Sunday, 29 June 2008

Indonesia: Drug offenders executed, more to come

Indonesia shot two Nigerian men for drug offences late on Thursday night, and drug officials hope more executions will soon be carried out.

Samuel Iwachekawu Okoye and Hansen Anthony Nwaoysa were executed before midnight on Thursday (26 June) on Nusakambangan prison island, off the coast of central Java.

According to a Reuters report, the head of the Central Java mobile brigade police, Dicky Atotoy, said the two Nigerians were tied to two wooden poles with their heads covered, and shot by two teams of police snipers.

"The doctor declared the two convicts dead at 00.00 following the firing squads' duty to execute them," Atatoy said.

Reuters said Indonesian prosecutors were also now preparing to execute the three men sentenced to death for their role in the October 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.

AAP reported that 40 year-old Nwaoysa was sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle 600 grams of heroin in 43 capsules, which he swallowed before flying from Pakistan to Jakarta in January 2001. (AAP story also here.)

The report said Okoye was caught at Jakarta airport with 3.8 kilograms of heroin hidden in the lining of his luggage after flying in from India. He said he was to pass it on to an Australian by the name of "Ron".

The two were sentenced to death in 2001 and their final appeals for clemency were rejected in July 2004.

More drug executions to come?
The head of Indonesia's leading anti-drugs body said in a speech during the day on Thursday that drug offenders should be executed more quickly.

"To give them a lesson, drug traffickers must be executed immediately," said General Sutanto, who is the National Police Chief and Chairman of the National Anti-Narcotic Body (BNN).

"For this purpose, BNN is coordinating closely with the Attorney General`s Office as the agency responsible for carrying out executions," he told a function at the State Palace for the International Day against Drugs Abuse and Trafficking.

He said prison didn't deter drug traffickers, and claimed international drug syndicates were being run from jails.

Attorney General Hendarman Supandji reportedly said at the same function his office would speed up the execution of the 57 drug offenders on death row.

Move towards greater secrecy
Before the latest executions, comments by one government minister reported by the Antara newsagency suggested Indonesia was planning to carry out the executions in secret to prevent any public protests.

"The date of the execution is not to be made public to prevent public controversy," said Monang Pardede, assistant deputy to the General Crimes chief of the Central Java higher prosecutor's office, on Tuesday.

He reportedly said the executions would not be publicised until after they were carried out, in order to prevent what Antara described as "undue public reactions".

"We are afraid we will face difficulties if they are announced beforehand," he said.

These comments are a worrying sign that Indonesia may be moving towards the secrecy that stifles open and informed debate across much of Asia about the use of the death penalty.

No to drugs, no to drug executions
Amnesty International condemned the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences.

"Experts in international law, including the top UN officials, have confirmed that applying the death penalty for drug-related offences is a breach of international law," a spokesperson for the organisation said.

The last executions for drug offences in Indonesia were carried out in October 2004, when two Thai nationals were shot for attempting to smuggle 12.19 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia.

Their co-accused, a 65 year-old Indian man, was executed in August of the same year.

Related stories:
Drug penalty violates international law -- 06 May 2007
Executions in Indonesia since 1995 -- 26 September 2006

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Will Pakistan's death row be emptied?

Up to 7,000 death row prisoners may be spared the prospect of execution after Pakistan's prime minister recommended the government commute death sentences as a tribute to his party's assassinated leader.

Yousuf Raza Gilani was leading celebrations on Saturday for the 55th birthday of Benazir Bhutto, the former leader of the PPP Party who was killed in an attack on an election rally in December.

"We have asked the Ministry of the Interior to send a recommendation to the president to convert the death sentence of prisoners to life in prison," he said, according to an Associated Press report.

Media reports of the recommendation suggested President Pervez Musharfaf was likely to agree to the recommendation, although it was not clear which death row prisoners would be covered by the amnesty.

It was also not clear if the proposal would benefit an Indian national whose family claimed was sentenced to death in a case of mistaken identity.

Pakistani authorities believe Manjit Singh was sentenced to death after being convicted of involvement in bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990.

His family claims he is in fact Indian farmer Sarabjit Singh, who accidentally strayed into Pakistan while working.

President Musharraf rejected his petition for mercy on 5 March 2008. His execution was set for 1 May, although it was later delayed.

The announcement is likely to give fresh impetus to the debate about abolition in Pakistan, which late last year voted against a United Nations resolution encouraging a moratorium on the death penalty.

Related stories:
Call for abolition: Pakistan columnist -- 17 October, 2006
Pakistan: Thousands in "brutal" system -- 12 October, 2006

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Executions in Japan despite appeal plans

Japan's justice minister Kunio Hatoyama has now approved the execution of thirteen prisoners, with three more hangings carried out yesterday.

Three men were hanged in Tokyo and Osaka for murders committed up to 23 years ago.

Tsutomu Miyazaki, 45, and Shinji Mutsuda, 37, were hanged in Tokyo, and Yoshio Yamasaki, 73, was executed in Osaka.

Miyazaki has been infamous in Japan for nearly 20 years after he was arrested and charged with the violent murders of four young girls in 1988 and 1989. Agence France-Presse reported this week that he "mutilated the bodies of the victims, slept next to the corpses and drank their blood".

Mutsuda was convicted of murder and robbery, and Yamasaki was convicted of murdering two women in 1985 and 1990 for insurance money.

A question of sanity
The question of whether Miyazaki was sane enough to be held criminally responsible for the killings was central to his various court appearances.

Over nearly 20 years it took his case to move through the legal process, Miyazaki said a "rat man" was responsible for the killings, referring to a cartoon character he drew.

His lawyers argued he was suffering from mental illness, an argument reinforced by psychiatric assessments.

Mainichi Japan reported that he repeated incomprehensible statements during his court hearings.

"I feel as if I committed the crimes in my dreams," he said in one hearing.

"I was scared because a 'rat person' appeared. My alter ego suddenly appeared and committed the acts," he said at another time.

It said various psychiatric evaluations had returned different assessments of his mental state.

He was variously diagnosed as suffering from a personality disorder, a multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia, with different assessments of the level to which he could be held responsible.

Appeal underway
Miyazaki was executed despite the fact that his lawyer was preparing to apply for a retrial.

"I had been preparing to file a request for a retrial over the past few months," Maiko Tagusari said, according to a second report by Mainichi Japan.

"I strongly protested (to the ministry) for carrying out the execution even though they knew about my plans.

"What I had feared actually happened."

She said she wrote to Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama in late May asking him not to order the execution of Miyazaki.

Political support
India's Economic Times reported that Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said after the executions he supported the use of the death penalty.

"In Japan, the majority view is that capital punishment should be maintained, so I feel no need to change what we have continued doing until now," he said.

However he appeared to acknowledge the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty, adding: "But we also have to keep an eye on trends of world opinion."

Related stories:
Japan: Execution possible despite mental doubts -- 10 June, 2008
Executions in Japan -- 2006 - 2008 -- 12 April, 2008
Japan: Minister steps up rate of hangings -- 12 April, 2008
Japan: Sixteen hanged in thirteen months -- 04 February, 2008
Japan finally names three executed -- 09 December, 2007
Minister wants ‘tranquil’ killing: Japan -- 29 October, 2007
Japan: New minister will approve hangings -- 04 September, 2007
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Japan: Execution possible despite mental doubts

Amnesty International (AI) is concerned that a prisoner who withdrew a High Court appeal against his death sentence may be executed before the end of June.

According to an ‘urgent action’ appeal issued by the organisation late last week, Makino Tadashi has had his appeal for clemency rejected and is therefore "at imminent risk of execution".

Makino's lawyers have challenged his decisions in court and made unsuccessful appeals for a retrial in three levels of Japan's courts.

AI said he was sentenced to death in the Fukuoka District Court in 1990, despite his lawyers arguing during the trial that he lacked adequate mental capacity and could not be held responsible for his crimes.

"Makino appealed to the High Court but later withdrew his appeal," the organisation said.

His lawyers "challenged his motion to withdraw his appeal on the grounds that he was not fully aware of his actions" and appealed to the Fukuoka District Court for a retrial. They then appealed to the Fukuoka High Court and later the Supreme Court.

When the final appeal was rejected in January 2006, they submitted an appeal for clemency to the Ministry of Justice, which was rejected on 29 May 2008.

Makino, who was born in 1950, was sentenced to death for murdering one woman and injuring two others. He had earlier served 16 and a half years in prison for murder and attempted robbery committed when he was 19.

Appeal for action
Amnesty International is encouraging people to write letters as soon as possible to Justice Minister Hatoyama, calling on him:

* not to execute Tadashi Makino;
* to end the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in Japan by giving advance notice of executions to death row prisoners and their families;
* to order an immediate moratorium on the death penalty with a view to eventual abolition; and
* to commute all death sentences.

Appeals should be sent to:

Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
1-1-1 KasumigasekiChiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8977, Japan
Fax: +81 3 3592 7088
+81 3 5511 7200 (via Public Information & Foreign Liaison Office)

Salutation: Dear Minister

Disturbing record
Hatoyama has a disturbing record of support for the death penalty, executing 10 prisoners since he was appointed in August 2007. Seven executions have been carried out so far this year.

AI said there were currently 105 people on death row in Japan, and at least 23 people who went on trial in 2007 were facing the death penalty -- the highest number since 1962.

Related stories:
Executions in Japan -- 2006 - 2008 -- 12 April, 2008
Japan: Minister steps up rate of hangings -- 12 April, 2008
Japan: Sixteen hanged in thirteen months -- 04 February, 2008
Japan finally names three executed -- 09 December, 2007
Minister wants ‘tranquil’ killing: Japan -- 29 October, 2007
Japan: New minister will approve hangings -- 04 September, 2007
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006

Friday, 6 June 2008

Abolition: Political parties fail in Taiwan

The Taipei Times newspaper has condemned both of the country's main political parties for failing to abolish the death penalty, and failing to inform public debate about whether it was appropriate or effective.

In a sharply critical editorial on 28 May, the newspaper said the death penalty was an example of governments' selective use of public opinion, which was "ignored or drawn upon" by policy makers to serve their own interests.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) reduced the use of the death penalty over its eight years in office, but it "failed to carry out one of its professed goals" of abolishing it altogether.

The DPP had claimed it could not abolish the death penalty "because a majority of the public believed the death penalty to be an effective deterrent to violent crime".

The newspaper feared the current government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) already appeared "set to follow suit".

The current Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) said shortly after the government's inauguration that she would consider abolishing the death penalty.

But "[i]n the same breath, however, she warned that she had no clue how to go about achieving this goal, as it would run counter to public opinion".

Ineffective revenge
The Taipei Times said neither party had promoted the increasing number of countries that had abolished the death penalty, leaving Taiwan "among a shrinking minority".

Furthermore, studies had not found evidence the death penalty deterred violent crime, or that it increased after abolition.

"Capital punishment can therefore only serve two purposes: to assure the public that this "effective" deterrent exists (although it is not effective) and to fill a need for retribution proportional to the crime committed," the editorial said.

"But modern justice systems have long since abandoned the "eye for an eye" philosophy as inadequate, inappropriate and inhumane."

It said the country's experience with doubtful trials had shown any claim the courts were infallible "would be laughable".

"The government must therefore make it clear to the public: Even one innocent person executed is far too high a price for what essentially boils down to revenge."

'Stop the excuses'
The editorial writers said factors such as the global trend away from the death penalty, and reassurance of measures such as regulating parole for violent criminals, could help move public opinion.

They concluded: "It would seem, then, not so daunting a task after all to present an alternative to the death penalty that both the public and government find fair.

"It is time for Taiwan's leaders to stop serving up excuses and set the ball in motion."

(Thanks to Celia at China Activist Weekly for the tip.)

Related stories:
Life Watch to save Taiwan's innocent from death --12 February, 2008
Taiwan 'improving' but call for abolition -- 11 October, 2007
Torment on Taiwan's death row -- 15 May, 2007
Taiwan limits mandatory penalties -- 29 January, 2007
Abolition debate for Taiwan in 2007 -- 12 January, 2007
Taiwan: Death penalty benefit an 'illusion' -- 14 December, 2006
Taiwan working towards abolition? -- 21 February, 2006