Friday, 3 July 2015

Iran executes hundreds in brutal crane hangings at mega-prison outside Tehran

Source: International Business Times (2 July 2015)

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iran-executes-hundreds-brutal-crane-hangings-mega-prison-outside-tehran-1508986


Almost 400 people were executed for drug-related charges and about 108 for murder. IHR also said at least seven prisoners, all of whom were Kurdish, were killed for their political or ideological affiliations, amid allegations of unfair trials.

The remaining 70 inmates were killed for sexual crimes, mainly rape, and for "waging war against God" and "corruption on heart".

Nearly 40% of the executions were announced by official Iranian media and 34 people were executed in public spaces.

Hanging is a 'slow torture' in Iran

All the executions were carried out by hanging. IHR spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam told IBTimes UK that there are different ways of hanging inmates. In Iran, prisoners are usually pulled up by their necks with the use of cranes.

"It takes them many minutes to die, it's a way of torturing them along with the execution," Amiry-Moghaddam said. "Two years ago, a man had survived 14 minutes of hanging before dying. So hanging is not intended as the standard way of momentary pain. It's not that they just die, it is a slow strangulation."

IHR urged the international community to put pressure on Iran to halt pending executions and reduce its rate of use of the death penalty.

"We are talking about the worst execution surge in more than 20 years in Iran and this is happening while the relations between Iran and the European countries have not been better in many years," Amiry-Moghaddam said.

"The government of Mr Rouhani have defended the executions and in some cases members of his cabinet have asked for more. Besides the large number of executions, unfair trials and widespread use of torture to get confessions are major issues of concern."Saman Naseem was sentenced to death at the age of 17 following a gun battle in Sardasht between the Revolutionary Guards and Kurdish militant organisation PJAK(Amnesty)

Execution of juvenile offenders

The NGO also warned the Islamic republic executed at least one juvenile offender in 2015. Javad Saberi was hanged at the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj after being convicted of murder, despite the fact he suffered from mental illness.

The execution of juvenile offenders is in breach of both domestic and international laws. Iran allows capital punishment for juveniles in case of "qesas" (retribution-in-kind) and "hodoud" (offences and punishments for which there are fixed penalties under Islamic law).

However, article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code excludes the death penalty if the juvenile offender did not understand the nature of the crime or its consequences, or if there are doubts about their mental capacity.

The high-profile case of Saman Naseem, a 24-year-old man sentenced to death at the age of 17 and whose whereabouts are unknown today, prompted the international community to criticise Iran after it announced Naseem's execution.

Following pressure by several NGOs, Naseem has gone missing from his prison cell and his family do not know whether he is dead or alive.

Naseem was sentenced to death after being charged with "enmity against God" and "corruption on Earth", following a gun battle in Sardasht between the Revolutionary Guards and Kurdish militant organisation PJAK, of which he is believed to be a member.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Indonesia court rejects French citizen's death sentence appeal

Source: Jurist (23 Jun 2015)

http://jurist.org/paperchase/2015/06/indonesia-court-rejects-french-citizens-death-sentence-appeal.php

The  State Administrative Court of Jakarta[official website, in Indonesian] on Monday denied the clemency appeal of a French citizen sentenced to death on a drug trafficking charge. The appeal of Serge Atlaoui was an effort to reverse the original clemency denial made by President Joko Widodo  [BBC profile] last year. The country has received significant criticism for its use of the death penalty for drug offenses, particularly against foreign nationals. In its opinion, the Jakarta court said that granting clemency was the exclusive prerogative of the president. France, which firmly opposes the death penalty, has aimed to provided aid [Le Monde report, in French] to Atlaoui and has warned of "consequences" should the execution be completed.

Indonesia's use of the death penalty has been an international point of contention, with several members of the international community speaking out against the practice. In April, Indonesia exectued eight convicted drug smugglers said to be part of the "Bali Nine" smuggling ring by firing squad. In February a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website]  urged the Indonesian government to halt all executions of people convicted of drug-related offenses. In January another spokesperson for the OHCHR voiced concern over the continued use of the death penalty in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The OHCHR reported that eight more people convicted of drug trafficking in Vietnam had been sentenced to death. Also in January Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors from Indonesia after an Indonesian firing squad executed six convicted drug traffickers.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Executing drug dealers in Southeast Asia

Source: Al Jazeera (22 June 2015)


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Shortly before each plane lands in Kuala Lumpur, as the cabin crew politely ask passengers to put their seats upright and turn off all electronic devices, those on board also receive a chilling warning about "severe" penalties awaiting those found guilty of dealing drugs.
Malaysia is one of only 13 countries in the world that imposes a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking - murder and nine other crimes can also result in capital punishment - but officials are again hinting at the possibility of review. The government first indicated the possibility of review six years ago.
"When policies are not working they should be changed," Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Paul Low told more than 300 delegates at a recent Asian Regional Congress on the Death Penalty.
Low, who has responsibility for human rights, noted the numbers sentenced to death for drug offences continue to rise, and Malaysia's commitment to capital punishment for such crimes made it difficult for the government to argue for a reprieve for its own citizens caught in similar circumstances in other countries.
Legal analysts say it's important that governments take the lead in moving away from retributive forms of justice.
"Even if there's high public support for the death penalty, countries that have abandoned it have not waited for their populations to change," associate professor Chan Wing Cheong, of the Faculty of Law at the National University of Singapore, told Al Jazeera. "They have done it because it's the right thing to do."
Reconsidering execution
Over the past 10 years, Asian governments, like much of the rest of the world, have reconsidered the death penalty. Cambodia, the Philippines, East Timor, and Mongolia have abolished it, while others including Vietnam and Singapore have reviewed the scope of the laws surrounding its use. Yet, despite recent progress, Asia remains the continent with the world's highest number of executions. Many on death row are drug mules.
Blaming the scourge of drug addiction, some countries have resumed executions while others have sent increasing numbers of people to their deaths.
"It's a policy that governments choose, or do not choose, to embrace," said Rick Lines, executive director of Harm Reduction International, which researches drug policy and the death penalty.
"The biggest example of that this year is Indonesia. In 2012, we categorised Indonesia as a 'low application' country, but this year they have executed 14 people for drugs. It's not a change of culture or tradition. It's a change in policy."
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office in October 2014, says the executions were necessary to show Indonesia's commitment to fighting the drug trade. Nearly all of those shot by a firing squad - Indonesia's chosen method - were foreign nationals.
"There is a deeply rooted hatred against drugs [in Indonesia]," said Ricky Gunawan, director of Lembaga Bantuan Masyarakat Hukum, which provides legal assistance to people facing the death penalty. "With this kind of hatred, it's easy for politicians to use this as a political tool to get sympathy from the public."
Deterrent effect?
The United Nations says drug offences do not meet the threshold for " most serious crimes ". Moreover, the mandatory sentence imposed in countries such as Malaysia violates the defendant's right to a fair trial and due process.
Critics also question the death penalty's deterrent effect. The Golden Triangle, where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet geographically, still produces one-quarter of the world's heroin , and the cultivation of opium poppies has increased every year since 2006, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Southeast Asia is also at the centre of the methamphetamine trade.
"Organised crime moves drugs by the tonne," said Julian McMahon, an Australian lawyer who has worked on death row cases in the region for more than a decade - most recently for Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who wereamong those executed in Indonesia in April.
"It's intellectually laughable to suggest that the arrest and execution of low-level drug mules will have any effect [on the drug trade]. They are immediately replaceable by any number of similarly stupid young people, too many of whom have been my clients."
Singapore's lead
In 2012, Singapore amended some of its laws related to the mandatory death penalty and returned some discretion to the courts. In drug-trafficking cases, the revisions meant those who could prove cooperation with the authorities or were ruled to have diminished responsibility could be sentenced to life imprisonment with caning, rather than the once-mandatory death sentence.
Low said the changes could provide a useful guide for Malaysia as it reviews its own legislation.
"We note that under the amended act, three Malaysians have since beenresentenced to life imprisonment," Low said.
Nearly 1,000 people are believed to be on death row in Malaysia, half for drug offences.
The Malaysian government does not release data on executions or the number of people on death row. The European Union estimates at least three people were executed in 2013 and two in 2014 in the country.
Given the repeated promises of the past few years, the Bar Council - which represents 12,000 lawyers in Malaysia and is at the forefront of the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty - is urging Malaysia to make clear its intentions.
"The first time we heard this announcement was in 2009," said Steven Thiru, president of the Bar Council. "We can't have promises repeatedly made. There are a great number of people on death row. It leaves too much uncertainty. There's a need to decide once and for all." 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Compassionate Communists

Source: The Economist (20 June 2015)


ONE ordinary farmer, Nguyen Thanh Chan, is now a celebrity in Vietnam. In 2004 he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a woman in Nghia Trung, a village north-east of Hanoi, the capital. Yet he was released in 2013 after a neighbour, confronted with evidence, confessed to the crime. Earlier this month the country’s Supreme People’s Court announced that it would pay Mr Chan $360,000—many times what he would earn in a lifetime—as compensation for his nightmare.
The day after the announcement Mr Chan welcomed reporters to his one-storey farmhouse. He said that after his arrest police roughed him up and forced him to make a false confession. Had it not been for his wife’s long-shot campaign to clear his name, he might still be rotting in prison.
As in China, death-penalty statistics in Vietnam are state secrets. But Amnesty International, a rights group, says that at least three prisoners were executed last year and more than 700 face possible execution. Of the 72 who were sentenced to death in 2014 alone, four-fifths were found guilty of drug trafficking.Mr Chan’s case comes as the Vietnamese government attempts to reform the criminal-justice system. Proposed changes to the penal and criminal-procedure codes were discussed this week in the National Assembly, Vietnam’s tame parliament. In part, the Communist Party seems to be pursuing change as an easy way to curry favour with Western governments at a time when Vietnam faces heightened tensions with neighbouring China. Yet the reforms seem to be gathering a momentum of their own, including over capital punishment.
Now the assembly is debating whether to cut the number of crimes for which the death penalty applies to 15 from 22. Stealing and disobeying military orders would no longer be capital offences. Drug trafficking will remain one for now. Yet a Western diplomat in Hanoi who follows legal matters thinks that it, too, could go within a year. He adds that if that happened, Vietnam’s stance on capital punishment would instantly become among the most enlightened in South-East Asia. Only the Philippines has abolished it altogether.
Yet whatever the assembly decides, Vietnam’s criminal-justice system will remain deeply flawed. The criminal-procedure code permits harsh interrogation tactics, while the penal code is littered with clauses that criminalise, on grounds of national security, vaguely defined activities such as “conducting propaganda against the state”. In court, the judge is almost always a Communist Party member, while the two jurors who flank him typically have ties to the security state. Most prisoners who attempt to kick against the system are silenced. In one well-known example, Nguyen Van Ly, a Roman Catholic priest, accused the police and the court of practising the “law of the jungle”, whereupon a courtroom officer clamped a hand over his mouth. As for death row, inmates there are not told when their executions will take place, while questions swirl around how the executions are conducted. Four years ago the government gave up firing squads in favour of lethal injections. But because of a European Union ban on selling lethal-injection drugs, it switched to home-grown varieties. Doctors have been coerced into administering them.
But at least lawmakers are beginning to acknowledge irregularities in state prosecutors’ work. One controversial case they are reviewing concerns Ho Duy Hai, a man in the southern province of Long An who was convicted of murder in 2008. The evidence against him looks questionable. In December Vietnam’s president, Truong Tan Sang, suspended Mr Hai’s execution after behind-the-scenes pressure from Western diplomats.
Meanwhile, though the farmer, Nguyen Thanh Chan, still believes that the system broadly works, he wonders aloud if all crimes are being properly investigated. In his own case, the only reason the courts finally paid attention to his pleas of innocence was that his wife became an amateur gumshoe. After months of sleuthing, she showed up at the justice ministry, grabbed a bureaucrat by the collar and demanded the right to present reams of overlooked evidence. The ministry should give her a job.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Death penalty does not deter crime, says Malaysian Bar president

Source: The Rakyat Post (11 June 2015)

http://www.therakyatpost.com/news/2015/06/11/death-penalty-does-not-deter-crime-says-malaysian-bar-president/

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru said there was no empirical evidence or data to confirm that death penalty served as an effective deterrent to preventing crimes.

"There has been no significant reduction in the crimes for which the death penalty is currently mandatory, particularly true of drug-related offences," he said.

Malaysia remains one of the 13 countries which imposes mandatory death penalty sentence for drug-related offences.

Pointing out that there is lack of official data of prisoners on death row to conclusively support that death penalty is working as a deterrent, Thiru warned it could well have the opposite effect where courts could choose to stop convicting persons because the penalty was too severe.

"Nevertheless, the Malaysian Bar's primary opposition to the death penalty is because life is sacred and every person has an inherent right to life.

"This is guaranteed under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution that eschews arbitrary deprivation of life.

"We take the view that the right to life is a fundamental right which must be absolute, inalienable and universal, irrespective of the crime committed by the accused person," he said during the opening of the first Asian Regional Congress On The Death Penalty at the Renaissance Hotel here this morning.

The two-day event is organised by French organisation Together Against Death Penalty (ECPM) and Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network under the sponsorship of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Also present were Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low and Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam.

Thiru pointed out that a public opinion survey in 2013 conducted by Malaysian Bar and the Death Penalty Project, a leading human rights organisation based in United Kingdom, revealed that mandatory death penalty for trafficking and firearms offences could be abolished without any public outcry in the country.

"As regard of the mandatory penalty death for murder, the majority favoured the exercise of discretion whether or not to sentence persons convicted of murder to death.

"As a whole the findings showed that the majority of public surveyed did not support mandatory death penalty, whether for drug trafficking, murder or firearms offences," he said.

Thiru further said that the reluctance to discard the death penalty might well be fuelled by the perception that a large portion of Malaysian society still felt that the sentence should remain as the convicted persons had indeed committed heinous crimes and found guilty by the legal process.

The campaign to abolish the death penalty, he said, was not to confer   licence to commit serious crimes with impunity.

"Persons convicted of serious crimes must receive the proportionate punishment but this does not mean that they, therefore, ought to die in the notion that 'an eye for an eye' provides the best form of justice."

Thiru urged the government to abolish the death penalty and, in the meantime, put in place an immediate moratorium on its use pending abolition, instead of merely making promises.

According to rights group Amnesty International, as of October 2012, death row in Malaysia held a population of 900 prisoners, with at least two reported executions last year.



Monday, 15 June 2015

Taiwan executes 6 death-row inmates

Source: AsiaOne Asia (6 June 2015)

http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/taiwan-executes-6-death-row-inmates

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) carried out six executions Friday evening in response to public outcry after the murder of an 8-year-old schoolgirl in Taipei one week ago. The inmates included Tsao Tien-shou, Wang Hsiu-fang, Cheng Chin-wen, Huang Chu-wang, Wang Chun-chin, and Wang Yu-long. A last-minute stay of execution motion filed by Huang was denied.
Yesterday's executions were carried out in locations in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. The situation was similar to the ministry's reaction when a man slit the throat of a young boy in 2012. The MOJ responded to the public uproar within three weeks, carrying out six executions.
The number of executions in Taiwan has risen sharply after Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay assumed her post in 2013. In 2014, she approved five executions. Following yesterday's executions, 42 inmates remain on death row in prisons throughout Taiwan.
From 2006 to 2010, a 52-month moratorium on capital punishment existed as successive heads of the MOJ publicly supported the end of the death penalty in Taiwan.
Wang Ching-feng, the first justice minister appointed by President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008 and an advocate of ending the death penalty was forced to resign after social protests orchestrated by entertainer Pai Ping-ping, whose daughter was murdered in 1997, stirred public resentment.
Wang was forced to resign in 2010, with her successor continuing capital punishment one month into his term.
Ma Trying to Divert Public Attention: Anti-death Penalty Group
After the executions, Kuomintang Legislator Tsai Chin-lung remarked that "justice has been served." Civil organisations against the death penalty rebuked the government for its actions, with one organisation calling it "evil."
The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty published a statement Wednesday accusing the Ma administration of using the death penalty to divert attention from other issues.
The organisation accused Ma of "using the fresh blood of the executed as a sacrificial offering for popular support." For instance, it cited April 19, 2013 as an example, as six executions were carried out on the same day.
It was also the same day that former President Chen Shui-bian was transferred to Taichung Prison's Pei-de Hospital and the Legislative Yuan was deliberating whether a referendum should be held regarding the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
Capital punishment is widely supported by Taiwan's public, with opinion polls usually showing around 80-per cent support for the retention of the death penalty. In Asia, Taiwan joins China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam among others in retaining the death penalty.
- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/taiwan-executes-6-death-row-inmates#sthash.bYmG5LVk.dpuf
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) carried out six executions Friday evening in response to public outcry after the murder of an 8-year-old schoolgirl in Taipei one week ago. The inmates included Tsao Tien-shou, Wang Hsiu-fang, Cheng Chin-wen, Huang Chu-wang, Wang Chun-chin, and Wang Yu-long. A last-minute stay of execution motion filed by Huang was denied.

Yesterday's executions were carried out in locations in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. The situation was similar to the ministry's reaction when a man slit the throat of a young boy in 2012. The MOJ responded to the public uproar within three weeks, carrying out six executions.

The number of executions in Taiwan has risen sharply after Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay assumed her post in 2013. In 2014, she approved five executions. Following yesterday's executions, 42 inmates remain on death row in prisons throughout Taiwan.

From 2006 to 2010, a 52-month moratorium on capital punishment existed as successive heads of the MOJ publicly supported the end of the death penalty in Taiwan. 

Wang Ching-feng, the first justice minister appointed by President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008 and an advocate of ending the death penalty was forced to resign after social protests orchestrated by entertainer Pai Ping-ping, whose daughter was murdered in 1997, stirred public resentment. 

Wang was forced to resign in 2010, with her successor continuing capital punishment one month into his term.

Ma Trying to Divert Public Attention: Anti-death Penalty Group 

After the executions, Kuomintang Legislator Tsai Chin-lung remarked that "justice has been served." Civil organisations against the death penalty rebuked the government for its actions, with one organisation calling it "evil."

The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty published a statement Wednesday accusing the Ma administration of using the death penalty to divert attention from other issues. 

The organisation accused Ma of "using the fresh blood of the executed as a sacrificial offering for popular support." For instance, it cited April 19, 2013 as an example, as six executions were carried out on the same day. 

It was also the same day that former President Chen Shui-bian was transferred to Taichung Prison's Pei-de Hospital and the Legislative Yuan was deliberating whether a referendum should be held regarding the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. 

Capital punishment is widely supported by Taiwan's public, with opinion polls usually showing around 80-per cent support for the retention of the death penalty. In Asia, Taiwan joins China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam among others in retaining the death penalty.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) carried out six executions Friday evening in response to public outcry after the murder of an 8-year-old schoolgirl in Taipei one week ago. The inmates included Tsao Tien-shou, Wang Hsiu-fang, Cheng Chin-wen, Huang Chu-wang, Wang Chun-chin, and Wang Yu-long. A last-minute stay of execution motion filed by Huang was denied.
Yesterday's executions were carried out in locations in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. The situation was similar to the ministry's reaction when a man slit the throat of a young boy in 2012. The MOJ responded to the public uproar within three weeks, carrying out six executions.
- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/taiwan-executes-6-death-row-inmates#sthash.bYmG5LVk.dpuf
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) carried out six executions Friday evening in response to public outcry after the murder of an 8-year-old schoolgirl in Taipei one week ago. The inmates included Tsao Tien-shou, Wang Hsiu-fang, Cheng Chin-wen, Huang Chu-wang, Wang Chun-chin, and Wang Yu-long. A last-minute stay of execution motion filed by Huang was denied.
Yesterday's executions were carried out in locations in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. The situation was similar to the ministry's reaction when a man slit the throat of a young boy in 2012. The MOJ responded to the public uproar within three weeks, carrying out six executions.
- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/taiwan-executes-6-death-row-inmates#sthash.bYmG5LVk.dpuf
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) carried out six executions Friday evening in response to public outcry after the murder of an 8-year-old schoolgirl in Taipei one week ago. The inmates included Tsao Tien-shou, Wang Hsiu-fang, Cheng Chin-wen, Huang Chu-wang, Wang Chun-chin, and Wang Yu-long. A last-minute stay of execution motion filed by Huang was denied.
Yesterday's executions were carried out in locations in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. The situation was similar to the ministry's reaction when a man slit the throat of a young boy in 2012. The MOJ responded to the public uproar within three weeks, carrying out six executions.
The number of executions in Taiwan has risen sharply after Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay assumed her post in 2013. In 2014, she approved five executions. Following yesterday's executions, 42 inmates remain on death row in prisons throughout Taiwan.
From 2006 to 2010, a 52-month moratorium on capital punishment existed as successive heads of the MOJ publicly supported the end of the death penalty in Taiwan.
Wang Ching-feng, the first justice minister appointed by President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008 and an advocate of ending the death penalty was forced to resign after social protests orchestrated by entertainer Pai Ping-ping, whose daughter was murdered in 1997, stirred public resentment.
Wang was forced to resign in 2010, with her successor continuing capital punishment one month into his term.
Ma Trying to Divert Public Attention: Anti-death Penalty Group
After the executions, Kuomintang Legislator Tsai Chin-lung remarked that "justice has been served." Civil organisations against the death penalty rebuked the government for its actions, with one organisation calling it "evil."
The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty published a statement Wednesday accusing the Ma administration of using the death penalty to divert attention from other issues.
The organisation accused Ma of "using the fresh blood of the executed as a sacrificial offering for popular support." For instance, it cited April 19, 2013 as an example, as six executions were carried out on the same day.
It was also the same day that former President Chen Shui-bian was transferred to Taichung Prison's Pei-de Hospital and the Legislative Yuan was deliberating whether a referendum should be held regarding the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
Capital punishment is widely supported by Taiwan's public, with opinion polls usually showing around 80-per cent support for the retention of the death penalty. In Asia, Taiwan joins China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam among others in retaining the death penalty.
- See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/taiwan-executes-6-death-row-inmates#sthash.bYmG5LVk.dpuf

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Death Penalty in Contemporary China (Book)

Author: Susan Trevaskes 

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Date published: June 2012


Abstract:

China's infamous death penalty record is the product of firm party-state control and policy setting. Though during the 1980s and 1990s, the Chinese Communist Party's emphasis was on "kill many," whereas in the 2000s the direction of policy began to move toward "kill fewer". The Supreme Court has served as an increasingly powerful counterweight in recent years, contributing to the mollification of Party policy. This book details the policies, institutions, and story behind the reform of the death penalty over the last three decades.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Pakistan court dismisses plea seeking death penalty abolition

Source: Webindia123 (27 May 2015)

http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/Asia/20150526/2601605.html

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


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


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


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


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


There were no civilian hangings in Pakistan since 2008.


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


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


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

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The politics of china’s death penalty reform in the context of global abolitionism (Journal Article)

Author: Michelle Miao

British Journal of Criminology (2013) 53(3) 500-519

http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/53/3/500.abstract

Abstract:

This paper explores the influences of worldwide anti-death penalty campaigns in the local institutional environment in China and its implications for China's capital punishment reforms in recent years. It found a 'concentric pattern' of the dissemination of human rights values and anti-death penalty activisms may explain the varying attitudes towards human rights and international activism among different social groups across the Chinese society. Divergent interests of and perceptions held by national-level and lower-level legal elites are likely to be one of the causes for China to adopt an incremental reformist stance. Further, this study shows that the Chinese legal elites were poorly informed of the current status of public opinion on capital punishment. A populist-sentiment driven administration of capital punishment is closely tied to reliance on capital punishment.

Is China Rethinking the Death Penalty? Proposed reforms could continue the trend of decreasing executions in China

Source: The Diplomat (26 Nov 2014)

http://thediplomat.com/2014/11/is-china-rethinking-the-death-penalty/

In October, the long-awaited Fourth Plenum in China dedicated itself to fostering the "rule of law." Since then, there's been a wealth of analysis on the topic, including here at The Diplomat. But one area for potential reform went largely overlooked. Signs at the Fourth Plenum (and since) indicate that Chinese leaders are serious about combating something human rights activists have long decried: heavy use of the death penalty. 

According to the Dui Hua Foundation, China executed 2,400 people in 2013 – more than the rest of the world combined. However, according to Dui Hua's estimates, that figure also represents a 20 percent decline in executions since 2012 and a 75 percent drop since 2002. The Chinese government does not issue official statistics on the number of executions, so ironically the massive drop-off in execution rates has been kept fairly quiet. 

China reserves the death penalty for "extremely serious crimes," but as Gady Epstein of The Economist notes, China has historically had a fairly broad interpretation of what this means. Drug trafficking, financial crimes, and corruption can all be subject to capital punishment, particularly if the central government is encouraging a crackdown on crime. This led to massive amounts of executions through the 1980s and 1990s, with roughly 15,000 executions per year in the '90s. 

Epstein notes that the trend began reversing under the leadership of Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) from 1998 to 2008. Xiao recognized that China's unbridled use of the death penalty was a black mark on the country's international reputation. He began a quiet campaign to cut down on the number of executions, championing an attitude of "kill fewer, kill cautiously." 

It was under Xiao that the SPC gained the power to review all death sentences. Dui Hua attributes a large part of the recent decline in executions to this change; according to their estimate, 39 percent of death sentences are sent back to lower courts for reinvestigation and resentencing. The SPC's power to review death penalty cases provides a rare check on the authority of lower courts and helps prevent egregious abuses of capital sentencing. 

But there's always more to be done, and Chinese leaders are still working on reforming the death penalty review system. An October 2014 Southern Weekend report revealed that the SPC may institutionalize legal representation in its review of death penalty cases. Analysis by Susan Finder of the Supreme People's Court Monitor says the idea is related to the general legal reforms mentioned at the Fourth Plenum, including the promise to "complete effective guards against unjust, false, and wrongfully decided cases." Currently, Finder notes, the death penalty review process is administrative; the proposed reforms would make such reviews a "hearing-centered procedure" where defense lawyers review cases and argue on behalf of their clients. The reforms even include some movement to provide legal aid to those who do not have their own defense lawyer, a crucial change as many people sentenced to be executed cannot afford legal representation. 

Changing the review process is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to death penalty reform. The Supreme People's Court Monitor also noted the China's death penalty came under discussion at a recent conference hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and attended by SPC officials. Hu Yunteng, head of the SPC Research Office, said that reform is needed to the number of capital crimes as well as reducing judicial use of the death penalty. At the Third Plenum in 2013, the CCP promised to reduce the number of capital crimes "step by step." Currently the government is considering removing the death penalty as an option for nine crimes, including counterfeiting, certain kinds of smuggling, and "fraudulent fund-raising."

As noted above, one factor driving these reforms may be China's desire to remove a black mark from its international reputation. However, domestic opposition to the death penalty has also grown increasingly vocal. In April 2012, the SPC overturned the death sentence of Wu Ying, who had been convicted of fraud, after her sentence sparked outrage on Chinese social media outlets. Netizens were particularly upset about the harsh verdict against Wu given the perceived leniency shown to politically well-connected defendants accused of financial crimes. It should be noted, however, that Chinese netizens can be equally vocal about certain criminals not being sentenced to death, particularly when the accused are rich and politically well-connected. 

Another source for popular outrage are stories of cases where the falsely accused were executed after questionable investigations. In a sign of progress on this front, Caixin reports that a 1996 murder case in Inner Mongolia will be reheard. The case in question ended in the conviction and execution of an 18-year-old man named Qoysiletu for rape and murder. In 2005, however, another man confessed to a series of rapes and murder, including the 1996 case. Official reviews suggested that the original trial of Qoysiletu was based on sparse evidence, with most of the evidence centering on a transcribed confession that may have been doctored. After nearly a decade of pleading from Qoysiletu's family, a new trial will be held. The court is expected to officially overturn the guilty verdict against Qoysiletu – cold comfort to a family who lost their son. 

Given the finality of the death penalty, it's of the utmost importance that China institute reforms to ensure all convictions are solid and all sentences are justified. The use of capital punishment in China isn't going anywhere (in fact, it's being put to new purpose to punish convicted terrorists), making it all the more crucial for China's justice system to reform how the death penalty is applied and reviewed.

China Rethinks the Death Penalty

Source: The New York Times (8 July 2014)

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/09/opinion/china-rethinks-the-death-penalty.html?action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article&_r=0

Last month, China's Supreme People's Court overturned the death sentence of a woman who brutally killed and dismembered her husband. The landmark decision to send the high-profile case back to a provincial court was yet another sign that the country's embrace of the death penalty is loosening.

China is believed to execute more people each year than the rest of the world combined, and 43-year-old Li Yan initially seemed a likely candidate for death row. In 2010, she beat her husband to death with an air gun, chopped him into pieces and boiled his body parts. But police photos and a medical report backed up Ms. Li's claims that her husband had abused her — stubbing out cigarettes on her body, banging her head against the wall and threatening her with the air gun. The Supreme Court determined, rightly, that these circumstances justified a retrial. 

China is putting the brakes on the death penalty. According to Liu Renwen, a legal scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, between 2007 and 2011 the annual number of executions in China fell by half. Many violent offenders are now given so-called suspended death sentences, which are invariably downgraded later to life in prison. Such restraint has drawn broad public support.

How does a country that harvests and allegedly sells the organs of executed prisoners begin to lean toward more humane alternatives to the death penalty?

Like most of the world, China allowed the death penalty for much of its history, along with an array of other harsh punishments that included at various times servitude, tattooing and castration. But beginning in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), Confucian scholars emphasized a humanitarian approach to justice. The purpose of punishment, they argued, was to morally rehabilitate offenders and restore social harmony, not to secure revenge.

One crucial precept was chuli ruxing — that only when gentler means fail should punishment be used. While brutal executions certainly occurred, for centuries emperors regularly intervened to issue acts of da she, or great mercy, by pardoning offenders entirely. Some went further. In the 8th century, Emperor Xuanzong briefly abolished the death penalty, making China one of the few feudal countries to do so.

By late imperial times, Chinese execution practices were moderate compared with those in Europe. During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), imperial edicts suggest that China largely avoided the carnival-like killings then common in France, Germany and Britain. Public executions were solemn, orderly events, with guards discouraging rowdy spectators.

That changed drastically when Mao Zedong came to power in 1949. Using the death penalty as a political tool, he introduced bloody punitive campaigns in which suspects were rounded up en masse and summarily killed. From 1950 to 1953, during the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries, the regime executed more than 710,000 political foes. State-condoned killings spiked again during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and later during the "strike hard" campaigns initiated under Deng Xiaoping.

Rather than turn away onlookers, Mao encouraged them. Ignoring the humanitarian threads in Chinese culture, he avowed in 1951 that executions often "assuage the people's anger." Leaders who followed him made similar arguments.

Today, executions in China more often stoke anger than quell it. A 2007-2008 survey of nearly 4,500 people in three provinces funded by the European Commission found that only 58 percent supported the death penalty — compared with nearly 60 percent in the United States. Perhaps most revealing, respondents to the survey were aware of the death penalty's uneven implementation. Sixty-nine percent believed, accurately, that poor offenders were more likely to be put to death than wealthy ones, while 60 percent thought that innocent people might be wrongfully convicted. Indeed, the Chinese press has been trumpeting wrongful convictions — such as that of a Henan Province man convicted of murder whose supposed victim turned up alive in 2010.

Other surveys suggest that support for the death penalty is higher among Chinese legal and political elites than the general public. Still, these groups have heeded calls from the people for change. Outcry over wrongful convictions has challenged the legitimacy of China's judiciary at the very moment that the country has been trying to project an image of having a more modern and just legal system.

Interviews conducted by criminologists suggest that international criticism has had an impact as well. In 1977, a mere 16 countries had abolished the death penalty; today 140 countries — over two-thirds of the world's nations — have done so in law or practice. Chinese legal scholars and judges are fully aware of their country's role as the outlier.

In 2006 a group of reform-minded justices began formally advocating moderation in punishment. Led by Xiao Yang, then the Supreme People's Court chief justice, they pushed the maxim "kill fewer, kill cautiously." The following year, the high court began reviewing all capital cases, creating a strong disincentive for lower courts to hand out death sentences. The substitution in many cases of suspended death sentences — which in practice means offenders spend about 25 years in prison — was the result.

The shift met resistance from hard-liners who warned of a spike in crime. But pandemonium did not ensue. Some criminologists now argue that the harsh campaigns of the past in fact sparked violent crime, by making criminals reluctant to leave witnesses behind.

Chinese police continue to carry out punitive campaigns. But arrests made during such operations no longer automatically mean death. Even Chen Jun, a migrant worker convicted in a prominent 2008 case of stabbing the Canadian model Diana O'Brien more than 20 times, was given a suspended death sentence. The stabbing happened a mere month before the Beijing Olympics, as the police were cracking down on crimes big and small. Interviews I conducted over the past year with former police investigators, Mr. Chen's family and Ms. O'Brien's mother reveal that, in his case, the authorities were eager to show restraint. Instead of retributive justice, his trial suggested an emphasis on reparation and societal harmony.

China's penal practices are far from enlightened. Even if Mr. Liu's assertion of halving executions is true, China still executes about 3,000 people a year, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, compared with 39 in the United States in 2013.

But even a preliminary drop in executions is encouraging, allowing people like Li Yan a real shot at justice. Chinese judges and policy makers should continue to heed public calls for restraint. Perhaps, with time, they might even return to China's benevolent roots. 

Mara Hvistendahl is a founding member of the writers' cooperative Deca and the author of "And The City Swallowed Them."

Australia: Adopt New Strategy to End Death Penalty Abroad

Source: Human Rights Watch (20 May 2015)

http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/05/20/australia-adopt-new-strategy-end-death-penalty-abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Andrew Novak

Publisher: Routledge

Publication date: September 15th 2015

http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/search/author/andrew_novak/

Abstract:

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

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

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

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

Thinking Beyond Death Penalty Abolitionist Reform - Lessons from abroad and the options for China (Journal Article)

Author: Carolyn Hoyle & Michelle Miao

Source: China Legal Science (Zhongguo Faxue) 2014 March (2) 121-140

http://www.academia.edu/7103687/Hoyle_C._and_Miao_M._2014_Thinking_Beyond_Death_Penalty_Abolitionist_Reform_Lessons_from_Abroad_and_the_Options_for_China._China_Legal_Science_zhongguo_faxue_._March_2_121-140

Abstract:

Since 2007, reforms to the administration of China's death penalty and cautious efforts towards restricting its application have inevitably reduced the number of death sentences and executions, though the numbers remain a state secret. Progressive restriction of capital punishment in China, as elsewhere within Asia, will inevitably result in increased use of imprisonment for life. This article examines the experiences of Western liberal democracies that have abolished or progressively restricted the death penalty in choosing alternatives to death. It focuses on two examples; the judicial evolution of whole life orders in the United Kingdom and the increasing recourse to life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP) in the United States. In drawing on these jurisdictions, as well as brief consideration of alternative penal structures and practices across Europe and South America, it poses and seeks to answer two questions: Is LWOP or whole life orders a fair and viable substitute for capital punishment in China? If not, what would be a socially, morally, and economically sustainable alternative to the death penalty?

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

Source: The Guardian (30 April 2015)

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/30/at-least-17-australians-jailed-around-the-world-could-face-death-penalty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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