Thursday, 11 August 2016

UN asks Maldives to retain death penalty moratorium

Source: Time of India (10 August 2016)

UNITED NATIONS: Voicing concern over recent developments pertaining to capital punishment in Maldives, the UN Human Rights chief has exhorted the government to refrain from carrying out planned executions and uphold the de facto moratorium that has been in place in the country for over six decades.

"The Maldives has long provided important leadership on global efforts to bring an end to the use of death penalty, so it is deeply regrettable that a series of steps have been taken to resume executions in the country," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a press release.

Last November, the High Court decided that the President may no longer exercise the power of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.

In June this year, capital punishment regulations were further amended to allow for hanging in addition to lethal injections as methods of execution.

Further, in July, the Supreme Court issued an order, cancelling the stay order issued by the High Court and reiterated that its decisions on death sentences are final.

"The death penalty is not effective in deterring crime," Zeid said, adding "a judiciary that is unable to consistently apply fair trial standards and is marred by politicisation, must not be allowed to have the final say in matters of life and death."

"There are currently 17 individuals on death row in Maldives. Some cases raise serious due process concerns, with three of them at imminent risk of execution," he said.

"Maldives has upheld the right to life for more than 60 years," the High Commissioner said, urging the leaders and the people of the Maldives "to continue to uphold the moratorium on the death penalty and work towards prohibiting the practice altogether."

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Why executions in Indonesia must stop

Source: The Conversation (3 August 2016)

Indonesia executed four prisoners on death row for drug offences early on Friday. Last week’s killings were the third round of executions under Joko Widodo’s government, and were carried out despite ongoing legal appeals and international pressure.

The firing squad shot dead Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke and Michael Titus from Nigeria, Seck Osmane from Senegal, and Freddy Budiman, an Indonesian national.

These executions were different from two rounds of executions last year that killed 14 people, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Then, the government prepared with a lot of fanfare, went through bitter diplomatic fallouts, and endured international criticism. This time, the government carried out the executions abruptly and quietly.

The government notified families of 14 prisoners only on the Tuesday that executions would take place. The government did not explain why the executions of ten of these prisoners were postponed.

Human rights experts in Indonesia have repeatedly called for the government to stop the use of capital punishment. Hours before the third round of executions, the Indonesia Alliance of Human Rights Lecturers released a short statement addressed to Jokowi.

We urged him to stop the executions. Our considerations are simple. Not only does the death penalty violates human rights, executions in Indonesia are carried out under a deeply flawed justice system.
Violation of the right to life

The death penalty violates the most fundamental right in human life: the right to life. This right is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution in Article 28 I:

The right to life, the right to be free of torture, the rights for freedom of thought and conscience, the rights to religion, the rights to be free from slavery, the rights to be treated equal in front of the law, and the rights to not be charged on retroactive laws are non-derogable rights in any circumstances.

The Indonesian government ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2005, committing itself to uphold international human rights law. Indonesia has yet to ratify the optional protocol to abolish the death penalty.

However, Indonesia’s penchant for executions will weaken the nation’s standing in seeking reprieve for 334 Indonesians on death row in other countries as of last year.
Indonesia violates its own laws

The Indonesian government has repeatedly failed to uphold its own laws regarding death sentencing.

For example, under Indonesian law, executions are prohibited when legal processes are still ongoing. Jefferson was executed despite his pending clemency appeal. Jefferson, convicted in 2004 after the police found 1.7kg of heroin in a room used by one of his employees in a restaurant he ran, maintained that he was innocent and was framed.

By going ahead with the execution despite pending appeals, the government has clearly violated Article 13 on clemency law and ignored the 2015 Constitutional Court decision on the death penalty.

Further, the attorney-general also violated the rights to information of the advocates and families of the prisoners. They have the right to 72 hours notice of execution. The attorney-general only informed lawyers and families 60 hours prior.

The implementation of the death penalty without fixing the corrupt judicial system will not deter people from engaging in the illegal drug trade. Convicting and executing drug dealers will not eliminate drug trafficking in Indonesia as long as corrupt officials are free to abuse the system.

This is clear in the case of Budiman. He was sentenced to death in 2012 for smuggling 1.4 million ecstasy pills from China from behind bars.

Ahead of Budiman’s execution, the head of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Haris Azhar, released a statement on social media that went viral. Azhar said that when he visited Budiman in 2014, Budiman implicated military generals, National Narcotics Agency officials and the police in running the drug trade.

In short, indication of involvement of the state apparatus in Indonesia’s drug trade is really strong. In the last couple of months there have been many news reports on military and police involvement in the drug network. In April, the attorney-general fired 20 attorneys involved in illegal drug offences.

It would not be surprising if the death penalty was merely an attempt to cover-up the corrupt law enforcers.

There are deep flaws in the law and legal enforcement, especially in the process of death sentencing and executions. The death penalty is built on weak institutions. This affects not only justice for the condemned but also the attempt to create a just legal system in Indonesia. The strength or weakness of the institution reflects the quality of Indonesia’s law.

Indonesia will not abolish death penalty, says minister

Source: Asia One (4 August 2016)

JAKARTA - Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto has stressed that the government would not consider abolishing the death penalty, and therefore there was no need to evaluate prevailing laws.

"This is our law. Despite some pressures on us, we have our national legal jurisdiction," Wiranto said on Tuesday.

The death penalty is a harsh punishment, he said, but it is needed to protect many people from the dangers of narcotics and related crimes.

Wiranto's statement ran directly against that of Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, who said that the government and House of Representatives planned to evaluate the death penalty.

Human rights groups and the international community have long urged the government to abolish or adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, saying that it is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which has also failed to create a deterrent effect.

Indonesia executed four drug convicts in the early hours of last Friday, with further legal processes sparing the lives of 10 other death-row convicts who were slated to be killed.

Philippines : Return of death penalty in PH ‘violates’ international law

Source: ADPAN (2 August 2016)

By Paolo Taruc, CNN Philippines

Updated 19:30 PM PHT Tue, August 2, 2016

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte and some lawmakers have called for the return of the death penalty as a way to strengthen the rule of law. But the Philippines could violate international law if it brings the punishment back.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)— an international treaty that, among other things, prescribes states to respect and observe fundamental freedoms. These include freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom from cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment.

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon told CNN Philippines that “The death penalty is categorized as one such cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”

The Philippines has also ratified the ICCPR’s Second Optional Protocol which urges states to abolish the death penalty and prevents them from carrying out executions.

An Optional Protocol is a supplementary agreement to a treaty. According to U.P. Law Professor and Kabayan Party List Rep. Harry Roque, it is “optional” in the sense that those who ratified the ICCPR have the option of ratifying the additional agreement. Not all parties who ratified the ICCPR have ratified its optional protocols.

It is wrong to say that those who ratified the optional protocols may choose to disregard them any time they please.

“If a State… chooses to ratify the optional protocols, it may not disregard their obligations under the protocol. Both the ICCPR and the Optional Protocols are considered treaties under international law, and thus parties to such agreements are bound to comply with them in good faith,” Roque explained.
No turning back?

The Philippines signed the ICCPR on December 19, 1966 and ratified it on October 23, 1986. It opted to sign the Second Optional Protocol on September 20, 2006. The annex was ratified on November 20, 2007.

The Second Optional Protocol explicitly forbids the Philippines — and others states who have ratified it — from conducting executions within their respective jurisdictions: “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.”

However, it provides for one exception: Countries who expressed reservations only during the time of ratification or accession may resort to the death penalty in times of war for those convicted of “a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime.”

The Philippines cannot claim the exception because it did not make reservations when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol. “[I]n no case could death penalty be seen as acceptable under this treaty,” Roque stressed.

According to the document, countries are compelled to “take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty.”

As treaties, the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol form part of international law. Other human rights treaties include the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights.

“Since the Philippines has ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, it would be violating international law by restoring the death penalty,” Roque pointed out.

Complaints against the Philippines?

Roque explained that a complaint may be brought before the international community if the country brings back the said punishment.

“Under the First Optional Protocol (of the ICCPR) which the Philippines has also ratified, individuals may file complaints before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). The UNHRC could then investigate the case and provide a view if indeed there was a violation of the ICCPR or any of the Optional Protocols.”

However, he pointed out that complaints before the UNHRC are not binding decisions, as it is not a judicial tribunal. “Even if it did find violations, it would not have it would not have the authority to enforce its view upon a State.”

Death penalty is ‘retribution’

During his first press conference after the May 9 elections, Duterte said he wanted Congress to restore death penalty by hanging for convicts involved in illegal drugs, gun-for-hire syndicates, and those who commit “heinous crimes” like rapists, robbers or car thieves who kill their victims.

In a speech on June 22, he said that death penalty was a form of retribution apart from a way of deterring crime:

“Para ma-discourage ang tao mag-commit ng crime because there is the death penalty,”Duterte said. “Iyong death penalty to me is retribution. Magbayad ka sa ginawa mo sa buhay na ‘to.”

[Translation: To discourage people from committing crime because there is the death penalty. To me, death penalty is retribution. You’re going to pay for whatever you did in this life.]

Senator Panfilo Lacson also filed a bill that would mete out lethal injection for convicts of crimes including treason, murder, plunder, and rape.

“To reinstate public order and the rule of law, there is an impending need to revisit and re-impose the death penalty on certain heinous crimes,” Lacson said in a statement on July 3.

“[A] death penalty law is appropriately necessary due to the alarming upsurge of such crimes.”

According to the statement, the PNP’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management documented 9,646 murder cases; 31,741 cases of robbery; and, 10,298 rape cases in 2015.

“These translate to an average crime incidence of a murder every 54 minutes, a robbery every 16 minutes, and a rape case every 51 minutes,” the statement added.

At the House of Representatives, the first bill filed in the 17th Congress also seeks to reimpose lethal injection on certain heinous crimes. It was authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez with Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro.

“The imposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes and the mode of its implementation, both subjects of repealed laws, are crucial components of an effective dispensation of both reformative and retributive justice,” read a part of the bill.

Zero-sum game?

Gascon believes that human rights and security are not mutually exclusive: the gain of one is not the loss of the other.

“In our society today what has happened is that there has been rampant criminality and there’s a demand to address that — so people often think that the only way to address it is to reduce human rights. What needs to be done is to have a more purposive process of law enforcement that will in time guarantee safety and security of the population.

“Over the long term, human rights are in fact the best guarantee of safety and security,” Gascon added.

Roque said that it was important to remember the “significance” of international law in dealing with human rights issues. For him, it’s value does not only lie on the enforceability of a certain view.

“The strength of international law lies in the normative values it represents. Rather than using international law as a tool to threaten the administration, it should be used as a reminder to the administration of what the international community expects of the Philippines as a developing nation within the greater international community.” – CNN Philippines

ADPAN Urges Philippines to be Strong and Reject Attempts to Re-Introduce the Death Penalty

Source: Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (5 August 2016)

ADPAN (Anti Death Penalty Asia Network) is shocked that the Philippines seems adamant about moving forward with plans to re-introduce the death penalty. The death penalty has been suspended since 2006, and Philippines is now considered an abolitionist country.

On 28 July 2016, the newly convened Philippine Congress heard a proposal to re-impose the death penalty for “heinous crimes”, giving priority to President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for capital punishment in its first legislative session.

Since late June 2016, House Bill No.1 and several other Bills seeking to re-introduce the death penalty have been filed for consideration of the Philippines Congress. These Bill seeks to reimpose capital punishment for human trafficking, illegal recruitment, plunder, treason, parricide, infanticide, rape, qualified piracy, bribery, kidnapping, illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, car theft, destructive arson, terrorism and drug-related cases.

ADPAN is hopeful that Filipinos and lawmakers that are abolitionist will prevail, and death penalty will not be reintroduced in this ASEAN nation.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the measure is anti-poor and that the death penalty has not been proven to deter heinous crimes. “What deters the commission of crimes are certainty of apprehension, speedy prosecution and inevitable conviction once warranted,…The death penalty is anti-poor because indigent and marginalized accused cannot afford the high cost of [top] caliber and influential lawyers to secure their acquittal.”

Senator Leila de Lima, who continues to oppose the death penalty, is proposing a law to impose “qualified reclusion perpetua” for those found guilty of heinous crimes. Those punished with “qualified reclusion perpetua” would not be eligible for parole at all.


The Philippines signed International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on December 19, 1966 and ratified it on October 23, 1986. It signed the Second Optional Protocol on September 20, 2006 which explicitly forbids states who have ratified it from conducting executions within their respective jurisdictions: “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.”

However, it provides for one exception: Countries who expressed reservations only during the time of ratification or accession may resort to the death penalty in times of war for those convicted of “a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime.”. Philippines cannot claim the exception because it did not make this reservation when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol.

As, such the re-introduction of the death penalty would also be considered a violation of international law.


ADPAN joins Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for Human Rights, in urging Phlipines ‘to remember the experience of Mongolia, which first abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in the 1950s, then reintroduced it, before deciding, last December, to once again stop executing people. In reaching the decision, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj said the people of Mongolia had suffered enough from the death penalty. In his words: “Removing the death penalty does not mean removing punishment. Criminals fear justice, and justice must be imminent and unavoidable. But we cannot repair one death with another.” ‘

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, added, ‘Fear, despair and frustration clearly prevail among all Filipinos amid a rise in crime and drug-related offenses. But it is the duty of political leaders to adopt solutions to the country’s challenges in ways that will support the rule of law and advance the protection of human rights…The arguments are convincing and decisive: On every level—from principle to practice—use of the death penalty is wrong.


ADPAN reiterates that there are no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime. As an example, in Malaysia in 2012, despite the existence of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, it was revealed in Parliament that there was in fact an increase of the persons arrested for drug trafficking.

The possibility of miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable. There has just been too many cases, where persons who have languished on death row for decades have been released. We recall that in January 2011, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice admitted that Chiang Kuo-ching, a private in the Air Force, had been executed in error in 1997 for a murder committed 15 years previously.

The global trend has been towards abolition. Philippines did us proud, when it abolished the death penalty in 2006, and it is hoped that Philippines will reaffirm its commitment to abolition when it stands strong and rejects attempts to re-introduce the draconian death penalty.

ADPAN urges the Philippine lawmakers to opposes attempts to bring back the death penalty,

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of

ADPAN (Anti Death Penalty Asia Network)

Indonesian ombudsman to probe executions

Source: (9 August 2016)

Indonesia's Attorney-General is set to be investigated over the recent execution of four men, with the country's ombudsman saying there appeared to be a "maladministration" in the carrying out of the death penalty.

Ricky Gunawan, lawyer for Nigerian man Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke, who was shot by firing squad in the early hours of July 29, filed a report to the country's ombudsman on Monday alleging the executions were "illegal" as they violated the country's clemency law.

In accepting the report, Commissioner for the Ombudsman Lely Pelitasari Soebakty said it appeared a "maladministration" had occurred in the carrying out of the executions.

"We will investigate this ... We need time to see the document first and because the report to the Ombudsman is personal in nature, we need to verify the document," she told reporters in Jakarta.

At least two of the four men who were shot last month by a firing squad filed last minute clemency requests to President Joko Widodo in the days before their deaths.

The country's clemency law stipulates an execution can only be carried out once a prisoner is informed by the president that such a plea has been rejected.

The men received no such notification.

Mr Gunawan has previously told AAP that when he informed prosecutors of this, they pointed him to a now defunct section of the law which stipulated clemency requests needed to be filed within a year of the outcome of a person's final appeal.

But this section was repealed in June this year by the Constitutional Court, which found the time limitation on clemency requests had the potential to violate a person's constitutional rights.

Mr Gunawan said they hoped that by reporting matter to the ombudsman, President Widodo would be properly informed of what occurred.

"When the Ombudsman has given its recommendation, the president will definitely read (it) so when Attorney-General tries to deny what has happened, he can't run from it."

The Attorney-General HM Prasetyo has been contacted for comment.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Indonesia: UN rights chief urges region's 'most prolific executioner' to end practice

Source: UN News Centre (27 July 2016)

The United Nations human rights chief today expressed alarm at reports that up to 14 people face imminent execution in Indonesia, most of them for drug-related offences, calling on the authorities of “the most prolific executioner” in Southeast Asia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.

The executions will reportedly be carried out later this week at a high security prison on Nusa Kambangan island in central Java. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed its deep concern about the lack of transparency throughout the process and compliance with fair trial guarantees, including the right to appeal.

“The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the Government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein Zeid.

“I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia,” he said.

I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia

The UN opposes the use of capital punishment in all circumstances.

Indonesia suspended a four-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, in a decision that runs counter to an international trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. Several of the individuals put to death in Indonesia since 2013 have been executed for drug-related offences.

Mr. Zeid stressed that under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, the countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only use capital punishment for “the most serious crimes.”

Drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold of “most serious crimes,” which have been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing, he said.

Zeid acknowledged the challenges faced by Indonesia in combatting drug-related crimes, but stressed that the country's response must be rooted in international human rights law.

The death penalty is “not an effective deterrent” relative to other forms of punishment nor does it protect people from drug abuse, he said, adding that the focus of drug-related crime prevention should involve strengthening the justice system and making it more effective.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Indonesia executions loom as convict Merri Utami is sent to prison island

Source: The Guardian (25 July 2016)

The next round of executions in Indonesia appear imminent following the transfer of an Indonesian woman on death row, Merri Utami, to the execution island of Nusa Kambangan.

Ordinarily female prisoners are not held at Nusa Kambangan, the prison site in central Java where Australian nationals Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed alongside six others in April last year.

Utami was transferred in the early hours of Sunday under high security from Tangerang prison where she has been detained since 2004.

Merri has been placed in an isolation cell and is reportedly the only female inmate being held alongside more than 1,000 people there.

According to Amnesty International, at least 165 people are on death row in Indonesia, and more than 40% of those convicted of drug-related crimes.

Merri’s transfer echoes previous patterns and could indicate the next round is less than a week away, Ricky Gunawan, the director of the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH) in Jakarta, told the Guardian.

“It’s the same like Mary Jane Veloso, she was transferred just days before the notice of the executions was given,” said Gunawan of the Filipina woman who was granted a temporary, last-minute reprieve last year.

In January last year another Indonesian woman on death row, Rani Andriani, was also moved to Nusa Kambangan just days before she was executed.

Prison officials at both Nusa Kambangan and Tangerang prisons have denied Utami’s transfer was linked to executions, but the move does not appear to be routine.

“It could be routine. But with only one transfer, of one prisoner, it doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of routine transfers,” noted Gunawan.

Utami was sentenced to death for carrying 1.1 kilograms of heroin through Soekarno Hatta airport in 2003.

One inconsistency is that Utami claims she is yet to seek clemency for her charges. Under Indonesian law all legal avenues must be exhausted before an inmate can be executed.

But moving prisoners could be one strategy the Attorney General’s Office is employing to speed up clemency claims and clear any legal roadblocks, explained LBH’s Gunawan.

As well as the transfer of Utami, there are other indications Indonesia is once again readying its firing squads, after 14 prisoners were executed in two separate rounds last year.

The embassies of Nigeria and Pakistan have in recent days received letters from the Indonesian foreign ministry informing them their nationals will be “executed in the very near future”, sources close to the Guardian confirmed.

The one Pakistani national on death row here is Zulfiqar Ali. Ali was violently beaten by Indonesian police, later requiring kidney and stomach surgery, until he confessed, said Amnesty International in a 2015 report titled “Flawed Justice”.

The international rights body claimed that half of all prisoners facing capital punishment in Indonesia were subject to police brutality and torture, while foreign prisoners were often denied an interpreter or access to consular services.

President Joko Widodo has reiterated his commitment to his war on drugs and in recent months the Attorney General’s Office has confirmed more executions will take place this year.

Attorney General General HM Prasetyo has stated that executions would take place after Idul Fitri, which happened earlier in July.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Final Declaration: 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty: Oslo, 23 June 2016

Source: ECPM (4 July 2016)

Text of the Final Declaration available:

Video of the Final Declaration available: 

Maldives Foreign Minister Quits Citing Row on Death Penalty

Source: The New York Times (5 July 2016)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Maldives' foreign minister resigned Tuesday saying she has irreconcilable disagreements with the government's decision to implement the death penalty.

Dunya Maumoon said in a statement that her decision to step down was inevitable "because of the profound differences of opinion on the government's policy on implementing the death penalty at a time when serious questions are being asked and concerns being expressed about the delivery of justice in the Maldives."

But local media said the resignation is also a result of differences between President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who is Dunya's uncle, and her father Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who previously ruled the country for 30 years.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is now the leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives.

The rift surfaced last week when Maumoon Abdul Gayoom openly opposed a law to lease out islands and lagoons for tourism projects without competitive bidding.

Last month, the Supreme Court last month confirmed the death penalty for a 22-year-old man convicted of killing a lawmaker in 2012. Just days before the court's ruling, the government had amended rules to allow execution by lethal injection or hanging, indicating that the country's decades-long moratorium on executions will soon end.

The latest dispute could exacerbate the country's already fragile politics, with Maumoon Abdul Gayoom moving to strengthen his hold on the party.

The Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after Maumoon had held power for nearly 30 years. But the democratic gains have receded in recent years.

Yameen Abdul Gayoom is accused of using the courts, government bureaucracy and police to suppress the opposition and the media.

Since he was elected to office in 2013, four senior politicians have been jailed after trials that were widely criticized as lacking due process.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's successor, Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president, resigned under heavy criticism for having ordered the military to detain one of the country's top judges. He then lost a presidential election to Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year after a court ruled that the jailing of the judge was akin to terrorism.

Yameen's former vice president, Ahmed Adeeb, was sentenced to 33 years in prison on corruption and terrorism charges, including an alleged plot to assassinate the president.

Yameen's former defense minister, Mohamed Nazim, and opposition party leader Sheik Imran Abdulla are also serving lengthy prison terms.

Thai government rules out death penalty for rapists despite mounting pressure

Source: South China Morning Post (6 July 2016)

Thailand’s Justice Ministry says it has no plan to execute rapists who murder their victims, saying such a harsh penalty would provoke more rapists to kill.

The ministry’s third-ranking official, Tawatchai Thaikyo, posted the comments on Monday on his Facebook page amid growing outrage over the suspected rape and murder of a 27-year-old teacher, whose alleged attacker was a convicted rapist who lived in her apartment building. The woman’s death has prompted calls for harsher penalties for rapes and capital punishment for fatal rapes.

Capital punishment is legal in Thailand for 35 different crimes, including drug offences, terrorism, national security crimes, murder and fatal rapes. But in practice, the death penalty is rarely used. The last execution was carried out in 2009 for two drug traffickers.

“If raping equals the death penalty, it would encourage rapists to kill all victims to shut their mouths,” said Justice Ministry deputy permanent secretary Tawatchai Thaikyo. “Wouldn’t it be better if we require all convicted rapists to undergo a rehabilitation programme and give them support to prevent them from committing such crimes again?”

Part of the public anger is over the prison system’s failure, in this case, to rehabilitate. The main suspect in the attack Friday is a 27-year-old factory worker who was released from prison last August after serving less than two years behind bars for raping a friend’s wife.

He initially told police that he lived a few doors down from the teacher and knew her apartment door was broken, so he sneaked in late Friday with the intention of raping her but she fought back so he killed her, local media reported.

He later changed his confession to say he had no intention of raping but only wanted to rob the teacher. Another neighbour found the woman’s naked body, her throat slashed, the day after the attack.

Thai drunk drivers taken on gory tour of Bangkok morgue to reflect on their crime

The suspect, identified as Chatree Ruamsungnoen, was arrested on Saturday and police cancelled a subsequent re-enactment of the crime, which is common in Thailand when suspects confess, over concern he would be attacked by angry mobs.

The head of Thailand’s military government also commented on the case, saying he disagreed with the calls for capital punishment.

“Look at what other countries are doing globally. Human rights laws have stopped capital punishment in many countries around the world,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said, adding that severe penalties alone won’t prevent rapes. Even if the punishment were “three executions” it still might not be enough to deter criminals, he said.

“Society has to help pressure them,” Prayuth added, saying public condemnation could be a greater deterrent than the death penalty.

Rights groups say rape in Thailand goes largely unreported and unpunished, partly because police often don’t take complaints seriously.

Thai police receive about 4,000 rape complaints a year and make about 2,400 arrests, according to the Thailand Development Research Institute, a public policy research institute that gets data from the Justice Ministry.

The number of unreported rape cases is estimated at 30,000 per year, the institute says, amounting to a case every 15 minutes.

The victim’s father added his voice to the calls for capital punishment at a news conference after his daughter’s death.

“I don’t want to see laws kill a person,” the father said on Monday. “But if we let such a bad guy go free, he will kill again.”

Nancy explains delay in amending death penalty law

Source: Malaysiakini (10 July 2016)

At Malaysia's presentation of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report at the United Nations in Geneva in 2013, one of the recommendations which had substantive amount of support was for Malaysia to put a stop to executions.

At least 18 states - including Norway - raised concerns about the death penalty and made recommendations for Malaysia to establish a moratorium on executions, as well as take steps to eliminate mandatory death sentences.

In response, the Malaysian government delegation stated it was studying the “issues arising from the imposition of [the] death penalty”, with the view of making recommendations on ways forward.

According to Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 report on Malaysia, official statistics listed 33 executions carried out between 1998 and 2015.

In a written reply to a question by Bukit Gelugor parliamentarian Ramkarpal Singh in May, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said there were 1,041 death penalty inmates as of May 16 this year.

Mandatory death sentence is applied to those convicted of drug-trafficking, firearm offences, murder, and treason.

In November last year, attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali had called mandatory death penalty a “paradox” because it takes away a judge’s discretion in imposing sentences.

In late 2012, International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-Cells) was tasked with providing a comprehensive review of the laws and practices on death penalty in Malaysia.

According to Nancy, the research group appointed Roger Hood, emeritus professor of criminology from Oxford University, as consultant in 2014.

When asked why the study took more than three years, Nancy admitted it took a long time but said it was fair because the review was "very thorough".

“They (the researchers) went back in history to the 1800s. They looked into every aspect of the law, the history, why the law was made in such a way.

“That’s why, according to them, it took so long. They finished only about two months ago,” Nancy told Malaysiakini at the sidelines of the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, on June 22.

The minister said it was important to ensure the recommendations put forth by cabinet echo public opinion on the matter.

“If you see cases that happened in Malaysia, especially the victims' families, they always want an eye for an eye ... So it becomes a challenge for the country.

“It's better to get a proper study to be done professionally and see whether this (amending) is something that the Malaysians can accept because we want to be at par with others as well.

“And not only that, we are talking about a human being, even though talking about what the accused or the perpetrator had done to the victim, it is very difficult for the government to just take away what (punishment) is already there.

So therefore … we feel that we need to go back to the court but still, we need to see what is the outcome of the study on legislative reforms, whether they (the recommendations) include that or not,” she said.

Make study public

The NGOs are urging the government to release the study.

“The study and recommendations must be made public,” said Hector.

For regional grouping Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan), Malaysia going on record in front of its UN peers that it was carrying out a study adds another layer of accountability.

“It is only prudent that the report be made public now that it is completed,” said Adpan executive member Ngeow Chow Ying.

Nancy said it was about timing.

“I cannot pre-empt it because we have to present to cabinet but I believe there shouldn’t be any problem (to share the study with the public) because it is an academic study to propose to the government what is best.

The minister herself has not read the contents of the study.

“I have not seen it (the study) because it is only I-Cells and the AG’s Chambers (which are involved). Once they have prepared the recommendation paper, I will be the one (to read it), the person to table to cabinet.

“But of course it will be up to the government to take which part of the recommendations that the government feel is suitable for Malaysia to pick up,” she said.

Adpan was confident that recommendations from I-Cells’ leader Hood, whose scholarship on death penalty is known globally, would reflect international standards.

“Prof Roger Hood is an authority on this issue and he is a strong abolitionist; his recommendations will be to abolish the death penalty. The report is to be tabled to cabinet for approval. It will be a test on our politicians," said Ngeow.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu added: "Death penalty reforms have been bandied about since 2010. Six years on, it is good to note that some progress has been made and we hope that the government will heed international calls to abolish the death penalty in its entirety."

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Death penalty bills to come alive in new Philippine Senate

Source: Asia One (29 June 2016)

At least two Philippine senators will file bills on July 1 to reimpose the death penalty in keeping apparently with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's wishes.

Reviving capital punishment will be among the first 10 measures to be filed by each of Sen. Vicente Sotto III and returning Sen. Panfilo Lacson ahead of the formal opening of the 17th Congress on July 25.

All incoming members of the Senate are in the process of readying the first 10 bills each will file come July 1.

Duterte recently said in Davao City that he viewed the death penalty-which was repealed during the Arroyo administration in 2006-as retribution for one's crimes against society. "When you kill, rape someone you should pay for it," he had said.

Lacson, however, said he saw the death penalty differently.

In a text message, Lacson said this was the first time he was filing a death penalty bill and it would cover "all heinous crimes" as defined in Republic Act No. 7659, or the Death Penalty Law that was repealed in 2006.

Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said he saw capital punishment as a deterrent to crime while Duterte saw it as retribution.

Lacson said his bill would specify death by lethal injection and not by hanging, as Duterte had said he preferred but which Lacson found to be "medieval.""I believe the mere knowledge one's death is forthcoming is the ultimate punishment," Lacson said.

The nine other bills Lacson will file include the budget reform for village empowerment act, national ID reference system act, amendments to the antimoney laundering act and bank secrecy law, and the anti-wire tapping and SIM card registration acts.

Sotto said he would refile the death penalty bill he first submitted in 2014 which seeks to revive the old capital punishment law or RA 7659. His bill would also propose death by lethal injection.

Sotto's other bills have to do with addressing the drug problem, an antidrug penal institution act, the creation of a Presidential Anti-Drug Authority, creation of a dangerous drugs court, and providing for affordable drug rehabilitation treatment for PhilHealth beneficiaries.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Singapore’s heartless death penalty for drug traffickers

Source: Online Citizen (11 June 2016)

By Arjun Malik

On the first of June, I watched the conclusion of a capital punishment heroin trafficking case in Singapore’s Supreme Court. I was left profoundly disturbed.

As Judge Choo Han Teck announced the sentences in court, the family members of the defendants erupted in pain. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, sons, daughters – their bodies shuddered in agony and tears streaked down their pained faces. Their heartbreaking cries reverberated softly through the crowded courtroom. Two of the three co-defendants, Kalwant Singh and Norasharee Bin Gous, were sentenced to death by hanging. The third defendant’s life was spared for his “substantive assistance” to the authorities. He will be imprisoned for life instead.

Yet even in the presence of such acute intense human suffering, the courtroom proved to be the most unsympathetic of places. The judge, while allowing the families of the defendants to spend some time with their loved ones before they were taken to prison, declared that they could only meet for ten minutes because he had “another matter to attend to”. The public prosecutor instructed the guards to stop some family members from talking to the defendants, presumably because they were not part of the “immediate” family. Could the Singaporean justice system treat these defendants and their families with any more cruelty and indifference?

Even as controversy over capital punishment rages worldwide, support for the death penalty in Singapore remains remarkably strong. Though a legislative change in 2012 made the death penalty no longer mandatory for drug traffickers, prosecutors and judges continue to impose capital punishment for non-violent drug offenses. The dominant Singaporean narrative is that the death penalty has been an effective deterrent against drug crime, despite a complete absence of academic evidence backing up such a viewpoint. As Oxford University professors Roger Hood and Carolyn Hoyle explain, "It has been argued that the death penalty is an indisputable deterrent to drug trafficking, but no evidence of a statistical kind has been forthcoming to support this contention.” In fact, the death penalty is so accepted that it is often left out of mainstream public discourse. Not a single Singaporean media outlet covered this case or the resulting announcement of death sentences – a situation that would be unthinkable in other developed nations.

There is also a perception that Singapore has robust legal safeguards that prevent it from wrongfully convicting drug traffickers. Admittedly, Singapore enjoys strong rule of law. However, many might be surprised by the flimsiness of evidence that is accepted with such deadly punishments at stake. In this case, there is a serious question as to whether, Kalwant Singh, who acted as a drug courier, was actually aware that he was trafficking heroin. Singh has consistently claimed that he believed he was transporting “panparak” – a preparation of Indian betel leaf, areca nut and tobacco that is regularly consumed in Southeast Asia.

The only major piece of evidence that contradicts Singh’s account is testimony from a co-defendant, Mohamed Yazid. Very conveniently, Yazid was spared the death penalty for his testimony against Singh. Singaporean law allows drug trafficking defendants who provide “substantive assistance” to the authorities to escape the death penalty, providing a strong incentive to testify against others, even dishonestly.

By the Court’s own admission, “a person facing a capital drug offence may falsely implicate his co-accused so as to save himself from the gallows”. Despite this recognition, in his written opinion, the judge comes to the conclusion that “Yazid … had spoken the truth”, thereby convicting Singh and sentencing him to death.

We should never be comfortable executing people on the basis of such questionable evidence.

Moreover, the fact that the majority of people caught up in the drug trade worldwide come from impoverished backgrounds is too often overlooked. It emerged that one of the defendants in the case was earning a measly one hundred Malaysian Ringgit (about twenty-five US Dollars) for each “bundle” of drugs that he delivered. That means he was making a pitiful few hundred dollars every time he took the risk of losing his life. The word “drug trafficker” often evokes images of a wealthy drug kingpin profiting royally off the suffering of addicts. In reality, those executed are very rarely the kingpins who command the drug trade. Instead, like the defendants in this case, they are mostly poor, low-level drug couriers who may have little knowledge of what they are getting themselves into.

There should be little doubt that Singapore’s attitude towards the death penalty for drug traffickers is fraught with misperceptions and half-truths. With a better appreciation of the academic evidence on deterrence, uncertainty in the legal process and the impoverished background of most convicted drug traffickers, one would hope that Singaporeans might reconsider their position. Given the facts, it is hard to fathom how imposing the death penalty for non-violent drug crimes is consistent with basic ideals of fairness and proportionality.

After the verdict was delivered, the agonizing scene I encountered is one I will never forget. The distraught defendants and their families, separated almost entirely by glass, tried desperately to touch each other through a paper-thin slit in the wall. They barely managed to grasp each other’s fingers or meet their lips for a fleeting last kiss. Perhaps, it is only by witnessing the utter state of despair in the courtroom, that people can truly comprehend the gravity of the death penalty. Maybe, after watching a drug trafficking case unfold for themselves, they will leave just as disturbed as I was.

ADPAN urges Indonesia to Abolish Death Penalty and Castration for Sex Offenders

Source: Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (16 June 2016)

ADPAN(Anti Death Penalty Asia Network) is perturbed by Indonesia’s recent introduction of death penalty and chemical castration to sex offenders.

On 25/5/2016, President Joko Widodo signed a decree introducing the tougher punishments for child sex offenders, including the death penalty and chemical castration. The death penalty can now be handed down to child rapists where the victim has died or suffered serious mental or physical injury, while chemical castration can be used in cases of repeat child sex offenders. (AFP – AlJazeera, 26/5/2016)

This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the case of a 14-year-old girl who was snatched by a group of drunken men and boys on western Sumatra island in April and was found days later in woods, tied up and naked.

ADPAN believes that punishment need to be meted out to the guilty, but definitely not the death penalty.

Several studies have also warned against focusing solely on punitive action as the solution to sex offences, rather proposing parent-focused child sex abuse prevention (Mendelson & Letourneau. 2015), involving men and boys as allies against sexual violence (Walsh. 2015), mechanisms to identify persons who are attracted to pre-pubescent girls (Beier et al. 2016) and introducing school-based sexuality education at an early age, containing modules addressing inappropriate touching and rape culture. (Coleman et al. 2015) The death penalty will not prevent rapes.

If deterrence is Indonesia’s objective for the introduction of the death penalty, it must be pointed out that there is no credible evidence to suggest that the death penalty is a deterrent. The Death Penalty Information Center points to higher murder rates in states that have the death penalty as proof the sentencing threat does not deter crime.

There is also concern that when death penalty is imposed for crimes that do not usually result in death of victims, as would apply to sex offences, there is a real risk that the death penalty would encourage the offender to murder the victim to destroy the evidence against him/her.

Therefore, ADPAN urges Indonesia to reconsider and abolish the death penalty for sex offenders.

ADPAN also calls on Indonesia to abolish the new punishment of ‘chemical castration’ for sex offenders.

ADPAN further calls on Indonesia to abolish the Death Penalty, and impose an immediate moratorium on executions pending abolitions.

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of

ADPAN (Anti Death Penalty Asia Network)