Thursday, 24 July 2008

Execute corrupt officials: Indonesia's speaker

The Speaker of Indonesia's House of Representatives this week supported the use of the death penalty for corruption offences, despite the global trend towards abolishing it for economic crimes.

Agung Laksono encouraged other members of the House to support the suggestion, claiming it would help prevent the serious social consequences of corruption, according to the Antara newsagency.

"Therefore, there must be legal punishment for corrupters so severe that it will also have a deterrent effect," he said on Wednesday.

He claimed the use of severe penalties such as capital punishment had caused drastic declines in corruption in some countries, although he was not reported as offering any evidence to support the statement.

"This means, the death penalty is an effective means to fight corruption," he said.

"I hope the idea of making corruption punishable by the death sentence will be responded to favourably by House members and the government."

The Jakarta Post reported today that some parliamentarians and anti-corruption activists supported the proposal.

It said in the past six months the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had arrested six current parliamentarians and scores of high-ranking officials, including a former governor of the Bank of Indonesia.

Governors and former ministers had been jailed for graft since the KPK was formed in 2004.

"I think we must be tough on extraordinary corruption," KPK deputy chairman for prevention Haryono Umar said.

The newspaper said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had encouraged public discussion of the death penalty for those convicted of corruption.

'Not serious enough'
The proposal would violate international law, which requires that -- where it is used -- the death penalty should be restricted to the "most serious" crimes.

United Nations human rights experts have argued that this means it should be reserved for "cases where it can be shown that there was an intention to kill which resulted in the loss of life".

Field of death
The latest discussion comes amid reports that Indonesia is continuing preparations to execute the three Bali bombers.

Antara reported on the same day that two prosecutors from Bali had inspected the site where it was planned to execute the men.

The representatives from the Bali Higher Public Prosecutor's Office visited a field on Nusakambangan Island, off Central Java's southern coast, where the men will be shot by firing squad.

Related stories:
Indonesia: Record number executed in four weeks -- 20 July, 2008
Bali executions will inspire martyrs: expert -- 25 February, 2008
Bali bombers may soon get their wish -- 10 November, 2007
Executions in Indonesia since 1995 -- 26 September, 2006

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Viet Nam: Reduction in death penalty offences?

Viet Nam is considering a further reduction in the number of crimes that attract the death penalty, according to a report last week by China's Xinhua newsagency.

The Vietnam News reportedly said on 15 July that the Ministry of Public Security had proposed the death penalty be removed from 12 offences.

Xinhua's report said the proposal would amend Article 35 of the Criminal Code, which provides for the death penalty.

The changes would limit its use to "only those committing the most heinous crimes and people considered to be a serious danger to the community and the nation's security".

The 12 offences included:
  • appropriating property by fraud
  • smuggling
  • producing and trading fake goods and medical products
  • being involved in producing, storing and circulating counterfeit money, bonds and checks
  • organising the illegal use of drugs
  • hijacking planes or ships
  • corruption
  • taking and giving bribes
  • destroying army weapons or technical equipment
  • being involved in an invasion
  • "anti-human crimes", and
  • war crimes.

Gradual reductions
Human rights campaigners have long urged Viet Nam to reduce the scope of the death penalty.

After increasing the number of capital offences to 44 in 1992, Viet Nam reduced it to 29 offences in July 1999.

In April this year, Amnesty International said there were at least 25 known executions in Viet Nam in 2007, which placed it fourth on the list of the top executioners in the world.

Xinhua said Viet Nam sentenced 116 people to death in 2006 and 95 in 2007.

Dramatic increase but positive signs
In June 2006, an Amnesty International alert said there had been a "dramatic increase in Viet Nam's use of the death penalty, especially for drug-related crimes".

"Concern about the use of the death penalty in Viet Nam is compounded by the routine unfairness of trials that do not conform to international standards," the organisation said.

However, it said there were "some positive signs that the death penalty is being discussed within the Vietnamese government".

Related stories:
Drug penalty violates international law -- 06 May, 2007
Viet Nam death penalty "not deterring drugs" -- 25 November, 2006
Asia leads the world's known executions -- 15 April, 2008
20,000 waiting to be killed -- 23 April, 2006

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Indonesia: Record number executed in four weeks

Despite what The Jakarta Post described last week as "an increasingly anti-capital punishment sentiment in Indonesia", the government has executed as many people in the past month as it did in the previous three years.

Indonesia has executed six people since June, after three convicted murderers were shot in East Java late last week.

According to reports by The Jakarta Post and newsagency Antara, a woman named Sumiarsih, 60 (also reported as Sumiasih, 59), and her son Sugeng, 44, were executed at Banten, East Java early on Saturday morning (19 July).

They were convicted, along with two other members of their family, of murdering a marine and four members of his family in 1988.

The previous night (18 July), Usep, alias Tubagus Yusuf Maulana, was executed for poisoning eight people in June and July 2007, after they had come to him as a shaman who could "multiply their money".

On 10 July, Ahmad Suradji, 57, was executed in North Sumatra for murdering 42 women and girls over an 11 year period.

Two Nigerian men were shot on 26 June for heroin smuggling offences. Samuel Iwachekawu Okoye and Hansen Anthony Nwaoysa were executed on Nusakambangan prison island, central Java.

Nwaoysa was sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle 600 grams of heroin from Pakistan to Jakarta in January 2001. Okoye was arrested at Jakarta airport with 3.8 kilograms of heroin in the lining of his luggage after flying in from India.

Several recent reports have suggested authorities may be preparing to execute three men sentenced to death over the October 2002 bombing on Bali, which killed 202 people and injured 200.

Related stories:
Indonesia: Drug offenders executed, more to come -- 29 June, 2008
Executions in Indonesia since 1995 -- 26 September, 2006
Bali executions will inspire martyrs: expert -- 25 February, 2008

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Japan: Dead man recording

In a country known for the official silence surrounding its use of the death penalty, people in Japan have been confronted with an image of their execution chamber -- by a recording made 50 years ago.

The execution of the unknown prisoner, recorded at Osaka detention centre in 1955, has given people a rare and gruesome insight into their country's death penalty, which -- apart from the type of rope used -- has changed little since.

The recording, originally made to train prison workers, was aired in early May as part of a documentary broadcast by Nippon Cultural Broadcasting. (Listen to it on the website of The Guardian newspaper.)

Film-maker Tatsuya Mori stressed the importance of presenting the reality of the death penalty, particularly since the government was trying to conceal it.

"If the justice ministry masks the reality, then it is up to the media to expose it," he told the Asahi Shimbun newspaperpaper.

"There is great significance in letting the public know the truth."

According to the Asahi Shimbun, the station denied it was taking a stand on the death penalty by airing the recording.

"We aren't trying to make a statement for or against the death penalty," a spokesman said.

"Our only intention is to present the reality of executions and let our listeners decide for themselves."

The recording shows the prisoner joking with prison staff, before the trapdoor opens and the rope snaps tight. Buddhist priests are audible chanting in the background while the hanging takes place.

His death is confirmed after 14 minutes.

More hangings, in secret
Japan has executed 10 prisoners so far this year, as the current justice minister Kunio Hatoyama accelerates the pace of hangings.

In the country's notoriously secretive death penalty system, a prisoner can spend decades waiting to be hanged, often receiving as little as a few hours' notice they are about to die.

The government has only recently begun confirming the names of the people it has executed.

Human rights campaigners have frequently condemned the lack of official information about the use of the death penalty, saying it has suppressed and distorted public debate about its use.

Related stories:
Executions in Japan despite appeal plans -- 18 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
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006