicted drug offenders (formally, through the courts, in Indonesia and now informally, on the streets, in the Philippines).

Although international human rights law aims for the total abolition of capital punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that, where capital punishment is still practiced, it should be used only for the ‘most serious crimes.’ In 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee condemned the country’s continued use of the death penalty for drug trafficking as not meeting the threshold of ‘most serious crimes'. The committee instead recommended a review of legislation ‘to ensure that crimes involving narcotics are not amenable to the death penalty.’

Australia’s position on capital punishment has been for some time that in all cases it is a violation of human rights and should be abolished. It offends the right to life, respected under international human rights law. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Australia should also decry the death penalty as a form of torture, due to the methods used and the inherent terror in awaiting one’s own scheduled killing.

As was clear in the case of Chan and Sukumaran, Australia’s extremely selective advocacy on the behalf of people subject to the death penalty weakens its clemency campaigns for individual Australians at risk of execution. Australia’s abolitionist advocacy must be less partial and more principled if it is to be persuasive.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop initiated a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty following her strong but unsuccessful advocacy for clemency on behalf of Sukumaran and Chan. Its terms of reference sought to improve Australia’s capacity to advocate effectively for death penalty abolition. To the credit of the inquiry committee, its report recommended the establishment of a whole-of-government strategy for abolition of the death penalty. It further recommended:

...intervening to oppose death sentences and executions of foreign nationals, especially in cases where there are particular human rights concerns, such as unfair trials, or when juveniles or the mentally ill are exposed to the death penalty

Julie Bishop took such an approach in July this year, when she reiterated Australia’s opposition to capital punishment in all cases in advance of Indonesia’s most recent round of executions.

Should Indonesia decide to return Veloso to death row and move towards execution, it would be especially important for Australia to advocate on her behalf. At the moment, Australia is vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy, including from Indonesia. The committee’s recommendation for broader and less partial advocacy against the death penalty will enable Australia to demonstrate the strength of its abolitionist stance. In turn, Australia may hope to more effectively influence other states to abandon capital punishment in law and practice.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Calls to abolish death penalty grow louder in Japan

Source: South China Morning Post (21 September 2016)

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2021350/calls-abolish-death-penalty-grow-louder-japan

Japan’s use of the death penalty is expected to come under unprecedented domestic pressure when, for the first time, the country’s legal community calls for its abolition next month.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers and hundreds of other legal professionals, said it would declare its opposition to capital punishment at a meeting in early October due to growing concern over miscarriages of justice.

The declaration will put the federation at odds with the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, whose administration has executed 16 people since it took office in late 2012.

Successive Japanese governments have resisted pressure from the UN, the European Union and human rights groups to abolish the death penalty.

“If an innocent person or an offender who does not deserve to be sentenced to death is executed, it is an irrevocable human rights violation,” Yuji Ogawara, who heads a bar association panel on the death penalty, was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

“There are still lawyers who support the death penalty, but I think we have developed an environment that enables us to seek its abolition.”

The federation will call for an end to capital punishment by 2020, when Japan hosts a UN congress on crime prevention and criminal justice. It said life sentences without the possibility of parole should be considered as an alternative.

Japan and the US are the only G7 countries that continue to execute inmates, while more than 140 countries have abolished the death penalty either by law or in practice.

Doubts about the safety of convictions grew in 2014 after Iwao Hakamada was released after spending more than 45 years on death row. A court ordered a retrial in Hakamada’s murder case, amid suggestions that police investigators fabricated evidence against him.

The former professional boxer had been sentenced to hang in 1968 for the murders two years earlier of a company president, his wife and their two children.

In addition, four death row inmates were found not guilty after being granted retrials in the 1980s.

Japan has resisted calls to end capital punishment, citing opinion polls showing high levels of support for its retention. Public backing for the death penalty has remained strong during the trials of people accused of taking part in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, in which 13 people died and thousands were injured.

In a damning 2009 report, Amnesty International accused Japan of subjecting death row inmates to “ cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment. Prisoners typically spend many years in solitary confinement, and only learn of the timing of their execution, by hanging, hours before it takes place.

Amnesty recently criticised Japan for executing or placing mentally ill and intellectually challenged prisoners in solitary confinement.

Legal experts welcomed the federation’s decision.

“Having Japan’s largest human rights protection body come out in favour of eliminating the death sentence will have a huge impact,” Professor Kana Sasakura from Konan University in Kobe told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

There are now 124 inmates on death row in Japan, 89 of whom are seeking retrials, according to the justice ministry.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Widodo clarifies Duterte statement on Mary Jane Veloso – report

Source: GMA (16 September 2016)

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/581647/news/pinoyabroad/widodo-clarifies-duterte-statement-on-mary-jane-veloso-report

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has clarified his earlier statement on President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly allowing the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina convicted for drug trafficking in Indonesia.

A report on Channel News Asia quoted Widodo as saying that what Duterte told him during their September 9 meeting in Indonesia was "go ahead with the process in line with the law in Indonesia."

This confirmed MalacaƱang's earlier statement that Duterte, who was in Indonesia last week for a working visit, did not endorse Veloso's execution but instead told Widodo that he would not interfere with Indonesia's legal processes.

MalacaƱang made the clarification after a Jakarta Post report said Duterte has given the "go-ahead" to proceed with the execution of Veloso, a mother of two who was sentenced to die by firing squad for bringing 2.6 kilograms of heroin in Indonesia in 2010.

The Jakarta Post report was quoting Widodo.

Following the report, Veloso's family in the Philippines sought a meeting with Duterte so that the President could personally tell them what really transpired in his meeting with Widodo.

As of Friday afternoon, Duterte has yet to meet with the Veloso family.

Veloso's execution was put on hold last year to allow her to testify against her alleged recruiters whom she accused of tricking her into bringing the illegal drugs to the Yogyakarta Airport in 2010.

Her alleged recruiters, Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, are currently facing illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa cases before a local court in Nueva Ecija.

Indonesia had earlier said it would respect the legal processes in the Philippines regarding Veloso's case against her alleged recruiters. —KBK, GMA News

Monday, 12 September 2016

Duterte has given the green light for Mary Jane's execution: Jokowi

Source: The Jakarta Post (12 September 2016)

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/09/12/duterte-has-given-the-green-light-for-mary-janes-execution-jokowi.html

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Monday that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had given the green light for the execution of Filipina death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso.

"President Duterte has given the go-ahead to proceed with the execution,” Jokowi was quoted as saying by Antara news agency in Serang, Banten.

According to Jokowi, the legal process will be followed up by Attorney General M. Prasetyo.

“I have explained to [Duterte] about Mary Jane’s situation and I told him that Mary Jane [has been found guilty] for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. I also told him about the delay in the execution during the meeting,” Jokowi said.

Veloso was arrested at Adisucipto Airport in Yogyakarta in April 2010.

Veloso was excluded from the list of the third round of executions prepared by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in April, as legal procedures continue in a separate but related case in her country. Veloso was on the execution list last year but was granted a stay of execution because her alleged boss had been arrested in the Philippines, and the authorities there requested Indonesian assistance in pursuing the case. (dmr)