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

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

China: Call for fair investigation in Uyghur region

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) issued this statement in English and Chinese on 21 July 2009, following the recent unrest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Chinese officials had reportedly threatened to use the death penalty against demonstrators convicted of involvement in violent clashes.

WCADP 對東土耳其斯坦(新疆維吾爾自治區)情勢的聲明

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) Statement on the recent situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.


World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) is seriously alarmed by the threat of death sentences made by Chinese officials in Urumqi following recent unrest in Urumqi. This threat by the Chinese officials not only indicates the lack of rule of law in China but is also detrimental to the alleviation of tension between Han Chinese and Uyghur. It also violates the core values and spirit of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that China has signed and repeatedly stated its intention to ratify as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) which China has ratified.

Therefore, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), representing member organizations, urges:


1. The initiation of an open, independent, transparent, fair and impartial investigation following the recent reports of violence on the part of both demonstrators and security forces. The Chinese authorities should also ensure unconditional media access in the Region;


2. All the suspects arrested in this incident be guaranteed fair and open investigation and trial, defence lawyers be independent of government pressure, and all defence lawyers be able to freely carry out their role as defence lawyers;


3. Right to life is one of the basic human rights. The death penalty is not only a cruel and inhuman punishment but is also utilized as a means of suppressing minorities and dissidents. The Chinese government should act in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) instead of using death penalty as means of governance and suppressing the dissidents. The threat of death penalty from the Chinese officials concerning those arrested in this incident is opposed by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Created in Rome in 2002, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty brings together 96 bar associations, trade unions, local governments and non-governmental organizations. It aims at strengthening the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty and at contributing to put an end to death sentences and executions.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Papua New Guinea must not restart executions

An open letter from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
14 July 2009

The Papua New Guinea government should abolish the death penalty instead of putting it back into effect, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint letter this week.

In the letter to Dr. Allan Marat, justice minister and attorney general, the two human rights organizations criticized statements by Papua New Guinea government officials calling for steps that would enable it to carry out executions.

Recent violent crimes, including the alleged killings of four children by their mother, led to statements by officials that they were considering reinstating executions. Marat told journalists recently that his office was drawing up regulations necessary to conduct executions.

Papua New Guinea has not carried out an execution since 1954, despite Parliament's reintroduction of the death penalty for wilful murder in 1991.

"The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and Papua New Guinea would damage its credibility by re introducing it," said Amnesty International's Pacific researcher Apolosi Bose.

"Instead, Papua New Guinea should uphold the guarantees of the right to life and freedom from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment found in its own constitution and international legal commitments."

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose the death penalty in all cases as a violation of fundamental rights.

The organizations have called on Papua New Guinea to abolish the death penalty and to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The organizations also called on the government to strengthen its judicial system so that those convicted of crimes face just penalties that comply with international standards.

"Restarting executions would be a huge step backward for Papua New Guinea that would move the country away from the prevailing trend of world opinion and practice," said Zama Coursen-Neff, deputy director of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch.

"Papua New Guinea should strengthen its criminal justice system, but there's no evidence that the death penalty actually deters crimes more than other punishments."

The death penalty has been legally abolished by 94 countries, and only a small minority of countries – 25 in 2008 – continues to carry out executions.

Open letter to Papua New Guinea Minister of Justice

Letter urging the Minister of Justice to abolish death penalty

Hon. Dr. Allan Marat
Minister of Justice
Department of Justice
Government of Papua New Guinea
Port Moresby

Dear Minister Marat:

We write to express concern over your recent statements in Parliament suggesting that the death penalty might be soon implemented for the first time since Papua New Guinea gained self-governance and independence and that your office may develop regulations to do so. Not only would this be a highly regressive measure for justice and human rights within Papua New Guinea, it would also be in stark contrast to the prevailing trend of world opinion and practice.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances as a violation of fundamental rights-the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are international, nongovernmental organizations that monitor the compliance of countries with their obligations under international human rights law. Both have Special Consultative Status at the United Nations, and regularly report on human rights conditions in countries around the world and actively promote legislative and policy reform worldwide to ensure compliance with international human rights standards and international humanitarian law.

We acknowledge that Papua New Guinea has not carried out an execution since 1954, despite Parliament's 1991 reintroduction of the death penalty for willful murder. We welcome Papua New Guinea's accession in 2008 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an important step towards guaranteeing respect for fundamental human rights in the country. We urge Papua New Guinea to continue in this direction by abolishing the death penalty and ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which abolishes the death penalty. Such a move would allow Papua New Guinea to join the community of 94 countries that have already legally abolished this cruel and inhuman practice.

We understand that cases such as the recent murder of four children by their mother have caused immense shock and sadness throughout the country. And we note that the pressure for the state to act decisively against such crimes is immense. However, simply because a person may have killed brutally does not mean that the state should do the same. It is the responsibility of the state to respect fundamental human rights in its delivery of justice.

There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters serious crime more effectively than other punishments. The most recent surveys of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations (UN) in 1988 and updated in 1996 and 2002, concluded: "research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis." On December 18, 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted by a wide margin a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution states that "there is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty's deterrent value," and that the "use of the death penalty undermines human dignity."

The intrinsic fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even when full due process of law is respected, innocent persons are sometimes executed. The risk of error means that the death penalty inevitably claims the lives of those later found to be innocent, as has been persistently demonstrated. Executions are inevitably carried out in an arbitrary manner, inflicted primarily on the most vulnerable-the poor and the mentally ill.

We also note that as of late 2008, a boy under the age of 18 was imprisoned under a sentence of death. The prohibition on the death penalty for crimes committed by juvenile offenders is well established in international treaty and customary law. The overwhelming majority of states comply with this standard. Both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibit capital punishment for persons under the age of 18 at the time of the offense. In 1994 the UN Human Rights Committee stated that it considered the prohibition against capital punishment for children to be part of international customary law.

Currently, Papua New Guinea's criminal code prescribes hanging as the method of execution, and your recent statements in parliament also reference lethal injection as a possible alternative. The death penalty always constitutes cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment whatever the method of execution.

As Minister of Justice, you play a critical role in bringing justice for victims of crime as well as those accused of committing crimes. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International encourage you to use your position as Minister of Justice to strengthen the judicial system so that perpetrators of crimes face just penalties that are in compliance with international standards. In addition, we urge you to use your influence with the government to promote abolishment of the death penalty in Papua New Guinea and ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns, and we look forward to receiving a response from you at your earliest convenience

Yours sincerely,
Zama Coursen-Neff
Deputy Director
Children's Rights Division
Human Rights Watch

Donna Guest
Deputy Programme Director
Asia Pacific Programme
Amnesty International

cc. Hon. Sam Abal
Minister for Foreign Affairs

Related stories:
Papua New Guinea: 'Waiting for' execution guidelines -- 8 July 2009
Papua New Guinea: Ending its isolation? -- 26 April 2006

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Top Indian court upholds hangings

From BBC News

India's Supreme Court has rejected a petition to replace hanging with lethal injection as the country's sole method of execution.

The court said there was no evidence to suggest that hanging was less painful.

Activist Ashok Kumar Walia had argued that hanging was a "cruel and painful" method of execution and should be replaced by lethal injection.

Indian authorities say the death penalty is rarely carried out and is usually reserved for serious cases.

There has been just one execution - in 2004 - in India in the past 10 years.

"How do you know that hanging causes pain? And how do you know that injecting the condemned prisoner with a lethal drug would not cause pain?" Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan was quoted by the Times of India newspaper as saying.

Justice Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam said that experts believe that hanging - meant to dislocate the neck and sever the spinal cord - caused instant death.

"Many countries, still practising death penalty, have various methods of execution - death squad which guns down a condemned prisoner from close range, hanging by the neck, electric chair and by injecting a lethal drug.

"In India, we have a very, very liberal sentencing system based on a humane law. The courts in the rarest of the rare cases award death sentence," the newspaper quoted the judges as saying.

Only in the most horrific or politically sensitive cases is the death penalty awarded.

The court suggested that Mr Walia should campaign for the outright abolition of capital punishment in India.

A 1983 ruling by the Supreme Court stated that the death penalty should be imposed only in "the rarest of rare cases".

Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 13:29 UK

Related stories:
India: "Abusive lottery must be abolished" -- 30 May 2008

Papua New Guinea: 'Waiting for' execution guidelines

By PNG correspondent Liam Fox
From ABC Australia

Papua New Guinea's attorney-general says he is waiting for guidelines to be drawn up to allow the enforcement of the death penalty.

PNG's criminal code allows for people to be sentenced to death by hanging but the penalty has never been carried out.

There have been several high-profile murders recently and in parliament today attorney-general Alan Marat was asked why the penalty has never been enforced.

He says there are no regulations governing how an execution would be conducted and he is waiting for his department to draw them up.

"I want to take that regulation to cabinet for endorsement but it's just not ready, but as soon as it's ready maybe we start implementing," he said.

Dr Marat says his department is also looking at whether executions could be carried out by lethal injection.

Related stories:
Papua New Guinea: Ending its isolation? -- 26 April 2006

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Australia: Canberra to act on death penalty ban

From The Age:

Canberra to act on death penalty ban
Cynthia Banham

THE Federal Government has written to the states, telling them of its plans to introduce laws banning them from ever reintroducing the death penalty, whether they like it or not.

While all states have abolished the death penalty, there is nothing preventing a government from bringing it back.

The Age has a copy of a letter sent from Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland to his state counterparts on June 16, informing them "of the Commonwealth Government's intention to introduce legislation to prohibit the application of the death penalty throughout Australia".

The language of the letter is significant, as it indicates the Federal Government has opted to use the external affairs power in the constitution to put the prohibition in place.

This is instead of asking the states to refer their powers to the Commonwealth to enable it to pass the laws banning the reintroduction of the death penalty — an option that is seen as less watertight by the Federal Government because usually states only refer their powers for a limited period of time.

It is understood the Federal Government has legal advice that under the external affairs power and international treaties signed by Australia, including the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is able enact the laws and so intends to take this path.

The Federal Opposition's preference will be to not rely on the external affairs power.

The Federal Government has given the states until Monday to respond to its letter and said the formal prohibition would "further demonstrate our nation's commitment to the worldwide abolitionist movement".

"It would complement our co-sponsorship of resolutions calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in the United Nations General Assembly and safeguard the fulfilment of our obligation under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to abolish the death penalty within Australia's jurisdiction," the letter said.

Three Australians are on death row in Indonesia — Scott Rush, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who are part of the so-called "Bali Nine".

The Federal Government is keen to send a strong message internationally about Australia's opposition to the death penalty.

There is cross-party support for the Federal Parliament to ban states from reviving the death penalty. A bipartisan working group against the death penalty, including Liberal Senator Gary Humphries, was established late last year.

The bill to ban the reintroduction of the death penalty is likely to be introduced into Parliament in spring. It will probably form part of the same bill criminalising torture as a federal offence.

The Federal Government has already consulted with the states over its decision to make torture a Commonwealth offence and to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture, which involves allowing international inspections of places of detention.

It is understood that the West Australian Liberal Government is the only state to have raised concerns over the issue.