Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Australian government reminded of death penalty opposition

The Australian government has been reminded of the stance it took on the death penalty before it won office, after a member of parliament introduced a resolution yesterday calling for clemency for three young Australians under sentence of death in Indonesia.

New South Wales MP Chris Hayes introduced the private member's bill yesterday, which noted three members of the so-called 'Bali 9' faced execution for drug trafficking, and called on the Australian government to advocate clemency.

A shorter version of the same resolution was introduced on 29 May 2007, by Robert McClelland, who is now attorney-general in the Rudd Labor government.

The two resolutions differ in three significant respects, with the latest resolution:

* expressing "opposition to the imposition of the death penalty", whereas the earlier version explicitly opposed only "the imposition of the death penalty on any Australian citizen"

* calling on the Australian government to "advocate clemency for these three Australian citizens [on death row in Bali], as and whenever appropriate", and

* encouraging law reform to implement the Indonesian Constitutional Court's October 2007 recommendation that alternatives be provided to a mandatory death penalty.

Robert McClelland was publicly rebuked by his leader Kevin Rudd during the 2007 election campaign, after he made public remarks encouraging consistent opposition to the use of the death penalty and "shrewd diplomatic activism" for abolition within the region.

(Thanks to Cynthia Banham for the tip about the Hayes resolution, in her article in today's Sydney Morning Herald.)

Related stories:
Australia defends selective appeals for life -- 16 August 2008
'Only Australians' should be spared execution -- 06 January 2008
Three of 'Bali 9' off death row: Indonesia -- 6 March 2008
Indonesia: Right to life and execution -- 30 October 2007
No Australian government will oppose terrorist executions -- 10 October 2007
Australia: Rudd would oppose death penalty -- 24 June 2007
Australia 'should act against death penalty' -- 03 August 2006

Friday, 12 September 2008

Japan: New minister sends three to death

Japan's new justice minister has taken time out of the country's current political turmoil to sign death warrants for three men who were hanged yesterday [11 September].

Okiharu Yasuoka approved the execution of three men, all aged in their 60s, just weeks after he was reappointed minister in August.

Yasuoka denied the executions were linked to the expected resignation later this month of the cabinet of prime minister Yasuo Fukuda.

"I screened the cases carefully and strictly, and carried out [the decision] firmly as the person responsible for protecting law and order," Yasuoka said at a media conference announcing the executions.

"The decision wasn't timed."

The justice ministry yesterday confirmed the three men were: Yoshiyuki Mantani, 68, Mineteru Yamamoto, 68 and Isamu Hirano, 61. The AFP newsagency reported they were hanged in Osaka and Tokyo for crimes including murder.

According to the Mainichi Daily News, Hirano was executed just 23 months after his death sentence was confirmed, when the penalty is rarely carried out within two years.

It also said Yamamoto's sentence was the first handed down by a system designed to speed up trials, with only three hearings before the case closed.

Killing again
When Yasuoka served a previous period as justice minister, between July and December 2000, he also reportedly ordered three executions.

Executions in Japan were resumed in 1993, after a moratorium of nearly three and four months. Mainichi reported there have been 73 executions in total since then.

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
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August, 2006