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)

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Indonesia’s Push to Execute Drug Convicts Underlines Flaws in Justice System

Source: The New York Times (13 August 2016)

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/14/world/asia/indonesia-executions-drug-smuggling.html?_r=0

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Sixteen years ago, Zulfiqar Ali left his native Pakistan for Indonesia in search of a new life. Last month, that life was on the verge of ending in front of a firing squad.

Mr. Ali has been on Indonesia’s death row since 2005, after he was convicted of heroin trafficking. A government-ordered inquiry later found that he was probably innocent. Still, in July, he was one of 14 convicts, most of them foreigners, who were taken to the prison island of Nusakambangan off Java’s southern coast to be put to death.

Minutes before they were to be executed, on July 29, Mr. Ali and nine other convicts were given a reprieve, for reasons the government has yet to explain. But four were shot dead as scheduled, including a Nigerian who supporters say was framed. And Mr. Ali, like the rest who were spared, remains condemned.

More than a year after Indonesia drew international censure by putting to death 12 foreigners convicted of drug crimes, the country has resumed a war on narcotics by way of executions — and has again put a spotlight on its profoundly flawed justice system.

Critics in Indonesia and abroad say those flaws go so deep that the country should not employ the death penalty at all. Researchers have found that many condemned convicts were tortured by the police into confessing, did not receive access to lawyers or were otherwise denied fair trials.

The resumption of executions means “that the government has ignored that there is something seriously wrong with our judiciary and law enforcers,” said Robertus Robet, a lecturer and researcher at the State University of Jakarta’s sociology department. He characterized the government as “trigger-happy.”Photo

“When you execute someone, you execute the possibility of finding out the truth,” he said.

Amnesty International has denounced “the manifestly flawed administration of justice in Indonesia that resulted in flagrant human rights violations.” Similar concerns have been raised by the United Nations and the European Union, which sent a delegation to try to persuade Indonesia to spare inmates who were condemned to die last year.

Indonesia has long had the death penalty, but its use was sporadic in the years before President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014. Declaring drug abuse a “national emergency,” Mr. Joko denied clemency appeals from 64 death row inmates who had been convicted of drug crimes, most of them foreigners, and the government set a goal of executing all of them by the end of 2015.

That did not happen, but five drug convicts were put to death in January of that year, and eight more in April. (An Indonesian was also executed for murder in January.) Among the convicts executed in April, seven of whom were foreigners, were Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 34, Australians who were arrested in 2005 trying to smuggle heroin out of Bali, the resort island.

The men admitted their guilt, but their lawyers said the judge in the case was corrupt, having offered a lesser sentence in exchange for a bribe. Indonesia rejected appeals by the Australian government to spare them, and Australia withdrew its ambassador in protest.

Also executed in April was Rodrigo Gularte, 42, a Brazilian convicted of drug smuggling who had repeatedly been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Indonesian law forbids the execution of mentally ill convicts.

Dave McRae, a senior research fellow at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia who has researched the use of capital punishment in Indonesia, said that the deficiencies in the justice system here could be found in most countries that still used the death penalty.

“A lot of the objections to Indonesia’s use of the death penalty — inconsistent and arbitrary sentencing and application of the death penalty, allegations of corruption and wrongful convictions, questions over access to lawyers and interpreters and adequacy of representation — are questions that are raised all over the world,” he said.

Such concerns have been raised about the cases against some of the convicts spared last month — and some who were executed, including the Nigerian, Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke.

Mr. Eleweke was arrested in 2003 after the police found heroin at a restaurant he ran in Jakarta, the capital; he said an employee had planted it. His lawyers say that the police beat him until he confessed.

They also say that by law, an 11th-hour appeal for clemency issued to Mr. Joko should have automatically halted his execution. Last week, legal activists filed a complaint with a judicial watchdog against Indonesia’s attorney general, saying that Mr. Eleweke’s execution and those of two others should have been stopped because of those appeals, according to local news reports.

“We cannot have the death penalty here because of the judicial system — it’s problematic, it’s dysfunctional,” said Ricky Gunawan, director of the Community Legal Aid Institute, a nongovernmental organization that represented Mr. Eleweke.

Another allegation of corruption emerged just before the executions last month, when one of the men put to death, an Indonesian named Freddy Budiman, was quoted as saying that he had paid senior law enforcement officials more than $40 million to let his drug smuggling operation continue before he was arrested.Photo

That accusation was included in a report released by a rights activist, Haris Azhar, who had interviewed Mr. Budiman in prison; shortly thereafter, the police, the military and Indonesia’s anti-narcotics board, all of which were implicated in the report, filed a criminal defamation complaint against Mr. Azhar. On Thursday, Mr. Joko ordered those agencies to investigate the corruption allegations.

The case of Mr. Ali, the Pakistani who was spared execution, has also raised concerns.

Mr. Ali, who immigrated to Indonesia in 2000, was accused of drug dealing in 2004 by a friend, Gurdip Singh, who had been caught with heroin; Mr. Singh later said the police had pressured him and offered a reduced sentence to name accomplices. Mr. Ali’s lawyers say their client was arrested without a warrant at his home, where no drugs were found, and signed a confession after being beaten so badly in custody that he needed two operations.

Though Mr. Ali retracted his confession and Mr. Singh withdrew his accusation, both men were sentenced to death in 2005. But the severity of Mr. Ali’s beating drew attention to the case, and the government ordered an unusual inquiry, which concluded that he was likely to be innocent.

The government never acted on those findings, and Mr. Ali and Mr. Singh were among those who nearly faced a firing squad.

“He was never involved in drugs,” Mr. Ali’s wife, Siti Rohani, who lives in West Java Province with their three children, said in an interview.

A spokesman for Mr. Joko, Johan Budi, denied that the judicial system was dysfunctional, saying the executions had followed legal procedures.

Mr. Ali, along with Mr. Singh and several of the other convicts who were given reprieves, is still in prison on Nusakambangan Island, where Indonesia conducts executions. Ms. Siti said she and her husband’s family in Pakistan were in a torturous state of limbo.

“We’re just confused because there is no certainty about my husband’s fate,” she said.

M. Rum, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, declined to explain why Mr. Ali and the other convicts had been given reprieves, saying only that it was “for judicial and nonjudicial reasons.” But he said the executions would eventually be carried out.

Turkey PM steps back from calls for death penalty

Source: Channel News Asia (16 August 2016)

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/turkey-pm-steps-back-from/3048380.html

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday (Aug 16) a fair trial would represent a harsher punishment for suspected coup plotters than the death penalty - an apparent step back from threats to re-introduce capital punishment.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had suggested Turkey could bring back capital punishment - abolished in 2004 as part of the country's reforms to join the European Union - in the wake of the Jul 15 failed coup aimed at ousting him from power.

The threat stunned the EU, which makes the abolition of capital punishment an unnegotiable condition for joining the bloc.

"A person dies only once when executed," Yildirim told ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MPs in parliament. "There are tougher ways to die than the death (penalty) for them. That is an impartial and fair trial," Yildirim said.

The prime minister's comments marked a change in tone after Erdogan said earlier this month that if the Turkish public wanted a return to capital punishment, then political parties would follow their will.

Erdogan has also not mentioned the issue in his latest speeches in recent days.

Relations between Brussels and Ankara have already been strained since Turkey responded to the coup by launching a relentless crackdown against alleged plotters in state institutions, amid calls from the EU to act within the rule of law.

Tens of thousands of staff within the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been dismissed or detained since a rogue faction within the military tried to oust Erdogan from power.

Ankara blames Erdogan's ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher in self-exile in the United States, and his movement for ordering last month's coup bid. Gulen strongly denies the accusations.

Yildirim said Gulen would be brought to account for the attempted putsch during which 240 people lost their lives, excluding 34 coup plotters who were killed.

"Those responsible for the blood of our martyrs will be brought to account. We will not bring them to account acting out of revenge. We will bring them to account with justice," the prime minister said.

No judicial executions have taken place Turkey since left-wing militant Hidir Aslan was hanged on Oct 25, 1984 in the wake of the 1980 military coup.

- AFP/ec

Executions: Indonesia disregards its own laws

Source: The Jakarta Post (20 August 2016)

http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2016/08/20/executions-ri-disregards-its-own-laws.html

Recently, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) held another round of executions and, similar to last year’s executions, all those executed were drug offenders.

Hours after the executions, Attorney General M. Prasetyo reiterated that other countries should respect the sovereignty of Indonesian law, denying any appeals from countries concerned about the imposition of the death penalty in Indonesia.

The fact that the death penalty exists in our law is not in question, but this does not necessarily mean that the death penalty has always been implemented flawlessly.

In fact, given that the criminal justice system is human-made, it is inherently prone to human error.
In the days leading up to the execution, serious unfair trials and miscarriages of justice experienced by those to be executed were raised by lawyers, family members and human rights groups.

And now we have something more: an unlawful execution.

Outcries over the latest executions came from rights watchdogs, which identified two main errors.
First, at least two out of four of the executed — Seck Osmane and Humphrey Ejike — had pending clemency decisions.

According to the Article 13 of the Clemency Law, an execution of a prisoner who has filed a clemency petition cannot be carried out before the President has issued a presidential decree on the clemency decision.

Article 7 paragraph (2) of the same law previously regulated that one could lodge a clemency petition one year after one’s court decision was declared final and binding.

However, only last June the Constitutional Court declared that such a limitation was not in accordance with the 1945 Constitution and therefore revoked the article.

At that stage, neither of the two prisoners had filed clemency petitions until a few days before the executions. It seems obvious that legally speaking, both Seck and Humphrey still had a right to clemency and could not be executed before the President had made a decision over their petitions.

Second, the AGO violated the law on execution procedures, which regulates that executions cannot be carried out until 72 hours after a prosecutor notifies the condemned prisoners. All 14 death-row prisoners received their notification on July 26 around 3 p.m.

This meant that the executions could only be conducted, at the earliest, on the afternoon of July 29. In reality, the executions took place in the early hours of that day.

Given these two violations, it seems clear this latest round of executions was unlawful.

International communities have taken up these violations and condemned them. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, for example, called on Indonesia to put a moratorium in place, defining Indonesia as the “most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia”. Is this the international image that Indonesia wants to project?

European and Australian governments have also raised concerns over allegations of unfair trials, despite no European or Australian nationals being listed for execution.

This demonstrates that their appeal to Indonesia to halt the execution is not a matter of defending their own nationals, but rather a matter of universal principle.

A distinguished Islamic philosopher from Oxford University, Professor Tariq Ramadan, has also sent an open letter to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. He enlightened the President on how sharia sees the death penalty. He argues that “rahmah [compassion] is an absolute necessity, an essential principle, an imperative duty, even if there is no doubt and all the conditions are gathered”.

Despite the serious flaws and international criticisms, the AGO appeared adamant about its position on executions. Prasetyo has repeatedly said that other countries must respect the sovereignty of Indonesia’s law.

Talking about such sovereignty, the attorney general himself has violated Indonesian law with those infringements. How can we expect foreign countries to respect our sovereignty of law if the law enforcers themselves blatantly disregard it?

That seems to be a paradoxical position and a hypocritical standing. This legal calamity can go on no longer. President Jokowi must stop any further executions.

Thorough evaluation of death penalty cases by an independent team established by the President is imperative.In the meantime, while the team is reviewing all death penalty cases, Indonesia must implement a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.

This third round of executions has shown us that even where an execution is “legal”, it does not mean that it is not intrinsically problematic.

Further, it potentially kills an innocent person. How many innocent lives must we end until we stop this senseless killing?
__________________________________________
The writer is a legal fellow at Reprieve UK, based in Jakarta. Reprieve UK advocates for worldwide abolition of the death penalty

Nathan grants zero presidential pardon during his 2 terms

Source: The Independent (27 August 2016)

http://theindependent.sg/nathan-grants-zero-presidential-pardon-during-his-2-terms/

S R Nathan, the longest serving president from 1999 to 2011 did not grant clemency to any death row inmates during his 2 terms as President.

This is according to the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP) in its statement issued on the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty last October.

SWGDP stated, “Since Singapore’s independence, only seven clemencies have been granted (as at Oct 2015), with the last being exercised by the late President Ong Teng Cheong.”

It went on to reveal that of the 7 clemencies, two were granted in the term of President Benjamin Sheares, one under President Devan Nair, three under President Wee Kim Wee, and one under President Ong Teng Cheong.

Presidential clemencies granted by past Presidents:
• Benjamin Sheares (1971-1981): 2 in 10 years
• Devan Nair (1981-1985): 1 in 4 years
• Wee Kim Wee (1985 -1993): 3 in 8 years
• Ong Teng Cheong (1993-1999): 1 in 6 years
• S R Nathan (1999 – 2011): 0 in 12 years

The SWGDP is an advocacy group in Singapore which believes in giving convicted people a second chance to live. It advocates for the abolishment of the death penalty in Singapore as well as commits to raising awareness on issues surrounding the death penalty.

On its website, it said:

ALTHOUGH WE BELIEVE THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER MISTAKES AND THAT NO CRIME SHOULD GO UNPUNISHED, WE ALSO BELIEVE THAT UNJUST AND PROBLEMATIC LAWS AND PROCEDURES NEED TO BE DEBATED AND REVISED.

THE DEATH PENALTY IS AN IRREVERSIBLE PUNISHMENT AT THE END OF A PROCESS THAT IS PRONE TO HUMAN ERROR, WHICH MEANS THAT IT IS ALL TOO POSSIBLE THAT INNOCENT LIVES WILL BE TAKEN AWAY. AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.

As at Oct 2015, the last clemency was granted by the late president Ong Teng Cheong in May 1998. He commuted Mr Mathavakannan Kalimuthu’s death sentence to life imprisonment. He was 19 when he and two other men killed a gangster in 1996.

‘I have to ask the man up there to forgive me’

After Nathan stepped down as President in 2011, he gave an interview to the media. During the interview, he was asked about granting presidential pardons during his 12-year term in office. He was asked if he found it difficult.

“The constitution clearly lays it down that I have to act on the advice of the cabinet, and the cabinet acts on the advice of the Attorney-General,” he said.

“You have a right to question it… through the process, you determine whether all the facts have been taken into account, whether there’s anything that needs special consideration.”

Upon further probing by a reporter from Yahoo, Nathan finally said, “Of course it’s a difficult thing when it comes to the death penalty. It’s a matter of conscience. That’s the law… and you do your best to see that there is justice done.”

“You are in no position to contradict the submission when you have not heard the case,” he continued. “You can’t purely go on human emotions.”

“I have to ask the man up there to forgive me for what is done for the good of society.”

Death penalty failing to deter drug trafficking in Iran - official

Source: Channel News Asia (27 August 2016)

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/death-penalty-failing-to/3078872.html

DUBAI: The death penalty has failed to reduce drug trafficking in Iran, a senior Iranian judiciary official said on Saturday shortly before the scheduled execution of 12 people for narcotics-related offences.

His criticism was unusual in a judiciary that has long been a bastion of the hardline security establishment in the Islamic Republic, which carries out more executions per capita than any other country. Nearly 1,000 prisoners were put to death in 2015, most of them for drug trafficking.

Most narcotics are smuggled into Iran along its long, often lawless border with Afghanistan, which supplies about 90 percent of the world's opium from which heroin is made.

"The truth is, the execution of drug smugglers has had no deterrent effect," Mohammad Baqer Olfat, deputy head of judiciary for social affairs, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

"We have fought full-force against smugglers according to the law, but unfortunately we are experiencing an increase in the volume of drugs trafficked to Iran, the transit of drugs through the country, the variety of drugs, and the number of people who are involved in it," Olfat said.

He said he had suggested to the judiciary chief that rather than the death penalty, traffickers should serve long prison terms with hard labour.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council and a brother of the powerful judiciary chief, said in 2015 that more than 90 percent of executions in the country were for drug-related crimes.

He said the death penalty has not led to a significant fall in drug-related crimes and that the policy must be re-evaluated.

The Islamic Republic seized 388 tonnes of opium in 2012, around 72 percent of all such seizures globally, but says it has lost many security personnel in skirmishes with drug traffickers in volatile regions bordering Afghanistan and also Pakistan.

The United Nations has repeatedly praised Iran's battle against narcotics trafficking but opposed its death penalty.

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Iran urged Tehran on Friday to halt the execution of 12 people on drug-related offences scheduled for Saturday.

"It is regrettable that the (Iranian) government continues to proceed with executions for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the 'most serious crimes' as required by international law," Ahmed Shaheed said in a statement.

Given Iran's large number of executions, some countries including Britain and Denmark have stopped providing funding for the United Nations drug control programme in Iran.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; editing by Mark Heinrich)

- Reuters