Thursday, 30 April 2015

Luis Alfonso, Simón, José Villarreal Death Sentence: Malaysia Confirms Penalty Of Mexican Brothers For Smuggling Meth‏

Source: Latin Times (23 April 2015)

Malaysia's Federal Tribunal confirmed on Thursday that three Mexican brothers convicted of drug trafficking will be sentenced to death. The brother's legal representatives had tried a final appeal against the sentence, but they have exhausted their legal options. Police busted brothers Luis Alfonso, 47, Simon, 40 and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, 37, along with a Malaysian and a Singaporean man, in 2008. All three Mexican men are from Sinaloa, Mexico. They were smuggling 29 kg (64lbs) of meth in the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. The mandatory sentence for drug trafficking in Malaysia is death by hanging.

"Our decision is unanimous. Appeal dismissed against all five defendants. Conviction and sentence affirmed," Federal Court justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin told the court in Putrajaya,  Malaysia.

In a statement from the Secretary of External Relations (SRE), the Mexican government explained that it had worked hard to ensure that the men were treated well and had access to legal assistance during their 7 years in prison, including several in-person visits from Mexican officials and family members. In the statement, Mexico decried the imposition of a death sentence and reaffirmed its opposition to capital punishment in all countries. Mexico is one of the 153 countries who have banned capital punishment or haven't used it in the past ten years. It's last civilian execution was carried out in 1937.

The death penalty is prominent through Southeast Asia, where executions of foreigners is a constant strain on international relations. In January, Indonesia executed a Brazilian man on drug trafficking charges, causing a row between the two countries. Brazil stalled credentials for an Indonesian ambassador, and President Dilma rousseff announced that while she respected Indonesia's sovereignty, said that "the death penalty, which global society increasingly condemns, gravely affects relations." Execution of Mexican nationals has also strained relations between Mexico and the U.S., one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that still uses the death penalty. Mexico successfully stayed 5 executions of it's citizens after suing through the International Court of Justice in 2005, but that order was overturned by the U.S. Supreme court in 2008

Sydney man Peter Gardner to face Guangzhou court over drug charges

 Source: (30 April 2015)

Sydney man Peter Gardner, 25, has had his death penalty case in a Chinese courtroom brought forward by almost six months and will go on trial in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou next Thursday, May 7, for allegedly attempting to export 30kg of methamphetamine, or ice.

Gardner's lawyer, New Zealand barrister Craig Tuck, said the reasons for the fast-tracked trial were unknown.

China executes thousands of people every year according to Amnesty International, and has killed at least a dozen foreign nationals in the past 15 years.

The opaque Chinese legal system operates on three levels: police, prosecutors and courts — all come under the control of the nation's ruling Communist Party. Once cases are passed to the courts, conviction rates are 99 per cent and Gardner's lawyers have previously said his fate all but certain.

Gardner is a dual New Zealand and Australian citizen. His father and two sisters live in Sydney while his is in New Zealand. They have declined to comment.

Gardner was with Australian woman Kalynda Davis — whom he met weeks earlier through an online dating site — when they were detained by customs officials in Guangzhou on November 8 after a three-day visit. Two bags being checked in by the couple were allegedly found to have 60kg of ice inside with their zips glued shut.

In a development that stunned China watchers, Davis was released after four weeks of negotiations between her China based lawyers and Chinese authorities with her long blonde hair roughly cropped after her lawyers argued she had no knowledge of the cargo.

"I knew she was so innocent. I prayed every night that the truth would come out, I prayed for the authorities, that it was dealt with in the way that it was dealt with, and our prayers were answered," her father Larry David said upon her release.

It is understood that Gardner's case was passed from the police to prosecutors several months ago but his lawyer said earlier this month that he did not expect the case to go to trial for six months. However on Tuesday night he said the trial date had moved to May 7.

"This is considerably earlier than expected. The trial will take place in Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court and is expected to last no more than two days," he said in a statement.

"The Gardner family have requested privacy at this time and will not be making any comments to the media."
Since his detention, Gardner has been in a crowded Guangzhou detention centre with no heating or airconditioning. He has been sharing a room with up to 14 other people, according to sources.

Gardner is permitted one visit a month from a New Zealand embassy official, having travelled to China on his New Zealand passport.

Gardner is alleged to have been carrying 60 vacuum-packed plastic bags in two cases with the zips glued shut.

Chinese lawyers who spoke to News Corp Australia at the time of his detention said that his fate was all but certain. Under Chinese law anyone caught smuggling more than 50g of meth or heroin faces death by firing squad or lethal injection Gardner has been charged in the very highest level of drug exportation, his lawyer said.

If he is found guilty and sentenced to death he automatically has the right to two appeals — to China's High People's Court and the Supreme Court Guangzhou, so it may be months after the trial before his fate will be decided. China's third largest and most important city with a population of about 14 million people, once known in the west as Canton, is 100 kilometres up the Pearl River from Hong Kong.

It has a long history of criminal gangs and has been notorious for its drug trade since the Opium Wars Gangs manufactured huge quantities of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine. It is also a major importing centre for cocaine.

Under the two-and-a-half-year-old regime of Chinese President Xi Jinxing, authorities have launched a major anti-drugs campaign and several gangs in Guangzhou have been reported in the Chinese media.

Guangzhou has also gained a reputation in Australia in recent years for rough justice. Two Australian businesspeople, travel business operator Matthew Ng and tertiary institution founder Charlotte Chou, both received hefty sentences on the back of business disputes that involved.

Communist Party official and business people with close party connections.

Chou was finally released after 6 years in December last year and in March, Ng became the first person to be transferred to Australia to complete his sentence under a deal signed in 2010.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Australia recalls ambassador after Indonesia executes prisoners

Source: CNN (29 April 2015)

Australia has recalled its ambassador to Indonesia for consultations after two Australians were among eight drug smugglers executed by firing squad early Wednesday.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the executions "cruel and unnecessary" because both men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, had been "fully rehabilitated" during a decade in prison.
Abbott didn't say what permanent actions, if any, would be taken against Indonesia. "This is a dark moment in the relationship, but I'm sure the relationship will be restored," he said.
One of the men's Indonesian lawyers, Todung Mulya Lubis tweeted his apologies. "I failed. I lost," he said. "I'm sorry."
Indonesian President Joko Widodo appeared to shrug off the diplomatic recall, telling reporters that "our legal sovereignty must be respected. We also respect other countries' legal sovereignty." Foreign minister Retno Marsudi said the country had no plans to recall its own ambassador in response.
Six other inmates were executed, including Nigerians Raheem Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Okwudil Oyatanze and Martin Anderson; Indonesian Zainal Abidin and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, who was said to be mentally ill.
On Wednesday, Brazil's foreign ministry released a statement expressing "deep sadness" at Gularte's execution, saying that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had urged her Indonesian counterpart to spare him due to his "psychiatric condition."
Gularte is the second Brazilian to be executed in Indonesia this year, with the first -- Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira -- prompting the country to recall the Indonesian ambassador for consultations.

Filipina spared

The Indonesian government had originally announced that nine prisoners would be executed, but at the last moment Filipina Mary Jane Veloso was spared.
"We are so happy, so happy. I thought I had lost my daughter already but God is so good. Thank you to everyone who helped us," her mother Celia Veloso told CNN.
Philippines embassy officials said Veloso would be returned to Yogyakarta prison in Central Java later on Wednesday.
No reason was given for the reprieve but it may relate to developments in her case late on Tuesday. CNN Philippines reported that Veloso's alleged recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio and her partner Julius Lacanilao, surrendered to authorities. The report said Sergio had denied all accusations in relation to Veloso's case.
Veloso's lawyers claimed the mother-of-two was the victim of human trafficking. They say she was offered work in Malaysia, but when she arrived she was told the job had been filled and wasn't aware the bag she'd been given for the return journey to Indonesia was filled with drugs.
A tenth prisoner, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, was also scheduled to be executed but his case was delayed while a court considers a legal challenge.
No reprieve for Australians
Candlelight vigils were held for Chan and Sukumaran in the hours ahead of the expected execution. The men's legal teams had been fighting for years for a stay, but it wasn't to be.
The men -- then aged in their early twenties -- were arrested in 2005 as part of the "Bali Nine," a drug smuggling gang that intended to import 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of heroin from Bali to Australia. They failed.
The pair were transported with other prisoners to Indonesia's so-called "execution island" in March, and after being given 72-hours notice of their execution on Saturday, Chan married his longtime girlfriend, Febyanti Herewila, on Monday in prison.
The executions of Sukumaran and Chan came despite the fact that both this week received a court date of May 12 to hear an outstanding legal challenge.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the men also said Indonesia's Judicial Commission had yet to properly investigate claims of corruption during their original trial and sentencing. They said three of the men's Indonesian lawyers had been summoned to attend the commission on May 7.
However, before the executions, Indonesia insisted that all legal avenues had closed.
On Tuesday, the prisoners' families were heard wailing as they boarded a boat for the execution site. Visiting hours were extended until 8 p.m. to give them extra time before they were asked to leave.
The death penalty
Under Indonesian law, the death penalty is carried out by a 12-man firing squad, although only three guns are loaded with live ammunition.
Prisoners are given the choice of whether to stand or sit, and whether they want to wear a blindfold, hood or nothing. The shots -- aimed at the heart -- are fired from between 5 and 10 meters (16 to 33 feet), according to Amnesty International.
After the executions, the rights group released a statement condemning them as "reprehensible" and issue fresh calls for a moratorium on the death penalty.
Indonesia fighting 'drugs crisis'
While the Bali Nine have garnered much international attention, their punishment is part of a larger government effort to combat illegal drug trafficking.
Indonesian President Widodo has insisted that Indonesia would not be swayed by appeals for clemency because the country is dealing with a "drugs crisis." He told CNN in January that clemency would not be extended to drug traffickers, leading to an appeal from Chan and Sukumaran that their cases hadn't been properly considered.
Lawyers for the two men said they underwent radical rehabilitation during their 10 years in Kerobokan prison and were helping to counsel and support other inmates.
Chan was ordained as a Christian minister who led prayer meetings, while Sukumaran became an accomplished painter and established his own art classes inside the Bali prison.
Foreigners executed
The Indonesian government didn't confirm until late Tuesday that the executions were to go ahead.
Preparations were clearly underway earlier that day, with the arrival of ambulances at the port where boats leave to go to Nusa Kambangan island where the prisoners were being held.
Images showed individual crosses bearing the prisoners' names and the date April 29, 2015.
Families were in little doubt as to what lay ahead.
When reports of his death emerged, Sukumaran's cousin tweeted: "I love you more than you can imagine. Your legacy will live on. I promise. Save me a place in heaven."

China put 2,400 people to death last year, making it the world's top executioner: US-based rights group

Source: ABC News (21 October 2014)

China is the world's top executioner, a US­based rights group says, putting 2,400 people to death last year. The number sheds rare light on a statistic Beijing considers a state secret. The figure represented a fall of 20 per cent from 2012, the Dui Hua Foundation said, and a fraction of the 12,000 deaths in 2002. China is so reticent on the issue that it has done nothing to publicise the long­term decline in its use of the death penalty. But it still executes more people than every other country put together, rights groups say. The total for the rest of the world combined was 778 people in 2013, according to campaign group Amnesty International's annual report earlier this year. It does not give an estimate for Chinese executions.

Dui Hua said that it obtained its figures from "a judicial official with access to the number of executions carried out each year". But the recent annual declines were "likely to be offset" this year, it said, due to factors including the "strike hard" campaign in the violence-­wracked largely Muslim region of Xinjiang. Hundreds of people have been convicted of terrorist offences in the area and last week a court condemned 12 to death in connection with a July attack. "China currently executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, but it has executed far fewer people since the power of final review of death sentences was returned to the (Supreme People's Court) in 2007," Dui Hua said.

China's top court examines all death sentences issued in the country and sent back 39 per cent of those it reviewed last year to lower courts for additional evidence, Dui Hua said, citing a report by the Southern Weekly newspaper. The Chinese legal system is tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party and courts have a near­100 per cent conviction rate in criminal cases. The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country, leading to a number of miscarriages of justice. China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive. In one landmark case in June, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence for Li Yan, a woman who killed her abusive husband. 

Southeast Asia: UN rights office appeals for halt in executions for drug crimes

Source: New Kerala (21 January 2015)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday expressed concern over the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes in Southeast Asia and urged authorities to abolish the punishment amid reports that eight more people had been sentenced to death for heroin trafficking.
"According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment could only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing," OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva, where the Office is based.

"Drug-related offences, economic crimes, political crimes, adultery, and offences relating to consensual same-sex relationships did not fall under the threshold of 'most serious crimes' required under international law for application of the death penalty," Shamdasani said.

OHCHR expressed its concern about the continued use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes in parts of South East Asia, where last Sunday, six people convicted of drug offences were executed in Indonesia in spite of several national and international appeals. Further, a court in Vietnam on Tuesday reportedly sentenced eight people, including two women, to death for heroin trafficking.

Heroin Drugs 

The Office is particularly concerned about the respect for due process in such cases after Indonesian President Joko Widodo reportedly stated that he would reject all requests for clemency for drug-related crimes, the Spokeswomen said.

OHCHR urged the Indonesian authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and to conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon with a view to commutation of sentence, Shamdasani said.

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, "anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence," according to the spokeswoman.

OHCHR also called on Vietnam not to carry out those executions of the eight people sentenced on Tuesday , to ensure judicial review of the sentences, and to consider elimination of the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

In Southeast Asia, drug-related crimes are punishable by death in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

While those crimes are also punishable by death in Brunei Darussalam, the Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic and Myanmar, those three countries have not carried out executions since 1957, 1989 and 1988, respectively.

The OHCHR Spokesperson said the International Narcotics Control Board had encouraged States that still imposed the death penalty for drug-related offenses to abolish that punishment.

OHCHR NOTES - (1) ISIL / Iraq, (2) Death penalty in SE Asia

Source: (22 January 2015)

(1) ISIL / Iraq
ISIL has established unlawful, so-called “shari’a courts” in the territory under its control that have been meting out cruel and inhuman punishments to men, women and children accused of violating the group’s extremist interpretations of Islamic shari’a law or for suspected disloyalty.
Last week, ISIL posted photos on the web of two men being “crucified” after they were accused of banditry. The men were hung up by their arms and then shot dead. Photos were also posted of a woman being stoned to death, allegedly for adultery. The ruthless murder of two men, who were thrown off the top of a building after having been accused of homosexual acts by a so-called court in Mosul, is another terrible example of the kind of monstrous disregard for human life that characterises ISIL’s reign of terror over areas of Iraq that are under the group’s control.
We have received numerous other reports of women who have been executed by ISIL in Mosul and other areas under the group’s control, often immediately following sentences passed by its so-called “shari’a courts”. Educated, professional women, particularly women who have run as candidates in elections for public office seem to be particularly at risk. In just the first two weeks of this year, reports indicate that three female lawyers were executed.
Other civilians who are suspected of violating ISIL’s rules, or who are suspected of supporting the Government of Iraq, have also been victims. Four doctors were recently killed in central Mosul, allegedly after refusing to treat ISIL fighters. On 1 January, ISIL reportedly executed 15 civilians from the Jumaili Sunni Arab tribe in al-Shihabi area, Garma district, Falluja. They were apparently shot dead in front of a large crowd for their suspected cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces. In another incident, on 9 January, ISIL executed at least 14 men in a public square in Dour, north of Tikrit, for refusing to pledge allegiance to it.
We are continuing to document human rights abuses and violations taking place in Iraq and will present a report to the Human Rights Council in March.
(2) Death penalty in SE Asia
We are concerned about the continued use of the death penalty for drug crimes in parts of South East Asia. Last Sunday, six people convicted of drug offences were executed in Indonesia in spite of several national and international appeals. Sixty others remain on death row for drug-related offences. We are particularly concerned about the respect for due process in such cases after the President reportedly stated that he will reject all requests for clemency for drug-related crimes.
According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, "anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence." We urge the Indonesian authorities to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and to conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon with a view to commutation of sentence.
Today, a court in Vietnam also reportedly sentenced eight people, including two women, to death for heroin trafficking. We call on Vietnam not to carry out these executions, to ensure judicial review of the sentences, and to consider elimination of the death penalty for drug-related crimes.
In South East Asia, drug-related crimes are punishable by death in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. While these crimes are also punishable by death in Brunei Darussalam, the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic and Myanmar, these three countries are abolitionist in practice and have not carried out executions since 19571989 and 1988, respectively.
According to international human rights jurisprudence, capital punishment can only be applied to the crime of murder or intentional killing. Drug-related offences, economic crimes, political crimes, adultery, and offences relating to consensual same-sex relationships do not fall under the threshold of "most serious crimes” required under international law for application of the death penalty.

Deciding Death: How Chinese Judges Review Capital Punishment Cases

Source: Dui Hua (18 November 2014)

In the eastern part of Beijing, not far from the city’s main railway station, sits an unmarked, multi-storey office building whose importance can only be discerned by the presence of armed police guards posted at its entrance. This is where the five criminal divisions of China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) are located, the place where the fates of the country’s death-row defendants are ultimately determined.

A recent feature article in Guangzhou’s Southern Weekly newspaper has shed new light on how the more than 300 court personnel who work in this building handle the thousands of capital punishment cases sent for final review each year. Below, we summarize the article’s descriptions of the process in order to enable even more people to understand the way that these life-and-death decisions are made.
After the appeals process has run its course and a decision involving the death penalty takes effect, the case file is sent to the SPC for mandatory review. The case is first assigned a case number, and then all of the relevant case files are delivered to one of the court’s five divisions according to the geographic origin of the case or, in some cases, the type of crime involved. 

Unlike the other four divisions, which are larger and handle many more cases, the court’s second criminal division is dedicated to handling review of some of the most sensitive cases: those involving crimes by government or party officials; cases involving foreigners or defendants from Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan; crimes under the category of “endangering state security”; and cases involving defendants from Xinjiang.

Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Shandong, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian
Crimes against the rights of women and children, the environment, intellectual property
Nationwide, Xinjiang
Crimes involving people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and foreign countries; occupational crimes; crimes involving members of the armed forces; cases involving crimes of endangering state security and politically sensitive cases; all Xinjiang cases
Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Chongqing, Tibet, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Jiangxi
Organized crime
Heilongjiang, Jilin, Hebei, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan
Major accident liability crimes
Beijing, Tianjian, Liaoning, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Henan, Hubei, Hunan
Drug crime
Source: Dui Hua, Southern Weekly

Within each division, cases are assigned first to quasi-administrative units divided either by geography or case type. These units then assign each case to a panel of three judges, one of whom is designated as the principal case manager. This judge will take responsibility for reviewing the case files and liaising with lower courts or law-enforcement agencies over any questions that might arise.

Sometimes, review of the case files uncovers very basic errors that could have an impact either on conviction or sentencing. In many instances, additional details or investigation will be required, and sometimes the SPC judge handling the case will have to go personally to the provinces to conduct investigations. According to one SPC official, additional investigation was required in 39 percent of the cases sent to the SPC for review in 2013.

Under new provisions introduced into the Criminal Procedure Law in 2012, judges are also required to interview defendants before deciding whether or not to confirm a death sentence. If the case is relatively straightforward, these interviews may be conducted remotely via video feed. However, if more problems are uncovered in the case file, then the judge handling the case will typically go to conduct the interview in person. One judge told Southern Weekly that, in the interest of reducing the burden on local courts, SPC judges try to minimize travel to the provinces and attempt to handle multiple cases on a single trip as much as possible.

The principal judge will then write a detailed report covering the results of his or her review of the case, summarizing any problems with the evidence or other issues that could have an impact on conviction or sentencing. This report is then circulated along with the case file to the other two members of the judicial panel responsible for the case, each of whom conduct their own review and write their own report.

Then, after each of the three judges has reviewed the case independently, they meet to discuss the case as a group in the presence of a court clerk. After coming to a decision, the panel then reports to the responsible division head and SPC vice president. If the decision is to execute the death penalty, the case then goes to the SPC president for his signature.

If court officials identify a problem with the panel’s decision or the panel is unable to reach consensus on how to decide, the case might be sent to the division’s council of chief judges for additional discussion. If this does not lead to a decision, the case might be sent for discussion by the SPC adjudication committee or the special committee for criminal adjudication. The Southern Weekly article makes pains to note that these bodies play only an advisory role and that final decision-making power rests solely with the three-judge panel.

As they review death penalty cases, judges pay particular attention to issues of evidence and penal policy. In recent years, the SPC has introduced and refined measures for excluding evidence that has been obtained illegally, and the court’s stricter line on evidence is one of the reasons why China’s highest court rejects roughly 10 percent of death penalty cases each year.

The impact of penal policy is much more fluid and hard to predict. Over time, the court has settled on a number of general principles designed to reduce use of the death penalty. For example, in cases involving the death of a single victim the death penalty is typically waived if the defendant surrenders or if the case involves a dispute among family members or neighbors. But putting these more lenient policies into effect often requires overcoming resistance from a victim’s family members. In fact, one reason why the process of reviewing death penalties is often delayed is because efforts are underway to use court mediation to “work on” these family members and obtain their agreement for more lenient punishment.

For example, the article reveals that in the case of Li Yan (李彦), whose sentence to death for murdering her abusive husband caused a national sensation in 2013, the SPC’s adjudication committee decided relatively early on that the circumstances of the case did not require her immediate execution. The victim’s family initially refused to accept anything less that Li’s execution, even staging protests outside local court buildings. But rather than give in to such pressure, the court delayed its decision until emotions died down and the victim’s relatives were able to accept the decision.

As the Supreme People’s Court Monitor blog recently pointed out, one potentially groundbreaking reform being considered would ensure that all defendants in death penalty cases are represented by a lawyer during the death penalty review process. The Southern Weekly article reveals that the SPC is in the process of drafting provisions entitled “Regulations on Considering the Views of Defense Lawyers in Death Penalty Review Cases.” These follow on amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law in 2012 aimed at strengthening legal representation during the death penalty review process that have not yet fully translated into a right to legal defense for capital defendants. Ensuring that all defendants in cases involving capital punishment have legal representation throughout the criminal process, regardless of economic means, would be another important step toward strengthening rights protections in the criminal process in China.

Viet Nam: Hundreds at risk after 'deplorable' resumption of executions

Source: Amnesty International (6 August 2013)
The first execution in Viet Nam in more than 18 months is outrageous and puts hundreds of death row prisoners at risk, Amnesty International said.
Nguyen Anh Tuan, convicted for murder in 2010, was reportedly executed today in the Ha Noi Police prison through lethal injection – the first execution in the country since around January 2012.
Tighter EU regulations on the export of the drugs needed for lethal injections meant that Viet Nam did not carry out any executions during this period, but a new law that came into effect on 27 June 2013 states that Viet Nam can now use drugs produced outside the EU or domestically.
According to media reports, there are currently 586 people on death row in Viet Nam, of which at least 116 have exhausted their final legal appeals.
“It is deplorable that Viet Nam has resumed executions and reflects a ruthless determination by the authorities to continue using the death penalty,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
“These state sanctioned killings have to stop. The Vietnamese government should have used the suspension of executions imposed by EU export regulations to review its use of capital punishment and move away from the death penalty altogether.”
With so many lives at risk of immediate executions, the government must immediately halt any plans to put more prisoners to death.
“Amnesty International sympathizes with the victims of serious crime who deserve justice, but there is no evidence that the death penalty works as a particular deterrent. The death penalty is the ultimate form of cruel and inhuman punishment and a clear violation of human rights.”
“Viet Nam is out of step with the rest of the world when it comes to the death penalty. Only 21 countries carried out executions in 2012 and other South-East Asian countries have been reviewing their death penalty laws and restricting the use of capital punishment. Viet Nam should be exploring alternative solutions rather than overseeing the state killing of hundreds of men and women,” said Isabelle Arradon.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

Japan executions show 'chilling' escalation in death penalty use

Source: Amnesty International (26 April 2013)

The execution of two death row inmates in Japan shows that a "chilling" escalation of death penalty use under the new Liberal Democratic government is intensifying, Amnesty International said.Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, and Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, were hanged in Tokyo today. The two men were convicted of murder after shooting dead rival gang members in a restaurant in Ichihara City in 2005.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has now executed five people since taking office in December 2012. The other three executions took place in February.“This chilling news appears to reinforce our fears that the new government is increasing the pace of executions at an alarming rate,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.“With five executions already this year, it seems clear the government has no intention of heeding international calls to start a genuine and open public debate on the death penalty, including its abolition.”Japan has executed 12 people since March 2012. No executions had been carried out during the previous 20 months. Ten people were hanged in less than a year during Shinzo Abe’s previous time as Prime Minister between September 2006 and September 2007. Current Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has publicly expressed his support for the death penalty, raising concerns that figure may be surpassed by the new government.“We urge the government to immediately reverse this worrying trend and impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its eventual abolition,” said Catherine Baber.The number of death row inmates, at 134, is at one of the highest levels in Japan in over half a century.  Prisoners are typically given a few hours’ notice before execution, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are typically notified about the execution only after it has taken place. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Massive leap backwards as Singapore resumes executions

Source: Amnesty International (18 July 2014)

Singapore has taken a reprehensible U-turn by executing the first two prisoners since 2011, Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) said today.
Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, were executed today at Singapore’s Changi Prison Complex. They had been convicted and mandatorily sentenced to death for drug-related offences in January and April 2011 respectively under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
“The executions by hanging of Tang Hai Liang and Foong Chee Peng represent a massive leap backwards for human rights in Singapore,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Singapore researcher.
“It is extremely disappointing that the authorities have taken a U-turn on a moratorium on executions and did not build on their clean record of no executions over the past two years to push for more reforms in the country.”
Non-lethal crimes such as drugs offences do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty may be imposed under international law.
On 14 November 2012, Singapore’s Parliament adopted amendments to abolish the mandatory imposition of the death penalty under certain circumstances in murder and drug trafficking cases. At least nine people had their death sentences reviewed and eventually commuted to life imprisonment and caning since the laws were amended.
The Singapore government said that the two men executed today waived their right to a review of their mandatory death sentence, which they were entitled to after legislation was amended.
“The executions took place despite an appeal to challenge the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which could have ultimately spared the lives of prisoners on death row like Tai Hai Liang and Foong Chee Peng who were mandatorily sentenced under this law.  We condemn the use of the death penalty as it deprived these men of their right to life,” said Ngeow Chow Ying, ADPAN Secretary.
At least 26 people remained on death row in Singapore at the end of 2013.
With today’s resumption of executions, Singapore is setting itself against the global trend ending the use of the capital punishment, more than two-thirds of all countries having abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
In the Asia-Pacific region, 17 out of 41 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 10 are abolitionist in practice and one – Fiji – uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes.

Philippine Government Makes Global Commitment Against Death Penalty in Madrid World Congress

Source: Philippines Department of Justice (13 June 2013)

Yesterday, 12 June 2013, Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima attended the Opening Ceremony of the Fifth World Congress Against Death Penalty in Madrid, Spain, as the  official representative of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

During said Opening Ceremony, Secretary De Lima delivered the President's message in front of an international audience composed of dignitaries, delegates and participants, who have traveled from all over the world to join the movement towards the universal abolition of the imposition of state-sponsored killing as a penalty for crimes.

In a strongly worded statement, the President left no room for doubt on his views against the capital punishment. He said that "every person is equal before the law, and that each life holds intrinsic value, which no person - no State - can or should take."

The President also observed that imposing the death penalty cannot fully deter crime. He named a confluence of several factors that are the deterrent to criminality, namely, an empowered citizenry, a skilled and trusted law enforcement sector, an effective prosecutorial service, and an independent judiciary.

Referring to the opening ceremony as an auspicious day for Filipinos around the globe who are celebrating the country's Independence Day, the President underscored that the Philippines, through its presence in the Congress, reaffirms its role in the collective commitment "to uphold the value of life by detesting the implementation of the death penalty."

It may be recalled that the Philippines was the first country in Asia  to abolish the death penalty in 1987, when the new Constitution was ratified. It was, however, restored in 1992 through Republic Act No. 759, which cited the deteriorating crime situation then prevailing as compelling reason for its re-imposition. On 24 June 2006, it was again abolished with the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, which received overwhelming support from members of Congress.

Later, during the same Opening Ceremony, particularly in the course of the Panel Discussion, Secretary De Lima was asked about what would be the focus of future efforts of the Philippine Government, considering that it is the pioneer among Asian countries in the abolition of the imposition of death penalty and, to date, remains one of the few that have done so.

In response, Secretary De  Lima expressed, "It has always been the goal of the Philippine Government to be instrumental in the paving of positive changes, especially in the field of human rights - a major aspect of which, it goes without saying, is the protection of the right to life. We are aware that existing mechanisms for cooperation in our region, through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), notably the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights, gives us the best opportunity to successfully advocate for the abolition of the Death Penalty. However, besides our ideological opposition to the imposition of death as a state-imposed penalty for crimes, we also have a very real, very practical and very urgent reason for working towards its universal abolition: our - concern for the safety and protection of the lives of our people.

"You have to understand that we have Filipino people, particularly our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), who are currently living and working all over the world. In 2010, the number has been estimated at about 9.5Million, which accounts for about 10% of our entire population. Some have had the misfortune of getting entangled in criminal cases in foreign jurisdictions, which include those that impose death penalty, where they are at a distinct disadvantage due to certain factors, such as language barriers and social or cultural differences. Thus, our immediate focus is to ceaselessly advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, not just in our immediate vicinity in Asia, but all over the world. At the same time, we aim to take steps to ensure that our people are always assured of receiving adequate and competent legal representation and support for the defense of their rights," said Secretary De Lima.

The World Congress was attended by about 1,500 participants, composing of members and representatives of international civil society groups, politicians, jurists and government officials of various countries. It ends on Saturday, June 15th•

The countries of Norway, Switzerland, France and Spain sponsored the 5th World Congress. During the Opening Ceremony, the participants of the Congress also heard messages from Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, Thorborn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Along with Justice Secretary De Lima, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Switzerland, France, Spain and Benin, as well as the Minister of Justice of Iraq, also addressed the participants and took part in the Panel Discussions of the Opening Ceremony of the World Congress.

ASIA/MYANMAR - Farewell to death penalty: all those condemned to death sentence are commuted to life imprisonment

Source: Agenzia Fides (4 January 2012)

Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - It is a further turning point, announced by the government of Myanmar, in the field of the new measure of amnesty which concerns hundreds of prisoners: in addition to significant reductions in punishment for many prisoners, all those sentenced to death has been commuted to life imprisonment, in what observers call "the abolition of capital punishment". If one thinks that what happens in a country where violent repression has been a tool used in a fierce manner for decades, the measure adopted by President Thein Sein is really significant, "it represents a real breakthrough for the full respect of the right to life and human rights, " comments Stephen Argentino to Fides, Coordinator of the Campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, for the European and Asian area, in the Community of St. Egidio. "This is a very important measure, unexpected and surprising. Only until a few months ago - said Argentino - it was thought that capital punishment was untouchable in Myanmar. This is a hopeful sign that confirms the launch of a new course, which affirms the full respect of human dignity".

In Myanmar, despite the continuous condemnations, death penalty was not applied since 1988. Now the commutation of the sentence is life imprisonment, according to observers, a concrete step towards the full and final abolition. "Countries where violence has triumphed for years, such as Cambodia, Rwuanda, now Myanmar, have suddenly decided to abandon death penalty: This is a form of catharsis, which confirms the deterrent’s little value of punishment", said Argentino.

The World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which the Community of St. Egidio is part of, has welcomed with favor and joy the announcement of the measure, which goes "in the right direction for the respect of all fundamental human rights". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 04/01/2012)

Mongolia takes ‘vital step forward’ in abolishing the death penalty

Source: Amnesty International (5 January 2012)

The Mongolian parliament's approval of a bill that aims to scrap the death penalty is a vital step towards full abolition of the death penalty in Mongolia, Amnesty International said today. The bill, which ratifies the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), was approved today by a large majority of MPs. “The Mongolian parliament’s vote today is another vital step forward, and Mongolia should follow up by immediately implementing laws that abolish the death penalty altogether.” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Director.“In moving away from the death penalty, Mongolia is setting the standard for other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to follow.” Amnesty International has campaigned extensively for the abolition of the death penalty in Mongolia. The death penalty remains part of the law in Mongolia until the Mongolian parliament removes provisions in national legislation that still retain the death penalty.The Mongolian Criminal Code currently provides for the application of the death penalty for offences including terrorism, genocide, rape, sabotage, premeditated murder and assassination of a state or public figure. Under these offences, 59 crimes are listed as capital crimes.The country's Law on State Secrets and the Law on the List of State Secrets includes the use of the death penalty, which has made it difficult to find public information on its use in Mongolia.Amnesty International was able to confirm 12 executions between 2005 and 2009. On 14 January 2010, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj’s announcement of a moratorium on executions as a first step toward abolition of the death penalty was welcomed internationally. More than two thirds of all countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. More people are executed in the Asia-Pacific region than in the rest of the world combined. Fourteen countries in the region still retain the death penalty and have carried out executions in the past 10 years, with China far and away the largest executioner in the world. Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific, 17 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, nine are abolitionist in practice and one – Fiji – uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes.

LHC upholds blasphemy convict Asia Bibi's death penalty

Source: AFP (17 October 2014)

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.
Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) during an argument with a Muslim woman.
“A two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Asia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry told AFP.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.
Two high-profile politicians – then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti – were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi's trial as flawed.
The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.
She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.
A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.
Over a dozen religious clerics — including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi — were present at the court Thursday.
“We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today's verdict, it's a victory of Islam,” Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.
Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently misused to settle personal scores.
Lawyers who defend people accused of blasphemy — and judges seen as lenient — also risk being accused of the crime themselves and regularly face intimidation.
Last month a prison guard at the notorious Adiala jail in Rawalpindi shot and wounded a 70-year-old Scottish man with a history of mental illness who is on death row for blasphemy.
The jail also houses Mumtaz Qadri, the former bodyguard of governor Taseer who gunned him down in an Islamabad market place. He was given a death sentence but heralded by some as a hero for killing Taseer.
Blasphemy carries the death penalty, though Pakistan has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

Australian woman facing death penalty for drug trafficking in Malaysia appears in court

Source: ABC News (15 December 2014)

An Australian mother of four has appeared before a closed court in Malaysia after being arrested at Kuala Lumpur airport with 1.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.
Sydney woman Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 51, was stopped at the airport on December 7 as she tried to board a flight to Melbourne.
Anyone with at least 50 grams of methamphetamine is considered a trafficker in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which imposes a mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction.
Ms Pinto Exposto appeared in court on Sunday and has been remanded in custody.
She is likely to be officially charged next week.
Her lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Ms Pinto Exposto did not know the crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, had been placed in her luggage and she thought she was carrying retirement papers for a US army soldier.
"It is a very strong chance she is one of those naive and innocent mules that has been used by some unscrupulous people," he said.
"She doesn't seem to know what's going on.
"She doesn't even have to leave the airport at Kuala Lumpur because she is in transit."
She is receiving consular assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is due to reappear in court on December 19.
Hundreds of people are on death row in Malaysia, many for drug-related offences, though few have been executed in recent years.
Two Australians were hanged in 1986 for heroin trafficking - the first Westerners to be executed in Malaysia.
Last year Dominic Bird, a truck driver from Perth, was acquitted on drug trafficking charges after he was allegedly caught with 167 grams of ice.
His lawyers argued that a government chemist had made a mistake when analysing the substance found on Bird.
He was freed and allowed to return home.

Pakistan executes 17 on death row, highest ever since lifting moratorium

Source: Indian Express (29 April 2015)

Pakistan on Tuesday hanged 17 prisoners, the highest number of executions on a single day since reversing of the country’s self-imposed moratorium on the death penalty in December after the Taliban school massacre.
The prisoners were executed in different jails of Punjab and Balochistan province.
Sixteen executions were carried out in different jails of Punjab province, including Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan, Sahiwal, Gujrat, Lahore and Rawalpindi while one man was hanged in Macch jail of Quetta.
Three convicts Inayatullah, Zafar Iqbal and Muhammad Latif were hanged in Central Jail in Gujranwala.
Inayatullah was convicted for the murder of seven people from the same family in Wazirabad.
Iqbal and Latif were hanged for shooting four people including one woman.
Three men Muhammad Hussain, Nizamuddin and Azam were hanged in Central Jail Faisalabad.
The first two were convicted for the murder of three people in 1998, while Azam was convicted for murdering seven people from one family in 2004.
Another three persons were hanged in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail for murder.
Separately, in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, two convicts were hanged for murder.
Two men were hanged in Sialkot Jail for the gang-rape of a minor in 1999, while one person was hanged in Multan’s Central jail for committing murder in 2000.
Another man was executed in Sahiwal’s Central Jail for murdering a man in 1998, while convict Azhar Mehmood was hanged in Gujrat District Jail for murder in 1995.
A convict named Riaz Ahmed was also hanged for murder in Quetta’s Mach jail.
The latest executions bring ober 80 the number of convicts hanged since Pakistan resumed executions on December 17, a day after a Taliban attack on an army school in Peshawar that killed more than 150 people, mostly children.
There are more than 8,000 death row prisoners in the country.
Initially executions were limited to terrorism offences but on March 10 the government decided to implement death penalty in all cases following the Peshawar school massacre in December.
The moratorium on executions had been in place since a democratic government took power from a military ruler in 2008.
Supporters of the execution argue that it is the only option to deal with the scourge of militancy but human rights group are highly critical of it.
Pakistan executed 12 prisoners convicted under militancy and murders charges on March 12, the second highest number of hangings in a single day since the moratorium on death penalty was lifted.