Monday, 29 January 2007

Indonesia's drug penalty 'appropriate' for syndicates

The former police chief who now leads Indonesia's efforts to control drug trafficking and drug abuse said he supported the death penalty as a deterrent.

But he was surprised at the death sentences given on appeal to four Australians from the 'Bali 9', according to a report by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

I Made Mangku Pastika, chairman of the National Narcotics Board, said arrests for drug offences had doubled in the past five years and Indonesia was now a destination country for drugs from across the region.

He said Indonesia now received heroin from the borders of Afghanistan/Pakistan and Myanmar/Thailand, and ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine from China.

Pastika told a lunch of foreign reporters that the death penalty was "appropriate" for drug-trafficking syndicates.

"Indonesia is facing a much bigger drug problem than ever before."

Surprised, not surprised
Pastika, who was Bali's police chief at the time of the arrest of the Bali 9, said he was "surprised" when the Indonesian Supreme Court imposed death sentences on four of the group.

Scott Rush, Si Yi Chen, Matthew Norman and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment by Bali's lower courts, raised to death on appeal despite the prosecution only demanding the reinstatement of life sentences.

But The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Pastika agreed with the death sentences given by the court in Denpassar to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two prosecutors alleged had organised the group.

"These two arranged everything," he said.

The six Australians sentenced to death have reportedly all lodged appeals to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the constitution "guarantees the right to life under any circumstance".

More serious problems
The DPA report pointed to serious problems for Indonesia's fight against drugs, greater than the question of the penalties available to judges in drug cases.

It quoted Pastika as saying that Indonesia had made gains in its ability to fight drug trafficking, but he said the country still had "porous borders, relatively weak customs control" and "relatively weak law enforcement techniques".

In November 2006, a Vietnamese parliamentary commission admitted the death penalty was failing to deter drug crime, despite the large number of people the country executed each year for drug offences.

Related stories:
Firing squad for six of Bali Nine -- 11 September, 2006
Bali 9 death sentence confirmed -- 26 April, 2006

Taiwan limits mandatory penalties

Taiwan has removed the mandatory death penalties from serious currency offences and several crimes against the armed forces, according to The China Post.

The Legislative Yuan amended the legislation on 22 December, giving judges discretion as to whether a convicted person should receive a life or a death sentence.

The amendments were introducted by You Ching, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who The China Post said "contended that the original provisions stipulating mandatory death sentences for such offenses left no room for judges to use their discretion when passing sentences that take human lives".

The newspaper said he argued judges should be given more flexibility to consider individual cases "objectively in order to mete out reasonable penalties".

The amended provisions were:
  • Article 3 of the Law on Punishment for Obstruction Against the National Currency, which had provided a mandatory the death penalty for a person convicted of counterfeiting banknotes and causing serious disturbance to the nation's monetary system
  • Article 27 and Article 66 of the Criminal Law of the Armed Forces. Under the previous Article 27, a mandatory death sentence was given to any member of the military who disobeyed orders at the front line. Article 66 had provided a mandatory death sentence for a person who fabricated orders, announcements or reports during wartime, causing harm to the military.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Singapore hangs two for drugs

Singapore this morning executed two Africans for alleged drug smuggling offences.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, a 21-year-old professional footballer from Nigeria, and Okeke Nelson Malachy, a 35-year-old reportedly from South Africa, were hanged today after their appeals for presidential clemency were turned down.

The executions were confirmed in a statement issued by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

The statement, typical of the cold formality of official information about Singapore's death penalty system, notes: "Their sentences were carried out this morning at Changi Prison."

The CNB said Tochi had "unlawfully brought into Singapore 727.02g of high grade pure heroin worth about $1.5 million".

Both men were charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act, with Tochi convicted of importing a controlled drug into Singapore and Malachy with abetting the offence.

The Misuse of Drugs Act specifies a mandatory death penalty for importing more than 15 grams of diamorphine or pure heroin.

Under Singapore's secretive death penalty system, execution dates are not normally announced. Tochi's execution date was made public by his lawyers, but it was not known Malachy was set to be executed on the same day.

Singapore human rights activists and Amnesty International this week condemned plans to execute Tochi, particularly since the trial judge accepted there was "no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine".

According to Amnesty International, Singapore is believed to have the highest per capita execution rate in the world. With a population of just over four million, it has executed more than 420 people since 1991, "the majority for drug trafficking".

'Violation of international standards'
A United Nations (UN) human rights expert yesterday made a last-ditch appeal to the Singapore government not to executeTochi, saying it would violate international legal standards.

Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Singapore appeared to have reversed the burden of proof, requiring the accused to prove they did not know they were carrying drugs.

"It is a fundamental human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.

"The standard accepted by the international community is that capital punishment may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts."

Professor Alston said these rights were recognised in international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.

He said the execution of Tochi would violate international legal standards relating to the imposition of the death penalty, and there were similar "grave issues" at stake in Malachy's case.

"One of the tasks given to me by the UN Human Rights Council is to monitor states' respect for those safeguards in order to protect the human rights of those facing the death penalty," Professor Alston said.

"In the case of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, the Government of Singapore has failed to ensure respect for the relevant legal safeguards. Under the circumstances, the execution should not proceed."

He also said Singapore's mandatory death penalty law was inconsistent with international human rights standards.

"Singapore's decision to make the death penalty mandatory keeps judges from considering all of the factors relevant to determining whether a death sentence would be permissible in a capital case," he said.

Related stories:
Tochi: Nigerian appeals ignored -- 25 January, 2007
Singapore activists: Rethink death penalty -- 23 January, 2007
Singapore to hang Tochi next week -- 18 January, 2007
Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore -- 01 September, 2006
Singapore forum against death penalty -- 21 August , 2006

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Tochi: Nigerian appeals ignored

The Singapore Government has brushed aside appeals from Nigeria's President and Parliament to spare a Nigerian footballer from execution.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, 21, is set to be hanged in Changi jail at dawn on 26 January for trafficking heroin into Singapore in 2004.

Appeals from Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and House of Representatives have failed to move the Singapore government from its plans to carry out the execution.

'Strong signals' not rehabilitation
Yesterday African newspaper This Day Online reported Singapore's prisons department had defended the death penalty for drug offences.

The Singapore Prisons Department, whose website features the slogan "REHAB * RENEW * RESTART", said in a statement: "The death penalty is imposed for the most serious of crimes, which sends a strong signal to would-be offenders to deter them from committing such crimes as drug trafficking, murder and use of firearms.

"We weigh the right to life of the convicted against the rights of victims and the right of the community to live and work in peace and security," the statement said.

'Earnest' appeals
This Day Online reported on 23 January that President Olusegun Obasanjo had asked Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to personally intervene in the case.

The report said the President wrote to Prime Minister Loong appealing for presidential clemency to save Tochi, citing the "excellent relationship" that existed between the two countries.

"It is for the reason of obtaining your kind pardon and clemency for the convicted Nigerian that I write this letter to you, conscious of the excellent relations that exist between our two countries, to earnestly urge you to reconsider the conviction of the Singaporean Court of Appeal and to commute the death sentence to imprisonment," the President wrote in his letter.

The same day, a House of Representatives plenary held to discuss the case urged President Obasanjo to do everything within his power to intervene in the case.

A motion sponsored by Hon. Halims Agoda urged members of the House and the government to act on the case.

Agoda said: "We as a people and parliament must defend the right of our people in and outside the country. If South African president could rise to the aid of its citizen [Okele Nelson Malachy] who was also convicted with Tochi and his sentence was deferred, the Nigerian government should also do what is right for its citizen."

After the plenary discussion, House Speaker Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari said he would personally convey the message from the House to the President.

In August 2006, Nigeria's parliament rejected a call from the House Committee on Human Rights for it to intervene in the case.

Related stories:
Singapore activists: Rethink death penalty -- 23 January, 2007
Singapore to hang Tochi next week -- 18 January, 2007
Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore -- 01 September, 2006
Singapore forum against death penalty -- 21 August , 2006

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Singapore activists: Rethink death penalty

Activists in Singapore have condemned this Friday's planned execution of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, and called for a rethink on the country's use of the death penalty.

Tochi is due to hang at dawn for allegedly trafficking heroin into Singapore on 27 November 2004. He claimed he thought he was carrying a package of herbal medicine for a 'Mr Smith'.

The Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) said the impending execution was "particularly disturbing", since the trial judge had acknowledged there were reasonable doubts as to whether Tochi knew he was carrying drugs.

The SADPC said trial judge Mr Kan Ting Chiu made the following finding: "There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out of his own." (Paragraph 42 of the judgment [2005] SGHC 233).

The campaign group pointed to a seeming contradiction in Singapore between the death penalty and a prison system increasingly focused on rehabilition.

"At a time when the Singapore prison system has a renewed emphasis upon rehabilitation, and when the Yellow Ribbon campaign asks us to give even seasoned criminals a second chance, can we not find it in our hearts to extend this to a person who--if he indeed is guilty--made a desperate mistake at the age of 19?" an SADPC statement said.

They also highlighted the country's rigid mandatory death penalty for drug offences.

"The death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore continues to be "mandatory", which means that judges are not able to take into significance and mitigating circumstances (such as the age and general naivity of the accused) when passing their verdict.

"And at a time when even the hangings of persons responsible for mass killings and genocide, such as Saddam Hussein and his cronies are being regarded with disgust by the world at large; are seen as reproducing the criminal cruelty of the original perpetrators, is it not time that we in Singapore reconsider our stance on the repeated, mandatory hanging of small-fry drug mules?" SADPC said.

The SADPC describes itself as "a concerned group of Singaporeans from diverse backgrounds who have come together over the issue of the Death Penalty". It organises debates and other events "to foster a public debate on the practice of capital punishment in Singapore and throughout the world".

In August 2006, the group organised a forum to discuss the case of Tochi and his co-accused Okele Nelson Malachy, who had also received a death sentence.

Related stories:
Singapore to hang Tochi next week -- 18 January, 2007
Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore -- 01 September, 2006
Singapore forum against death penalty -- 21 August , 2006

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Singapore to hang Tochi next week

Singapore's Ministry of Home affairs has informed lawyers for a 19 year-old Nigerian that he would be executed on Friday 26 January.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi was arrested at Changi Airport on 27 November 2004 allegedly in possession of heroin. He was sentenced to death along with Okele Nelson Malachy, 33, whose nationality cannot be confirmed.

They were convicted under Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act, which specifies a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin.

Action in Nigeria
On 15 December 2006, Nigeria's largest human rights organisation, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), announced it would launch legal action to compel the Nigerian Government to intervene in the case.

A CLO statement said it would take action in the federal high court in an attempt to force the government to file a complaint against Singapore in the International Court of Justice. In August, the Nigerian Parliament voted down a motion calling on the government to appeal for clemency in the case.

CLO said the trial judge found Tochi innocent on the facts of the case, and yet "went on to find Tochi guilty, in contradiction to his own findings of fact".

It said there was also "a clear case of racial discrimination against African nationals", with lawyers from the organisation refused access to the prisoner, despite acting under instructions from his family.

The statement said the "Singaporean authority could not have done this to an American or a German national".

Related stories:
Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore -- 01 September, 2006
Singapore forum against death penalty -- 21 August , 2006

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Iran: Good news points to legal flaws

The acquittal of an Iranian teenager who killed a man when he attacked her has highlighted the need for "urgent legal reforms" to protect juveniles accused of a crime, according to Amnesty International.

Mahabad Fatehi, known as Nazanin, was cleared of murder by a Tehran court on 14 January. In March 2005, when she was 17 years old, she stabbed one man in a group of three who attempted to rape her and her 15 year-old neice in a Tehran park.

In January 2006 Nazanin was convicted of pre-meditated murder and sentenced to death.

Following an international campaign against her death sentence, including a global petition organised by Canadian singer and former beauty contestant Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who was born in Iran, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in May 2006.

Amnesty International said the latest court verdict highlighted the need for changes to the law to ensure people accused of crimes committed before they were 18 years old could not be sentenced to death.

For several years Iran has considered legislation that would ban the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders. Amnesty International said a reform bill had "not yet been approved by the Council of Guardians, which vets Iran's legislation for conformity with Islamic principles".
The human rights organisation said Iran and Pakistan were the only countries in the world to execute child offenders in 2006, and Iran had executed at least 21 child offenders since 1990.
But as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran had committed not to execute juvenile offenders.
Stay of execution for musician
In a second case, Sina Paymard, who was convicted of a murder committed when he was 16, was reportedly granted a stay of execution by the Head of the Judiciary.

Sina Paymard was scheduled to be executed in September 2006, but he was spared at the gallows by the family of his victim. Family members were reportedly moved to mercy when he played the ney, a Middle Eastern flute.

In November 2006 his lawyer requested a review of the case and submitted new evidence that Sina Paymard suffered from mental illness.

Twenty-three more
Amnesty International reported that at least 23 other child offenders are reportedly on death row in Iran.

In December, the organisation said that Hossein Gharabaghloo was at risk of imminent execution for a murder committed when he was 16. The Supreme Court had confirmed his death sentence on 13 December, and AI said "he could now be executed at any time".

Related story:
Iran world leader executing juveniles -- 04 October, 2006

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

India: The politics of hanging

The death penalty is claimed as an act of justice, whereas in truth it is an act of politics.

It is a tool for those in power, or aspiring to power, to demonstrate politically 'desirable' qualities: strength, resolve, decisiveness, empathy with the victims of crimes that haven't been effectively prevented, legitimacy in the face of challenges to the state's authority.

These factors have been clearly in evidence in India in recent months, following a court's decision in September 2006 to set an execution date for Mohammad Afzal Guru.

Afzal was scheduled to hang in Tihar Jail on 20 October for conspiracy to attack the Parliament of India, waging war against India and murder. The execution was stayed after his wife filed a mercy petition.

He was charged after an armed attack on India's Parliament complex on 13 December 2001, in which several security guards and the five attacking gunmen were killed.

The attack was linked to militant Kashmiri separatist groups.

Political issue
India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sought to make political gains out of the case, circulating a pamphlet outlining why Afzal should be executed and repeatedly calling on the government to reject clemency and hang him as soon as possible.
One report this week suggested the BJP would try to link the case to issues of terrorism, security and nationalism in forthcoming state elections.

When the execution date was first set, leaders of some Kashmiri separatist organisations encouraged Afzal not to appeal to the Indian President for mercy, preferring him to die a martyr, according to the Kashmir Observer.

Other Kashmiri leaders had argued that going ahead with the execution would damage the peace process in Kashmir.

Final appeals
The Supreme Court last week rejected an appeal from Afzal that argued he had been denied adequate legal representation during his trial.

His last hope lies with a petition for clemency which is now before India's President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Judge 'opposed to death penalty'
The Supreme Court Judge who chaired the panel rejecting Afzal's appeal said on Saturday that courts had to impose the death penalty in the 'rarest of the rare' cases.

Outgoing Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal said when he retired at the weekend that he was personally opposed to the death penalty but the courts were bound to impose it.

"Once a court arrives at a conclusion that a case falls in the category of 'rarest of rare' it has no option but to award death penalty," he said at a news conference on Saturday.

"My personal view that death penalty should be abolished doesn't matter.

"It's up to the legislature to decide whether to retain death penalty," Sabharwal said.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Abolition debate for Taiwan in 2007

Taiwan's Ministry of Justice has announced that during 2007 it would encourage debate about abolishing the death penalty, including a program of research, seminars and public hearings across the country.

The China Post reported that the ministry would encourage the public to think about and debate the issues, according to Chang Chi-yun, the director of the ministry's Department of Prevention, Rehabilitation and Protection.

Chang said the ministry would encourage members of the public to participate in hearings in northern, central and southern Taiwan during the year.

He said he had also met with members of groups opposed to the death penalty and family members of the victims of crime.

The ministry would also commission research into the issue from the Crime Research Center of the National Chung Cheng University, Chung said.

Gradual move
In February 2006, Justice Minister Morley Shih said the government was moving towards abolition of the death penalty. But he said a majority of people believed it was needed as a deterrent against crime.

According to a report in the Taipei Times, he said the Ministry of Justice had filed extraordinary appeals to the Supreme Court in an effort to delay the execution of some prisoners.

Where the Supreme Court had rejected these appeals, the MOJ had also attempted to stay the executions.

Last month Amnesty International condemned the final approval for the execution of Chong Deshu, issued by the Ministry of Justice just three weeks after the Justice Minister said execution was "not the answer" to crime. (ADP story here.)

Following the approval, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) made an urgent application to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office to review documents relating to Chung's case.

Related stories:
Taiwan: Death penalty benefit an 'illusion' -- 14 December 2006
Taiwan working towards abolition? -- 21 February 2006

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

No death penalty plans in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has no plans to use its death penalty laws, according to a report in the Daily Mirror e-Edition on 10 January.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa indicated in a wide-ranging meeting with newspaper editors on 9 January that he had no intention of implementing the death penalty in the near future.

President Rajapaksa said: "Ours is a country where there are protests even if we try to kill a dog. Implementing the death penalty, is therefore something that we have to do, after weighing the pros and cons, carefully."

Sri Lanka retains the death penalty on its statute books, although no executions have been carried out since June 1976. Successive presidents have automatically commuted all death sentences.

Amnesty International considers Sri Lanka to be an abolitionist country "in practice", a term it applies to countries which "have not executed anyone during the past 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions".

In March 1999 the government announced that death sentences would no longer be automatically commuted, although this policy was not implemented.

On 20 November 2004, the office of the then President announced that "the death penalty will be effective from today for rape, murder and narcotics dealings". The announcement followed the murder of a High Court judge and a policeman who was protecting him.

Amnesty International said in July 2005 that the Justice Ministry and the Attorney General had reportedly recommended the death penalty be carried out on the men convicted of a gruesome rape and murder.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Japan: Christmas hangings draw protest

Human rights activists have condemned the execution of four men in Japan on Christmas Day.

The four, including two men over seventy years of age, were hanged just days after Japan's Diet (parliament) closed for the year.

The men hanged on 25 December were:

  • Yoshimitsu Akiyama, 77 (Tokyo Detention Center)
  • Hiroaki Hidaka, 44 (Hiroshima Detention Center
  • Yoshio Fujinami, 75 (Tokyo Detention Center)
  • Michio Fukuoka, 64 (Osaka Detention Center)

Executions in Japan are usually timed to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and minimise publicity.

Under the country's execution procedures, a prisoner can spend decades on death row and be executed with little or no warning they are about to die. Their families are not notified until after the hangings have been carried out.

The executions were condemned in statements issued by the Diet Members' League Against the Death Penalty, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations,Amnesty International Japan, Forum 90 and other NGOs.

AFP reported that the Japan Federation of Bar Associations called for the suspension of the death penalty, saying innocent people could be killed and citing the international trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Justice Minister Jinen Nagase defended the hangings, saying the majority of Japanese people supported the death penalty.

"I am aware of various opinions on the issue, but nearly 80% of the people in this country have no objection to the existence of the death penalty," Justice Minister Jinen Nagase said.

"I don't have any plan to change the current justice system."

Protests encouraged

Japanese activists have called for people around the world to send messages of protest against the resumption of the death penalty.

Please send messages of protest to the Ministry of Justice at:

Justified fears

In December 2006, activists and lawyers said they were concerned the government would resume executions after the final parliamentary session for the year.

The country's new Justice Minister Jinen Nagase said after his appointment in September 2006 that he was prepared to sign execution orders, in contrast to his predecessor who did not approve any during his term in office.

Amnesty International and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations urged the government to suspend executions and take steps towards abolition of the death penalty.

Related stories:
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