Monday, 31 August 2015

Chinese Law makers vote for abolition of Death Penalty for 9 more Crimes


National People’s Congress, the top law making body of Republic of China today adopted amendments to the Criminal Law, abolishing death penalty for nine more crimes.  Ninth amendment of criminal law was passed after a six-day bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. After this amendment crimes for which death penalty is a possible punishment stands reduced to 46. The amendment will come in force from November 1, 2015.
Now, according to the reports by Chinese media, death penalty cannot be awarded for the following crimes, anymore
  1. Smuggling weapons
  2. Smuggling ammunition
  3. Smuggling nuclear materials
  4. Smuggling counterfeit currency
  5. Counterfeiting currency
  6. Raising funds by means of fraud
  7. Arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution
  8. Obstructing a police officer or a person on duty from performing his duties;
  9. Fabricating rumours to mislead others during wartime.
It is the second time China has reduced the number of crimes punishable by death since the Criminal Law took effect in 1979. In 2011, China had ended death penalty for 13 economic crimes such as smuggling cultural relics, gold and silver; carrying out fraud related to financial bills; forging or selling forged exclusive value-added tax invoices; teaching criminal methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins.. Even after the present amendment, there are still more than 45 varieties of crimes are punishable with death penalty in China. The   Article 48 of China’s Criminal Law says “The death penalty is only to be applied to criminal elements who commit the most heinous crimes. In the case of a criminal element who should be sentenced to death, if immediate execution is not essential, a two-year suspension of execution may be announced at the same time the sentence of death is imposed”. Death penalty cannot imposed on minors and pregnant women. However, it is a possible punishment for sexual crimes in China.
 In China, It is said that it executes more people a year than rest of the world combined. Last to be executed was reportedly a Chinese billionaire mining tycoon Liu Han is executed over his links to a ‘mafia-style’ gang.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Amnesty International Calls Saudi Justice System ‘Faulty,’ Criticizes High Execution Rate

Source: International Business Times (25 August 2015)

Saudi Arabia executed one person in every two days on an average in less than a year, Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday. The London-based organization released a report, titled “Killing In the Name of Justice: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia,” in which it claimed that 175 executions had been carried out in Saudi Arabia from Aug. 2014 to June 2015.

According to the 43-page report, the Saudi regime executed 102 people between January and June 2015. There were 83 executions in 2014. The report also says at least 2,208 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia from January 1985 to June 2015.

Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, called the Saudi justice system “faulty" and claimed that Saudi courts give death sentence to people for witchcraft, apostasy and adultery. The regime follows strict Islamic laws, which order execution for drug smuggling, rape and murder as well.

Iranian news agency Press TV has reported that Saudi authorities execute people for such crimes even if those are committed before the person reaches 18. According to an earlier Amnesty report, Iran is believed to have executed around 700 people in the first six months of 2015. Tehran, however, officially declared that the number was 246.

The Guardian reported that Indonesia decided in May that it will not send any more domestic workers to 21 countries in the Middle East. The decision was made after two Indonesian women, Karni binti Medi Tarsim and Siti Zainab, had been executed by Saudi authorities in April. The women were found guilty of murder.

According to 2014 estimates, Saudi Arabia has the third highest execution rate while the top two positions are held by China and Iran. Iraq and the United States come fourth and fifth consecutively.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Jakarta saves 12 citizens from Saudi death penalty

Source: The Straits Times (5 August 2015)

Indonesia said it has secured the release of 12 citizens from death row in Saudi Arabia this year.

The number of Indonesians freed from death row in Saudi Arabia since 2011 is 68, the Foreign Ministry's directorate of legal aid and protection said yesterday.

Ministry records show there are 24 Indonesian citizens at risk of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Of those, 12 face murder charges, nine are on adultery charges and three face black magic charges.

The ministry said that recently, the government managed to secure the release of Rika Mustikawati, a migrant worker.

In May 2012, a general court in Saudi Arabia sentenced Rika to death for allegedly performing witchcraft on her female employer.

In November 2012, a Saudi appeals court annulled the verdict and requested the general court to try Rika's case again with a new panel of judges. The ministry said this was made possible with the legal assistance provided by the Indonesian Consulate-General in Jeddah.

After a string of hearings, the court released Rika from death row, imposing on her only three years in prison.

The ministry said it has also sought clemency from the Saudi king for other Indonesian nationals sentenced to death.

"Indonesian representatives abroad have continued to make use of the good momentum created by recent meetings between Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and Saudi Arabia's king and foreign minister to accelerate the settlement of legal problems affecting Indonesian citizens in Saudi Arabia," said the ministry.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pakistan hangs Shafqat Hussain despite claim he was a child at time of crime

Source: The Guardian (4 August 2015)

The family of a man hanged in Pakistan despite claims he was a minor at the time of his crime have hit out at the justice system as human rights activists declared it a “deeply sad day” for a country seeing a surge in the number of executions.

Shafqat Hussain, whose execution had been repeatedly postponed amid international pressure, was hanged on Tuesday morning after Pakistan’s courts remained unconvinced by claims that he was a minor at the time he murdered a boy more than a decade ago.

He was executed at 4.30am local time in the central jail in the southern city of Karachi after four last-minute reprieves in recent months.

Pakistan has seen a spree of executions following the lifting of a death penalty moratorium following the attack in December by Taliban militants on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 130 teenagers.

Last week the European Union expressed its concerns about the “alarming pace” of executions, with more than 190 people hanged since December, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Hussain was sentenced in 2004 by an anti-terrorism court for kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old boy who had gone missing from an apartment building in Karachi, where Hussain worked as a watchman.

The hanging took place despite last-minute attempts to spare him, including a request by the Sindh Human Rights Commission, a statutory body, for a supreme court inquiry into a case that has already been reviewed by the country’s top court.

Abdul Majeed, Hussain’s elder brother, said he and two cousins had rushed to the jail after officials warned them about the likely execution on Tuesday. “Shafqat was already like a dead man by the time we saw him,” he said. “His complexion was yellowish as if he had no blood in his body and he was crying and reciting verses from the Holy Qur’an. He requested us to take care of our old parents.”

He saw Hussain’s body after his execution and said there was a deep cut on his neck, suggesting the hanging had been botched.

Sumaira, Hussain’s sister, said it was impossible to “survive and fight for justice in Pakistan if you are from a poor family”, adding: “We had no money to contest the case or to free him from the cruel police.”

Hussain did benefit from the energies of human rights lawyers who took on his case. Central to their campaign has been the claim that he was just 14 at the time of the alleged crime, and therefore ineligible for execution under Pakistan’s law.

They also argued that Hussain was tortured by police into making a confession.

“Pakistan authorities have never undertaken a proper, judicial investigation into either issue,” the rights group Justice Project Pakistan said after Hussain’s execution. “Instead seizing and refusing to release key evidence such as Shafqat’s school record, which could have provided proof that he was under 18 when he was sentenced to death.”

The police have insisted Hussain was in fact 23 when he was arrested and that his age was never raised during his appeal.

Proving someone’s age can often be fraught with problems in a country were proper records are not always kept. In one court hearing the judges were reduced to an “ocular examination” of old photos of Hussain to try to ascertain his age.

We had no money to contest the case or to free him from the cruel policeShafqat Hussain's sister, Sumaira

Although one birth certificate emerged, the government said it was impossible to prove its authenticity.

Human rights special rapporteurs from the United Nations also became involved last month, complaining that Hussain’s trial “fell short of international standards” for not fully investigating the issue of his age or the allegations of torture.

Despite the vigorous efforts to spare Hussain, lawyers who have reviewed the case have remained unconvinced.

“There is no evidence that he was under age,” said Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, a prominent lawyer. He pointed out that the plea for an investigation into Hussain’s age was dismissed by Islamabad high court judge Athar Minallah, one of the country’s most respected human rights lawyers.

“This case has been needlessly lingered by civil society who want to create a parallel judicial system by creating media trials. Unfortunately people tend to believe what the media says.”

Despite international criticism of the number of executions, the government has remained firm as the death penalty is popular among the public, who widely regard it as an effective deterrent against crime and terrorism. Even a recent threat from the European Union to reconsider an important trade pact in light of the executions has not deterred the government.

“This is another deeply sad day for Pakistan,” said David Griffiths, from the rights group Amnesty International. “A man whose age remains disputed and whose conviction was built around torture has now paid with his life – and for a crime for which the death penalty cannot be imposed under international law.”

Pakistan clearing its death row backlog

Source: DW Made for minds (4 August 2015)

Despite rights group protests, Pakistan has hanged 'teenage' convict Shafqat Hussain. But the resumption of executions as a tool in the fight against terror is just a populist pretext, says DW's Florian Weigand.

To put it bluntly, I am against the death penalty. The punishment is, in essence, inhumane. It is often forgotten that it also burdens the judges with an enormous responsibility when they have to decide over life and death, particularly in cases where there is even the slightest doubt as to the defendant's guilt.

The Pakistani judiciary does not seem to be giving much thought to this responsibility. Since the government in Islamabad lifted the moratorium on capital punishment last December, 180 people have been executed. A further 8,000 prisoners in the South Asian nation's jails are awaiting the same fate.

It is not only suspected terrorists who are facing the death sentence in Pakistan. Capital punishment was actually reinstated to send those convicted of terrorism to the gallows - a reaction to the Taliban massacre at a Peshawar school, in which more than 150 people were killed, most of them children.

But, unfortunately, it now seems as if the proponents of the death penalty used this horrible incident as a populist excuse for a general resumption of executions. Even worse is the fact that death sentences are carried out even when there are doubts regarding the guilt of the offenders, as demonstrated in the case of Shafqat Hussain.

Pakistan just seems eager to clear its death row backlog. And it affects, as is the case elsewhere in the world, the underprivileged.

Shafqat Hussain comes from a poor Kashmiri family, on the edge of the Himalayas. There is no birth certificate that could prove he was a minor at the time of the crime. The family couldn't afford an effective and professional legal defense team. And the Pakistani judges seemed unaffected by UN demands to re-examine the case.

This combination of poverty, dubious legal proceedings and contempt for international criticism sends a devastating signal for similar cases. The case of Asia Bibi, for instance, has reverberated across the world.

As a member of a Christian minority, she stands accused of committing blasphemy against Islam - a crime punishable by death in Pakistan. Asia Bibi, whose case is based solely on accusations, is also from a poor background and received rudimentary education, at best.

She can't afford an expensive lawyer, and anyone defending her potentially endangers their own lives as they will be viewed as protecting a "blasphemer." This is why international human rights organizations have stepped into the breach. Even the pope has intervened on behalf of the fellow Christian.

Should her judges proceed in the same way as in the Shafqat Hussain case, then Asia Bibi will become another victim of Pakistan's judicial system. Even worse, the latest wave of executions could serve those seeking to get rid of political opponents, disturbing peasants or common people involved in land disputes or other kinds of private squabbles.

This is yet another reason why executions must be stopped - not only in Pakistan. Whoever ends up behind bars should have the opportunity to either be released or compensated, should conditions change at a later stage. An execution, however, is irreversible.