Sunday, 24 May 2009

Indonesia: Activists condemn plan to limit appeals

Groups Denounce AGO Plan to Cap Execution Appeals
By Heru Andriyanto
The Jakarta Globe
22 May, 2009

Human rights groups are blasting an Attorney General's Office plan to limit the window of time inmates facing the firing squad would be allowed to lodge a final case review - to 30 days. Under Indonesian law, condemned inmates may request a case review once the Supreme Court rejects their appeal, but they must present new evidence

"It's very unlikely inmates could secure new evidence in only 30 days," said Papang Hidayat, head of research at the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) on Thursday.

"In other words, more and more inmates will be put to death if [the AGO proposal] becomes law."

He said Kontras remains firm in its position that capital punishment should be outlawed. Last year, the state executed 10 inmates convicted of terrorism, drug trafficking and murder. There are 111 inmates currently on death row.

The Supreme Court this year ruled that the AGO could unilaterally set a deadline for case review requests in capital punishment cases, citing as precedent that in civil cases, a review deadline stands at 180 days.

But Abdul Hakim Ritonga, an AGO deputy in charge of judicial killings, said last week that 180 days was too long, and proposed 30 days instead. Abdul leads a five-member AGO team tasked with setting up a new appeals deadline.

Rusdi Marpaung with the human rights group Imparsial said the proposal reflected the AGO’s view that executions were "business as usual."

"I cannot understand why the AGO feels so easy in planning more executions. In our view, the death sentence is against the 1945 Constitution and accordingly must be abolished," Rusdi said.

While abolishing capital punishment appears to be an uphill battle, particularly during an election year, Papang suggested that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration, which has executed 19 inmates since 2004, could impose a moratorium on death sentences.

"The most important thing to do is to mend the poor judicial system that is unable to deliver fair justice to death row inmates,” Papang said.

"Just take a look at the fact that many foreign inmates facing the capital punishment were not provided with interpreters in the court," he said. "I think if the legal proceedings were held fairly, many inmates would have escaped capital punishment."

Pakistan: Appeal for Zulfiqar Ali Khan

Amnesty International has issued the following Urgent Action appeal for Zulfiqar Ali Khan, who it believes is facing the threat of imminent execution.

1 May 2009

PAKISTAN Zulfiqar Ali Khan (m), aged 38

Zulfiqar Ali Khan is at imminent risk of execution as his most recent stay is due to expire on 6 May. He has been granted three stays of execution since October 2008. President Zardari rejected his final mercy petition on 29 September 2008. He is imprisoned at Adiala Central Jail, in the city of Rawalpindi, Punjab province.

Zulfiqar Ali was arrested for murder on 14 April 1998. According to his lawyer Zulfiqar Ali committed the crime in self-defence.During the 11 years he has been on death row, Zulfiqar Ali has gained a Masters Degree in Political Science and is currently studying for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. He has also contributed to the education of other inmates. According to his lawyer, Zulfiqar Ali’s academic achievements while in prison are commendable and he has been an example of a successfully rehabilitated prisoner.

Zulfiqar Ali is the only surviving parent of his two daughters, aged 10 and 11. His wife died of leukaemia in 2007.

An estimated 236 people were sentenced to death in Pakistan in 2008, and a total of 36 people were executed. Prime Minister Gilani's announcement on 21 June 2008 that all existing death sentences would be commuted is being considered by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which is to rule on its constitutionality. Sixteen people have been put to death after the Prime Minister's statement.

There are currently more than 7,000 people who are on death row in Pakistan. The former Human Rights Minister, Ansar Burney, stated that 60 to 65 percent of death row prisoners were innocent or “victims of a faulty system”.

On 18 December 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on a worldwide moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The former government of Pakistan, under President Pervez Musharraf, voted against the resolution.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, and not a solution to it. It has not been shown to have any greater deterrent effect than other punishments, and carries the risk of irrevocable error. The death penalty is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and a violation of the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:

- calling on the President Zardari to use his powers under Article 45 of the Constitution to commute the death sentence handed down to Zulfiqar Ali;
- calling on the President Zardari to urgently implement the June 21 proposal to commute death sentences in Pakistan;
- calling for an immediate moratorium on all executions in the country, in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolutions on a moratorium on executions adopted in 2007 and 2008, reinforcing the worldwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty.


Mr Asif Ali Zardari
Pakistan Secretariat

Fax: +92 51 922 1422/ 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835 (Faxes may be switched off outside office hours. Pakistan is 6 hours ahead of GMT)

Salutation: Dear President Zardari

COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Pakistan accredited to your country.


ADP: A change in approach

Since the inception of the Asia Death Penalty blog in February 2006, I have written about major developments in the death penalty in Asia, drawing on media reports and work of regional and international human rights organisations.

Other stories have been based on my own commentary on the death penalty and tracking developments such as the rate of executions in Indonesia and Japan.

With recent changes in my (paid) work, I don’t have as much time to devote to writing for the blog. I am also devoting more time to another death penalty-related project.

Feedback from readers over the past three years has indicated the blog is playing a useful role pointing people to events and debates in the region, synthesising reports and preserving some of the stories that become lost to archives and the continual wave of new content online.

While I will not be able to devote as much time to writing original stories in the foreseeable future, I will continue to post major news stories and human rights reports. When time allows, I will post other original stories.

Thank you for reading, and please continue to send me tips and information that may be of interest for other readers of this blog.