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."