Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Taiwanese man executed for killing ex-wife and daughter in island’s first capital punishment for two years

Source: South China Morning Post (1 September 2018)

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/2162318/taiwan-carries-out-first-execution-two-years

Taiwan executed a death-row inmate on Friday, the first execution carried out under President Tsai Ing-wen’s government, despite ongoing calls from rights groups to abolish the death penalty.

Lee Hung-chi was executed at a jail in southern Kaohsiung city by firing squad, according to the justice ministry, for killing his ex-wife and five-year-old daughter in 2014.

Lee stabbed his former spouse to death outside the kindergarten their two daughters attended and then took one of the girls to his car, where he tried to kill both her and himself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lee survived after they were rescued but the girl died two months later despite treatment.

“His actions were brutal and ruthless … and inflicted irreparable harms to the victims’ families,” deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang told reporters.

The court had ruled there was no likelihood of Lee reforming, he added.

Taiwan resumed capital punishment in 2010 after a five-year hiatus, with the death penalty reserved for the most serious crimes such as aggravated murder and kidnapping.

Some politicians and rights groups have called for its abolition, but various surveys show most people support the death penalty.

Chen said the government was gradually decreasing its use, but would not abolish it for now.

“Abolishing [the] death sentence is an international trend and a long-term goal for the justice ministry … but there is no consensus in our country,” Chen said.

There are currently 42 prisoners on death row in Taiwan.

Lee’s execution was the first since a former college student was put to death in May 2016 for killing four people in a random stabbing spree on a subway that shocked the generally peaceful island.

In 2012 the murder of a young boy in a playground reignited debate over the death penalty, after the suspect reportedly said he was anticipating free board and lodging in jail and would get a life sentence at most even if he were to kill two or three people.

Whatever happened to…Thailand’s abolition of the death penalty?

Source: Southeast Asia Globe (30 August 2018)

http://sea-globe.com/whatever-happened-to-thailands-abolition-of-the-death-penalty/

Two months ago, 26-year-old Teerasak Longji was stretched out on a rack and killed. In decades past, the young Thai man would have stared down a firing squad in his final waking moments. But in 2018, his end came via a lethal cocktail of drugs.

Teerasak, whose family was not notified until after his death, was just 20 years old when he was arrested for stabbing a teenage boy in a bloody robbery in Thailand’s Trang province. His victim, who was stabbed 24 times by Teerasak, lost his wallet, his phone and his life.

Teerasak’s execution marks the first death sentence to be carried out in Thailand in almost a decade following an arduous campaign against it in the Buddhist nation. Although Thai courts continue to hand down death sentences – 75 last year alone, down from 216 in 2016 – hundreds of men and women have remained on death row for years, waiting for the final blow to fall.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson described the move as a slap in the face to all the people who had campaigned for an end to executions in the Kingdom.

“Seeing Thailand make such a total reversal on a core human rights issue like the death penalty is really disconcerting,” he told Southeast Asia Globe. “The Ministry of Justice had previously been touting that Thailand was moving towards abolition and then boom, it was all gone. The NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order, the name adopted by the military junta that seized power in 2014] needs to provide some serious explanations to the entire international community for its unjustified and unacceptable resumption of capital punishment.”

Despite widespread international condemnation of the move, no explanation for the apparently arbitrary reinstitution of the death penalty has been offered. For some observers, though, the decision marked a logical next step in the junta’s ongoing attempt to paint itself as the stern guardian of the Thai people. Exiled political scientist Pavin Chachavalpongpun told Southeast Asia Globe that the revival of a practice long thought left in the past fit with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s self-proclaimed strongman image.

“I think somehow this is part of the junta’s attempt to ‘toughen up’ society,” he said. “It’s the junta trying to redefine what social order is. And I don’t think it’s just about the junta – the whole of the Thai state, the system has been going in that direction. I’m also talking about many smaller details, instructed by the new king: you have to dress properly, you have to have a certain haircut – this is all part of the redefinition of order.”

The new king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, who served in the Thai military as both officer and pilot, has taken an interest in the discipline of the nation’s security forces – illustrated by a widely shared video from earlier this year showing soldiers and police dutifully practicing a new salute personally created by the monarch, complete with a stiff chest puff and an abrupt twitch of the head. Even more recently, dozens of police officers were temporarily suspended for failing to adopt an ultraconservative short-back-and-sides haircut made popular by the king’s own royal guard. But just how deep the new sovereign’s interest in the nation’s law and order extends remains a matter of much speculation.

Although Pavin was adamant that there was no way of knowing what role – if any – the palace had played in the decision, the complete silence from the Thai bureaucracy and media alike on the timing of the execution suggests a link to that most unutterable taboo in Thai society: the sovereign. Writing for New Mandala in June, a Thai journalist – anonymous to avoid prosecution under the nation’s notorious lèse majesté laws that make all criticism, and sometimes merely discussion, of the reigning sovereign or his family punishable by years in prison – pointed out that the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej had played an essential role in the death penalty’s effective abolition by refusing to respond one way or another to the petitions filed with him after the initial death sentences were handed down. With the petitions still pending the King’s decision, the journalist wrote, no execution could be carried out without infringing on His Majesty’s royal authority.

That the doomed Teerasak would fail to seek the same clemency as more than 500 men and women before him seems improbable. His sudden execution – carried out even before his family had been notified of his impending death – suggests that the palace has given up its long deliberation on the pleas of the condemned in favour of swift and decisive action.

While he stressed that there was little more than speculation to go on, Naresuan University’s Paul Chambers told Southeast Asia Globe that rumours of the palace’s involvement did seem in keeping with the more active role played by the sovereign since the 2016 succession.

“I’ve talked to some Thai academics and journalists about this issue, and they tell me that there has been a more proactive role played by His Majesty in many different dimensions of Thai society – and one of them is in regard to the justice system,” he said. “That means that they see the execution of that man as an indicator of this royal intervention. Indeed, we are likely to see a faster turnaround of those on death row getting proceeded through the system – if you know what I mean. Because he seems to have a proactive interest in these sorts of things.”

Unlike his father, who, despite being widely revered throughout the Kingdom, wielded power in a much more subtle manner during his 70-year reign, Chambers said the new monarch appears to have a more hands-on approach to his authority.

“You can see this not just in the death penalty system but in other areas as well, like the fact that many different laws are suddenly coming under direct control of the palace,” he said. “It seems like this particular sovereign is taking a more direct, proactive role in society – unlike that of his father, which was more indirect.”

For Pavin, though, a junta that justifies its own existence through the maintenance of peace and order may well have its own reasons for wanting a return to the death penalty.

“The junta might want to gain political points among conservative minds, who have the loudest voices in society,” he said. “There have been a lot of high-profile cases that have worried the Thai public involving crime, involving rape.”

Opinion polls gauging public appetite for execution in Thailand have found a people still overwhelmingly in favour of capital punishment: a survey of 1,123 Thai citizens carried out in the days following Teerasak’s execution found that a staggering 93.4% supported the death penalty in the case of “cruel murderers”. Viewed through this lens, Pavin said, the decision to again follow through on the death sentences still regularly handed down by the courts appears less a betrayal of public trust than a desire to court it.

“There have been so many polls – most of them agree that the majority of Thais agree with the death penalty,” he said. “So I think this is partly a political decision: the junta wants to become popular, wants to please the majority.”

But the 517 men and women who remain on death row after years of uncertainty stand to pay the highest price to satisfy that majority.

“The NCPO appears to be playing a game of public intimidation against criminal elements using the classic tactic of ‘killing the chicken and showing it to the monkeys’,” Human Rights Watch’s Robertson said. “Many diplomats in Bangkok are already expressing concerns that this will not be the last execution – and that more may be in the pipeline.”

Saturday, 18 August 2018

PH-Led New Government Should No Longer Delay Abolition of Death Penalty

Source: MADPET (5 August 2018)

https://madpet06.blogspot.com/2018/08/malaysia-ph-led-new-government-should.html

MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disappointed that there is still no abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia after almost 3 months since the new Pakatan Harapan led government came into power.

The former UMNO-BN government did abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking in 2017, but alas the delay of putting the new law in force for months resulted in at least 10 persons being sentenced to mandatory death penalty. Currently in Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for about 12 offences, while about 20 other offences are punishable by a discretionary death penalty. Many of these offences do not even result in grievous injury and/or death to victims.

It is MADPET’s hope that the new PH-led government will act justly, and expedite the abolition of the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty and not just procrastinate using lame reasons of further study and review as was the case with the past government. The greater the delay, more will be sentenced to death and may even continue to be executed in Malaysia. When in Opposition, many of the parties and their parliamentarians, who are now in the new government, were committed to the abolition of the death penalty. The time to walk the talk is now.

35 persons were executed in the last ten years (2007 – 2017), and 1,267 people on death row or 2.7% of the prison population of about 60,000 people, as revealed by deputy director (policy) of the Prisons Department, Supri Hashim recently (Star, 29/6/2018). Since the new government assumed power, there is to date no known executions, but reasonably many still may have been sentenced to death in the past months.

On 29/7/2018, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that government is looking into the need to make amendments to do away with the mandatory death penalty in legislation pertaining to criminal offences. (Malay Mail, 29/6/2018)


Mandatory death penalty removes the ability of judges to impose the most just and appropriate sentence, as Parliament by law forces them to impose just the one sentence of death once a person is convicted of the relevant crime.

MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY IS UNDEMOCRATIC

In a democracy, there are 3 branches of government – the Executive (Prime Minister and Cabinet), the Judiciary and the Legislative(Parliament). Besides serving as a check and balance to the other 2 branches, each branch of government also do have specific functions.

The mandatory sentence including the death penalty, is really is a trespass by the Legislature into what must be the duties/functions of the Judiciary. We should really trust the Judiciary in Malaysia to provide every person with the right to a fair trial, including also the ability to impose the appropriate just sentence, after considering all factors, including points submitted in mitigations and arguments for a harsher sentence.

MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

The existence of the mandatory death penalty may be unconstitutional, which was also the recent finding of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Barbados’s highest court, on 27/6/2018, which struck down the mandatory death penalty on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. Amongst others, it said that ‘…the Constitution, which gives the right to protection of the law, was enforceable, and that the mandatory death penalty breached that right as it deprived a court of the opportunity to exercise the quintessential judicial function of tailoring the punishment to fit the crime…’. One of the judges also stated ‘…that the judicial monopoly on the power to sentence, which is protected by the separation of powers principle, is consistent with “ensuring respect for, and adherence to, the ongoing evolution in the protection of human rights”. (Caribean360, 27/6/2018)

Our Malaysian Constitution has similar provisions with Barbados, and is also a democracy.
In a criminal trial, after conviction, the accused have the right to raise mitigating factors for the courts to consider when deciding on a just sentence. When an offence provides for a mandatory sentence, the convicted person is denied this fundamental right, and as such, it may be said that he/she is denied the guaranteed ‘equal protection of the law’ and the right to a just sentence.

DEATH PENALTY IN MALAYSIA NOT IN ACCORDANCE TO ISLAM MUST BE ABOLISHED

Whilst, some Muslims have supported the death penalty on the basis that it is provided for in their religious teachings and/or faith, it must be pointed out that in Malaysia, all the offences that provide for the death penalty are not offences under the Islamic/Syariah law. In Islam, there are also strict criminal procedural and evidential requirements that need to be fulfilled, which arguably is not fulfilled in Malaysia’s present administration of criminal justice system that now allows for the death penalty. As such, the argument that Malaysia should retain the death penalty because Islam allows for it is weak, and possibly even baseless or flawed.

Being a caring nation, Malaysia needs to do justice to all – including also emphasizing on repentance and second chances rather than simply effecting revenge, punishment and even death. It must be noted, that Malaysia, may also be partially responsible for its failings of government to provide for the well-being and welfare of its people, may have been a factor that pushed many a poor persons to resort to crime for the survival and livelihood of themselves and their families.

Therefore, Muslim politicians and parties, in government or otherwise, should justly not resist the abolition of death penalty, for fear of losing the support of Muslim Malaysian voters.

DEATH PENALTY NOT IN THE ‘BEST INTEREST’ OF A CHILD

Malaysia, having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995, must uphold its commitment to the protection and well-being of children. The execution of a father/mother/sibling/relative of a child is really not in the ‘best interest of the child’.

This concern for the child is already reflected even in our present Malaysian criminal laws, where a pregnant woman will not be sentenced to death, not when she is pregnant nor even many years after she had given birth. The underlying value and principle could only be our concern for the child and the importance of a living parent to a child’s wellbeing. This care and concern now needs to be expanded by the abolition of the death penalty.

WHEN OTHER CO-PERPETRATORS NOT YET ARRESTED, TRIED OR BROUGHT TO JUSTICE

There is suspicion that in the Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case, there may be others involved besides the 2 who have been convicted and now sentenced to mandatory death penalty. The two, Sirul Azhar Umar andAzilah Hadri, were at the time of the said murder part of former Prime Minister Najib's personal security detail.

This may be the case also for many other murders and death penalty crimes, especially those cases where the prosecution in the charge sheet clearly stated that the crime was done together with others not named, and in other such cases where involvement of third parties are evident or suspected. If the convicted are executed, it is becomes all the more unlikely that these other perpetrators of crime may never be identified, arrested and brought to justice.

Now, Malaysia is considering the abolition of the death penalty with the hope that the convicted and those sentenced to death, will cooperate in making sure other perpetrators are also brought to justice – this is an additional reason for the abolition of the death penalty. It will surely make it more probable to bring to justice those in the shadows, including those who may have ordered or facilitated such murders and crimes.

In Japan, it was customary that the convicted were not executed until all those involved were brought to justice. In Malaysia, sadly this may not be the case.

Even in cases that the prosecution knows there are others still at large, as an example in the case of Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu(35), Ramesh Jayakumar(34), and Sasivarnam Jayakumar(37) who were executed for murder in March 2016. The charge levied against the 3 stated clearly that the murder was committed with ‘one other still at large’. Now that the 3 have been executed, that ‘one other still at large’ would most probably never be brought to justice, more so since crucial witnesses being the accomplices are now dead. Justice may not be done.

Everyone would want all perpetrators of crimes, including the ‘big bosses’, ‘kingpins’ and others that ordered or assisted in the crime to be brought to justice. Hence, the execution of possible ‘whistle blowers’ and crucial witnesses prior to the arrest and trial of all other perpetrators is foolish, and certainly yet another reason for the abolition of the death penalty.

Now, if there is no mandatory death penalty, better still no death penalty, it is more likely that the convicted, especially after they had been unsuccessful in their final appeal, to reveal information needed to bring other remaining perpetrators to justice possibly with an assurance that there will be reduction in their own sentences. A person, who is guilty of murder or any crime, is likely not to reveal any information about the involvement of others until after their final appeal – for any earlier disclosure will not help them in their own trial, and will more likely result in their own conviction.

COMMUTE DEATH SENTENCE RATHER THAN SIMPLY DELAYING EXECUTIONS

Dr Wan Azizah was reported saying that “The last Cabinet meeting resolved to implement the government decision to defer the death penalty imposed on 17 people convicted of drug offences….” (Malay Mail, 29/6/2018). This only means that their execution has been delayed. It should just be commuted to imprisonment

With regards to the offence of drug trafficking, all those on death row, especially the at least 10 persons who were sentenced to death, simply because of the then Barisan Nasional’s Minister’s procrastination in putting the law into force by several months, should really now have their death penalty commuted to imprisonment. In fact, it is just that all those on death row for drug trafficking should have their death sentence commuted to imprisonment.

HISTORIC SUCCESS OF OUSTING UMNO-LED GOVERNMENT CELEBRATED WITH COMMUTATION OF DEATH SENTENCE?

Given the historic success at the last General Elections on 10/5/2018, which saw Malaysians ousting the UMNO-led coalition who had been government since independence on 31/8/1957, it may be the best time to celebrate by having the death sentence of all on death row at this time be commuted to imprisonment possibly on the occasion of the upcoming Merdeka celebration at the end of this month on 31/8/2018.

There are many reasons why the death penalty needs to be abolished. It certainly does not serve as a deterrent, as in Malaysia itself, it has been previously revealed in Parliament that there was an increase of drug trafficking despite the existence of the mandatory death penalty.

The police, prosecution and the courts are certainly not infallible, and innocent people can sometimes wrongly be found guilty and even sentenced to death. This risk of miscarriage of justice itself is sufficient reason for the abolition of the death penalty.

The call for the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia has been made for far too long by civil society, Malaysian Bar, Parliamentarians and many others. TheHuman Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has also recently called on this new government to not delay in abolition of death penalty. (2/7/2018, Bernama-Malay Mail)

MADPET calls on the new Malaysian government to forthwith impose a moratorium on all executions pending the abolition of the death penalty.

MADPET calls on the Malaysian government to immediately commute the death sentence of all on death row, especially those on death row by reason of being sentenced to death for drug trafficking, when that offence still carried the mandatory death penalty.

MADPET calls for the abolition of the mandatory death penalty and all other mandatory sentences, and restore to the Judiciary the power to decide on the most appropriate and just sentence for each case. Parliament should maybe simply stipulate maximum and/or minimum sentences, and return to the Judiciary ‘the judicial monopoly on the power to sentence’ as should be the case in a true Democracy.

MADPET calls for Malaysia to no longer delay the abolition of the death penalty, and to abolish the death penalty immediately in 2018.

Charles Hector
For and on behalf of MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Friday, 20 July 2018

EU warns Sri Lanka over death penalty

Source: Channel News Asia (16 July 2018)

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/eu-warns-sri-lanka-over-death-penalty-10535592

COLOMBO: EU ambassadors warned Sri Lanka on Monday against ending its 42-year moratorium on capital punishment and said the island risked losing trade concessions if it went ahead.

Last week President Maithripala Sirisena said repeat drug offenders would be hanged as part of his administration's new crackdown on narcotics.
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"The diplomatic missions have requested the President to maintain the moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty and to uphold Sri Lanka's tradition of opposition to capital punishment," the EU ambassadors said in a joint statement.

The communique was supported by their colleagues from Canada and Norway.

Police believe the Indian Ocean island is being used as a transit point by drug traffickers. More than a tonne of cocaine seized in recent years was destroyed by police in January.

The main Welikada prison said it was advertising this week for two hangmen to carry out the first execution in 42 years after refurbishing the gallows.
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Diplomats said they expected Sirisena to roll back the decision, but should the island go ahead it would loose preferential access for its exports to the 28-member EU bloc.

"If Sri Lanka resumes capital punishment, Colombo will immediately lose the GSP-Plus status," an EU diplomatic source told AFP.

This refers to its generalised system of preferences (GSP Plus) - a favourable tariff scheme to encourage developing nations to respect human rights - restored by the EU in May 2017 after a seven-year hiatus.

Sri Lanka was denied GSP Plus status in 2010 after failing to meet its rights obligations. The Sirisena administration reapplied after coming to power in 2015.

EU diplomats have estimated that Sri Lanka gains an estimated 300 million euro (US$350 million) advantage annually thanks to the GSP-Plus system.

Prison spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya said there were 373 convicts on death row in Sri Lanka, including 18 for serious drug crimes.

Death sentences are still handed down for crimes including murder, rape and drug-related crimes, but the last execution was in 1976.

Nearly 900 people are currently in prison after been sentenced to death, although many have had their sentences commuted to life or are appealing.

Southeast Asia Drug Use Persists Despite Death Penalty

Source: VOA News (16 July 2018)

https://www.voanews.com/a/drug-abuse-in-asia/4484308.html

HO CHI MINH CITY —

Southeast Asian authorities are not shy about doling out the death penalty to punish drug traffickers, and yet narcotics abuse has not abated. If anything, it is on the rise, which begs the question of whether the region’s war on drugs is working.

The latest report on global trends from the United Nations shows that while Colombia remains the world’s top source of cocaine, Asia is now emerging as a hub for both transportation and consumption of the drug. In 2016 cocaine seizures tripled across the continent in the span of just a year, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its June report.

But methamphetamine is making even bigger leaps in Southeast Asia because it is not as geographically restricted as cocaine, which depends on cultivation of the coca plant. Officials in countries around the Mekong region seized 65 tons of methamphetamine in tablet and crystalline form in 2017, the UNODC said in a separate report -- that is nearly 600 percent more than the amount seized a decade earlier.

The latest findings “show that drug markets are expanding, with cocaine and opium production hitting record highs, presenting multiple challenges on multiple fronts," said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

Irony of drug policy

The apparent popularity of some drugs around the region stands in stark contrast to the “tough on crime” approach of many Southeast Asian governments, most of which have seen single ruling parties, military juntas, or authoritarian leaders consolidate power at the central level in recent decades.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has earned notoriety for alleged extrajudicial killings of drug crime suspects. In Vietnam, capital punishment is meted out, often to drug traffickers, more often than anywhere else on the planet except in China and Iran, Amnesty International says. The human rights group also referred to Malaysia as one of the “staunch supporters of the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses.”

People take part in a protest against the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in front of the Philippine consulate in New York, Dec. 10, 2017.

“Mandatory death sentences and the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses remained an issue of high concern in Southeast Asia,” Amnesty International said in its roundup of state executions worldwide in 2017.

These trends might puzzle some who expect stiffer law enforcement to blunt the use and sale of drugs. But it is a tragic irony that legal crackdowns can actually fuel the narcotics trade, according to author Johann Hari. He writes in his book Chasing the Scream that when the police crack down on drugs, they drive up prices as buyers pay sellers a premium for the legal risk. Criminalization eliminates weaker rivals and allows the big players that are left standing -- usually gangs and cartels -- to corner the market and concentrate power, Hari said.

He is part of a growing chorus of people who question or outright reject the belief that the death penalty deters or reduces crimes like drug trafficking.

“The drug problem is a complex social issue that demands a multifaceted approach towards a lasting solution,” Nymia Pimentel-Simbulan, executive director of the Philippine Human Rights Information Center, told VOA. “PhilRights has always maintained that capital punishment, being punitive and retributive in nature, is a cure worse than the poison.”

Dark web

The UNODC offers other possible explanations for the spread of drugs in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Buyers have new online options as it becomes easier to access the dark web, where hidden sites deal in contraband from weapons to counterfeit products to drugs. The anonymity of cryptocurrencies has facilitated these purchases on illicit sites. At one point in 2017 Vietnam was among the top three countries for bitcoin trading, though much of that had to do with investment and other legal business activity.

While the U.S. is grappling with an opioid epidemic, there could be spillover effects in other regions, and for similar reasons. One cause of the U.S. crisis was the labeling change that allowed certain opioids to be marketed as non-addictive because they didn’t take full effect immediately, but had a slow release. That allowed doctors to prescribe the painkillers more widely. In Asia the opioid of choice is tramadol. The UNODC said that not only are more people abusing tramadol here, but Asia is also the main source of illegal tramadol seized around the world.

A Cataldo Ambulance medic holds used doses of naloxone after medics revived a man in his 40's who was found unresponsive from an opioid overdose in the Boston suburb of Salem, Massachusetts, Aug. 9, 2017.

As for methamphetamine, the agency said the ease of cooking rather than growing it could explain why the stimulant is taking off.

“This unique characteristic of synthetic drugs provides a comparative advantage for drug trafficking groups in the Mekong and neighboring countries,” the UNODC said, “as Asia is the center of global chemical and rapidly growing pharmaceutical industries.

There were 86 drug labs discovered in East and Southeast Asia in 2006; a decade later, the number surpassed 500, UNODC figures show. As with so much other data, it is unclear whether the abuse and sale of controlled substances are increasing -- or if authorities are just getting better at finding them.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Noose work if you can get it: Sri Lanka to hire two hangmen

Source: Channel News Asia (13 July 2018)

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/noose-work-if-you-can-get-it--sri-lanka-to-hire-two-hangmen-10528904

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka said on Friday it plans to hire two hangmen, two days after President Maithripala Sirisena said he might sign off on the execution of convicted drug traffickers arranging drug deals from jail.

A prison official said applicants would be sought for two positions of executioner, vacant since March 2014 when the last hangman quit soon after setting eyes on the gallows for the first time.
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Drug trafficking carries the death penalty in Sri Lanka but no one has been executed for any crime in the country since 1976. All death penalties have been commuted to life in prison since then.

But Sri Lanka, like other countries in Asia that have cracked down on drugs, feels it is being overwhelmed by narcotics and the president said recently action was needed.

"Since the president said he was going to implement capital punishment, we need to get ready. So we are going to hire two hangmen," Thushara Upuldeniya, a spokesman for the prison service, told Reuters.

"We will advertise and call applications for the vacancies next week."
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Sirisena told a public gathering on Wednesday there were convicted drug traffickers arranging drugs deals from prison and he might sign off on execution orders for them.

At least 18 people convicted for drugs offences could be executed, Upuldeniya said. There were also 356 people on death row for murder, he said.

Thousands of people have been killed in a war on drugs in the Philippines and scores have been killed in a similar campaign in Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, in 2015 voted in favour of a U.N. resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty.

International drug smugglers have increasingly turned to Sri Lanka as a transit hub in Asia, authorities have said.

But many citizens bemoan a sharp rise in all crime, not just drug dealing, since the end of a 26-year civil war with ethnic Tamil separatists in 2009.

The rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Sirisena not to implement the death penalty, saying it should preserve its longstanding positive record on shunning "cruel and irreversible punishment".

Sri Lanka has had no executioner since March 2014 when the hangman quit weeks after he was hired, citing stress. Two hangmen hired in 2013 failed to show up.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Officials Silent on Thailand's 1st Execution in 9 Years

Source: Khao Sod English (19 June 2018)

http://www.khaosodenglish.com/featured/2018/06/19/officials-silent-on-thailands-1st-execution-in-9-years/

BANGKOK — Death penalty opponents were caught by surprise by Thailand’s first execution in nine years Monday night while officials are offering no explanation.

After 26-year-old Teerasak Longji was executed at Bangkok’s Bang Kwang Central Prison by lethal injection for aggravated murder, the leading group calling for abolition of capital punishment said Tuesday it deplored the decision and had no idea why the unexpected execution occurred now.

“We are not sure,” Amnesty International Thailand Director Piyanut Kotsan said Tuesday morning when asked about the timing.

Piyanut said Amnesty was not in the loop despite years of discussions with the Justice Ministry. She said her understanding was that Thailand has committed to becoming an abolitionist state as reflected in its master plan for human rights.

The last execution occurred in 2009 when two men were put to death for drug-related crimes. This past October, the head of the government’s human rights agency signaled the death penalty, which had been in de facto moratorium since 2009, would eventually be abolished.

“I can’t say when it will end but in practice it will soon be 10 years since no execution has taken place,” Pitikan Sitthidej said in October. “We don’t know when the death penalty will be abolished.”

Amnesty Thai director Piyanut said that standard practice for the last resort of clemency has been to obtain a royal pardon commuting death to life in prison. She said it’s unclear whether a royal pardon had been sought by Teerasak, who six years ago stabbed a 17-year-old high school student 24 times to steal his smartphone and wallet in Trang province.

Corrections Department chief Narat Savettan declined to comment Tuesday on the circumstances.

“I cannot give any comment about this,” he said, adding that the department would not issue any further statement on the matter.

A statement from Narat released Monday shed new light on why an execution had taken place after nine years. The last paragraph of the statement stated hope the execution would serve as deterrence.

“It is hoped that this execution will give pause to those thinking of committing heinous crimes or violating the law to consider the penalty,” it read.

The statement also pointed out that since the introduction of modern execution in 1935, 325 executions have taken place.

Someone who answered the phone at Bang Kwang Prison said its director, Sophon Yimpreecha was out for a meeting and could not be immediately reached.

Amnesty Thailand issued a statement Monday saying execution is deplorable and will not reduce crime.

“This is a deplorable violation of the right to life. Thailand is shockingly reneging on its own commitment to move towards abolition of the death penalty and the protection of the right to life, and is also putting itself out of step with the current global shift away from capital punishment,” wrote Katherine Gerson, an Amnesty campaigner in Thailand.

According to Amnesty Thailand, 510 people were on death row as of the end of 2017, 94 of which were women. The number of those who have exhausted all final appeals is 193.

Gerson wrote that there is no evidence that the death penalty has any unique deterrent effect, “so the Thai authorities’ hopes that this move will reduce crime is deeply misguided.”

Kingsley Abbot, senior legal advisor for the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists, tweeted on Monday that execution is never justifiable and “flies in the face of Thailand’s repeated commitments on the international to work towards abolition.”

Amnesty announced it will hold a demonstration outside Bang Kwang at 2pm this afternoon.

Man executed by lethal injection

Source: Bangkok Post (18 June 2018)

https://m.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1487782/man-executed-by-lethal-injection

A man has been executed, a first in eight years, according to the Corrections Department.

Teerasak Longji, 26, who was convicted of aggravated robbery, received a lethal injection at 3-6pm on Monday, said Pol Col Narat Svetanan, director-general of the department.

Teerasak robbed and killed a man in Trang province on July 17, 2012. He took a mobile phone and a wallet from the victim and stabbed him 24 times.

The first court handed down a death sentence on him, and the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court upheld it.

He was the seventh prisoner executed by lethal injection after the method replaced firing squad 15 years ago.

Since 1935, 325 convicts have been executed. Firing squad was used on 319 prisoners. The last time was on Dec 11, 2003.

Lethal injection replaced it on Dec 12, 2003. Before Teerasak, it was administered on Aug 24, 2009.

Punishments under the Thai Criminal Code are fining, asset seizures, detention, imprisonment and execution.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Down with the death penalty

Source: The Kathmandu Post (4 May 2018)


On April 21, 2018, India’s cabinet passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018. One of the main amendments proposed in the ordinance was the insertion of a new provision, Section 376AB, in the Indian Penal Code which prescribes a death penalty to offenders convicted of raping a minor under the age of 12. Many have welcomed the government’s decision to exercise stringent punishment. This decision was primarily in response to widespread public outrage against the increasing incidents of rape, among others.

In Nepal too, in the wake of an increase in the reported incidents of rape, members of the public, activists and law makers have been putting forth similar demands to enact laws that allow for capital punishment against perpetrators of rape. Recently, in a State Assembly meeting of Province 3 that was held in Hetauda, members of the assembly demanded that death sentences be levelled against those guilty of rape. This is a clear indication of the public support for capital punishment when it comes to heinous crimes such as rape. According to popular opinion, if perpetrators are given a death sentence, then justice will be served and the occurrence of heinous crimes will decrease.

A pertinent question here is whether or not prescribing a death penalty to the perpetrators of such heinous crimes acts as deterrence, thus resulting in crime reduction. Is death penalty really the solution to combat such crimes?

The practice of capital punishment is guided by the retributive principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” An analysis by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights concluded that “capital punishment does not deter crime to a greater extent in comparison to the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.” As Amnesty International puts it, “the death penalty violates the most fundamental human right—the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment carried out in the name of justice.” It has to be understood that the death penalty, irrespective of the nature of the crime, characteristics of the offender, or the method used to prosecute, is a cruel and inhumane act.

Where do we stand?

In Nepal, following legal reforms in 1946, the death penalty was partially abolished for ordinary crimes. It was reinstated in 1985 for the offences of homicide and terrorism. The death penalty was completely abolished in Nepal only after the constitutional provision of 1990. In South Asia, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka have abolished capital punishment; while, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives have continued the practice.

The prevailing Constitution of Nepal (2015) under article 16 has guaranteed that all citizens have the right to live with dignity and has also prohibited any law to be made that prescribes the death penalty. This is a fundamental right. As per article 1 of the constitution, the constitution is the fundamental law and any law that is inconsistent with the constitution shall be void. It, therefore, is explicit that no law can be made in Nepal that prescribes the death penalty. Even if such a law is made, it shall be void on grounds of inconsistency with the constitutional provision. Apart from these, Nepal is a signatory to Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which mandates abolition of the death penalty.

The newly enacted Penal Offence (Punishment Determination and Implementation) Act, 2074 which is due to be implemented from August 17, 2018 has incorporated various new penal provisions such as community service, suspended sentence, reform homes, rehabilitation centres, open prisons, parole, probation, etc. Section 13 of the act has clearly prescribed that the purpose of punishment should be to deter the offender, rehabilitate the offender, create a sense of remorse in the offender, etc. This clearly suggests that the penal policy adopted by the criminal justice system of Nepal is of a reformative approach.

Apart from this, in a bid to introduce stringent laws, the new National Penal (Code) Act, 2074 has introduced a new provision regarding life time imprisonment. As per the prevailing Muluki Ain, 2020, lifetime imprisonment would entail 20 years in prison. But the new law has prescribed two kinds of life time imprisonment: imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s life in cases of heinous crimes, and imprisonment for a period of 25 years.

Way forward

As per a report by Amnesty International, 105 countries around the world had abolished the death penalty for all crimes as of September 2017. With many countries adopting an abolitionist approach to the death penalty, it is time to re-examine our stance. Nepal was among the earliest countries in South Asia to abolish the death penalty, which is remarkable. The prevailing constitution has explicitly prohibited making laws that prescribe the death penalty. The new laws on sentencing policy are guided by a reformative approach. In this purview, it is futile to put forth demands to reintroduce the death penalty for heinous crimes. It would be a regressive step for the criminal justice system of Nepal.

It has to be understood that the death penalty is never the answer. Seeking justice through revenge can never serve as justice in the realest sense. Injustice to one cannot bring justice to another. There is no credible evidence to suggest that death penalties deter crimes more effectively than other punishments. Rather than opting for inhumane punishment such as the death penalty, more focus must be given to proper implementation of existing laws, strengthening the investigation and prosecution process, and providing speedy justice. While it is important that all perpetrators of heinous crimes be brought to justice and given punishments that match the gravity of the offence, the death penalty should never be levelled against anyone.

Magar is a section officer at the High Court Tulsipur, Butwal Bench

Drug trafficking: Death penalty no longer mandatory; but give judges full discretionary powers

Source: Aliran (3 May 2018)

https://aliran.com/civil-society-voices/drug-trafficking-death-penalty-no-longer-mandatory-but-give-judges-full-discretionary-powers/

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is pleased that the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act 2017, which received royal assent on 27 December 2017, has finally, after much delay, come into force on 15 March 2018.

The 8 March gazette notification appointing the date of coming into operation of this new law – which will abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, giving judge’s discretion to be able to sentence those convicted of drug trafficking to an alternate sentence of life imprisonment with not less than 15 strokes of the whip – was signed by the minister of health. It was odd that it was not the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Azalina Othman, the de facto law minister or the home minister.

It must be pointed out that this still unexplained delay has resulted in grave injustice to at least 10 individuals who had been sentenced to the mandatory death penalty this year until 15 March 3018, because judges still had no discretion to consider and impose any other sentence other than death penalty until the date the Act came into operation. (It must be noted that not all those convicted and sentenced to death for drug trafficking would have been reported by the media.)

This 10 media-reported cases include give Malaysians and five foreign nationals, being:

S Pragasam, 30 – Ipoh High Court (Malay Mail, 9 February 2018)

Ong Cheng Yaw, 33, and San Kim Huat, 38 – Kuala Lumpur High Court (The Malaysian Insight, 8 February 2018)

Jonas Chihurumnanya (Nigerian) – Kuching High Court (The Borneo Post, 30 January 2018)

S Gopi Kumar, 33 – KL High Court (The Sun Daily, 24 January 2018)

A Sargunan, 42, and four Indian nationals, namely Sumesh Sudhakaran, 30, Alex Aby Jacob Alexander, 37, Renjith Raveendran, 28, and Sajith Sadanandan, 29 – Shah Alam High Court (The Sun Daily, 22 January 2018)

This new law, when it came into force, will only benefit those who had not yet been convicted by the High Court. If already convicted and sentenced to death before the law came into force, then even the appellate courts will not have the power to review the death sentence, and impose an alternative sentence for drug trafficking.

The only way that those already sentenced to death can escape the death penalty is if the appellate courts set aside the conviction for drug trafficking.

Even after the amending Act came into force, there are still serious flaws, including limitation on the factors that judges could consider when imposing the appropriate just sentence after conviction. The law now states, that judges “may have regard only to the following circumstances” being a limited list of four matters.

In criminal trials generally, judge will consider all relevant factors and circumstances of the case and/or the relevant convicted persons, including also age and whether he or she is a first time offender, before imposing a just and appropriate sentence.

At present, there is also mandatory requirement “that the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia” before a judge can impose a sentence other than death.

This is unjust for it affects an individual’s right to a fair trial, for an innocent person, when convicted at the High Court, may be forced to incriminate himself truthfully and/or falsely simply to avoid the death penalty. This ‘admission’ will also affect his or her right of appeal against conviction and sentence to the appellate courts, be it the Court of Appeal and/or the Federal Court.

The new amendments also failed to deal with the 800-plus persons currently on death row for drug trafficking, including also others who had already been convicted before the amending Act came into force.

Madpet calls for a immediate amendment of the law to ensure full, unfettered discretion be given to judges when it comes to sentencing those convicted of drug trafficking. We also urge that judge’s discretion when it comes to the imposition of imprisonment not to be simply limited to life imprisonment, but to be extended possibly by setting a more just and reasonable minimum sentence of not more than five to 10 years especially for first-time offenders;

Madpet also calls for the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for the about 11 remaining offences in Malaysia, and for the total abolition of the death penalty; and

MADPET also reiterates the call for a moratorium on executions pending abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia.

Monday, 30 April 2018

‘South Korea should lead abolition of death penalty in Asia-Pacific’

Source: The Korea Herald (27 April 2018)


South Korea has an unprecedented record when it comes to the death penalty, allowing a political prisoner on death row to become its president.

Late President Kim Dae-jung, who was in office from 1998 to 2003, was sentenced to death in 1980, on treason charges.

With a campaign by the international community and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Kim was able to leave the country for the United States two years later.

The last execution in Korea took place in 1997 and while the country still has the death penalty, it has been categorized as abolitionist in practice.

Now, South Korea should take the next step to abolish its death penalty and lead the human rights movement said Chiara Sangiorgio, the advisor on the abolition of the death penalty at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, in an interview with The Korea Herald on Tuesday.

“South Korea has not carried out executions for more than 20 years. I think the moment is ripe for steps to be taken to abolish the death penalty here,” she said. Sangiorgio was also the lead author of the annual Amnesty report on the death penalty. The organization released the 2016-2017 report on April 12.

According to the latest report compiling data until the end of last year, South Korea has not delivered a death sentence for the past two years.

“Unfortunately, we did see one case in February, but we can see it is becoming a rare occurrence here,” she said.

“Many countries around South Korea practice executions in horrific ways, from North Korea to China and Japan. So the country stands out in the region from this point of view. It is a human rights issue which the government and the administrators here should take ownership of.”

China was once again the world’s leading executioner, with the figures expected to reach into the thousands. Japan carried out four executions in secrecy, and North Korea is also infamous for their public executions.

Regarding the communist regime, the watchdog found a report which claims that a ban on public executions has been placed.

“We see it as a significant step, which shows how the world’s stance is changing towards the death penalty.”

But she explained they face challenges with limited access to information in North Korea.

“We know there are executions. And we are concerned about the unfair trial proceedings as it seems to be the way through which the punishment is imposed, without the right to appeal,” she said. “But it would be difficult make a judgment for North Korea until we have full access to the statistics there.”

As of the end of 2017, South Korea had 61 men under the sentence of death. And while there has been legislative efforts to abolish the death sentence, the public sentiment appears to oppose doing away with the death penalty.

According to 2015 data from Korea Legislation Research Institute, 65.2 percent of the respondents opposed the abolition of the death penalty, while 34.2 percent agreed. In another poll in 2017, 79.4 percent of 1,000 respondents supported maintaining the death penalty.

Since 1999, seven revision proposal bills have been tabled at the National Assembly where they have been left pending for several years.

Sangiorgio noted it is not enough for the authorities to just say they cannot abolish the death penalty due to public opinion, as it is a question of leading the country for improving human rights.

“How polls are devised, what the respondents know, and when the polls are conducted can all affect the result,” she said. “Studies have shown that when the public is informed of what the death penalty is and what alternatives there are, their supporting opinions will change,” she explained.

“It is important to understand that abolishing the death penalty is not asking for impunity for crime, but that it is discussing about cruel punishment that needs to be repealed.”

Taking the example of Mongolia, which abolished the death penalty over a period of six years, Sangiorgio said South Korea can also initiate the process step by step.

“The government can start by formalizing the status quo of where the country is at in terms of the death penalty, and have a strong pronouncement by leadership. It should also take international commitment,” she said.

Amnesty International called for the South Korean government to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions, and urged it to vote in favor of the draft resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, which will be considered at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly at the end of this year.

“South Korea is put in a unique place and timing. And the country‘s leadership should take the opportunity to improve its human rights record and become the next country to abolish the death penalty,” Sangiorgio said.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)

Saturday, 28 April 2018

How Islamic does Brunei want to be?

Source: Asia Times (23 April 2018)

http://www.atimes.com/article/islamic-brunei-want/

When Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah first indicated in 2014 his oil-rich sultanate planned to implement sharia law, the announcement stirred waves of controversy, with Hollywood stars and rights activists calling for a boycott of the luxury Beverly Hills hotel owned by his sovereign wealth fund.

Four years on, however, the Muslim majority Southeast Asian state has yet to fully implement the harshest elements of the Islamic criminal code, including amputation or even execution for theft, apostasy, adultery and the deemed offense of sodomy.

While Hassanal, who rules as absolute monarch, prime minister and head of state religion, continues to call for the full implementation of sharia law, there has been little public explanation for the delay.

That’s led to certain speculation the sultanate is sensitive to outside perceptions, particularly as the nation courts more foreign investment – including from China – to help diversify its long dependence on energy revenues amid fast depleting supplies.

While nearby Malaysia and Indonesia also enforce laws that exclusively govern the conduct of Muslims, Brunei would be the first East Asian country to adopt strict sharia law at the national level.

Though some netizens had questioned or opposed the proposed Islamic legal code on social media when first announced, most people in the conservative sultanate are believed to support sharia legislation as an expression of religious and national identity.

The sultan, judging by his public speeches, views expressions of religiosity as a check on the Western influence of the internet and globalization broadly.

Though no organized opposition group has ever openly challenged the state’s religious stance, some observers believe the laws aim to placate Islamists who may otherwise be put off by the monarchy’s ostentatious displays of wealth.

Some analysts regard Brunei’s adoption of sharia law as a bid to attract more investment from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Situated between Asia’s largest Muslim majority countries, Brunei has long sought to become a regional hub for Islamic banking, finance and services.

While there is no evidence to suggest that sharia law influences the investment decisions of GCC countries, harsher Islamic laws would put Brunei’s legal and religious strictures closer in sync with Saudi Arabia and others.

In March last year, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud became the first Saudi monarch to visit Brunei. The brief appearance of the Saudi royal, who claims religious guardianship as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, served to affirm the sultan’s own religious position and legitimacy.

While the introduction of sharia law may have sullied perceptions of Brunei in the West, China has moved to become the sultanate’s largest foreign investor in recent years. The Bank of China (BOC) established a branch in Brunei in 2016 to facilitate FDI, including ventures related to its global Belt and Road Initiative.

Major Chinese investments include the Muara Besar refinery and petrochemical complex, currently being built by China’s Hengyi Industries International Pte Ltd. The venture has employed thousands of Chinese construction workers in the sultanate.

Beijing’s investments in Brunei’s shipping, telecommunications and agriculture sectors, currently estimated at around US$4.1 billion and growing, have set the stage for Bandar Seri Begawan to become a regional outpost for Chinese businesses.

Chinese nationals and business people, however, could be reluctant to live under the punitive measures associated with sharia law. It remains to be seen whether the full implementation of Islamic law in Brunei complicates relations with China or deters private investment.

Sharia demands a high evidentiary burden of proof, such as the requirement of four pious men to witness personally an act of fornication to support a sentence of stoning, which would make cases of capital punishment rare.

Brunei’s legal system is based on British common law with a parallel sharia law system for Muslims that had largely governed custody rights and marital matters. Sharia’s jurisdiction was broadened in 2014 to include criminal law.

The first phase of the new penal code covers cases generally punishable by fines or imprisonment. The subsequent phases have yet to be implemented. Some reports attribute the delay to challenges faced by the country’s Kafkaesque religious bureaucracy.

The implementation of full sharia law can only take effect following the gazetting of a Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), a document articulating all rules and prosecutions associated with sharia as a guide for their implementation.

Brunei’s ruler has publicaly lambasted the country’s religious affairs ministry, which is tasked with drafting the CPC, for the delays. Hassanal lamented how the CPC draft process seemed to “drag on without completion” in remarks to local media in 2016.

“The challenges of fundamentally transforming judicial and enforcement structures may have been underestimated,” writes Dominik Müller, a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Islamic Legal Studies Program.

The sultan’s “public criticism against the CPC’s slow finalization exemplifies how in the absence of an opposition or independent civil society, he plays that role now as well,” he says, noting, “the Sultan is his government’s sharpest critic.”

A draft of the sharia CPC was recently announced for gazetting in lieu of last month’s Legislative Council, the country’s annual session of parliament, indicating a possible end to the ongoing legal impasse.

The second phase is slated to take effect 12 months after the CPC’s enactment, while the third and final phase will begin after 24 months. Barring any further delays, this would put Brunei on track to fully enforce sharia law by 2020, four years later than first envisaged.

Non-Muslims comprise some 21.2% of Brunei’s population, according to US Central Intelligence Agency statistics, while 65.7% are ethnic Malays who practice Islam.

Though ethnic and religious minorities in Brunei generally refrain from open dissent, some hold private reservations about harsher forms of sharia law due to human rights concerns and impacts on commercial activity.

All restaurants in Brunei, including Chinese restaurants and those catering to non-Muslims, are required to close during Friday prayers and are limited to providing take-away services to adhere to fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Regulations restricting traditional Chinese lion dance performances have also come into effect. Public celebrations of Christmas have been curbed since 2014, when the new penal code’s first phase first came into force.

Brunei’s sharia courts say the number of filed cases in 2017 had dropped to 148 from 259 in 2016. Around 66% of sharia offenses pertain to khalwat, or intimate contact between unmarried couples.

Hassanal, 71, marked 50 years in power last October with a golden jubilee procession through the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. The sultan’s advocacy of Islamic criminal law has prompted observers to question why such measures had not been introduced in the earlier years of his reign.

Most interpret the move as a means of legitimizing the monarchy’s political power amid sluggish economic growth and dwindling oil and gas reserves threaten the sultanate’s high standard of living.

An eventual succession will see Brunei’s Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah take the throne as the next sultan. The prince has characterized Brunei’s sharia compliance as a “competitive edge” in efforts to transform the sultanate into an Islamic finance hub.

Only a small number of governments have actually implemented the sort of punishments that Brunei has in mind, says Chandra Muzaffar, a Malaysian political scientist and Islamic reform activist.

“Ruling elites in certain Muslim countries champion certain forms of punishment such as amputations and the like which resonate with the masses’ understanding, or rather misunderstanding, of Islam,” Chandra says.

“They do not want to emphasize the essence of the faith such as accountability and human dignity, which may undermine their own position.”

India: Reject Ordinance on Death Penalty for Rape

Source: Human Rights Watch (24 April 2018)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/24/india-reject-ordinance-death-penalty-rape

(New York) – The Indian parliament should not adopt into law an ordinance which introduces capital punishment for those convicted of raping a girl under 12 years of age, Human Rights Watch said today. India should instead work towards abolishing the death penalty which is inherently cruel and irreversible, with little evidence that it serves as a deterrent.

The government passed the ordinance on April 21 following widespread protests after attempts by some leaders and supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to defend Hindu perpetrators of the abduction, ill-treatment, rape, and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim child in Jammu and Kashmir state. In Uttar Pradesh state, authorities not only failed to arrest a BJP legislator accused of raping a 17-year-old girl, but also allegedly beat her father to death in police custody.

“With this populist call for hangings, the government wants to cover up the fact that its supporters may have engaged in a hate crime,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “If the government is serious about dealing with violence against women and children, it will have to do the hard work of reforming the criminal justice system and ensure that perpetrators are not protected from prosecution by political patronage.”

Two BJP ministers in Jammu and Kashmir state government joined an affiliated group called the Hindu Ekta Manch to protest the arrest of the accused in the horrific case in the state. The accused include a former government official and four police personnel. The ministers have since resigned.

Following the 2012 gang rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a medical student in Delhi, the Indian government enacted legal reforms to respond to sexual assault and rape. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, added new categories of offensesregarding violence against women and girls and made punishment more stringent, including death penalty for repeat offenders. Similarly, the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012, established guidelines for the police and courts to deal with victims sensitively and provided for the setting up of specialist child courts.

“There was hope that these measures would encourage more victims and their families to step forward, and result in more successful prosecutions,” Ganguly said.

While the number of rape cases reported in 2016 increased by 56 percent over 2012, there remains much to be done to change the way the justice system responds to victims.

In a November 2017 report, “Everyone Blames Me,” Human Rights Watch found that survivors, particularly among marginalized communities, still find it difficult to register police complaints. They often suffer humiliation at police stations and hospitals, are still subjected to degrading tests by medical professionals, and feel intimidated and scared when the case reaches the courts. They face significant barriers when trying to obtain critical support services such as health care, counseling, and legal aid.

Although Indian law makes it mandatory for police officials to register rape complaints, Human Rights Watch found that police sometimes press the victim’s family to “settle” or “compromise.”

In cases of children, not only has the government not established effective oversight mechanisms that could help prevent child sexual abuse, but existing measures remain poorly implemented.

For women and girls with disabilities, who face a higher risk of sexual violence, the challenges are even greater, Human Rights Watch has found.

However, instead of fixing these structural barriers, the Indian government has expanded the use of capital punishment for rape. Now the parliament should ensure that this ordinance does not become part of permanent legislation.

The government’s ordinance comes despite the fact that both a high-level government committee and India’s Law Commission came out against the death penalty. Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases.

The new ordinance also increases minimum punishment for rape of girls and women. While the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act covers sexual abuse against both girls and boys, the ordinance does not cover rape of boys.
  • For rape of women above 16 years of age, minimum punishment is increased from 7 years to 10 years in prison;
  • For rape of girls between 12 to 16 years of age, minimum punishment is now 20 years which may extend to life in prison;
  • For gang rape of girls between 12 to 16 years of age, minimum punishment is life in prison;
  • For rape of girls under 12 years of age, minimum punishment is 20 years in prison which may extend to life in prison or death penalty;
  • For gang rape of girls under 12 years of age, minimum punishment is life in prison or death penalty.
In India, according to the 2016 government data, out of 38,947 cases of rape reported by children and women, the accused was known to the victim in 94.6 percent of the cases. In 630 cases, the accused was the victim’s father, brother, grandfather, or son; in 1,087 cases, the accused was a close family member; in 2,174 cases the accused was a relative; and in 10,520 cases, the accused was a neighbor.

Rape is already underreported in India largely because of social stigma, victim-blaming, poor response by the criminal justice system, and lack of any national victim and witness protection law making them highly vulnerable to pressure from the accused as well as the police. Children are even more vulnerable due to pressure from family and society.

With this background, an increase in punishment, including the death penalty, may, in fact, lead to a decrease in reporting of such crimes.

“The Indian government has repeatedly said that it is committed to dealing with violence against women and children. But actions speak louder than words,” Ganguly said. “The new amendments are ill-conceived and hasty. Protecting children requires a far more thoughtful approach and politicians need to summon the political will to deliver it.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Death penalty soon to end ‘in practice’

Source: The Phuket News (16 April 2018)

https://www.thephuketnews.com/death-penalty-soon-to-end-in-practice-66779.php#hzZlc36ulrlctUgg.97

BANGKOK: Thailand will be one step closer to becoming a country that is no longer considered to have capital punishment next year, according to a definition which adopts a 10-year period for declaring a country execution-free in practice, says Amnesty International Thailand.

The group said it was pleased this criteria will likely be met, but added the country should go the whole way and revoke the death penalty entirely.

Amnesty International has recently released its 2017 global review of the death penalty, which shows its declining use in many regions around the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, including Thailand where there has been no execution since 2009.

Last year, Thai courts ordered 75 executions, a decrease from 216 cases in 2016.

“We’re close to becoming a country that is free of executions in practice as recognised by the United Nations. If we can successfully do it, it will be significant to the country’s human rights development,” she said.

According to the Department of Corrections, as of December 2017, there were 502 prisoners in Thai jails who have been sentenced to death.

Ms Piyanut said that the country could go further by officially suspending the death sentence together with commuting the sentences of those who have received the death penalty but have yet to be executed.

Moreover, she said the country should ratify the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is a binding international agreement to abolish the death penalty.

Amnesty International is committed to the unilateral abolishment of the death penalty on the grounds of human rights and humanitarianism, while there has been no correlation found between the use, or abolition, of capital punishment and crime rates, she said.

According to the Amnesty International report, there were least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4% from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39% from 2015 (when the organisation reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989).

At least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries were recorded in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016.

Indonesia, which executed four people convicted of drug crimes in 2016, did not carry out any executions last year and reported a slight decrease in the number of death sentences imposed, the group’s report said.

Amnesty International: Malaysia taking baby steps to abolishing death penalty

Source: Malay Mail Online

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/amnesty-international-malaysia-taking-baby-steps-to-abolishing-death-penalt

KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 — Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) has lauded the government’s move to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to give judges discretion over the previously mandatory death penalty.

At the launch of its Global Report: Death Sentences and Executions 2017, AIM executive director Gwen Lee said the move, though small, was still positive and that the government was progressing towards eliminating capital punishment.

However, she questioned the impact the amendment will have on reducing executions in the country.

“Those convicted of transporting, sending or delivering a prohibited substance who were also found to have cooperated with law enforcement in disrupting drug trafficking activities have an alternative sentence of life imprisonment and no less than 15 strokes of the whip.

“While this might seem like a positive move, it is unclear what impact these changes will have on reducing the number of people executed as the alternative punishment still amounts to torture.

“It creates an impossible choice for people who have been wrongly accused of crimes — admit to a crime they did not commit or maintain their innocence at the risk of death,” Lee said.

She then told reporters after the launch that the first case after the amendment had taken place still put three men on death row.

“Based on a news article on April 4, the High Court Judge sentenced three men to the mandatory death penalty.

“The lawyers tried to use the new amendment but according to the judge there was no proof that the men actually helped bust a drug trafficking ring, thus they were not eligible for life imprisonment,” she said.

Lee also presented that last year Malaysia had carried out at least four executions — three for murder and one for discharge of firearm — although she believed there could be more as data on the death penalty is not made public.

She also disclosed that 38 new mandatory death sentences were imposed for 21 drug related offences, 16 murders and one discharge of firearms. Four of those sentenced were women and 12 were foreign nationals.

As of February, data compiled from the Prisons Department showed that 1,122 convicts are on death row. Malaysia was also one of the 11 countries that had consecutively executed convicts over the past five years.

Lee also brought to attention the case of Hoo Yew Wah who was arrested in March 2005 when he was 20 years old for being in possession 188.5 grams of methamphetamines and was automatically presumed and later convicted of trafficking.

Hoo was convicted based on a statement he made at the time of arrest without a lawyer present. All his appeals had been rejected by the courts and his petition for pardon to the Sultan of Johor, where the offence took place, is still pending.

The launch was also attended by members of the diplomatic corp including the Mexican Ambassador to Malaysia, Carlos Felix Corona and the Spanish Ambassador to Malaysia Carlos Dominguez Diaz.