Monday, 21 December 2009

Viet Nam: Blogger may face death penalty

Blogger and activist faces possible death penalty
Published on 14 December 2009
Statement from Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned about French-educated blogger and pro-democracy activist Nguyen Tien Trung, now facing a possible death penalty under article 79 of the criminal code after the charges against him were changed to "trying to overthrow the people’s government." Arrested more than five months ago, he is due to be tried at the end of the month.

"We call for Nguyen Tien Trung’s immediate and unconditional release as the charges against him are entirely fabricated," Reporters Without Borders said. "Trung is a pacifist who has never endangered the Vietnamese state. He just exercised his right to free expression, a right he learned to use in France."

The press freedom organisation added: "Trung is a scapegoat. The authorities want to make an example of him in order to intimidate other Vietnamese students who want to press for more freedom when they return home after studying abroad."

Trung’s family told Reporters Without Borders that his father was allowed to visit him on 10 December for the second time since his arrest. The authorities are reportedly now going to allow his family to visit him once a month. Trung seemed to be in good physical and psychological condition and did his best to reassure his father. He asked his father to bring him books, especially economics and French books. The authorities are considering the request.

A former student at the National Institute for Applied Sciences (INSA) in the northern French city of Rennes, where he got a masters in information technology, Trung was arrested at his parents’ home in Ho Chi Minh City on 7 July on a charge of propaganda against the state under article 88 of the criminal code. A government TV station broadcast taped footage in which he made a confession.

He seems to have been arrested because of the pro-democracy views he posted online and, in particular, an open letter to the government about education policies.

The Trung support committee website posted an opinion piece by Philippe Echart, who was one of Trung’s teachers at the INSA.

"It is strange for a teacher to realise that one his students, which whom he had a few talks and to whom he paid special attention because he was a foreigner, is now being in prison at the other end of the world, in his own country, on serious charges," Echard writes. "And why is he in prison? For expressing his views freely. For criticising university education in Vietnam. For calling for more freedoms and more democracy, as many other intellectuals in his country have."

The support committee is calling for a determined campaign on his behalf. "The worst that could happen to Trung is that people gradually forget him," the committee’s appeal says. Trung’s friends and family have relaunched the campaign for his release. Sign a petition at the website.

Australia: Police guidelines announced

Media Release
18 December 2009

Hon Robert McClelland MP

Minister for Home Affairs
Brendan O'Connor MP

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, today announced a new policy to govern law enforcement cooperation with countries that may apply the death penalty.

Successive Australian Governments have maintained a long-standing policy of opposition to the death penalty and it is appropriate that this position is reflected in our law enforcement practices.

From today, new Australian Federal Police (AFP) guidelines governing police-to-police assistance in possible death penalty cases will take effect.

The new guidelines will require senior AFP management to consider a set of prescribed factors before providing assistance in matters with possible death penalty implications, including:
* the purpose of providing the information and the reliability of that information;
* the seriousness of the suspected criminal activity;
* the nationality, age and personal circumstances of the person involved;
* the potential risks to the person, and other persons, in providing or not providing the information; and
* Australia’s interest in promoting and securing cooperation from overseas agencies in combating crime.

The new guidelines will also require:
* Ministerial approval of assistance in any case in which a person has been arrested, detained, charged with, or convicted of, an offence which carries the death penalty; and
* the AFP Commissioner to report biannually to the Minister for Home Affairs about the number and nature of cases where information is provided to foreign law enforcement agencies in potential death penalty cases.

These changes follow a thorough examination of existing policy and represent a balanced and responsible approach that provides greater clarity and accountability, while maintaining our commitment to combating transnational crime.

A copy of the new AFP Practical Guide on International Police-to-Police Assistance in Potential Death Penalty Situations is attached and available at

Death penalty rules for Australian police

Police get rules on suspects

From The Age
19 December 2009

THE Federal Government has issued guidelines to the Australian Federal Police on co-operating with countries that have the death penalty, including a stipulation that senior police consider a suspect's age, nationality and whether capital punishment is likely to be imposed.

The guidelines could prevent a repeat of the controversy surrounding the Bali nine case in which the AFP passed on information to Indonesian authorities about a group of Australians involved in a heroin smuggling operation in 2005.

This followed a tip-off from Lee Rush, whose son, Scott Rush, is one of the nine. He faces execution.

The guidelines, released yesterday by Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor, require ministerial approval for assistance in cases where a person has been arrested and faces the death penalty. Previous guidelines allowed police to co-operate without approval for months in cases - such as the Bali nine - where the suspects had been arrested but not charged.

While ministerial approval is not required before the AFP helps foreign police in investigations, the co-operation must be approved by one of two high-ranking AFP officers who must consider factors such as the seriousness of the crime, the reliability of the information and the degree of risk to the suspect.

Other factors include Australia's interest in securing future co-operation from foreign agencies, the person's personal circumstances and the risk to the person or others of not providing the information.

A spokesman for Mr McClelland said yesterday the guidelines would clear up confusion in cases involving foreign assistance, but would not say whether they would have led to a different outcome in the Bali nine case. ''That is hypothetical,'' he said.

Legal advocates and family members of the Bali nine expressed outrage at the AFP for allegedly reneging on a deal to intervene before the drugs were smuggled.

The former commissioner, Mick Keelty, who retired in September, refused to apologise. He had insisted the AFP could not have arrested the suspects in Australia and would act the same way in future cases.

Mr Rush, who unsuccessfully took legal action against the AFP, said yesterday he did not want to comment. ''There is nothing more to say. Maybe Mr Keelty would like to comment.''

Mr Keelty could not be reached.

Labor MP Chris Hayes, who befriended Scott Rush's parents and has urged Australia to push other countries to abolish the death penalty, welcomed the guidelines.

''Which parent of a 17-year-old has not been concerned about what they are doing and who they are hanging out with?'' he said.

''Lee Rush told me he did what he did knowing his son would probably never talk to him again but he was determined to end his life of crime. But he didn't realise he would be signing his death warrant.''

The AFP said yesterday the guidelines followed consultation with legal and civil rights groups and would provide greater clarity and accountability.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Bangladesh: Death penalty on army coup leaders

Bangladesh Upholds Death Penalty on 1975 Coup Leaders (Update1)
By Jay Shankar

From Bloomberg, 19 November 2009

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld death sentences on five army officers for assassinating Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president, in 1975.

"We are very much happy," Qamrul Islam, the junior minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Dhaka. "We have been waiting for this moment and judgment for the last 34 years. It is our hope that the accused will be hanged soon."

Rahman, who led the country to independence from Pakistan, was killed in a coup that brought a military government to power. His wife and three sons were among 16 family members who died in the pre-dawn attack.

Bangladesh began the trial after Rahman’s daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was abroad during the coup, became prime minister in 1996 and overturned an indemnity law passed by the military government 11 years earlier.

After Rahman’s death "the murderers were indemnified, which is unprecedented in history," Wali-ur Rahman, a former trial coordinator and now director of the Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs research body, said by phone from Dhaka.

Bangladesh deployed security forces to prevent unrest over the court ruling. Police will "focus their attention on diplomatic areas, the Dhaka central jail, the Supreme Court and judges’ complex," Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder said from Dhaka. The increased security will continue after today’s verdict, he said.

Subversive Incidents
Hasina’s ruling Awami League told party leaders and supporters to be on the alert after "subversive incidents" occurred during the trial process, it said in a statement on its Web site.

Increased security is needed because Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam last month received a letter from an unidentified person threatening to kill him and family members if the army officers weren’t released, Sikder said.

Unidentified attackers last month threw a bomb at the car of legislator Fazle Noor Tapas, an Awami League member, Reuters reported at the time. At least a dozen people were injured in the attack. Tapas, who escaped unhurt, is one of the lawyers taking part in the trial process, according to the report.

Death sentences were handed down on 15 army officers by a court in 1998 and the group first appealed the ruling in 2000, Bangladesh’s New Nation newspaper said on its Web site. Three officers were later acquitted.

Fled the Country
Seven of the killers are living abroad, Sikder said. The five in jail will have 30 days to file an appeal against the Supreme Court judgment and their last option is a mercy petition to the president, Sikder said.

The killers were "sent abroad as diplomats," the Bangladesh Institute’s Rahman said. "Many countries, especially in the Middle East, accepted them."

Hasina’s government couldn’t complete the trial process while in power and the administration led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia didn’t "pursue the matter at all" when it took over in 2001, Rahman said.

A military-backed government declared emergency rule in January 2007 and started an anti-corruption drive that resulted in the arrests of leading politicians, including Hasina and Zia, causing further delays.

Fair Trial
"The masses wanted a clear and fair trial," Retired Major General, A.N.M. Muniruzzaman, president of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, said by telephone from Dhaka. "It is a long awaited trial. It went through a very lengthy legal process" that was "very transparent."

"No one can complain on that count," he said.

The government is also taking precautions after the recent arrests in Bangladesh of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants from India and Pakistan, Muniruzzaman said.

More than 50 Islamic militants from both the countries are active in Bangladesh and police have arrested six Indians and three Pakistani militants since May 27, Bangladesh’s daily New Age newspaper reported on Nov. 15, citing Monirul Islam, deputy commissioner of the country’s detective branch.

Bangladesh, which has had at least five military coups since its creation in 1971, was hit by its first suicide bombings in 2005, attacks that were blamed on the Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh terrorist group.

Eighty-three percent of the country’s 156 million people are Muslim and almost 40 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

Last Updated: November 19, 2009 01:23 EST

South Korea: 'Disappointment' at lack of change

[Interview] "S. Korea slips in being first in Asia to abolish death penalty"
Amnesty International’s Go Euntae talks on not wanting a ‘Santa Claus’ Amnesty International

From The Hankyoreh, 10 October 2009

"There are two kinds of countries in this world. One is the kind that does not kill citizens regardless, and the other is the kind that will kill its citizens at any time according to the circumstances."

Go Euntae, a member of Amnesty International’s international executive committee, sat down with the Hankyoreh on Friday, on the eve of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, Oct. 10. Go said, "If a state has the right to take a citizens’ life, individuals will always be subordinated to the state." He added, "The death penalty is a yardstick that fundamentally determines the relationship between the state and the individual."

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty has designated Oct. 10 as the World Day Against the Death Penalty and holds related events on that day throughout the world. In South Korea, a commemorative ceremony is being held at Indiespace, Joongang Cinema on Jeo-dong 1-ga Street in Seoul’s Jung-gu district.

Until recently, Go had served as director of Amnesty International’s Korea branch since 2006, and had also served from 2002 and 2004. In August, he was elected the first Korean member of the Amnesty International’s international executive committee. This came 12 years after the last figure from the Asia region had been elected to the committee in 1997. The committee consists of nine members who serve four-year terms, during which time they represent Amnesty International activities throughout the world and execute decisions. Go has mainly carried out his duties in South Korea, but he also visits the organization’s headquarters in London, Great Britain, for quarterly meetings.

In the interview, Go expressed his concern about the fact that discussion of applying the death penalty has been surfacing again recently despite South Korea being an "abolitionist country in practice." South Korea received this classification by Amnesty International in 2007, ten years after the last time the death penalty had been carried out, however, the Constitutional Court has still not made any decision on the constitutionality of the death penalty, nor has there been any legislative activity in the National Assembly to abolish it. Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam said in his National Assembly confirmation hearing last month that he would "seriously examine whether or not to carry out the death penalty."

Regarding recent public opinion in some quarters calling for the execution of 57-year-old child rapist Cho Du-sun, Go said that the death penalty should not be viewed as a solution in this case. "Rather than a method in which the wrongdoer is separated from ‘us, the innocent ones’ and met with severe punishment, I think it more proper to question why a person like that was able to commit a crime like that in our society," he observed.

Go also communicated growing concerns among the international community. "In the international human rights community, there were high hopes that South Korea would be the first to abolish the death penalty in Asia, which is seen as a ‘hole in global human rights,’" he said. "However, recently, disappointment has been growing within the international community," he added. Some 1,838 executions were carried out in Asian countries including China and Japan in 2008, accounting for 76.9 percent of all executions worldwide.

When asked what role he hopes Amnesty International will play, Go said, "I do not want to make a ‘Santa Claus’ Amnesty International that remains off in the distance and then pops in once a year to give presents. I want to make the ‘guy next door’ Amnesty International."

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Australia: Abolition bill introduced in parliament


I am pleased to introduce the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009.

The Bill contains two key measures.

First, it enacts a specific Commonwealth torture offence in the Commonwealth Criminal Code, to operate concurrently with existing offences in State and Territory criminal laws.

Second, it amends the Commonwealth Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 to extend the application of the current prohibition on the death penalty to State laws, to ensure the death penalty cannot be introduced anywhere in Australia.

The overarching purpose behind these amendments is, in the spirit of engagement with international human rights mechanisms, to ensure that Australia complies fully with its international obligations to combat torture and to demonstrate our commitment to the worldwide abolitionist movement.

[Speech addresses the abolition of torture aspects of the bill]

Abolition of the Death Penalty
Australia has a long-standing policy of opposition to the death penalty. Australia is a party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty.

The ICCPR only permits the death penalty for the 'most serious crimes'. The Second Optional Protocol goes further and requires Australia to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction and to ensure that no one within its jurisdiction is subject to the death penalty.

The death penalty has been formally abolished in all jurisdictions in Australia.

It was first abolished for Commonwealth and Territory offences in 1973, by the Commonwealth Death Penalty Abolition Act. Each State has independently and separately abolished the death penalty, and there are no proposals by any State or Territory Government to reinstate the death penalty.

The purpose of the legislation is to extend the application of the current prohibition on the death penalty to State laws. This will ensure that the death penalty cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia in the future.

The amendments emphasise Australia's commitment to our obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and ensure that Australia continues to comply with those obligations.

Such a comprehensive rejection of capital punishment will also demonstrate Australia’s commitment to the worldwide abolitionist movement, and complement Australia’s international lobbying efforts against the death penalty.

In summary, this Bill contains important measures which again demonstrate this Government's ongoing commitment to better recognise Australia's international human rights obligations.

I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

Australia acts to outlaw death penalty

Media release from Robert McClelland, Attorney-General of Australia
19 November 2009


Attorney-General Robert McClelland today introduced the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009.

The Bill implements a specific Commonwealth offence of torture into the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

The new offence will operate concurrently with existing offences in State and Territory laws.

"Introducing a specific Commonwealth offence of torture will more clearly fulfil Australia's obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture to ban all acts of torture, wherever they occur," Mr McClelland said.

The Bill also amends the Commonwealth Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 to extend the application of the current prohibition on the death penalty to State laws, to ensure the death penalty cannot be introduced anywhere in Australia.

The Bill was developed in consultation with the States and Territories.

Amending the Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 to cover State laws will safeguard Australia's ongoing compliance with the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty.

"It will ensure the death penalty cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia in the future," Mr McClelland said.

"The purpose of these amendments is to ensure that Australia complies fully with its international obligations to combat torture and to demonstrate our commitment to the worldwide movement for the abolition of the death penalty."

"Taking these steps demonstrates our fundamental opposition to acts that are contrary to basic human values."

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Singapore: Malaysian faces execution for drugs

Amnesty International issued the following urgent action appeal for a Malaysian man at risk imminent risk of execution in Singapore.


Yong Vui Kong was sentenced to death for drug trafficking in January 2009. He had exhausted his appeals by October, and can now escape execution only if the president grants clemency

Yong Vui Kong was arrested in June 2007, when he was 19, by officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau. He was charged with trafficking 42.27 grams of heroin, and then sentenced to death in January 2009

He had been working as a messenger for a man in Malaysia who often asked him to collect money from debtors or deliver packages as "gifts" to people in Singapore and Malaysia. At his trial, Yong Vui Kong said he had not known what was in the packages, and when he asked, he had simply been told not to open them. The judge, however, ruled that Yong must have been aware of their contents, saying in his written summation, "I found that the accused had failed to rebut the presumption against him. I am of the view that the prosecution had proved its case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt, and I therefore found the accused guilty as charged and sentenced him to suffer death

Yong was convicted under the Misuse of Drugs Act, which provides that anyone found guilty of illegally importing, exporting or trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin will automatically receive a mandatory death sentence

Governments need to address crimes, including drug trafficking, but there is no clear evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other forms of punishment. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions stated in his 2005 report that the "mandatory death penalty, which precludes the possibility of a lesser sentence being imposed regardless of the circumstances, is inconsistent with the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." To date, 139 countries have abolished death penalty in law or practice

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English, Mandarin or your own language:
Urging the president to grant clemency to Yong Vui Kong and commute his death sentence;
Expressing concern that because the death penalty is mandatory for drug-trafficking cases, the court had no discretion to sentence Yong Vui Kong to an alternative punishment;
Calling on the president to introduce a moratorium on executions, with a view to complete abolition of the death penalty.

The authorities in Singapore do not release any information about the use of the death penalty in the country. At least one person is known to have been hanged so far in 2009, and at least three sentenced to death; in 2008, at least one person was hanged and five sentenced to death. The true figures are likely to be higher. The government has always maintained that the death penalty is not a human rights issue, and consistently lobbied other nations against the abolition of the death penalty.

All capital cases are tried by the High Court; convicted prisoners can appeal, and if they are unsuccessful they can apply to the president for clemency. President Nathan, who has been in power since 1999, is not known to have granted clemency to any condemned prisoner.

His Excellency SR Nathan
Office of the President
Istana, Orchard Road
Singapore 0922

Salutation: Your Excellency

UA: 296/09 Index: ASA 36/004/2009 Singapore
Date: 03 November 2009

Saturday, 7 November 2009

China: Lethal injection site completed

By Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)
From: China Daily, 6 November 2009

Beijing's first permanent lethal injection facility has been completed, ahead of plans to abolish execution by firing squad for criminals next year.

The new facility is within the Beijing No 1 Detention Center in Chaoyang district, the Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday, quoting sources from three intermediate courts. Court personnel responsible for executions have recently received training in operation of the beds, injection pumps and other equipment.

Beijing's justice authority did not provide details about the new facility yesterday, and it is unknown how many execution beds the facility has prepared.

Most criminal executions this year were carried out by a firing squad at various sites in suburban Beijing, the justice authority said. Condemned prisoners are blindfolded and turned away from court marshals.

A small number received a lethal injection.

Experts familiar with execution methods said the reform had taken years to implement.

"This is no longer the time for public executions," said Qu Xinjiu, a criminal law professor at the China University of Politics and Law.

"The harshness of the execution is not necessary to horrify the public and torture the criminals, who also deserve decent deaths," said Zhao Bingzhi, secretary-general of the China Law Science Society Criminal Law Research Institute.

Zheng Xiaoyu, executed on July 10, 2007, was the last senior official to die from lethal injection. He was convicted of corruption during his tenure as director of the State Food and Drug Administration.

Zhao said lethal injection for corrupt officials was not an act of mercy for those in power.

"The officials who received lethal injections were known because of media reports. But the practice is not restricted to officials only, the other cases just went unreported," said Zhao.

It costs the Beijing government about 700 yuan ($103) to carry out one execution by firing squad. Lethal injection is expected to cost more money because of the technology involved.

Media reported in June that courts will likely use sodium thiopental, a rapid anaesthetic, as a component of the injection. The process takes about one minute.

The US also use this drug for condemned prisoners.

Lethal injection practices have been gradually put into operation since 1997 in 15 provinces and municipalities around China.

Justice authorities in Beijing have been reluctant to use the practice widely.

The Beijing government does not release the number of executed criminals each year.

(China Daily 11/06/2009 page26)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Mongolia: Death row inmate pardoned

On 30 July 2009 Amnesty International (AI) issued an urgent appeal on behalf of Mongolian man facing execution for murder. It is extremely rare for details of capital cases in Mongolia to be made public, which greatly limits the ability of independent media to report on the death penalty in that country and of human rights activists to place pressure on the government.

Information about the death penalty in Mongolia is considered a state secret, even to the extent that the government does not confirm how executions are carried out.

On 14 October, AI issued the following update.

Urgent Action
Mongolian death row inmate pardoned

Buuveibaatar, a 33-year old Mongolian man sentenced to death for murder, has been granted a pardon by the Mongolian President.

Buuveibaatar was sentenced to death for the murder of his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend in January 2008. He had exhausted all his appeals. His father wrote to Amnesty International, thanking everyone for their support.

No further action is requested from the Urgent Action network. Many thanks to all who sent appeals.

This is the first update of UA 206/09 (ASA 30/002/2009).
Issue Date: 14 October 2009

Related story:
Mongolia: Appeal for death row pardon -- 3 August 2009

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Amnesty damns Japan's death row as cruel, inhuman

From ABC Radio Australia
11 September 2009

The use of the death penalty is on the decline globally. Japan is one of the few industrialised countries to continue to use it, hanging a smalll number of prisoners each year. Amnesty International says the conditions for those on Japan's death row to be curel, inhuman and degrading.

Listen to the interview here.

Presenter: Stephanie Foxley
Speaker: James Welsh, Amnesty International's health expert

WELSH: Yes, this report deals with mental health aspects of death penalty in Japan. We have have had long standing concerns about the death penalty itself in Japan but of growing concern are reports that mentally ill prisoners are being sentenced to death and are being executed. what we've found in trying to investigate the problem was firstly that there are major obstacles to anyone finding out information about the situation of prisoners on death row in Japan it's a very secret and secretive system and this has been found not just by us but by lawyers in Japan and also UN bodies trying to assess the situation. What we found was that prisoners on death row are kept in very harsh conditions, they are isolated, the are prevented from talking to staff or other prisoners and this level of pressure, together with the knowledge that they are going to be executed has a major impact on their mental health. Added to that there's a fact that prisoners are not given a date of their execution, which means every day the potentially face the fact that this could be their last day and this ratchets up the level of pressure on the prisoners. The families of course, are likewise not given notice of the execution of their family member. So all in all it's secretive, it's harsh and it's likely to give rise to high levels of mental stress.

FOXLEY: How many prisoners are we talking about?

WELSH: At the moment there are 102 prisoners on death row in Japan. There are other prisoners who's trials are ongoing, so some of those will certainly join their fellow prisoners on death row. Then others may face execution or may die of natural causes.

FOXLEY: What's the percentage of those that have been diagnosed as mentally ill?

WELSH: Well, that's an extremely relevant question and one that's very hard to answer precisely because of the level of secrecy that applies. We site 5 cases in our report, two of which we give in considerable detail drawing on court documents on medical assessments made for the court. But the answer is, we just don't know, we suspect that there are high levels of mental health problems ranging from mild to very serious, but we just don't know.

FOXLEY: Are there not international standards that are supposed to be followed with regard to the welfare of prisoners, even those on death row?

WELSH: Yes, all prisoners should be protected by basic standards. The Human Rights Committee for the UN has made precisely this point to the Japanese authorities on many many occasions, particularly expressing grave concern about the lack of notice of execution and the impact that could have on prisoners. but up to this point that has been no satisfactory response from the authorities. Now, there was an election in Japan very recently, and a new government will come to power next week, they have committed themselves to a public dialogue on the death penalty, so we see this as quite a hopeful point of entry for our report and for a wider discussion on the death penalty itself in Japan.

FOXLEY: Have you had any confirmation that there will be a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty permanently?

WELSH: There has been no such commitment given, we would be very keen to see such a moratorium take place to allow for a proper debate. We will be making this point to the new government and we will have to see how they respond.

FOXLEY: If the death penalty is not abolished, is there likely to be any abuse of claiming mental illness to avoid the death penalty, is this perhaps one of Japans worries?

WELSH: I don't know if it's a worry. It's a point that can be raised or discussed, in some of the cases we are talking about, the evidence is quite striking. We don't have any concerns that there could be fraud or faked mental illnesses, it's not an easy thing to fake effectively, particularly given the nature of some of the prisoners, they are not medical students, they haven't read up on mental health issues. So, it's a point that can be raised but it's a trivial point and I expect the debate to come down to that level.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Japan's justice minister comments on the death penalty

Justice Minister hopes for greater transparency on death penalty
From The Mainichi Daily News
30 September 2009

Following her appointment as Justice Minister, Keiko Chiba has faced major issues such as the legislation of police investigation videotaping and how to address Japan's death penalty. In an interview with the Mainichi the minister provides her thoughts on these topics.

Mainichi: How will you proceed with legislation of video and sound recordings of all stages of the investigation process, as the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) proposed in its election manifesto?

Chiba: We want to stay committed to realizing this steadily. We have put together the framework within the party, and we want to hold open debate on how we will carry the measures out, receiving opinions from many people. On bills presented by lawmakers, we want to narrow down how much we will include, whether it be everything from the outset, or whether we take things one step at a time.

Mainichi: You are a member of the league of Diet members promoting abolition of the death penalty. Do you plan to sign any execution orders as Justice Minister?

Chiba: I am aware that there are regulations and the Justice Minister is entrusted with duties. Now that I have become a member of the government, I will place myself at a certain distance from the league and step down as a member. However, there are various debates about the issue, and in the end, it's a penalty that takes people's lives away from them, so I want to handle the issue cautiously. The citizen judge system has started, and it is possible for the public to select the death penalty. Considering that, I hope that people will focus on the issue and think about it, and that we can create some kind of forum for debate. I hope we can open things up little by little in some form or other, including by making information public and bringing execution venues into public view. I am aware that it is hard for debate to proceed without the public knowing any of the reality.

Mainichi: Diet members have proposed legislation to revise the Civil Code with the introduction of a system of optional separate family names for husbands and wives. How will the DPJ compile opinions on this as the ruling party?

Chiba: It's a fact that there are varying opinions within the party, but up until now the DPJ has been involved in such policymaking, so we will proceed on that footing. I feel it a little strange that the Justice Ministry Legislative Council gave a response (in favor of a legal revision in 1996) but nothing has materialized over this period. We want to quickly settle on a definite plan, and look toward making a proposal at a regular Diet session next year.

(Mainichi Japan) September 30, 2009

Japan: Will new minister cut hangings?

New DPJ Cabinet might slow down executions
Kyodo News

From The Japan Times online
24 September 2009

With the inauguration of the new government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, there could be a lull in executions of death-row inmates, at least for the time being. Recent years have seen accelerated hangings under Liberal Democratic Party-led governments.

Political commentators have taken particular notice of the appointment of Upper House member Keiko Chiba as justice minister. She opposes capital punishment and belongs to the nonpartisan Parliamentary League for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. The justice minister has the final say in authorizing executions.

Any move toward carrying out executions could also trigger resistance from other members of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Cabinet. Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People's New Party, leads the anti-death penalty league, and Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, also is staunchly opposed to capital punishment.

After the Cabinet was seated on Wednesday, Chiba said at her inaugural news conference that it is her "personal feeling that it would be good" if there were moves toward a moratorium on executions or abolition of the death penalty.

But she added: "The fact remains that the justice minister is tasked with professional duties under the law. I am fully aware (that a justice minister) is obliged institutionally to deal with executions."

Said Toyo Atsumi, a professor of criminal procedure at Kyoto Sangyo University's law school, "If (a minister) avoids executions when the institution of execution exists, there will be no rule of law. I am sure Justice Minister Chiba is fully aware of that and if executions are to be done away with, it must be after (relevant) revisions to the law have been made."

Nobuto Hosaka, secretary general of the death penalty opponents' parliamentary league, is hopeful about the new justice minister. "I would think she will probably institute a moratorium. No doubt a brake will be put on executions," he said.

The ministry itself was noncommittal. "For the time being, various matters will come under review and a judgment will probably be made after fully considering the circumstances," a spokesman said.
The Code of Criminal Procedure provides that the justice minister order an execution within six months after a death sentence is finalized. Not all ministers, however, have signed execution orders.

Japan saw a lull in executions for three years and four months starting in November 1989. That period included Megumu Sato's term as justice minister from 1990 to 1991. A Buddhist monk, Sato refused to sign execution orders, citing his faith.

Masaharu Gotoda restarted executions in March 1993. Since then almost all justice ministers, except for those serving brief stints, have ordered executions. A notable exception was Seiken Sugiura, who assumed the justice minister's post in October 2005.

At his inaugural press conference, Sugiura openly said he would not sign an execution order on religious and philosophical grounds but retracted the statement one hour later. During his nearly one-year tenure, however, he never signed an execution order.

Since then, the number of people on death row has grown to around 100, and executions also have risen.

Among recent justice ministers, Kunio Hatoyama signed orders for 13 executions, while his predecessor, Jinen Nagano, signed 10.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Japan: New justice minister urges debate

From The Japan Times, 18 September 2009

Chiba urges death penalty debate
Kyodo News

New Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said Thursday she will deal carefully with death penalty cases and called for a wide-ranging debate on whether capital punishment should be abolished.

"The death penalty involves a person's life, so I will cautiously handle (the cases) based on the duties of the justice minister," Chiba, a former lawyer, said at a news conference following the first meeting of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's new Cabinet.

The 61-year-old native of Kanagawa Prefecture said discussions are taking place on keeping or abolishing the death penalty, including whether it should be replaced with a new sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

"The lay judge system has been introduced and I believe many people have a very deep interest and various thoughts (on the issue), so I think it is something that we should find a path for through a wide-ranging public debate, if possible," she said.

Chiba said she won't give special treatment to cases involving Democratic Party of Japan leaders, such as one in which Hatoyama's fundraising body was found to have received contributions from dead people and another where a close aide to DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa was indicted over a fundraising scandal involving Nishimatsu Construction Co.

"They are not special so I would like to make appropriate decisions," said Chiba, who is a member of the Upper House.

On her Web site associated with the DPJ's Kanagawa prefectural chapter, Chiba lists the death penalty as a problem she would like to see eliminated during the 21st century. She argues that the death penalty prevents crime and forces offenders to take responsibility, but it is not the best solution.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Japan continues to execute mentally ill prisoners

10 September 2009

The government of Japan continues to execute prisoners who are mentally ill, according to a new Amnesty International report.

Hanging by a thread: mental health and the death penalty in Japan highlights five cases where mental illness has been reported, including two cases with extensive medical documentation. These prisoners remain on death row facing execution.

The exact number of death row prisoners with mental illness is unknown. The secrecy around the death penalty and prisoners' health, combined with a lack of scrutiny by independent mental health experts, has led to reliance on secondary testimony and documentation to assess the mental state of those on death row.

The government has a policy of not allowing access to prisoners on death row and denied Amnesty International's request for access.

Amnesty International's report also emphasises that prison conditions need to be improved to prevent inmates from developing serious mental health problems while on death row.

Japan has signed up to international standards that require that those with a serious mental illness be protected from the death penalty. The country is contravening those standards by its failure to prevent the execution of prisoners who are mentally ill.

As of 3 September 2009, 102 people are on death row in Japan waiting to find out if their government will put them to death. For those who have completed the legal process, death could come at a few hours' notice. Each day could be their last.

The arrival of a prison officer with a death warrant would signal their execution within hours. Some live like this year after year, sometimes for decades.

"To allow a prisoner to live for prolonged periods under the daily threat of imminent death is cruel, inhuman and degrading," said James Welsh, Amnesty International’s Health Coordinator and lead author of the report. "Amnesty International’s studies around the world have shown that those suffering mental health problems are at particular risk of ending up on death row.

"Mental disorders can give rise to crimes, impair the ability of a defendant to participate in an effective legal defence, and are likely to play a significant role in the decision of prisoners to terminate appeals. In Japan, condemned inmates are also at risk of developing a serious mental illness while on death row."

According to the report, Japan is breaching its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its treatment of prisoners on death row. Conditions in prisons are harsh and prisoners on death row are especially vulnerable to developing mental health problems due to being imprisoned in isolation with little human contact.

Amnesty International is concerned that prisoners are not allowed to talk to one another – a restriction enforced by strict isolation. Contact with family members, lawyers and others can be restricted to as little as five minutes at a time.

Apart from visits to the toilet, prisoners are not allowed to move around the cell and must remain seated. Death row prisoners are less likely than other prisoners to have access to fresh air and light and more likely to suffer additional punishments because of behaviour that may infringe the strict rules imposed on them.

"These inhuman conditions increase a prisoner’s anxiety and anguish and in many cases push prisoners over the edge and into a state of mental illness," said James Welsh.

The report calls on the government of Japan to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. It also urges the government of Japan to review all cases where mental illness may be a relevant factor, to ensure that prisoners with mental illness are not executed and to improve conditions for prisoners so that prisoners will not suffer declining mental health or the development of serious mental illness.


The report is available here.

Indonesia: State-secrets law would carry death penalty

From The Jakarta Post, 10 September, 2009

The House of Representatives and the government have agreed to pass a state secrecy bill which would see people found guilty of leaking state secrets face the death penalty.

A member of the House's working committee deliberating the bill, Effendi Choirie, said Thursday lawmakers had approved a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment or capital punishment and a minimum jail sentence of four years and fine of Rp 100 million (US$10,000) for the crime.

The committee has also reached an agreement on the definition of state secrets.

"State secrets are defined as information or materials and activities, which are classified as secrets by the president, and could potentially endanger the state, its existence and integrity if they are leaked to people who do not have the right to possess them," chairman of the committee, Guntur Sasono of the Democratic Party, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

According to Effendi of the National Awakening Party (PKB), details of the definition were available in the following articles.

"For example, only intelligence-sensitive information is classified as secret," he said in response to public fears that the definition of state secrets would be too generic and open to abuse.

In response to the ongoing deliberation of the bill, research coordinator of human rights group Imparsial, Al Araf, said that even though some of the bill’s controversial content had been dropped, the draft in general restricts the public from accessing vital information.

"It is already difficult for us to investigate human rights violations in the absence of a state secrecy law, let alone with one," he said.

Monday, 31 August 2009

China: Lethal injection spreads in north-east

More NE Chinese cities to adopt lethal injection
From Xinhua, 24 August 2009

SHENYANG, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- All 14 cities in northeast China's Liaoning Province are expected to have adopted the lethal injection as the means of execution by the end of the year, putting an end to shooting, the provincial higher people's court announced Monday.

Liaoning had 10 cities that used lethal injection by the end of last year and another four cities would follow this year, said Zuo Lianbi, vice president of the Higher People's Court of Liaoning, at a press conference.

Zuo also called on courts of the four cities to prepare venues and train staff for the injection, which would be less painful for convicted criminals and preserve their physical integrity.

Lethal injection was first used in Liaoning in 2001 to execute two convicted murderers in Shenyang, the regional capital.

Shooting was the only means of execution in China under the Criminal Law that took effect in 1979, but the revised 1996 version of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulated that lethal injection was also allowed.

The first lethal injection in the country was conducted in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, in southwest China, on March 28, 1997.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of China called on courts at all levels to gradually adopt lethal injection for people given death sentences.

Related stories:
More lethal injections for Chinese province -- 19 February 2009
AI condemns China's expanded lethal injection -- 5 January 2008
China: Another province takes up the needle -- 20 June 2006

Friday, 28 August 2009

China: Demand for clemency

Amnesty International has issued the following urgent action appeal for a man who could be executed within days. Tang Yanan was convicted of an economic crime, reportedly after he was tortured to confess and given an unfair trial.


The Anhui Provincial High People’s Court rejected Tang Yanan’s appeal against the death penalty on 12 August. China’s Supreme People's Court in Beijing, is reviewing his sentence. Tang Yanan could be executed within days if it upholds the sentence.

After what appears to have been an unfair trial the Bozhou City Intermediate People’s Court in Anhui province, convicted Tang Yanan on 11 December 2008, of "fraudulent raising of public funds". According to the Chinese press, he and approximately 20 other co-defendants illegally obtained 970 million Yuan in public funds (approximately US$142 million) between 2004 and 2007. The money was for a deer breeding centre to cull deer antlers which could be used in Chinese herbal medicines. They managed to attract nearly 50,000 investors from more than 110 districts and counties in seven provinces by offering investors high profit returns.

The Chinese press reported that Tang Yanan admitted his guilt. However, during the appeal hearing he withdrew his confession saying that he confessed under torture. Despite this, Anhui Provincial People’s High Court upheld the guilty verdict. At the same time, the appeal court reduced the sentence of several co-defendants who were sentenced to various terms from three years’ to 15 years’ imprisonment. It is unclear whether Tang Yanan has access to his family or legal representation of his own choice.

There are concerns with the consistency in the application of economic criminal charges in China. Earlier in 2009, Du Yimin, a businesswoman who was executed on 5 August, was also found guilty of "fraudulent raising of public funds." Both her defense and Tang Yanan’s argued that they should have been convicted of the lesser offence of "illegally collecting public deposits," which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 Yuan (US$73,000) because their intent had not been to commit fraud but to genuinely invest funds in legitimate enterprises.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Mandarin or your own language:
  • Urging the authorities not to execute Tang Yanan;
  • calling on the authorities to ensure that Tang Yanan has access to his family and legal representation of his choosing and urging the authorities to guarantee that he is not subject to torture or other ill-treatment while in custody.
  • urging the National People’s Congress to introduce a legal procedure for clemency;
  • urging the authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, as provided by UN General Assembly resolution 62/149, of 18 December 2007.


President of the Supreme People's Court
WANG Shengjun Yuanzhang
Zuigao Renmin Fayuan
27 Dongjiaomin Xiang
Beijingshi 100745
People's Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 65292345
Salutation: Dear President

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

The death penalty is applicable for 68 offences in China, including non-violent ones. China executes more people every year than any other country in the world. Amnesty International estimated that China carried out at least 1,718 executions and sentenced 7,003 people to death in 2008. These figures represent a minimum - real figures are undoubtedly much higher. A US-based NGO that is focused on advancing human rights in China, the Dui Hua Foundation, estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 people were executed that year, based on figures obtained from local officials. The official statistics on death sentences and executions are classified as state secrets.

In January 2007, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) review for all death sentences, which had been scrapped in 1982, was restored. All death sentences are now reviewed by the SPC, which has the power to approve, revise or remand death sentences. Chinese authorities have reported a drop in executions since the SPC resumed this review. Nevertheless, the application of the death penalty remains shrouded in secrecy in China, and statistics on death sentences and executions are classified as state secrets. Without access to such information it is impossible to make a full and informed analysis of death penalty developments in China, or to say if there has been a reduction in its use.

No one who is sentenced to death in China receives a fair trial in accordance with international human rights standards. Many have had confessions accepted despite saying in court that these were extracted under torture; have had to prove themselves innocent, rather than be proven guilty; and have had limited access to legal counsel.

UA:226/09 Index: ASA 17/046/2009, Issue Date: 27 August 2009

Related stories:
China: Businesswoman shot after unfair trial -- 12 August 2009
DP improvements not for economic crimes: China -- 10 March 2009
China: Death over milk, but no official answers -- 29 January 2009
China: Executions to preserve order, control -- 12 December 2008
Judge backs harsh sentences: China -- 20 April 2008
Party claims economic penalty 'prudent' -- 4 August, 2007

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Thailand: Civil libertarians condemn executions

Statement by the Thailand Union for Civil Liberty, 25 August 2009

Statement by UCL
It is wrong that Thailand has executed two men on 24th August 2009:

It ignores the majority vote of the United Nations General Assembly in December 2007 and again in December 2008 in favour of a universal moratorium on the death penalty.

It flouts the greater certainty expressed world wide that the death penalty is a transgression of the most basic of all human rights, the right to life.

It goes against the interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights expressed to representatives of the Royal Thai government by the UN Human Rights Committee, on 28th July 2003, that drug offenses did not constitute a crime subject to Capital Punishment within the terms of the Covenant which it has ratified.

The execution of the two with a mere one hour notice is a flagrant transgression of the procedures established by the UN for the enactment of Capital Punishment.

It is a useless measure of no greater consequence than other punishment in the fight against drugs.

It is a cruel and inhumane punishment, with no place in a civilised state.

It is counter to the Buddhist belief in the sanctity of life.

Danthong Breen
Union for Civil Liberty, Thailand

Related stories:
Thailand: Executions a backward step -- 27 August 2009
Thailand: Drug dealers put to death -- 26 August 2009

Thailand: Executions a backward step

Thailand: resumption of executions a backwards step
Public statement by Amnesty International, 26 August 2009

As country after country abandons its use of judicial state killing, Amnesty International deeply regrets the resumption of executions in Thailand after a six-year hiatus.

On 24 August 2009 two men were executed by lethal injection at Bang Khwang prison, central Thailand.

Bundit Jaroenwanit, aged 45, and Jirawat Poompreuk, aged 52, were convicted of drug trafficking on 29 March 2001 and subsequently sentenced to death. They were reportedly only given 60 minutes’ notice before their executions were carried out.

Although Thailand continued to hand down death sentences, they did not execute anyone for six years, which the abolitionist movement had welcomed as an encouraging sign from the Asia region.

In the last 10 months, the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly for a moratorium on executions, while Burundi, Togo and the US state of New Mexico have abolished the death penalty. The government of Thailand should follow their example and urgently review its use of the death penalty.

There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. The government of Thailand must join the international trend away from capital punishment.

The last executions in Thailand were carried out in 2003, when four people were executed by lethal injection. These were the first executions by lethal injection, which had replaced execution by shooting in the same year.

In its 2005 Consideration of Thailand’s report, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern that the death penalty was not restricted to the most serious crimes and was applicable to drug trafficking in Thailand.

Sixteen countries in Asia still have laws that provide for the death penalty for drug-related offences. As many countries in the region do not make information on the death penalty publicly available, it is impossible to calculate exactly how many drug-related death sentences are imposed there. However, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, reports indicate that a high proportion of death sentences are imposed on those convicted of drug offences.

AI Index: ASA 39/006/2009

Related stories:
Thailand: Drug dealers put to death -- 26 August 2009

China admits majority of organs from executed

As China announces a national organ donation system, official media admit the system will replace transplant organs from executed prisoners, which "experts estimate account for more than 65 percent of total donors".

From China Daily, 26 August 2009

Public call for organ donations
By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-26 07:38

China launched a national organ donation system yesterday in a bid to gradually shake off its long-time dependence on executed prisoners as a major source of organs for transplants and as part of efforts to crack down on organ trafficking.

The system, operated mainly by the Red Cross Society of China with assistance from the Ministry of Health, will begin as pilot projects in 10 provinces and cities.

"The system is in the public interest and will benefit patients regardless of social status and wealth in terms of fairness in organ allocation and better procurement," said Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu.

Under the system, the Red Cross is responsible for encouraging post-death organ donations among the public, receiving donor registrations, keeping a database, starting a fund to provide financial assistance for needy, surviving families of donors and overseeing the allocation of donated organs according to set principles.

"Transplants should not be a privilege for the rich," Huang said.

The late, famous Chinese actor Fu Biao received two liver transplants within several months in 2005, raising doubts about the fairness of organ allocation, given that the waiting time for the general public can be years - even if one is lucky enough to get a match, let alone have a second surgery.

Currently about one million people in China need organ transplants each year while only 1 percent receive one, official statistics show.

Only about 130 people on the mainland have signed up to donate their organs since 2003, according to research on the promotion of organ donation after death by professor Chen Zhonghua with the Institute of Organ Transplantation of Tongji Hospital.

The system will help find more willing donors who didn't know how to donate, said Jiang Yiman, the society's deputy director at the launch yesterday in Shanghai. "The Chinese have a tradition of helping others in need and the potential of organ donations from the public is yet to be tapped," she said.

Organ donors
Executed prisoners, who experts estimate account for more than 65 percent of total donors, "are definitely not a proper source for organ transplants," said Vice-Minister Huang.

That the rights of death-row prisoners to donate is fully respected and written consent from them is required, he told China Daily.

Qian Jianmin, chief transplant surgeon with the Shanghai Huashan Hospital, said hospitals performing transplants not only treat patients getting organs from executed prisoners, but have to deal with other levels of government, including the justice department.

"Corruption can arise during the process," he said.

Some just ignore legal procedures regarding organ donations from executed prisoners and make a fat profit, Huang said.

All costs are passed on to patients. Sometimes the recipient pays up to 200,000 yuan ($29,000) for a kidney, not including other medical services.

China issued an organ transplant law in 2007 that bans organ trafficking and only allows donations from living people to blood relatives and spouses, plus someone considered "emotionally connected."

However, organ middlemen have been faking documents in order to make a person who is desperately in need of money be considered "emotionally connected" to the recipients, reports said.

Living transplants increased to 40 percent of total transplants from 15 percent in 2006, Chen Zhonghua said.

"That's one of the daunting tasks facing us as we try to end the organ trade by establishing this system," Huang noted.

Other goals include preventing organ tourism, improving transplant quality, better defining donors' rights and satisfying patients' needs for transplants in an ethical manner.

"With more organ donations from the public, the total cost for transplants will decrease," he said.

The exact cost for transplants varies from place to place and largely remains an industry secret. But experts said it's at least 100,000 yuan.

Praise for initiative
"We welcome the emphasis put on fair practice in organ procurement, allocation and transplant, echoing the WHO guiding principles on transplantation," said Luc Noel, coordinator of clinical procedures in the essential health technologies department at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva.

"China is establishing the national network and authority necessary to initiate and maximize organ donations from deceased donors and thus progress towards the global mainstream in organ donation and transplantation," he said.

The system will be operated at both State and provincial levels. Donated organs would be allocated locally first and then nationally.

"My colleagues and I welcome the system, which will facilitate our efforts to save more patients and help medical workers concentrate more on practicing medicine," said transplant surgeon Qian, whose hospital performs about 150 transplants each year.

Wang Yuling, a young white-collar worker in Beijing, said she'd donate if it really helps someone in need instead of making someone rich.

The pilot projects will take place across the country, including Shanghai, Tianjin, Fujian (Xiamen), Jiangsu (Nanjing), Hubei (Wuhan), Liaoning, Shandong and Jiangxi. The system will then be introduced nationwide, Jiang said.

When asked for a specific timetable when the system will cover the whole country, Huang said the process took 20 years in United States.

"I hope it'll be faster in China. We are still searching for the best way," he said.

"Details about the system, like how to clearly define responsibilities for all stakeholders under the system, including the Red Cross and health administrations, are still under discussion," Jiang said.

(China Daily 08/26/2009 page3)

[Emphasis added]

Related stories:
China admits organs from prisoners -- 6 December 2006
Stop transplant tourism: surgeon -- 28 November 2006
China restricts organs from executions -- 29 March 2006

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

PNG, Solomons advised against death penalty

No death penalty, expert advises PNG, Solomons
From ABC Radio Australia, 20 August 2009

Last Updated: Thu, 20 Aug 2009 14:18:00 +1000

An Australian criminologist says Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea should not consider introducing the death penalty against violent crimes.

Both countries have high rates of crime and are considering capital punishment.

Professor Paul Wilson, from Australia's Bond University, in Queensland, says there is evidence in research from across the world that the death penalty does not reduce the rate of murder and violent crime.

He says despite this, many politicians choose to call for its introduction because they are aware there may be people in their electorates who could support it.

Professor Wilson has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat more needs to be done to study patterns of crime in PNG and the Solomons to determine better prevention and appropriate penalties.

"If you are going to reduce the murder rate or violence rate, you have to first of all analyse exactly how the violence is occuring, by whom, at what time, where, and the motiviationsm" he said.

"And that is a fairly substantial research job and then you have to apply quite well-known crime prevention methods, which will vary according to the location.

"You work it with a combination of zero-type policing."

Thailand: Drug dealers put to death

From The Bangkok Post, 25 August 2009


Two convicted drug traffickers at Bang Khwang prison have been executed by lethal injection.

Bundit Jaroenwanit, 45, and Jirawat Poompreuk, 52, yesterday became the country's fifth and sixth people to be executed by lethal injection, which replaced death by shooting in 2003.

The atmosphere at Bang Khwang prison in Nonthaburi was subdued yesterday when the two learned they were about to die.

They were given 60 minutes to call or write to their loved ones. They were then offered a last meal and a chance to listen to a sermon from a monk invited from Wat Bang Praek Tai.

They were blindfolded and given flowers, candles and incense sticks before being taken to the execution chamber.

The two, their legs manacled, turned their faces towards the temple as they were laid out on beds.

They received three injections. The first was a sedative, the second a muscle relaxant and the third a drug that stops the heart beating.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

South Korea loses anti-death penalty voice

A tribute from Amnesty International

Kim Dae-jung, human rights champion and former South Korean president, dies
19 August 2009

Former South Korea President Kim Dae-jung died on Tuesday, aged 85. A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at reconciliation with North Korea, he leaves a legacy of commitment to human rights and democracy.

A former prisoner of conscience, Kim Dae-jung was a lifelong activist who sought to raise the profile of human rights both in South Korea and around the world. Once a death row inmate, he was a tireless campaigner against the death penalty.

"Kim Dae-jung was a hero and inspiration to Amnesty International and many people around the world for his uncompromising stance and struggle for democracy in South Korea during the seventies and eighties," said Amnesty International's Secretary General, Irene Khan.

"Amnesty International is privileged to have campaigned on his behalf, as prisoner of conscience, during his years of imprisonment and when he was given the death sentence.

"Kim Dae-jung was considered a dangerous radical in the 1970s and 1980s, during South Korea's decades of military dictatorship. He survived assassination and abduction attempts, walked free from a death sentence and was exiled twice.

Over several video interviews with Amnesty International in April, Kim Dae-jung discussed his childhood (he was the son of a middle-class farmer), his experiences as a prisoner of conscience, the attempt on his life in Tokyo in 1973 and his time as president. One of the main topics of conversation though, was the death penalty. He said:

"A human should not kill a human. We need to abolish the death penalty in Asia…If the death penalty were abolished, it would change the atmosphere in Asia and also have a positive knock-on effect in Central & South America and Africa and the rest of the world…the issue of death penalty is one of the most serious issues confronting human beings, and I hope that, if possible, the Asian countries will set an example in sorting out this problem.

"As a human rights activist, Kim Dae-jung was subjected to human rights violations for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

He was kidnapped in Tokyo's Grand Palace hotel in 1973 by South Korean agents. He was dragged to a ship where he said they planned to dump him at sea. The US government intervened to save him and the agents then abandoned their plan. The assassination attempt was in apparent response to his public opposition to the rewriting of the Constitution, which gave more power to General Park Chung-hee, the country’s military ruler.

Kim Dae-jung spent much of the 1970s under house arrest or in prison. It was during this period that he was first adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

He was arrested in March 1976, as a prominent signatory of a "Declaration for National Democratic Salvation". He was arrested again in May 1980, just before the Kwangju Massacre, which resulted in the deaths of civilians who had risen up against the military dictatorship. He was accused of having "instigated" agitation. He was sentenced to death in September 1980.

Amnesty International, and many other human rights and pressure groups, campaigned vigorously on Kim Dae-jung's behalf throughout that period.

In 1981, following widespread international protests and campaigning by international organizations, his death sentence was commuted; in 1982 he was released on a "suspended" sentence. He then went to live in Boston where he taught at Harvard University.

In February 1985, he was placed under house arrest again on the day he returned from two years' exile in the USA. House arrest and harassment continued until February 1986.

During a visit to London in 1993, Kim Dae-jung presented Amnesty International with calligraphy he had written, of four Chinese characters meaning “All Nations are One Family”.

He was elected President of South Korea in December 1997. It was the first time in the country's history that the power of government had been passed from the ruling party president to an opposition leader.

During his presidency Kim-Dae-jung became the first and so far only Korean to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. This was for his instigation of the so-called "Sunshine Policy", promoting closer ties with communist North Korea.

Kim-Dae-jung’s term as President of South Korea ended in 2003.

"As fellow Nobel Laureates, we were honoured to share President Kim’s ardent opposition to the death penalty, and we were moved by his dedication to campaigning for human rights," said Irene Khan.

Related stories:
South Korea: Kim Dae-jung's call for abolition -- 6 March 2006
South Korea – former president calls for abolition -- 27 February 2006

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

China: Businesswoman shot after unfair trial

Amnesty International has issued this update to its appeal on behalf of Du Yimin, a businesswoman who was executed last week after being convicted of "fraudulent raising of public funds".


Du Yimin, a businesswoman convicted of "fraudulent raising of public funds" was executed on 5 August after China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) approved her sentence.

Du Yimin was sentenced to death in March 2008. Her appeal was rejected on 13 January 2009. According to the verdict, she had illegally raised approximately 700 million yuan (US$102 million) from hundreds of people investing in her beauty parlours. According to the Chinese press, she had obtained the money between 2003 and 2006 by offering investors monthly returns of up to 10%.

Her lawyer has stated that Du Yimin should have been convicted for the lesser offence of "illegally collecting public deposits," which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 yuan (US$73,000). Du Yimin claimed that she had had no intention of keeping the money, but had intended to invest it in her companies, and that she had obtained it without using fraudulent means.

Du Yimin’s death sentence has caused a debate about the consistency in the application of the death penalty in the People's Republic of China. The day before she was sentenced to death, an official who used 15.8 billion yuan of public funds to cover his personal spending was sentenced to a fixed term of imprisonment.

Amnesty international believes Du Yimin did not receive a fair trial in line with international standards and condemns her execution.

Further information on UA: 42/09 Index: ASA 17/007/2009
People's Republic of China
Date: 07 August 2009

Amnesty International's original appeal, from 13 February 2009, is here.

Related stories:
DP improvements not for economic crimes: China -- 10 March 2009
China: Death over milk, but no official answers -- 29 January 2009
China: Executions to preserve order, control -- 12 December 2008
Judge backs harsh sentences: China -- 20 April 2008
Party claims economic penalty 'prudent' -- 4 August, 2007

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

South Korea: Human Rights Body Challenges Death Penalty

By Kang Shin-who
From The Korea Times, 4 August 2009

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) filed a petition with the Constitutional Court Tuesday to end capital punishment.

In the petition, the commission said the nation has no authority to deprive citizens of life, as life is the most fundamental right of human beings.

"Even in extreme situations, human life shouldn't be a tool or an object to realize state policy or promote public interest," it said.

"The death penalty is also against humanitarianism and we cannot rule out the possibility of misjudgments," it added.

Historically, human rights groups here and overseas have campaigned to abolish the death penalty.

Last September, the Gwangju High Court filed a petition with the Constitutional Court, claiming that the government should come up with a punishment between the death penalty and life sentencing.

The case is currently under review.

A fisherman was sentenced to the death penalty in his trial for killing four tourists and asked his appellate court judge to lodge the petition, claiming that capital punishment was unconstitutional.

Accepting his suggestion, the appellate trial will be suspended until the Constitutional Court reviews the petition.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Korea has 59 convicts on death row. Korea has been a de facto country free of capital punishment as no executions have been carried out here for the past 11 years.

Related stories:
South Korea: Murders spark debate on death penalty -- 28 February 2009
South Korea: Challenge to death penalty law -- 13 October 2008
South Korea: Renewed calls for abolition -- 12 October 2007
South Korea death penalty hearing -- 10 April 2006
South Korea: Kim Dae-jung's call for abolition -- 6 March 2006
South Korea – former president calls for abolition -- 27 February 2006

Monday, 3 August 2009

Sri Lanka considering death penalty again

Sri Lanka mulls reintroducing death penalty
From The Hindu, 26 July 2009

Even as it has 273 prisoners on death row, Sri Lankan government plans to reintroduce capital punishment due to rising number of heinous crimes.

The new Justice and Law Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda is slated to discuss the possibility of implementing the death penalty with President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a result of increase in number of crimes in the country.

According to officials, there are about 273 prisoners in death row but they could not be hanged without the approval of the President. The last person to be executed in Sri Lanka was Maru Sira in 2003.

"Serious crimes have been on the increase in the recent past. Despite the human rights issues, the implementation of capital punishment has acted as a deterrent for those committing such crimes in many countries.

"Even in the USA, several states have executed those convicted of serious crimes," Justice and Law Reforms Secretary Suhada Gamlath said.

The prison authorities have been compelled to provide security to a large number of death row prisoners, Gamlath told reporters last week.

Organised crime, major armed robberies and heinous crimes are rapidly increasing and the law enforcement authorities are battling in vain to control them, he said, adding that reintroduction of capital punishment must be considered.

Related stories:
No death penalty plans in Sri Lanka -- 10 January 2007

China again claims execution decline

Fewer executions expected, top judge says
By Xie Chuanjiao
From China Daily, 29 July 2009

The number of criminal executions will be reduced in China, with the sentence of death penalty with reprieve handed out more often in courts.

Zhang Jun, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), said legislation will be improved to restrict the number of death sentences and the SPC will tighten restrictions on the use of capital punishment.

The sentence of "death penalty with reprieve" would be used more often in courts, Zhang said.

Death penalty with reprieve can be commuted to life in prison and later reduced to 20 years and even lessened further for good behavior.

"As it is impossible for the country to abolish capital punishment under current realities and social security conditions, it is an important effort to strictly control the application of the penalty by judicial organs," Zhang said in an interview with Legal Daily.

"Judicial departments should use the least number of death sentences as possible, and death penalties should not be given to those having a reason for not being executed," Zhang said.

He said the death penalty has had strong support from many people for more than 5,000 years and that the punishment was seen as "an eye for an eye and a life for a life".

The country will retain death sentence, but it should be applied only to "an extremely small number" of serious offenders, he said.

The SPC has been working to ensure that the death sentence is given only to those who have committed extremely serious or heinous crimes that lead to grave social consequences.

Zhang said the highest court exercises extreme caution in handing down the death sentence to those guilty of killing family members or neighbors over disputes.

People who plead guilty, compensate family members of the victims, or are pardoned by the latter are generally given more lenient punishments.

Last week, the SPC overturned a death sentence handed to a man surnamed Shao, who killed his lover when he found out she was having an affair with another man in September 2006.

Shao's crime was judged as serious enough for capital punishment, but the SPC considered the woman was also partly responsible.

Shao had shown regret and compensation was paid to the victim's family, the SPC said.

Moreover the case did not have a major social impact, so the SPC suspended Shao's capital punishment.

In January 2007, the SPC reserved the right to review all death penalty decisions made by lower courts.

Provincial high courts had handled appeals until that point but had been criticized after reports of miscarriage of justice.

With the SPC given the sole power to review and ratify all death sentences, the country is applying fewer death sentences. An average of 15 percent of sentences were overturned in 2007 and 10 percent were overturned in 2008, insiders told China Daily.

Last year a total of 159,020 criminals were sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or more than five years in prison, accounting for 15.8 percent of all criminal sentences.

Related stories:
DP improvements not for economic crimes: China -- 10 March 2009
China: Death over milk, but no official answers -- 29 January 2009
China: Executions to preserve order, control -- 12 December 2008
Judge backs harsh sentences: China -- 20 April 2008
Party claims economic penalty 'prudent' -- 4 August, 2007
China: Courts claim fewer executions -- 31 July, 2007
China call for cautious death penalty - again -- 8 April, 2007
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
Political questions over China's new appeal judges -- 2 July, 2006
China to retain death penalty, with reforms -- 13 March 2006

Mongolia: Appeal for death row pardon

Amnesty International issued the following urgent appeal on 30 July 2009 on behalf of Mongolian man facing execution for murder. It is extremely rare for details of capital cases in Mongolia to be made public, which greatly limits the ability of independent media to report on the death penalty in that country and of human rights activists to place pressure on the government.

Information about the death penalty in Mongolia is considered a state secret, even to the extent that the government does not confirm how executions are carried out.

[Note: This action appeal was updated on 14 October, after Buuveibaatar was granted a pardon. Read the update here.]

Urgent Action
Call for pardon for Mongolian on death row

Buuveibaatar, a 33-year-old Mongolian man, is facing execution for murder. He has exhausted all his appeals, and his life will only be spared if Mongolia's President grants him a pardon.

Buuveibaatar was sentenced to death by the Bayangol District Court, in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, on 1 August 2008. He was found guilty of murdering his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend in January 2008. His father claims the crime was committed in self-defence.

The day after the murder, Buuveibaatar was arrested and taken to Bayangol District police station, where he was interrogated overnight without access to a lawyer. His father says that Buuveibaatar was beaten in police custody, and confessed to the crime during interrogation.

Buuveibaatar's death sentence has been upheld by Mongolia's Supreme Court. His family wrote to the former President of Mongolia to appeal for a pardon on 1 April 2009, and again to the newly elected President, Elbegdorj, on 2 July 2009. So far there has been no response to the appeals for a pardon.

Executions in Mongolia are carried out in secret. The families and lawyers of those on death row receive no prior notification of the execution. If Buuveibaatar's appeal for a pardon is turned down, he could be executed at any time.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English, Mongolian or your own language:

  • Calling on the President to grant an immediate pardon to Buuveibaatar;
  • Calling for an immediate end to the practice of carrying out executions in secret;
  • Urging the President to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, as provided by UN General Assembly resolution 62/149, adopted on 18 December 2007.


President Elbegdorj
Office of the President
State House
Fax: +976 51 26 1273
Salutation: Dear President

The death penalty in Mongolia is considered a state secret; and no official statistics are made available relating to death sentences, executions or the number of people on death row. Families are not notified in advance when an execution will take place and the body is not returned to the family after execution. At least nine people are believed to be on death row in Mongolia.

UA: 206/09 Index: ASA 30/002/2009
Issue Date: 30 July 2009

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Japan: Three hanged during election campaign

Three killers are sent to the gallows
Seven hanged so far this year

Staff writer
Story from The Japan Times

Three convicted murderers were hanged Tuesday, the Justice Ministry said, bringing the number of executions this year to seven and maintaining the fast pace that saw 15 people sent to the gallows in 2008.

Hanged were a double-killer and two triple-killers, including one who met his victims through a suicide Web site.

It was the third set of execution orders signed by Justice Minister Eisuke Mori, who sent four inmates to the gallows Jan. 29 and two others last October. He assumed the post last September.

"I just conducted my duty as justice minister," Mori said at a news conference following the executions.

Asked why he signed off on the executions at a time of political instability, he said, "I am still the justice minister, even after the Lower House was dissolved.

"Prime Minister Taro Aso dissolved the chamber July 21 and called the election for Aug. 30. Mori, a Lower House member until the dissolution, is expected to be busy preparing for his re-election campaign.

Human rights group Amnesty International Japan blasted the justice minister's action.

"With the Lower House election coming up in August, it is almost certain that Justice Minister Mori, the person with the supreme authority to sign off on executions, will resign. Conducting executions at a time like this is effectively the same as committing the act with nobody assuming responsibility," the group charged in a statement.

Executions have been on the rise in recent years. Mori's immediate predecessor, Okiharu Yasuoka, signed off on three executions last September even though he held the office for only about a month.

The man he replaced, Kunio Hatoyama, the older brother of Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama, ordered 13 executions during his 12-month stint that started in August 2007, the most hangings by a single justice minister since at least 1993.

Mori disclosed the names of the prisoners, a practice started by Hatoyama.

Chen Detong, 41, a Chinese, was convicted of killing two men and a woman and attempting to murder another man and woman with a knife in 1999 because they allegedly violently mistreated him at the apartment they shared in Kawasaki. He was hanged at the Tokyo Detention Center.

Yukio Yamaji, 25, was convicted of raping and slashing a woman and her sister to death and torching their condominium in 2005 in Osaka. He was executed at the Osaka Detention Center.

Hiroshi Maeue, 40, was convicted of killing three people he met via an online bulletin board for those wishing to commit suicide on three separate occasions in Osaka Prefecture from February to June 2005.

In all three cases, he strangled the victims — a female and two males, one of whom was 14 years old. According to a document provided by the Justice Ministry, Maeue became sexually aroused by the sight of people struggling while being strangled.

He was also hanged at the Osaka Detention Center.

Chen's death sentence was finalized July 15, 2006, Yamaji's on May 31, 2007, and Maeue's on July 5, 2007.

The number of death-row inmates now stands at 101.

Amnesty International Japan also said in its statement that more than 70 percent of countries have either abolished the death sentence or have otherwise effectively halted executions.

South Korea has staged no executions in 10 years, while Taiwan has abstained for three years, Amnesty said.

The United States, the only country in the Group of Eight besides Japan that has capital punishment on the books, has seen states carrying out fewer executions, while Islamic countries, generally considered disposed to the death penalty, also are becoming more circumspect about executions, the group said.

Until 2007, executions in China, which puts far more people to death than any other country, were trending down. However, in 2008 the figure jumped to at least 1,718 from some 470 the year before, the group said, adding, however, that since Beijing last year changed the way executions are counted, it cannot say definitively if they are on the rise or not.

Nonetheless, Japan is one of the few countries where executions are on the rise, it said.

Last Dec. 18 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a halt in executions.

Related stories:
Japan: New year, more hangings -- 29 January 2009
Japan may execute before year ends -- 16 December 2008
Japan: Record toll with new hangings -- 28 October 2008
Japan: New minister faces next hanging -- 14 October 2008
Japan: New minister sends three to death -- 12 September 2008
Japan: Minister steps up rate of hangings -- 12 April 2008
Long wait, sudden death in Japan -- 28 August 2006