Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Malaysia confirms pledge to end death penalty

Source: UCA News (16 September 2022)

https://www.ucanews.com/news/malaysia-confirms-pledge-to-end-death-penalty/98779

Malaysia will abolish the mandatory death penalty and replace it with other types of punishment for several offences, a government minister said.

Minister of Law, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the decision was made after a series of meetings held on Sept 6 and 13, Channel News Asia reported on Sept. 14.

The meetings of the Substitute Sentences for the Mandatory Death Penalty Task Force Technical Committee were led by Minister Jaafar and key members of government agencies who agreed in principle to a proposal to substitute the sentences for 11 offences that carry the mandatory death penalty.

The minister also announced a moratorium for 1,337 death-convict inmates in Malaysia.

He also reiterated his stand on abolishing the death penalty and bringing in punishments that match the gravity of the offence.

“I remain committed to fighting for fairer and compassionate laws on the issue of whipping and the death penalty,” the minister stated in a Facebook post.

The recommendations of the Technical Committee will be submitted to a cabinet meeting and then presented in parliament this month.

Representatives of the Malaysian Prison Department, Ministry of Home Affairs, Royal Malaysia Police, and representatives from various agencies attended the meeting

In June, the Malaysian government initiated the process to abolish the mandatory death penalty, which was a long-standing demand from activists. The move was hailed across the globe.

Amnesty International Malaysia's executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv hailed the move as "a welcome step in the right direction, and we urge [the government] to go further and work towards full abolition of this cruel punishment,” AFP news agency reported in June.

In Malaysia crimes punishable by death include drug trafficking, terrorism, murder, rape resulting in death, kidnapping, and the possession of firearms wherein the judge does not have the option to give any alternate or lesser punishments.

The Catholic Church in Malaysia has been vehemently opposing capital punishment and is vocal in supporting its removal from the justice system.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) is an abolitionist campaign supported by people from all levels of society including Christians.

In Oct. 2018, Charles Hector, a member of MADPET voiced his support for the then government's move to end capital punishment.

Hector said that they were “waiting for the day when we can celebrate the abolition of the death penalty, and death row will disappear in Malaysia,” the Vatican’s Fides news agency reported.

Malaysia carried out its last execution in 2018 and then imposed a moratorium.

In contrast to Malaysia, Singapore has drawn the ire of the international community for the recent executions of 10 prisoners for the crime of drug trafficking.

Monday, 12 September 2022

Iran: Rights groups slam death sentences for LGBTQ activists

Source: Deutsche Welle (9 September 2022)

https://www.dw.com/en/iran-rights-groups-slam-death-sentences-for-lgbtq-activists/a-63069473 

Iran said this week that a court had sentenced to death two female gay rights activists for "spreading corruption on earth" — a charge frequently imposed on people deemed to have broken the country's Shariah laws.

The country's official IRNA news agency reported that the two women, Zahra Sedighi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Chobdar, 24, "misused" women and girls in promising better training and job opportunities abroad — a reference to human trafficking.

A revolutionary court in the country's northwestern city of Urmia, some 600 kilometers (370 miles) northwest of the capital Tehran, handed down the death sentences. The women have the right to appeal.

They were informed of the sentence while in detention in the women's wing of the Urmia jail.

In a short statement, the Iranian judiciary confirmed that the sentences had been issued.

Anger and frustration at the verdict

Law experts say the charge of spreading corruption on earth is particularly vague and that the provision allows Islamic Revolutionary Courts — which handle cases like corruption on earth, enmity against God and drug trafficking — to abuse their legal powers and gives them a free hand in imposing capital punishment.

The verdict was slammed by foreign-based rights groups and activists.

They described the two women as local gay and lesbian rights activists working for the betterment of the LGBTQ community in the Islamic nation.

Many Iranians living abroad also took to social media to express their anger.

6Rang, an Iranian LGBTQ rights group based in Germany, called the verdict against the two women "unfair and unclear" and part of the regime's effort to "spread hatred" in society. The group called for increased global pressure on Tehran to free the two women.

The fate of Sedighi Hamedani, also known as Sareh, has been a cause for concern for months.

Sareh was arrested in October by Iranian security forces while trying to flee to Turkey after returning to Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan, where she had been based.

Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in January the charges against Sareh stemmed from her activism on social media in defense of gay rights.

She also appeared in a BBC documentary aired in May 2021 about the abuses LGBTQ people suffer in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq.

She had decided to leave Iraqi Kurdistan after being detained by the regional authorities.

It appears she crossed into Iran again before trying to head for Turkey.

A repressive place for LGBTQ people

In a video clip shared with her friend prior to her arrest, Sareh said she was "about to cross the border to Turkey" since she was afraid her "life is at risk."

She pointed out that she could be arrested any minute as security forces had identified her and her friends.

"All I wanted was for everyone to know about the pain and suffering the LGBTQ community is enduring in Iran and that we want to be recognized in order to live freely," she said in the video, shared with 6Rang.

"The journey towards freedom may cost our lives, but we are determined to take it and either live in freedom or die," she added.

6Rang said Chobdar, the other Iranian woman sentenced to death, owns a wedding boutique in Urumiya and is a friend of Sareh.

According to the rights group, Chobdar used to talk on her Instagram channel about issues affecting LGBTQ people in Iran, and that's why she was arrested by authorities for "promoting homosexuality."

Shadi Amin, a coordinator for 6Rang, condemned the death sentences as well as the repression faced by the LGBTQ community in Iran.

Homosexuality is illegal in Iran with its penal code explicitly criminalizing same-sex sexual behavior for both men and women.

The country is considered one of the most repressive places in the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, who face constant threats, intimidation and widespread social stigma.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi recently described homosexuality as an "ugly and despicable practice" and said it's part of a "propaganda campaign by the West" in Muslim countries.

Call for global pressure on Iran

Amin told DW that the families of the two women were under enormous pressure not to talk to media about the fate of their loved ones and about the "misconduct and torture" they're experiencing in prison.

She called on Germany and other foreign governments to put pressure on Iran for the release of the women. Amin stressed that the international community must do more to put an end to the repression of the LGBTQ community in the Middle East nation.

Under Iranian law, crimes such as murder, rape, drug trafficking and sodomy can lead to capital punishment. Iran is second only to China worldwide when it comes to the number of people sentenced to death.

The UN's independent investigator on human rights in Iran warned last year that the country continues to execute prisoners "at an alarming rate."

Earlier this year, Iran reportedly executed two gay men on charges of sodomy.

Sri Lanka: President informs the Supreme Court that he will not sign the death sentences

Source: Colombo Page (1 September 2022)

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on 31 August 2022 informed the Supreme Court through the Attorney General that he will not sign the implementation of the death penalty.

This was informed by Additional Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, who appeared for the Attorney General when several fundamental rights petitions filed requesting the annulment of a decision taken by former President Maithripala Sirisena in 2019 to execute four defendants sentenced to death for drug trafficking were called before the court.

This petition was called before a three-member Supreme Court bench comprising justices Vijith Malalgoda, L.T.B. Dehideniya and Murdu Fernando.

When the Attorney General inquired about this yesterday (30), President Ranil Wickramasinghe has informed the Attorney General that he will not use his signature to execute the death penalty and accordingly to inform the court about this when the relevant case is heard in the Supreme Court.

When the case was called yesterday, Additional Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, who represented the Attorney General, stated before the court that the government has taken a policy decision not to implement the death penalty and there is no change in that decision.

The chairman of the bench, Justice Vijith Malalgoda, informed the petitioner’s lawyers to inform the court on the next court date whether there is any need to continue this petition.

After considering the facts presented, the bench adjourned the hearing until February 23 next year.
Former President Maithripala Sirisena had made a statement on 26 June 2019 that he had decided to sign the execution of four prisoners sentenced to death for drug-related offences.

Several parties including the Sri Lanka Bar Association, the Center for Policy Alternatives, and the Organization for the Protection of Prisoners had submitted these fundamental rights petitions to the Supreme Court against the former President’s decision.

The petitions alleged that the then president’s decision was against the country’s public policy. Also, the petitioners submitted facts to the court that it is against international human rights principles, unjust and unfair.

Therefore, these petitions requested the court to issue an order invalidating the decision of former President Maithripala Sirisena.

Although Sri Lankan courts give death penalty in serious crimes such as murder, rape and drug trafficking, no executions have been carried out since 1976.

Malaysia may soon do away with mandatory death sentence: Minister

Source: The Straits Times (6 September 2022)

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-may-soon-do-away-with-mandatory-death-sentence-minister

PUTRAJAYA - Mandatory death and whipping sentences could become a thing of the past in Malaysia by early next year with amendments to the laws to be tabled in Parliament next month.

Instead, judges will have the discretion to hand down the two sentences.

"If everything goes well and there are no disruptions to the coming budget session, we will no longer have the mandatory death sentence in 2023," said Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

"This will also apply to whipping as it will be left to the discretion of the judges," he told The Star in an interview on Monday.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) said he intended to table the proposed amendments during the Parliament meeting starting on Oct 3.

"The amendments on the mandatory death sentences will cover amendments to 33 sections under the law and involve mandatory death sentences for 11 offences," he said.

The 11 offences comprise nine under the Penal Code and two under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act.

On the fate of those now on death row, Dr Wan Junaidi said the government was still mulling over its options.

In June, it was reported that there were 1,342 death row inmates who were in limbo as to their fate.

Of the number, over 900 were convicted for drug trafficking while the remaining were for murder.

Of the total, 844 are Malaysians and 498 are foreigners from 40 countries.

The abolition of the mandatory death sentence was first raised by the Pakatan Harapan administration in 2018.

A moratorium on execution was then implemented.

On whipping, Dr Wan Junaidi said the proposed amendments would not do away with the punishment but again give judges the discretion on whether to impose it.

"Personally, I view whipping as very brutal and violent and simply inhumane.

"That is why I am suggesting that judges have the discretion to impose the punishment," he said, adding that most offenders suffer open wounds with many fainting after three strokes.

With discretion given, judges can weigh the gravity of the harm committed by offenders on their victims before imposing the punishment.

He said there might be instances where a judge might say no to whipping in some cases, but impose it on "sadistic" offenders who cause hurt to their victims.

Dr Wan Junaidi said he would meet the Attorney-General's Chambers soon to discuss the matter before seeking Cabinet approval to table the amendments.

On a separate matter, he said the recently passed anti-hopping law was expected to be enforced this month. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Hamas Authorities Execute 5 Palestinians in Gaza

Source: Voice of America (4 September 2022)

https://www.voanews.com/a/hamas-authorities-execute-5-palestinians-in-gaza-/6730353.html

Gaza's ruling Hamas Islamists executed five Palestinians on Sunday, two of them on charges of espionage for Israel that dated back to 2015 and 2009, the Interior Ministry said.

The dawn executions, by hanging or firing squad, were the first in the Palestinian territories since 2017. Past cases of capital punishment being carried out in Gaza have drawn criticism from human rights groups.

The ministry statement did not provide full names for any of the condemned men. It said three had been convicted of murder.

The two convicted spies, aged 44 and 54, had given Israel information that led to the killing of Palestinians, it said.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office, which oversees the country's intelligence services, declined comment.

"The execution was carried out after the conclusion of all legal procedures. The rulings had been final, with implementation mandatory, after all of the convicted were accorded full rights to defend themselves," the statement said.

Reuters could not immediately corroborate this.

Palestinian and international human rights groups have condemned the death penalty and urged Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to end the practice.

Palestinian law says President Mahmoud Abbas has final word on whether executions can be carried out. But he has no effective rule in Gaza.

Since Islamist Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas in 2007, its courts have sentenced dozens of Palestinians to death, and have executed 27 so far, according to human rights groups.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Japan: End solitary confinement and video surveillance of death row prisoners

Source: FIDH (22 August 2022)

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/japan/end-solitary-confinement-and-video-surveillance-of-death-row

Paris, Tokyo - 22 August 2022. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Center for Prisoners’ Rights (CPR) denounce the use of solitary confinement and intrusive video surveillance of death row prisoners in Japan. Such measures amount to serious human rights violations and are grossly inconsistent with Japan’s obligations under international law.

According to the latest available official figures, at the end of 2021 there were 107 prisoners (99 men and eight women) under death sentence in Japan. Almost half of them (47 men and two women) were in Tokyo Detention House.

CPR research found that prisoners under death sentence in Tokyo Detention House are held in solitary confinement in 5.4-square-meter cells that are monitored 24 hours a day by closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras placed on the ceiling. There are no obstacles in front of the cameras, so everything is videotaped, including prisoners removing their clothes and underwear, as well as their use of toilets.

According to interviews conducted by CPR with five death row prisoners in Tokyo Detention House in May 2022, four of them had been kept in solitary confinement in such cells for periods ranging from three to nearly 15 years. A fifth prisoner was moved after more than 14 years to a cell without a surveillance camera, pursuant to a transfer order dated 1 March 2022. At the time of publication of this statement, the other four prisoners remain in cells monitored by CCTV cameras. Female prisoners under death sentence in Tokyo Detention House are also kept in solitary confinement in cells with CCTV cameras manned by male and female officers.

The use of prolonged solitary confinement and the constant video surveillance of prisoners under death sentence are inconsistent with international human rights treaties to which Japan is a state party, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

Prolonged solitary confinement, as defined by the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”), [1] is not in line with Articles 2 and 16 of the CAT, which impose on the Japanese government an obligation to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In addition, the UN Committee against Torture has long held that solitary confinement might constitute torture or inhuman treatment and should be prohibited for prisoners sentenced to death. [2] Prolonged solitary confinement is also inconsistent with Articles 7 and 10 of the ICCPR. Article 7 stipulates that no one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In its General Comment No. 20, the UN Human Right Committee (CCPR) states that prolonged solitary confinement of detained or imprisoned persons may amount to acts prohibited by Article 7 of the ICCPR. [3] In addition, Article 10 of the ICCPR stipulates that all persons deprived of their liberty should be treated “with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

With regard to the 24-hour video surveillance of prisoners under death sentence, this practice is inconsistent with Articles 10 and 17 of the ICCPR. In its General Comment No. 21, the CCPR states that respect for the dignity of persons deprived of their liberty “must be guaranteed under the same conditions as for that of free persons” and that such persons enjoy all the rights set forth in the ICCPR, subject to the restrictions that are “unavoidable” in a closed environment. [4] Article 17 prohibits any “arbitrary or unlawful” interference with an individual’s privacy. The criteria of unlawfulness and arbitrariness are clarified by the CCPR in its General Comment No. 16, which states that interference authorized by the state can only take place on the basis of law, [5] and that even interference provided for by law “should be, in any event, reasonable in the particular circumstances.” [6]

Video surveillance of prisoners under death sentence is not provided by law in Japan and its imposition appears to be arbitrary. The Act on Penal Detention Facilities and the Treatment of Inmates and Detainees (“2005 Prison Act”) stipulates that prisoners under death sentence shall be subject to solitary confinement, prohibiting any contact with other prisoners. However, the 2005 Prison Act does not include rules related to the use of CCTV surveillance in cells. As a result, each correctional institution issues its own Detailed Regulations on Treatment of Inmates Requiring Special Attention (Detailed Regulations). These regulations designate prisoners under death sentence as “prisoners requiring special attention” who must be monitored through CCTV cameras “when particularly strict surveillance is required.”

According to CCPR research, most correctional institutions in Japan have issued their Detailed Regulations. For example, the Detailed Regulations of Tokyo Detention House, Fukuoka Detention House, and Tokushima Prison specifically prescribe that individuals who have been sentenced to death and whose case is under appeal may be detained in cells equipped with video surveillance. Other correctional institutions redacted parts of the designation standards for prisoners requiring special attention, so it is unclear whether prisoners under death sentence in such facilities are designated as persons requiring special attention.

According to the Detailed Regulations of Tokyo Detention House, prisoners who have been sentenced to death and whose sentence is under appeal can be confined in surveillance camera cells only “when particularly strict surveillance is required.” Yet, prisoners under death sentence interviewed by CPR in Tokyo Detention House have not attempted to commit suicide or escape, and no special circumstances would appear to justify their strict surveillance, giving the measure an arbitrary character.

Video surveillance of female prisoners may amount to an additional violation of their right to privacy, whenever CCTV cameras in their cells are operated by male officers, as it can be inferred by the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the “Bangkok Rules”) and the CCPR’s General Comment No. 16. [7]

FIDH and CPR call on the Japanese government to end the use of solitary confinement and video surveillance of death row prisoners in all correctional facilities in Japan without undue delay. The two organizations also demand that death row prisoners held in cells equipped with video surveillance be immediately transferred to other cells without CCTV cameras.

Footnotes


[1] Rule 44 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states: “For the purpose of these rules, solitary confinement shall refer to the confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact. Prolonged solitary confinement shall refer to solitary confinement for a time period in excess of 15 consecutive days.”


[2] UN Committee against Torture, Observations of the Committee against Torture on the revision of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), 16 December 2013; UN Doc. CAT/C/51/4, paras. 32-33.


[3] UN Human Rights Committee, 44th session, General Comment No. 20: Article 7, 1992; para. 6


[4] UN Human Rights Committee, 44th session, General Comment No. 21: Article 10, 10 April 1992; para. 3


[5] UN Human Rights Committee, 32nd session, CCPR General Comment No. 16: Article 17 (Right to Privacy), 8 April 1988; para. 3


[6] UN Human Rights Committee, 32nd session, CCPR General Comment No. 16: Article 17 (Right to Privacy), 8 April 1988; para. 4


[7] Rule 11 of the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders states: “If it is necessary for non-medical prison staff to be present during medical examinations, such staff should be women and examinations shall be carried out in a manner that safeguards privacy, dignity and confidentiality.” The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC’s) commentary to the Bangkok Rules states: “The presence of male staff in the examination and treatment of a woman prisoner may cause extreme distress and violates the right to privacy and should be avoided in all cases.” See also, CCPR’s General Comment No. 16, para.8.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Vietnamese justice sentences seven people to death penalty for drug trafficking

Source: MSN (4 August 2022)

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/vietnamese-justice-sentences-seven-people-to-death-penalty-for-drug-trafficking/ar-AA10h7Xg

The judiciary in Dong Thap province in southern Vietnam has sentenced seven people to death, while two others have been sentenced to life imprisonment and 20 years in prison, respectively, in a drug trafficking case.

The judicial authorities have found them guilty of the crimes of "illegally storing, transporting and organizing drug consumption", according to the verdict released by the Dong Thap People's Court.

Provincial police intercepted one of the defendants in August 2020 while driving a car loaded with nearly 46 kilograms of drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine and keratin.

Already during the trial, the defendants admitted to transporting drugs from Cambodia to Vietnam on as many as thirteen occasions with goods ranging from 20 to 45 kilos.

Thus, the Dong Thap People's Court ruled that the activities carried out by the group were harmful to society, which was the reason for the death penalty.

Vietnamese law is particularly harsh on drug trafficking, since the production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or cocaine, or 300 grams of methamphetamine, is punishable by death.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly urged the Vietnamese authorities to abolish capital punishment. This is the highest number of executions handed down in a single case so far this year.

Families of Myanmar’s death row inmates live in fear of execution

Source: Radio Free Asia (4 August 2022)

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/execution-08042022185223.html

The families of 77 political activists sentenced to death by Myanmar’s military junta say they live in fear that their loved ones will be executed without warning after the military regime hanged four prominent prisoners of conscience.

Frustration with the junta boiled over last week after it put to death veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy and former opposition lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, as well as activists Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, despite a direct appeal from Hun Sen to Min Aung Hlaing. The executions prompted protests in Myanmar and condemnation abroad.

On Thursday, the daughter of a 56-year-old former junta soldier sentenced to death for allegedly helping pro-democracy People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitaries told RFA Burmese that she can’t bear to think that her father might be executed at any point without her knowing.

"As a family member, there is no way I could accept that my father might die all of a sudden,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They gave him the death sentence, but did he deserve it? He had no involvement [in the anti-junta protests]. I think it is completely unfair that he was given the death penalty just for planning to get involved.”

She claimed that her father was arrested by the military without having committed any crime and was sentenced to death by a military court without having the opportunity to defend himself legally.

She urged the junta to let her father serve out a life sentence in prison, noting that he is a veteran soldier who spent many years in the military.

Prior to last week, only three people had been executed in Myanmar in the past 50 years: student leader Salai Tin Maung Oo, who helped organize protests over the government’s refusal to grant a state funeral to former U.N. Secretary-General U Thant in 1974; Capt. Ohn Kyaw Myint, who was found guilty of an assassination plot on the life of dictator Gen. Ne Win; and Zimbo, a North Korean agent who bombed the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon in an attempted assassination of the visiting South Korean President Chin Doo-hwan in 1983.

In the more than 30 years between Myanmar’s 1988 democratic uprising and the military coup of Feb. 1, 2021, death sentences have been ordered, but no judicial executions were carried out. Thailand’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has said at least 77 people are currently sentenced to death in Myanmar.

Legality of execution

Legal experts have noted that only the country’s democratically elected head of state has the right to order an execution under existing laws.

Aung Thein, a High Court lawyer from Yangon, said coup leader Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing considers himself Myanmar’s head of state and that carrying out the death penalty is his right.

“[The junta hasn’t] disposed of the 2008 [military-drafted] Constitution. It has only been suspended,” he said.

“Since they have said they are operating according to the 2008 Constitution, [Min Aung Hlaing] believes the responsibility of head of state falls to him. That's why he might be under the impression that he can order executions.”

A lawyer from Yangon, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said that the hanging of a person considered a political challenger to the military appears more like “revenge” than anything legally justifiable.

“Things have gone from political repression to military repression,” the lawyer said. “When a rivalry becomes intense, the execution of the opposition by a rival organization can be seen more as revenge than legal action.”

Junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said the four activists executed last week were “perpetrators of terrorism” and were “judged according to the law.”

He told a press conference in the capital Naypyidaw a few days after the executions that ideally the junta would have killed the four more than once.

Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), said the unlawful arrest and execution of the opposition under unjust laws is the same thing as “murder in prison.”

He expressed concern that last week’s executions would lead to more “official” killings in the country’s prisons.

“For a military regime which sees the people as the enemy and kills them wherever they like, executing people in prison is not very unusual. In fact, this is not the death penalty. This is murder in prison, as it is based on unjust laws and unsubstantiated cases and verdicts. After these executions, we worry that the junta may continue, using it as a precedent.”

A mother whose son was recently sentenced to death in Yangon’s Insein prison told RFA she can only pray that no other family members of those on death row be forced to experience such a tragedy.

“It's not good in my heart. I don't know how to describe it,” she said.

“There is anxiety because I'm afraid [another execution] will happen. Nobody wants that to happen. I’m praying that it won't. ... I pray for the speedy release of these young kids."

ASEAN criticism

The current rotating chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, told a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Phnom Penh on Wednesday that if political prisoners continue to be executed in Myanmar, he would be forced to “reconsider ASEAN’s role” in mediating the country’s political crisis.

Under an agreement Min Aung Hlaing made with ASEAN in April 2021 during an emergency meeting on the situation in Myanmar, known as the Five-Point Consensus (5PC), the bloc’s member nations called for an end to violence, constructive dialogue among all parties, and the mediation of such talks by a special ASEAN envoy. The 5PC also calls for the provision of ASEAN-coordinated humanitarian assistance and a visit to Myanmar by an ASEAN delegation to meet with all parties.

Even Min Aung Hlaing acknowledged that the junta had failed to hold up its end of the bargain on the consensus in a televised speech on Monday in which he announced that the junta was extending by six months the state of emergency it declared following last year’s coup. He blamed the coronavirus pandemic and “political instability” for the failure and said he will implement “what we can” from the 5PC this year, provided it does not “jeopardize the country’s sovereignty.”

Foreign Minister of Singapore Vivian Balakrishnan, who is attending the ASEAN meeting in Cambodia, publicly stated on Thursday that further discussion between the bloc and the junta “would not be beneficial” if there is no progress made in the implementation of the 5PC.

Myanmar’s junta has killed at least 2,148 civilians over the past 18 months and arrested nearly 15,000 — some 12,000 of whom remain in detention, according to the AAPP.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Myanmar executes four anti-coup activists, drawing outrage

Source: Al Jazeera (25 July 2022)

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/7/25/myanmar-executes-four-democracy-activists-state-media

Myanmar’s military regime has executed four anti-coup activists, including a close ally of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, drawing widespread condemnation and outrage.

The four men were hanged over their involvement in organising “brutal and inhumane terror acts”, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Monday.

The men were sentenced to death in a closed-door trial in January after being accused of helping armed groups fight the military, which seized power in a February 2021 coup led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former legislator from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, and prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu were found guilty of offences under anti-terrorism laws. Their appeals were rejected last month.

Thaw, a hip-hop artist who was previously detained over his lyrics, had been accused of leading attacks on security forces, including a shooting on a commuter train in Yangon in August that left five policemen dead.

The two other men, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were handed the death penalty for allegedly killing a woman they accused of being an informant for the military government in Yangon.

The executions mark the first use of capital punishment in the Southeast Asian country in decades.

The last judicial executions took place in the late 1980s, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), a human rights group.

Executions in Myanmar have previously been carried out by hanging.

‘Brazen act of cruelty’

Dr Sasa, spokesperson for Myanmar’s National Unity Government, established by members of the elected government the military threw out of office. said the killings were a “dark day” for democracy and human rights.

“We all are devastated by this acts of terror,” Dr Sasa, who goes by the single name, told Al Jazeera. “Indeed they can take away their bodies, but the military generals in Myanmar will not take away the vision of these matters of democracy.”

Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for Justice For Myanmar, said the executions amounted to crimes against humanity and called for further sanctions against the military’s State Administration Council.

“All perpetrators from Min Aung Hlaing down must be held accountable for this brazen act of cruelty,” Maung told Al Jazeera.

“The international community must act now to end the terrorist junta’s total impunity. The international response to these executions and the junta’s other international crimes must involve coordinated targeted sanctions against the junta and its business interests, a ban on jet fuel and a global arms embargo. Sanctions must be imposed on Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, to stop oil and gas funds bankrolling the junta’s atrocities.”

Thomas Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, said he was “outraged and devastated” over the executions.

“My heart goes out to their families, friends and loved ones and indeed all the people in Myanmar who are victims of the junta’s escalating atrocities … These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the executions would further isolate Myanmar in the international community.

In a statement, Hayashi called the move a matter of deep concern and said it will sharpen national sentiment and deepen conflict.

A military spokesperson did not answer calls seeking comment.

The men’s death sentences had been condemned by human rights groups, the United States, France and the United Nations, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres describing the planned executions as “a blatant violation to the right to life.”

The government, which has sentenced dozens of activists to death since the coup, defended the planned executions as lawful and necessary.

“At least 50 innocent civilians, excluding security forces, died because of them,” military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told a televised news conference last month. “How can you say this is not justice?”

Myanmar was plunged into crisis by the coup, which removed Aung San Suu Kyi from power, with violence spreading across the country after the army crushed mostly peaceful protests in cities.

More than 2,100 people have been killed by the security forces since the coup, according to the AAPP. The government has said that figure is exaggerated.

Monday, 18 July 2022

Thailand breaks away from Southeast Asia’s brutally punitive drug policies

Source: New Mandala (18 July 2022)

https://www.newmandala.org/thailand-breaks-away-from-southeast-asias-brutally-punitive-drug-policies/

In a region that stands out for having some of the most brutally punitive drug policies in the world, it was astonishing to witness Thailand become the first country in Asia to legalise cannabis. Until recently, Thailand had one of the largest prison populations in Southeast Asia, and one of the world’s highest rates of female incarceration, with most inmates convicted for drug offences. It also imposes the death penalty for certain drug offences (although there has not been an execution for a drug offence for over 10 years), has waged an anti-drug campaign that enabled the extrajudicial killing of at least 2,400 people in 2003, and arbitrarily detains thousands of people in compulsory detention centres for drug users in the name of drug rehabilitation.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, drug policies are no less harsh. So far this year, four men have been hanged for drug trafficking offences in Singapore. Thousands of people have been killed extrajudicially by the police in the Philippines since 2016, and even greater numbers of people are being held under arbitrary arrest and detention in prisons and in compulsory drug rehabilitation programmes. The over-investment in law enforcement and criminal justice systems to carry out the broad scope of punishment imposed by drug laws around the region has led to the inadequate capacity of social and health agencies to deliver responses to drugs that are genuinely grounded in principles of health, harm reduction, and development.

These impacts are comprehensively evident in Thailand, but in 2021, several drug policy reforms came into effect, starting with the legalisation of kratom (a plant indigenous to Southeast Asia and commonly used in some rural communities in Thailand as a mild stimulant to treat fatigue), followed by the establishment of the Narcotics Code (which contained reduced penalties and revised sentencing rules to reduce levels of incarceration and shift towards providing a health response to drug use), and continuing with the legalisation of cannabis in 2022.

Uncertainties remain on Thailand’s path toward regulating cannabis

On 9 June 2022, people lined up to make their first legal purchases of cannabis. Every part of the plant has been removed from the list of controlled substances under Thailand’s drug laws. Under these laws, activities relating to cannabis — from consumption to distribution and import/export — were previously met with fines, imprisonment, and even the death penalty. Now, only cannabis extracts exceeding 0.2 per cent THC (the psychoactive component of the drug) remain illegal, which seems to primarily refer to cannabis oil.

Oddly enough, detailed regulations on the definition of ‘extracts’, as well as the use, sale, and cultivation of cannabis, are yet to be released (although they are expected in September 2022). This has resulted in a temporary grey zone where — aside from a few rules (e.g., to prevent public nuisance, and prohibiting sales to people under 20 years of age and pregnant women) — there are virtually no restrictions on the cannabis products that are now widely available for sale. Mobile vans stop in areas with concentrated tourist traffic and offer either pre-rolled joints or a menu of different cannabis strains to choose from to roll your own joint. The government even started to give away one million cannabis plants to households, as people are now allowed to grow an unlimited number of plants at home for their own use.

While statements from the Thai government insist that cannabis has been legalised for medical purposes, they remain vague on the extent to which non-medical use is allowed. In practice, it is now possible to buy and sell cannabis buds and flowers containing any level of THC, without a doctor’s prescription. If people are allowed to grow their own cannabis, then it also naturally follows they can use it however they choose, for medical or non-medical purposes, without a prescription required. The distinction between the medical and non-medical use of cannabis can be blurred in reality — although the 0.2 per cent THC threshold recommended by the WHO to distinguish cannabis intended for medical use is an important yardstick in the international drug control treaty framework.

The fact is that long before the international drug control treaties were agreed upon (in 1961, 1971 and 1988), cannabis was part of Thailand’s traditional medical, spiritual, and culinary practices — like in many other parts of the world. After decades of prohibition (following pressure from countries such as the US), it is heartening to see Thailand reclaim its culture and traditions. The legalisation of cannabis has been championed by Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who made it his central promise during the 2019 general election campaign. Since then, he has continually referred to the twin benefits of improved access to medical treatment and economic growth as the main aim of the reforms.

There are several issues of concern arising from the rushed nature of the reforms, however. For instance, the reforms were adopted without substantive public consultations, where the voices of people who use cannabis or farmers seeking to enter the new cannabis market could have been heard. In addition, people who use cannabis for medical purposes have found the government-supplied products ineffective and have returned to the black market to fulfil their treatment needs. Small-scale farmers have found the bureaucratic hurdles and costs of commercial production too high and doubt that they can compete with larger corporations. As a result, a group of advocates have put forward a people’s draft law to push for a decentralised regime that would enable the market participation of a wide range of local farmers and other actors in the supply chain. Given the newfound availability of legal cannabis, there is also a pressing need for education and advice to promote the safe and responsible use and cultivation of cannabis.

The significant impact of changes in drug laws

It is important to note that at each step of Thailand’s drug law reforms since 2021, people deemed eligible were released from prison. Over 10,000 people convicted of kratom-related offences and over 3,000 people convicted of cannabis-related offences were released from prison and had their convictions expunged. Many more who were convicted of other offences that were ineligible for release also had their convictions relating to kratom and cannabis expunged. People in prison were encouraged to apply for reconsideration of their sentences after the Narcotics Code took effect, which could result in a sentence reduction and make them eligible for immediate release.

Unlike the cannabis reforms, the legalisation of kratom and the adoption of the Narcotics Code took place after a lengthy consideration process, which was led chiefly by the Ministry of Justice. The pathway to reform was significantly different to that of cannabis — not to mention, overshadowed by the cannabis reforms. However, in a region still marked by extremely cruel and inhumane responses to people engaged in drug-related activities, the reforms to Thailand’s criminal justice, health, and economic systems resulting from the series of drug law changes represent a welcome change. Hopefully, the changes will become a model to look to for Thailand’s neighbours. But for now, uncertainties and concerns about the future shape of these reforms remain.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Iran: Regime Using Death Penalty As Means Of Repression

Source: Eurasia Review (2 June 2022)

https://www.eurasiareview.com/02062022-iran-regime-using-death-penalty-as-means-of-repression/

In its annual review of the death penalty, Amnesty International reported that 2021 saw a worrying rise in executions and death sentences as some of the world’s most prolific executioners returned to business as usual and courts were unshackled from Covid-19 restrictions.

At least 579 executions were known to have been carried out across 18 countries last year⁠ – a 20% increase on the recorded total for 2020⁠. Iran accounted for the biggest portion of this rise, executing at least 314 people (up from at least 246 in 2020), its highest execution total since 2017. It is worth noting that these are the statistics that the government of Iran has offered to state-run media, and the actual number of executions in Iran in 2021 is undoubtedly higher. Iran claims most of these executions have been due to a marked increase in drug-related cases– a flagrant violation of international law that prohibits the use of the death penalty for crimes other than those involving intentional killing.

Iran maintains a mandatory death penalty for possession of certain types and quantities of drugs⁠⁠ – with the number of executions recorded for drug-related offenses rising more than five-fold to 132 in 2021 from 23 the previous year. The known number of women executed also rose from nine to 14. At the same time, the Iranian authorities continued their abhorrent assault on children’s rights by executing three people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, contrary to their obligations under international law.

A review of Iran’s death penalty practice suggests that religious and political offenses are employed in a relatively arbitrary fashion, with religious offenses being used to silence political dissidents and political offenses used to persecute persons having acted against religion.

On Thursday, March 17, Javaid Rehman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, presented his report during the 49th session of the Human Rights Council. Mr. Rehman highlighted widespread human rights abuses and drew attention to the system-wide lack of accountability for human rights failures: “I reiterate the fundamental responsibility of the State to take serious steps to ensure accountability. In the absence of such steps and the unavailability of domestic channels for accountability, I stress the role and responsibility of the international community, including this Council.”

At the start of 2022, there were serious concerns regarding a recent spike in executions. During the past few weeks, Iran executed forty-nine individuals—fourteen in ten days alone. Of the forty-nine, ten can be attributed to drug-related offenses. Sentencing data also indicate a spike in the issuance of the death penalty. In the same recent thirty-day period, ten individuals were sentenced to death, including 27-year-old Wushu champion Yazdan Merzaei, on drug-related charges.

The Iranian regime’s killing machine has not stopped and is busier than ever. Prisoners are tortured to their death, execution chambers have a waiting list, and Iran’s officials, courts, and judges in the brutal judiciary system recognize no halt or break for issuing death sentences. Based on the Iranian regime Prison Organization’s classified documents obtained by the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), some 5,197 prisoners are on death row or convicted of Qisas (retribution in kind). “Some 107 prisoners are sentenced to amputation, 51 were sentenced to stoning, and 60 death row prisoners were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offense in 2020,” the NCRI stated. According to the documents, there are “1,366 inmates with death sentences, 39 of whom are women; and 3,831 prisoners sentenced to Qisas, 144 of whom are women. The number of prisoners with sentences of more than 15 years is 17,190.”

At dawn on Wednesday, May 25, the Iranian regime’s Judiciary executed at least eight prisoners in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj.

Three of these individuals were identified as Abbas Bitarfan, Ali Nosrati, and Gholam Hossein Zeinali. The other two executed prisoners were Ali Montazeri and Vahid Mianabadi.

On Wednesday, Tehran’s public prosecutor also announced the execution of a prisoner identified only by his initials as R.A. who had previously been sentenced to death on charges of ‘Moharebeh’ (Arabic for war against God). Some sources have verified the identity of the prisoner as Ramin Arab. A local source also reported the execution of another prisoner on May 21 at Zahedan Central Prison in southeastern Iran. The prisoner was identified as Abdullah Brahui from Zahedan. According to the state-run Rokna news agency, a 29-year-old prisoner was executed in Mashhad prison in northeastern Iran on May 22.

The rise in the number of executions in Iran and the regime’s insistence on holding its grounds despite international outrage against this increase reveals a plain and simple reality: The regime of the mullahs is on the verge of collapse and is under the illusion that sending Iranians to the gallows would prolong its life.

How A Singapore Execution Set Off Wave Of Protests

Source: The ASEAN Post (30 May 2022)

https://theaseanpost.com/environment/2022/may/30/how-singapore-execution-set-wave-protests

The only post on Tan Mei Qian's Instagram profile is a picture of her and two friends delivering a letter to Singapore's President.

The letter contained a request to spare the life of Datchinamurthy Kataiah, a 36-year-old man who has been languishing on death row for the past seven years.

His crime – trafficking 44 grams of heroin, around three tablespoons worth, into Singapore.

"The media is heavily censored. So, there is little opportunity for us to raise our opinions here," Ms Tan said.

But that changed last month when another man, Nagaenthran K Dharmalingham, was executed for smuggling drugs into Singapore from Malaysia.

Birth Of A Movement

His hanging sparked a debate as young, aware and globally conscious Singaporeans began speaking up, mostly on social media – an unusual occurrence in politically passive Singapore.

In the days before Nagaenthran's execution, around 400 people gathered at Hong Lim park – the sole place in Singapore where protests are largely allowed without prior police approval.

In the past, rallies against the death penalty that were held there had attracted crowds of less than 50.

But this, a demonstration to halt the execution, was a watershed moment, activists say.

"Nagaenthran's case galvanised many in Singapore and made everyone realise how unforgiving and brutal our punishment system is," Jolovan Wham, the protest organiser, said. Nagaenthran was handed the death sentence for strapping 43 grams of heroin to his thigh.

In the months leading up to his hanging, his lawyers and family filed appeals and clemency requests asking for his death sentence to be commuted on the grounds that he was intellectually disabled.

One assessment found him to have an IQ of 69, a level internationally recognised as a learning disability.

But the courts rejected the claim and found that he knew what he was doing at the time of the offence.

There was hope that the pandemic, which led to a two year pause in executions, would alter Nagaenthran's fate.

But on 27 April, he was hanged at dawn.

Widespread Support

Most Singaporeans support the use of the death penalty but Nagaenthran's case has ignited debate over capital punishment. Singapore's government says its strict drug laws, including the death penalty, are an effective deterrent against crime, making it one of the safest places in Asia.

Just over a month before Nagaenthran's execution, Singapore's Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam told parliament that the majority of residents still support the death penalty and consider it appropriate punishment for drug trafficking. He was referring to preliminary findings from a 2021 survey.

But he did concede that young Singaporeans' support for capital punishment for drug traffickers was lower than the national average.

The responses to Ms Tan's post reflect these findings: "lol go study lah and I hope you never ever get to experience the destruction drugs cause to both the addicts and their loved ones," one comment reads.

Another says, "Please la girl don't fall prey to this nonsense... propaganda. You have no idea what a drug-run state looks like".

But Ms Tan is hopeful.

"I think we are going in a good direction because there is a lot more conversation about it."

More Executions To Come

The increased awareness has been a crutch for the families of those on death row. Datchina's family feels stronger and more resolute about his case because of what they saw at Hong Lim Park, said Kirsten Han, who has been campaigning against the death penalty for more than a decade.

"That is very distinct from other cases that I've worked on. Singaporeans are trying to find action to take themselves," she added.

Nagaenthran's case prompted criticism from the United Nations (UN), an European Union (EU) representative and global figures like billionaire Richard Branson. International rights groups called it a "tragic miscarriage of justice".

"For the first time I see a group of people are voicing out against the death penalty. Social media is full of Nagaenthran's case across so many industries – business, actors, ministers," said Angelia Pranthaman whose 31-year-old brother Pannir Selvam Pranthaman is also on death row, awaiting an execution date.

Activists, who have been trawling through court judgements and speaking to families, estimate that there are more than 60 people currently on death row in Singapore. Prisoners – and their families –have been appealing their cases in Singapore's courts, often representing themselves because lawyers are unwilling to take on late-stage cases.

'Broken System'

As efforts continue to save those who have received execution notices, some are questioning the punishment itself.

Amnesty International says out of the 10 death sentences handed out in Singapore during the pandemic – one sentence was handed out on Zoom – eight were for drug offences.

Singapore is also one of the few countries in the world that have mandatory death sentences for drug crimes – those caught carrying more than 15g of heroin are subject to the death penalty.

UN experts have said the death sentence is disproportionate for the number of drugs in question. Many also say those convicted are victims of a larger problem. "Our system is such that we impose the harshest penalty on the mules. But unfortunately, the drug lords behind the mules are still doing their business in other countries," criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan said.

Calls For Abolition

Experts say there is a global shift towards abolishing the death penalty, and that Singapore is an outlier among developed nations.

That said, Asia is home to the top executioner in the world.

China is believed to execute thousands of people every year, but official data is not publicly available.

Indonesia continues to use the death penalty for drug trafficking but hasn't carried out an execution since 2016.

Singapore's neighbour Malaysia has a moratorium on executions and has amended its laws, but Human Rights Watch says judges continue to hand out death sentences, rather than life imprisonment, in the majority of cases.

Other countries in Southeast Asia – the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand – no longer have capital punishment.

"Singapore's international reputation has already deteriorated significantly with the execution of Nagaenthran," said the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network in a statement after his death.

Despite renewed calls from across the world for Singapore to reconsider capital punishment and existing death sentences, abolition or even a moratorium on executions seems unlikely in the near future.

"It won't happen too soon, but I have been encouraged by the number of young people who are taking action," Mr Wham said.

"I'm optimistic."

Myanmar democracy activists' death sentences upheld, junta says

Source: Reuters (4 June 2022)

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-democracy-activists-death-sentences-upheld-junta-says-2022-06-03/

June 3 (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government said on Friday that appeals by two prominent democracy activists against their death sentences had been rejected, paving the way for the country's first executions in decades.

The government has received widespread condemnation abroad for ousting an elected government in a coup more than a year ago, and for the brutal crackdown that it has since unleashed on critics, opposition members and activists.

Kyaw Min Yu, a veteran democracy activist, and Phyo Zeyar Thaw, a lawmaker for the former ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, were sentenced to death by a military tribunal in January on charges of treason and terrorism, according to a junta statement at the time.

The United Nations said it was "deeply troubled" by Friday's announcement, which U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric described as a blatant human rights violation.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for charges to be dropped "against those arrested on charges related to the exercise of their fundamental freedoms and rights, and for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Myanmar," Dujarric said. 

It was unclear whether Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeyar Thaw had denied the charges against them. The junta statement did not mention their pleas.

Their appeals against the sentences were rejected, a junta spokesperson said, though it was unclear by whom. The activists' representatives could not be reached for comment.

"Previously, the convicts sentenced to death could appeal and if no decision was made, then their death sentences would not be implemented. At this time, that appeal was rejected so the death sentences are going to be implemented," junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told BBC Burmese.

He did not say when the executions would take place.

Judges in Myanmar sentence offenders to death for serious crimes including murder, but no one has been executed in decades.

The military took power after complaining of fraud in a November 2020 general election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD. Election monitoring groups found no evidence of mass fraud.

Malaysia to abolish mandatory death penalty in move welcomed by rights campaigners

Source: CNN (10 June 2022)

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/06/10/asia/malaysia-death-penalty-abolish-human-rights-intl-hnk/index.html

(CNN) Malaysia will abolish the mandatory death penalty, the government said Friday, in a move cautiously welcomed by rights groups as a rare progressive step on the issue for the region.
In a statement, Malaysian law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said mandatory death sentences for serious crimes would be replaced by "alternative punishments" at the discretion of the courts.
"This shows the government's emphasis on ensuring that the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed, reflecting the transparency of the country's leadership in improving the criminal justice system," he said.

Relevant laws will be amended, the statement said, adding that further research would be carried out on alternative sentences for a number of crimes that carry the death penalty, including drug offenses.
Like many of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, Malaysia has notoriously tough drug laws, including capital punishment for traffickers.

The country declared a moratorium on executions in 2018 but laws imposing the death penalty remained and courts were required to impose the mandatory death sentence on convicted drug traffickers. Terrorist acts, murder, and rape resulting in death also still warranted a mandatory death penalty.

Friday's decision comes three years after human rights campaigners had criticized the government for making a U-turn on an earlier pledge to abolish capital punishment entirely.

Cautious welcome

The move Friday was welcomed by rights groups who said it was an "important step forward" for the country and wider region.

"Malaysia's public pronouncement that it will do away with the mandatory death penalty is an important step forward -- especially when one considers how trends on capital punishment are headed in precisely the opposite direction in neighboring countries like Singapore, Myanmar, and Vietnam," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

No executions were carried out in Malaysia throughout 2021, according to a recent Amnesty International report about global executions.

"As of 12 October [2021], 1,359 people were under sentence of death, including 850 with their death sentences being final and appealing for pardon and 925 convicted of drug-related offences," the report said. Out of the 1,359 sentenced to death, 526 were foreigners, it noted.

However, executions have been on the rise in other parts of Southeast Asia like Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore, which recently executed an intellectually disabled prisoner from Malaysia despite global condemnation.

This week, Myanmar announced scheduled executions for two men accused of "being involved in terrorist acts" in what would mark the first judicial executions in the country in decades since the military coup.

Although he welcomed Malaysia's move as a sign of progress, Human Rights Watch's Robertson said the government needed to follow through on its statement with action.

"We need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect because we have been down this road before, with successive Malaysian governments promising much on human rights but ultimately delivering very little," he said.

"The Malaysian government ... knows the international community will take this as a sign of the country progressing forward but hopefully, they really mean it this time and move quickly to do away with the mandatory death penalty once and for all."

UN: Iran Executed More Than 100 People Between January and March

Source: VOA (21 June 2022)

https://www.voanews.com/a/un-iran-executed-more-than-100-people-between-january-and-march/6627085.html

GENEVA —

Iran executed more than 100 people in the first three months of 2022, continuing a worrying upward trend, according to a report by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that was presented Tuesday.

Speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, U.N. deputy human rights chief Nada Al-Nashif presented Guterres' latest report on Iran, decrying that executions in the country were on the rise.

"While 260 individuals were executed in 2020, at least 310 individuals were executed in 2021, including at least 14 women," she said, adding that the trend had continued this year.

Between January 1 and March 20, she said, "At least 105 people were executed," many of whom belonged to minority groups."

Guterres's report had noted with deep concern the increase of executions for lesser crimes, including for drug-related offenses, Nashif said.

"The death penalty continues to be imposed on the basis of charges not amounting to 'most serious crimes,' and in ways incompatible with fair trials standards," she told the council.

Nashif said that in March, 52 people sentenced to death on drug-related charges were transferred to Shiraz prison for execution.

She also lamented the continued use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders, in violation of international law.

'Excessive use of force'

Between August 2021 and March 2022, at least two people who committed their alleged crimes as minors were executed and more than 85 juvenile offenders remain on death row, she said.

"In February 2022, in a positive development, the Supreme Court decided to revoke the death sentence against a child offender who had been on death row for 18 years," Nashif added.

The deputy rights chief also decried other rights abuses in Iran, especially in response to protests over a range of significant social, political and economic challenges over the past year.

"Excessive use of force constitutes the default response by the authorities to managing assemblies," she said.

"In April and May 2022, at least 55 individuals -- teachers, lawyers, labor rights defenders, artists and academics -- were arrested during protests, many of whom are facing national security charges."

To date, no steps have been taken to establish accountability for violations committed during the nationwide protests in November 2019, she added.

Unnecessary deaths caused by excessive force inflicted by the authorities, against border couriers, peaceful protesters and those in detention, has continued with impunity, Nashif told the council.

"The scale of deaths in detention ... is of serious concern," she said.

Mehdi Ali Abadi, Iran's deputy permanent representative in Geneva, slammed the report, saying it was based on a malicious mandate forced on the U.N. by Western countries to stigmatize Iran, insisting it was "biased by default."

"Reducing the lofty code of human rights into a petty political tool is appalling and disgraceful," he told the council.