Sunday, 29 April 2007

Japan hangs three 'to keep numbers down'

Japan hanged three men on Friday, bringing to seven the number of prisoners it has executed in the past four months.

The latest executions were reportedly carried out now to keep the country's death row population below 100.

Kosaku Nata , Yoshikatsu Oda and Masahiro Tanaka were hanged on 27 April in detention centres in Osaka, Fukuoka and Tokyo.

In an unusual step, the men were executed while Japan's parliament, the Diet, was in session. Executions in Japan are usually timed to avoid parliamentary debate or scrutiny.

According to a report by the Mainichi Daily News, government sources said Justice Minister Nagase ordered the executions at this time because the number of death row inmates had risen sharply to over 100.

Japan's Justice Ministry said the hangings reduced the number of inmates on death row to 99.

The Asahi Shumbun reported that Kosaku Nata, 56, was convicted of a 1983 robbery and murder in Hyogo Prefecture, in which he stole a health insurance card and other items and murdered a colleague's wife and her child.

Yoshikatsu Oda, 59, was convicted of murdering a man and a woman for insurance money in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1990.

Masahiro Tanaka, 42, who went by the family name of Miyashita, was convicted of stabbing to death a female sales assistant and stealing 50,000 yen from a pornography shop in Kagawa Prefecture in 1984.

He was also convicted of three other murders in Tokyo and Tokushima and Kanagawa prefectures, carried out in 1991 and earlier.

Four men, including two over seventy years of age, were hanged on 25 December, 2006.

'Against global trend'
The latest group of executions drew condemnation from human rights and legal organisations opposed to the death penalty.

Amnesty International said the men were hanged on the same day the human rights organisation released statistics indicating a worldwide decline in the number of executions and encouraging progress towards abolition.

According to Amnesty International's figures, the number of reported executions worldwide fell from 2,148 in 2005, to 1,591 in 2006.

Related stories:
Japan: Christmas hangings draw protest -- 03 January, 2007
Executions may resume in Japan -- 21 December, 2006
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006
Japan: Lonely wait for the noose -- 5 April 2006
Japan's death row hell -- 3 March 2006

Indonesia: Convicted murderer shot

Indonesia yesterday executed a man for murdering a family of six in February 1999.

It was the fourteenth reported execution in Indonesia since 1995.

Ayub Bulubili, 40, was shot by firing squad at 1:30am on Saturday at a shooting range in Central Kalimantan, according to an AFP report.

AFP quoted Agustinus Siahaan, a warden at Palangkaraya jail where Bulubili had been held, who said the prisoner took part in a Catholic religious service in the prison before he was executed.

"He was executed early on Saturday morning and was buried near here before noon," Mr Siahaan said.

Bulubili would have been notified of his execution at least 72 hours before it was carried out.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) released an Urgent Action appeal last week in an attempt to prevent the execution.

AI said Ayub Bulubili was sentenced to death on 28 October 1999 by the Kapuas District court in Central Kalimantan province.

He was convicted of the premeditated murder of a family of six, including four children between four and thirteen years of age.

His sentence was upheld by the Central Kalimantan High Court and by the Indonesian Supreme Court. AI said two appeals for presidential clemency were rejected, the first by then President Megawati Sukarnoputri in July 2004 and the second by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in March 2007.

AI reports there are at least 91 people believed to be under sentence of death in Indonesia, 13 of whom were convicted and sentenced to death in 2006.

Executions in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad, although the government is considering a move to lethal injection.

Prisoners are shot by a firing squad of twelve people. Six guns are loaded with live ammunition and six with blanks.

Related stories:
Executions in Indonesia since 1995 -- 26 September 2006

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Malaysia: Expanded penalty condemned

Malaysian human rights activists have condemned the reported expansion of the death penalty for terrorism offences.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) said in a statement on 20 March it was "shocked and disappointed" at the new offence, which applies a mandatory death sentence for terrorist acts that cause death.

A second offence applies the death penalty to people convicted of giving financial aid to terrorists.

The new laws reportedly came into effect on 6 March, one day after they were gazetted by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

MADPET said, however, Minister Aziz was reported in 2006 as saying: "For me, a life is a life. No one has the right to take someone else's life, even if that person has taken another life..."

The wrong direction
The organisation said the death penalty was an unsafe and unnecessary response to serious crime.

"It is not possible in any system of human justice to prevent the horrifying possibility of the execution of innocent persons; and the infliction of the death penalty makes wrongful convictions irreversible.

"In an age, when it is possible to isolate persons guilty of the most heinous of crimes from society by the imposition of life imprisonment, there can be no more justification for the usage of the death penalty," it said.

The statement said 128 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice, compared to the 69 countries that retain and use it.

"It is ironic that at a time when the nations of the world are rapidly moving towards abolition of the death penalty, Malaysia is once again unnecessarily and imprudently extending the range of capital offences," MADPET said.

Calls for abolition
The organisation pointed out that a Malaysian television poll conducted last year showed 64% in favour of abolishing the death penalty.

The poll was conducted on 7 May 2006, during the Hello on Two programme, which "has an estimated audience of 80,000".

In March 2006, the country's peak legal organisation the Malaysia Bar passed a resolution calling for an end to the death penalty and for all death sentences to be commuted.

Related stories:
Malaysia's 'inexcusable' position on death penalty -- 22 July, 2006
Malaysia: Life sentence under the noose - 21 July, 2006
Malaysia: Opposition to water pollution death sentences - 09 May, 2006
Malaysia may execute water polluters -- 29 April, 2006
Renewed debate on death penalty in Malaysia -- 23 March, 2006
Malaysian lawyers against the death penalty -- 21 March, 2006
Malaysia PM defends death for drug offenders -- 24 February, 2006

Sunday, 8 April 2007

China call for cautious death penalty - again

China's four major criminal justice agencies have called for more careful handling of death penalty cases, saying police must obey laws that protect suspects and judges should consider evidence more carefully.

The Supreme People's Court, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice and the country's top prosecutor, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, issued a joint statement on 11 March defining the obligations of law enforcement officials and advocating a reduction in death sentences.

"Our country still cannot abolish the death penalty but should gradually reduce its application," the statement said, according to the Associated Press (AP).

"But where there is a possibility someone should not be executed, then without exception the person should not be killed."

China's official newsagency Xinhua said the statement emphasised the Supreme People's Court now has the authority to give final approval in capital cases.

"It also asked law enforcement officials to strictly obey laws in identifying facts, collecting evidence, dealing with procedures and adopting punishments," Xinhua said.

The statment said police were banned from using torture to extract confessions and from illegally collecting evidence.

Xinhua said judges should "pay more attention to the validity of evidence in handling death penalty cases".

The AP report said officials had an obligation to "ensure crime suspects and defendants can fully exercise their rights to defense and other procedural rights".

First executions approved
Xinhua reported on 19 March that the SPC had approved at least four death sentences since it resumed hearing final appeals from 1 January.

An SPC judge said review panels had confirmed the original death sentences in four cases, but he would not say how many cases had been reviewed in total.

According to the Xinhua report, convicted criminals cannot now be executed without the approval of the supreme court.

"If the supreme court approves the death penalty, they will be executed within seven days of local courts receiving the notice of the supreme court," it said.

"During the review process, the supreme court has also found cases lacking evidence, and returned them to lower courts for further inquiries, said the judge.

'Sending back'
In late February, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued a regulation clarifying that it would order provincial courts to retry suspects if it found errors in judgements.

A Xinhua report, published on the SPC-sponsored Chinacourt website, said the regulation would see the court sending back capital cases for retrial rather than changing the sentences.

"The new regulation will guarantee that death sentences are handed out with caution by ordering retrials, which will also improve the efficiency of SPC death penalty reviews," an SPC spokesman said.

Xinhua said the SPC would only change death sentences in cases where individuals faced multiple death sentences, or multiple criminals faced death penalties.

The regulation would reportedly take effect on 28 February.

Related stories:
China: Judges try to limit death penalty -- 14 November, 2006
China reforms good, but not enough -- 8 November, 2006
China: Supreme Court review from January -- 1 November, 2006
China to video death penalty appeals -- 28 May 2006
China to retain death penalty, with reforms -- 13 March 2006