Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Duterte’s critics slam ‘barbaric’ death penalty plan to execute six criminals a day

Source: South China Morning Post (20 December 2016)

Philippine Catholic leaders and rights groups have condemned as “barbaric” President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to restore the death penalty and execute “five or six” criminals daily.

Duterte, 71, has made reviving the death penalty in the mainly Catholic nation his top legislative priority as part of a brutal war on crime that has killed 5,300 people.

“There was death penalty before but nothing happened. Return that to me and I would do it every day: five or six (criminals). That’s for real,” Duterte said Saturday.

An official at the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said the Church “totally opposed” Duterte’s plan.

“The Philippines will be viewed as very barbaric,” Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary at its public affairs office, said.

“It’s going to make the Philippines the capital of death penalty in the world.”

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce opposition to the penalty from the Catholic Church, the religion of 80 per cent of Filipinos.

Before assuming office in June, Duterte vowed to introduce executions by hanging, saying he did not want to waste bullets and believed snapping the spinal cord was more humane than a firing squad.

Duterte said he viewed the death penalty not as a means to deter crime but for retribution.

His allies in the House of Representatives quickly pushed for the bill and said they would vote on it by January.

The United Nations’ human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a letter to the Philippine congress this month that reviving the death penalty would violate the country’s international obligations.

But on Saturday Duterte insisted executions were necessary to fight the drug scourge which he said was “destroying” the nation.

While his aides dismiss his incendiary statements as hyperbole, rights advocates said Duterte’s remarks were alarming.

“Setting a quota for executions is just too much. One death is too much because we are talking about lives,” Amnesty International Philippines vice chairman Romeo Cabarde said.

Catholic leaders and rights defenders have instead urged the government to reform a slow and corrupt justice system which they said was likely to send innocent people to death row.

Secillano said bishops planned to dissuade lawmakers from voting for the death penalty and would attend congressional debates next month.

Duterte’s crime war has drawn international criticism from the United States and United Nations over concerns about alleged extrajudicial killings and a breakdown in the rule of law.

Duterte won May elections in a landslide on a promise to eradicate drugs in society - a mandate he often cited to defend his controversial campaign.

A survey by Social Weather Stations released Monday showed while a majority backed Duterte’s drug war, 78 per cent of Filipinos were worried that they or someone in their family would be a victim of extrajudicial killings.

The survey also showed 71 per cent said it was “very important” that police keep drug suspects they arrested alive.

Police have repeatedly said they only shot at criminals who fought back but the nation’s rights agency has questioned this argument and has begun investigating cases.

On Monday, Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa apologised for police killings of criminal suspects but insisted these were done in self-defence.

“Lord, I hope you forgive us even if the ones we kill are bad people,” Dela Rosa said during the police’s Christmas party.

“If the life of a policeman will be lost just to preserve the life of a criminal, that’s a great injustice.”

Dela Rosa added Duterte gave police hefty bonuses for leading the crime war.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

China court finds man executed 21 years ago innocent

Source: Straits Times (2 December 2016)

BEIJING (AFP) - China's top court on Friday (Dec 2) cleared a man executed 21 years ago for murder - more than a decade after another man confessed to the killing.

The case of Nie Shubin, who was 20 years old when he faced a firing squad in 1995 after being convicted of rape and murder, is the latest miscarriage of justice in the Communist-ruled country.

"The Supreme People's Court believes that the facts used in the original trial were unclear and the evidence insufficient, and so changes the original sentence to one of innocence," it said in a statement on a verified social media account.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of 99.92 per cent, and concerns over wrongful verdicts are fuelled by police reliance on forced confessions and the lack of effective defence in criminal trials.

Overseas rights groups say China executes more people than any other country, but Beijing does not give figures on the death penalty, regarding the statistics as state secrets.

Nie was convicted of raping and murdering a woman whose body was discovered by her father in a corn field on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang city, in the northern province of Hebei.

But the time, method and motive for the murder could not be confirmed, and key documents related to witnesses and the defendant's testimony were missing, the supreme court said.

The "primary evidence was that Nie Shubin's confession of guilt corroborated the other evidence", but "there are doubts over the truth and legality of his confession of guilt", the statement added.

Nie's family had been campaigning for justice since a serial murderer arrested in 2005 confessed to the killing. But the case was only formally reopened in 2014.

"Thanks to all those who helped on Nie Shubin's case!" his mother, Zhang Huanzhi, 72, said on social media.

The Hebei high court, which convicted and executed Nie, "expressed deep, deep regrets" to his relatives and would investigate "possible illegal problems related to the trial" soon, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Philippines: Don’t Reinstate Death Penalty

Source: Human Rights Watch (3 December 2016)

(New York) – The Philippine House of Representatives should reject a proposal to reinstate the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today. On November 29, 2016, the Judicial Reforms Subcommittee approved Congress House Bill No. 1 (Death Penalty Law), which would reinstate capital punishment for “heinous crimes,” including murder, piracy, and the trafficking and possession of illegal drugs. A house vote on the bill is likely before the end of 2016.

“The Philippine government should acknowledge the death penalty’s barbarity and reject any moves to reinstate it,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “The failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent is globally recognized and the government should maintain the prohibition on its use.”

In a joint letter drafted by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a network of nongovernmental organizations that focuses on issues related to drug production, trafficking, and use, the consortium urged all members of the Philippine House of Representatives and Senate to uphold the right to life enshrined in the 1987 Philippines Constitution. The Philippines is also party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR on the abolishment of the death penalty. The consortium also urged Philippine lawmakers to ensure proportionate sentencing of drug offenses to protect the vulnerable, and invest in harm reduction approaches to protect the health and wellbeing of Filipino people.

The Philippine government abolished the death penalty under article III, section 19 of the 1987 constitution. President Fidel Ramos reimposed the death penalty in 1993 as a “crime control” measure, but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reinstated abolition in 2006.

The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty has been repeatedly debunked. Most recently, on March 4, 2015, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, stated that there was “no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime.” Even with respect to murder, an Oxford University analysis concluded that capital punishment does not deter “murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.”

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

Reinstating the death penalty would violate the Philippines’ international legal obligations. The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR states that “no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed” and that “each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”

Where the death penalty is permitted, human rights law limits the death penalty to “the most serious crimes,” typically crimes resulting in death or serious bodily harm. In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, while urging countries to take an overall “human rights-based approach to drug and crime control.” In its 2014 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board, the agency charged with monitoring compliance with UN drug control conventions, encouraged countries to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses. The UN Human Rights Committee and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of “most serious crime.” In September 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirmed that “persons convicted of drug-related offences … should not be subject to the death penalty.”

“Reinstatement of the death penalty won’t solve any drug-related societal problems that Congress House Bill No. 1 seeks to address,” Kine said. “It will only add to the already horrific death toll that President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has inflicted on Filipinos since he took office on June 30.”

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Asia Briefs: Malaysia's 'hudud Bill' off the table for now

Source: Straits Times (23 November 2016)

KUALA LUMPUR Proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 seeking to impose stiffer penalties for offences, excluding the death penalty, will not be tabled in the current parliamentary session , Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.

He said the private member's Bill brought by Marang MP Abdul Hadi Awang will merely be read a second time this week to include several tweaks. The amendments will not be tabled or debated.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Villager’s Execution in China Ignites Uproar Over Inequality of Justice

Source: New York Times (20 November 2016)

BEIJING — Zhou Yunfei, a technology executive who owns a villa in eastern China, did not have much in common with an impoverished farmer more than 500 miles away who was convicted of murdering a village chief with a nail gun.

But when Mr. Zhou heard last week that the Chinese government had executed the farmer, Jia Jinglong, he was furious. He saw it as a sign that the ruling Communist Party was imposing harsh punishments on the most vulnerable members of society while coddling the well-connected elite.

“The legal system isn’t fair,” Mr. Zhou, 57, said, adding that local officials had “turned against the common people.”

President Xi Jinping has made restoring confidence in Chinese courts a centerpiece of his rule, vowing to promote “social justice and equality” in a legal system long plagued by favoritism and abuse. Since coming to power in 2012, he has led a high-profile campaign against corruption, ensnaring thousands of low-level officials and even some of the party’s most senior leaders.

But the furor over the execution of Mr. Jia, who had sought revenge on officials for demolishing his home, has raised doubts about Mr. Xi’s efforts, with people across the country publicly assailing inequities in the justice system and asking why high-level officials often escape the death penalty.

“The perception is that the people are powerless and vulnerable against corrupt officials,” said Fu Hualing, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. “What is surprising is that Xi Jinping has been in power for four years, and that narrative has not changed.”

The uproar has placed the party, which is working to tighten its grip on courts while promoting the idea of fairness, in an awkward position.

Mr. Xi has cultivated an image as a champion of the people willing to take on corrupt officials of any stripe. Yet Mr. Jia’s case has reawakened concerns, especially among rural residents and members of the urban working class, that the Communist Party is protecting its own members.

In fiery social media posts and dinner-table conversations, some have argued for making punishments against corrupt officials more severe. Others have suggested that China, believed to be the world’s top executioner, should substantially reduce its use of the death penalty against impoverished citizens.

China’s leaders seem conflicted about how to respond to complaints of unfair treatment, which have plagued the judiciary for decades but have taken on new urgency as Mr. Xi attempts a top-to-bottom overhaul of the system.

On the one hand, party leaders might be wary of exacerbating the anger felt by many Chinese people, who often side with villagers like Mr. Jia, seeing them as folk heroes standing up against venal forces.

At the same time, Beijing might not want to be seen as endorsing an attack on a government official. And some party leaders may not like the idea of setting a precedent for using the death penalty against senior officials, at a time when critics of Mr. Xi say he is using the anticorruption campaign to go after political enemies.

“There’s a strong incentive for the elite within the party to protect itself,” said Jerome A. Cohen, a New York University law professor. “People realize today they’re free, but tomorrow they could be the targets.”

In recent days, the party’s hesitation has seeped into public view. The government at first appeared to tolerate, and even encourage, debate about Mr. Jia’s case. Lawyers issued open letters pointing to flaws in the prosecution’s argument, and state media outlets published sanctimonious editorials calling for the court to show humanity.

But as discontent spread on social media in the days leading up to Mr. Jia’s execution, the government reversed course and began censoring some online discussions about the case.

State-run media organizations adopted a scolding tone, warning that public opinion had “hijacked” the case. People’s Daily, the party’s flagship newspaper, went a step further, arguing that citizens should not express contrarian views about court cases in public.Photo

Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief, was sentenced to life in prison last year for taking bribes and revealing state secrets. Critics of the judicial system say officials often escape harsh punishment.CreditCCTV, via Associated Press

“We can see that online public opinion can deviate from reason and even become a terrifying tool that kills humanity and conscience,” an editorial in the newspaper said.

While the government has historically tolerated some debate about judicial decisions, Mr. Xi has generally sought to rein in dissent, especially when it gathers force online.

Li Wei, an activist in Beijing who was imprisoned for two years under Mr. Xi for helping organize protests demanding financial disclosures from party leaders, circulated a four-page petition online in late October calling for Mr. Jia to be spared and for the government to adopt a “more humane” justice system.

Soon his cellphone was buzzing with messages from university students, professors, security guards and others. He gathered 1,274 signatures over a few days, he said, before the authorities shut down his social media accounts.

“The so-called anticorruption campaign is not genuine,” Mr. Li, 45, said in an interview at a Beijing teahouse. “The reason why they were doing this is because they want to salvage the Communist Party regime.”

Chinese leaders appear to be working to counter perceptions that officials are being treated with kid gloves. Over the past year, party leaders have vowed to consider punishing officials who commit grave crimes, including stealing more than about $436,000, with the death penalty. They have also introduced new forms of punishment aimed at corrupt officials, including lifetime jail sentences without the possibility of parole.

But the government has yet to systematically invoke any of those punishments against prominent officials. And critics can point to a raft of recent cases in which powerful people and their families escaped the death penalty.

There is the example of Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief, who was sentenced to life in prison last year for taking bribes and revealing state secrets; he was the most senior leader to be jailed for corruption in more than 65 years of Communist rule.

And many people note the case of Gu Kailai, the wife of one of China’s most prominent politicians, whose death sentence for the murder of a British business associate was commuted to life in prison last year.

Fan Zhewang, 42, a teacher of Maoism at Xi’an University of Posts and Telecommunications in central China, said the treatment of Ms. Gu epitomized the inequities in the system.

Mr. Fan said that while the government’s decision to execute Mr. Jia was legal, he was concerned that a lingering sense of injustice and resentment among villagers would prompt more violence against officials.

“In the future,” Mr. Fan said, “I worry that people will just kill whole families of village chiefs.”

On Wednesday, a day after Mr. Jia was executed, a farmer in Yan’an, a northwestern city celebrated as a stronghold of the Communist revolution, was arrested and charged with killing a village official and several of his relatives, according to local reports. The man was said to be angry after officials seized his land.

In the days after the execution of Mr. Jia, friends and relatives in his village in the northern province of Hebei circulated a poem he wrote while in prison in which he described being in a dreamlike state. “I’ll miss the smell of flowers,” he wrote, “and the serenity of grass, something I love.”

Villagers said they did not want to talk about the case anymore. A man who gave his last name as Li said residents had grown accustomed to suffering injustices at the hands of wealthy government officials.

“Who do you turn to in order to vent your anger?” he said. “There’s no one we can seek help from.”

“Many people are angry,” he added, “but we don’t dare speak up.”

India opposes UN resolution for moratorium on death penalty

Source: Gulf News (22 November 2016)

United Nations: India has opposed a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, saying it goes against Indian law and the sovereign right of countries to determine their own laws and penalties.

“The resolution before us sought to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty,” Mayank Joshi, a counsellor at India’s UN Mission said on Thursday. “My delegation, therefore, has voted against the resolution as a whole as it goes against Indian statutory law.”

The resolution, however, was adopted by the General Assembly’s committee dealing with humanitarian affairs by 115 votes to 38 with 31 abstentions after an acrimonious debate and the adoption of an amendment to recognise the sovereign rights of nations to determine their own laws, which virtually nullified it.

India supported the amendment and Joshi told the committee: “Every state has the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and appropriate legal penalties.”

The amendment passed by a vote of 76 to 72 with 26 abstentions. However, it did not mollify India, which voted against the amended resolution.

Explaining New Delhi’s position on capital punishment, Joshi said, “In India, the death penalty is exercised in the rarest of rare cases, where the crime committed is so heinous as to shock the conscience of society.”

In the last 12 years only three executions — all of them of terrorists — have been carried out in the nation of 1.2 billion.

Last year Yakub Memon, who financed the 1993 Mumbai bombings, was executed. Mohammad Afzal, convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, was hanged in 2013 and Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, one of the terrorists involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack was executed in 2012.

An independent judiciary hears the cases where death penalty can be imposed and appeals are permitted at several levels, Joshi said. Moreover, the Supreme Court has decreed that “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” should be considered as mitigating factors in imposing the death penalty, he added.

The amendment about the sovereign right of nations to have their own legal systems was introduced by Singapore. Its delegate said that the original resolution was one-sided and tried to impose the values of one group of countries upon others.

New Zealand, echoing the sentiments of several other countries, said that sovereignty did not absolve nations from complying with international norms of human rights and the death penalty violated it.

The United States also opposed the resolution saying that capital punishment was legal under international law and dealing with it was a domestic matter.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Indonesia's president Joko Widodo hints at abolishing death penalty

Source: The Guardian (5 November 2016)

Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo has indicated his country wants to move towards abolishing the death penalty.

Speaking ahead of a three-day visit to Australia, Widodo told the ABC he thinks Indonesians will change their minds on execution laws as citizens in Europe had done in the past.

“We are very open to options,” he said.

“I don’t know when but we want to move towards that direction.”

The execution in Indonesia last year of Australian drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran strained relations between the two countries. Widodo’s trip to Australia will be his first bilateral visit since Canberra withdrew its ambassador to Indonesia in protest against the executions.

“Indonesia has regulations, Indonesia has its own law, which still allows execution. That’s what I complied to,” the president told the ABC.

“We also listened to what other countries had to say. But again, I have to follow the provisions of the law applicable in Indonesia.”

But Widodo, who’s also known as Jokowi, also stressed the importance of rebuilding trust between Australia and Indonesia.

“The most important thing is definitely to have trust in between the country leaders, and then the relationship between the citizens,” he said.

Widodo also stressed the importance of the two nations working together to address the thousands of asylum seekers believed to be stranded in Indonesia.

“If we could sit down and talk through this, find the solution together I think in the future we’ll have a much better relationship,” he said.

Widodo arrives in Sydney on Sunday and is scheduled to address parliament in Canberra on Monday.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Human rights groups join global campaign to abolish death penalty after seven-year hiatus

Source: The Nation (12 October 2016)

Human rights and legal organisations have condemned the death penalty and promised to push for reforms of the judicial process that would ban executions in Thailand.

“The death penalty is not the solution to crime suppression. Unfortunately, it even causes economic damage as it wipes out human resources,” said former deputy prime minister Veerapong Ramangkul during a seminar at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday.

As many as 140 countries, approximately two-thirds of nations worldwide, have already abolished capital punishment, Veerapong said, adding that studies showed that executions did little to deter crime. 

The seminar marked the 14th World Day Against the Death Penalty, jointly hosted by the NHRC, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department and Amnesty International Thailand.

The majority of prisoners sentenced to death are poor people who could not afford to hire lawyers or take advantage of legal protections, while influential figures often can commit crimes with impunity, Veerapong said. 

Capital punishment also violates the human right to life while inflicting harm on those sentenced to death and their families, said James Lynch, deputy director of the Global Issues Programme at Amnesty Inter-national.

He added that grievances caused by executions lead to a “circle of violence”.

Thailand has seen a relatively positive trend to abolish capital punishment due to the third NHRC master plan, said Rafendi Djamin, director of Amnesty International Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Office. The master plan addressing the possible revocation of the death penalty is in line with human rights instruments to which Thailand is party, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, said Kanchana Patarachoke, deputy director-|general of the International Organisations Department.

Also, state agencies and some private organisations have increasingly joined hands to raise awareness about the “unnecessary and cruel” punishment, she said, adding that Thailand’s progress on the issue was “moderate” when compared to other Asean countries.

During a meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2014, Thailand made a tangible positive step by abstaining from a vote calling for a temporary revocation of capital punishment, instead of voting against it, Kanchana said.

Within Asean, Cambodia and the Philippines have legally abolished capital punishment, while Laos, Myanmar and Brunei have stopped carrying out executions in practice.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand are among 58 states worldwide that still carry out executions, according to an Amnesty report.

However, Thailand has not seen an execution in seven years, said Kannika Saengthong, deputy secretary-general of Justice Ministry, adding that the country tends not to apply capital punishment as frequently as before although it has not been banned by law.

In a separate event marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty at Bangkok’s Alliance Francaise, an organisation that promotes French language and culture, EU representatives and the Justice Ministry jointly campaigned to raise awareness about the “cruelty” of the penalty.

“We have to continue campaigning and educate people about the death penalty. State-sanctioned killing still remains in part because of public support. When a horrendous crime takes place, some people support the execution of the offender,” said Pitikarn Sithidej, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department.

Pitikan said her team was working on reforming legislation to harmonise with the current domestic situation and international standards.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Pakistan’s top court upholds death penalty for mentally-ill man

Source: Gulf News (2 October 2016)

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal brought by lawyers for a mentally ill prisoner facing execution, and a rights group said he could now be hanged next week.

Imdad Ali, who is aged around 50, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious cleric in 2002.

He had been scheduled to hang on September 20 in a prison in the city of Vehari despite having been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Ali received a last-minute stay of execution from the Supreme Court last week. But with that stay now expired, he could receive a new “black warrant” and face execution as early as next Tuesday.

The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which is providing Ali with counsel, has sent a mercy petition to President Mamnoon Hussain along with testimony from medical experts.

“It is indisputable that Imdad suffers from serious mental illness,” said Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at international charity Reprieve.

“There is therefore no doubt that, should Pakistan execute him, it will be committing a grave violation of both Pakistani and international law.

“It is shocking that the system has failed Imdad at every turn — right the way up to the Supreme Court. The Pakistan government must immediately halt Imdad’s execution, and undertake a comprehensive review into how someone who is clearly mentally unfit to be executed has been allowed to come so near to the noose.”

Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed a school in the northwest in 2014 and killed more than 150 people — mostly children.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but later extended to all capital offences. The number of those executed since then now stands at 419 from more than 8,000 death row prisoners.

A new report by JPP and Yale Law School issued Tuesday said Pakistan’s criminal legal system is riddled with errors that prevent it from adjudicating capital cases fairly.

It accused authorities of having hanged six people who were juveniles at the time of their offences, in breach of international law, and said the length of time prisoners spent on death row — 11.5 years on average — harms their mental and physical health.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Australia should take a stand on Veloso

Source: Lowy Interpreter (23 September 2016)

In April last year, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were among eight people executed by firing squad in Indonesia. Their deaths brought the issue of capital punishment to the forefront of Australia’s consciousness and reignited debate over the practice on a global scale.

The only woman in the group scheduled for execution that day, Philippines national Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, was given a last-minute reprieve in order to give testimony against a person accused of human and drug trafficking in the Philippines. Her death sentence has not been permanently commuted and could be reinstated. Veloso’s case attracted significant support in the Philippines and Indonesia, with many protesting her innocence and claiming that Veloso was an unwitting drug mule and victim of human trafficking.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been subject to intense international scrutiny in recent months due to his promotion of vigilante attacks and extra-judicial killings of suspected drug offenders. Duterte was elected in May promising a war on drugs and has duly delivered, with over 3000 people killed on the streets since.

Earlier this month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that Duterte intervened in Veloso’s case, telling Jokowi:‘Please go ahead if you want to execute her.’ Duterte’s spokesman denied this claim and said Duterte merely advised Indonesia to follow its own laws in the case.

Duterte’s intervention, regardless of exactly how it was phrased, was arguably out of kilter with the general expectation that governments seek clemency for their nationals facing execution in other countries. It leaves Veloso in greater uncertainty as to what outcome she can hope for, although the Philippines Justice Secretary believes it is still possible she may be spared and perhaps even released.

Both Indonesia and the Philippines have adopted hard-line stances against drug crime which allow the punishment of death for convicted drug offenders (formally, through the courts, in Indonesia and now informally, on the streets, in the Philippines).

Although international human rights law aims for the total abolition of capital punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that, where capital punishment is still practiced, it should be used only for the ‘most serious crimes.’ In 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee condemned the country’s continued use of the death penalty for drug trafficking as not meeting the threshold of ‘most serious crimes'. The committee instead recommended a review of legislation ‘to ensure that crimes involving narcotics are not amenable to the death penalty.’

Australia’s position on capital punishment has been for some time that in all cases it is a violation of human rights and should be abolished. It offends the right to life, respected under international human rights law. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Australia should also decry the death penalty as a form of torture, due to the methods used and the inherent terror in awaiting one’s own scheduled killing.

As was clear in the case of Chan and Sukumaran, Australia’s extremely selective advocacy on the behalf of people subject to the death penalty weakens its clemency campaigns for individual Australians at risk of execution. Australia’s abolitionist advocacy must be less partial and more principled if it is to be persuasive.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop initiated a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty following her strong but unsuccessful advocacy for clemency on behalf of Sukumaran and Chan. Its terms of reference sought to improve Australia’s capacity to advocate effectively for death penalty abolition. To the credit of the inquiry committee, its report recommended the establishment of a whole-of-government strategy for abolition of the death penalty. It further recommended:

...intervening to oppose death sentences and executions of foreign nationals, especially in cases where there are particular human rights concerns, such as unfair trials, or when juveniles or the mentally ill are exposed to the death penalty

Julie Bishop took such an approach in July this year, when she reiterated Australia’s opposition to capital punishment in all cases in advance of Indonesia’s most recent round of executions.

Should Indonesia decide to return Veloso to death row and move towards execution, it would be especially important for Australia to advocate on her behalf. At the moment, Australia is vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy, including from Indonesia. The committee’s recommendation for broader and less partial advocacy against the death penalty will enable Australia to demonstrate the strength of its abolitionist stance. In turn, Australia may hope to more effectively influence other states to abandon capital punishment in law and practice.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Calls to abolish death penalty grow louder in Japan

Source: South China Morning Post (21 September 2016)

Japan’s use of the death penalty is expected to come under unprecedented domestic pressure when, for the first time, the country’s legal community calls for its abolition next month.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers and hundreds of other legal professionals, said it would declare its opposition to capital punishment at a meeting in early October due to growing concern over miscarriages of justice.

The declaration will put the federation at odds with the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, whose administration has executed 16 people since it took office in late 2012.

Successive Japanese governments have resisted pressure from the UN, the European Union and human rights groups to abolish the death penalty.

“If an innocent person or an offender who does not deserve to be sentenced to death is executed, it is an irrevocable human rights violation,” Yuji Ogawara, who heads a bar association panel on the death penalty, was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

“There are still lawyers who support the death penalty, but I think we have developed an environment that enables us to seek its abolition.”

The federation will call for an end to capital punishment by 2020, when Japan hosts a UN congress on crime prevention and criminal justice. It said life sentences without the possibility of parole should be considered as an alternative.

Japan and the US are the only G7 countries that continue to execute inmates, while more than 140 countries have abolished the death penalty either by law or in practice.

Doubts about the safety of convictions grew in 2014 after Iwao Hakamada was released after spending more than 45 years on death row. A court ordered a retrial in Hakamada’s murder case, amid suggestions that police investigators fabricated evidence against him.

The former professional boxer had been sentenced to hang in 1968 for the murders two years earlier of a company president, his wife and their two children.

In addition, four death row inmates were found not guilty after being granted retrials in the 1980s.

Japan has resisted calls to end capital punishment, citing opinion polls showing high levels of support for its retention. Public backing for the death penalty has remained strong during the trials of people accused of taking part in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, in which 13 people died and thousands were injured.

In a damning 2009 report, Amnesty International accused Japan of subjecting death row inmates to “ cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment. Prisoners typically spend many years in solitary confinement, and only learn of the timing of their execution, by hanging, hours before it takes place.

Amnesty recently criticised Japan for executing or placing mentally ill and intellectually challenged prisoners in solitary confinement.

Legal experts welcomed the federation’s decision.

“Having Japan’s largest human rights protection body come out in favour of eliminating the death sentence will have a huge impact,” Professor Kana Sasakura from Konan University in Kobe told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

There are now 124 inmates on death row in Japan, 89 of whom are seeking retrials, according to the justice ministry.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Widodo clarifies Duterte statement on Mary Jane Veloso – report

Source: GMA (16 September 2016)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has clarified his earlier statement on President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly allowing the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina convicted for drug trafficking in Indonesia.

A report on Channel News Asia quoted Widodo as saying that what Duterte told him during their September 9 meeting in Indonesia was "go ahead with the process in line with the law in Indonesia."

This confirmed MalacaƱang's earlier statement that Duterte, who was in Indonesia last week for a working visit, did not endorse Veloso's execution but instead told Widodo that he would not interfere with Indonesia's legal processes.

MalacaƱang made the clarification after a Jakarta Post report said Duterte has given the "go-ahead" to proceed with the execution of Veloso, a mother of two who was sentenced to die by firing squad for bringing 2.6 kilograms of heroin in Indonesia in 2010.

The Jakarta Post report was quoting Widodo.

Following the report, Veloso's family in the Philippines sought a meeting with Duterte so that the President could personally tell them what really transpired in his meeting with Widodo.

As of Friday afternoon, Duterte has yet to meet with the Veloso family.

Veloso's execution was put on hold last year to allow her to testify against her alleged recruiters whom she accused of tricking her into bringing the illegal drugs to the Yogyakarta Airport in 2010.

Her alleged recruiters, Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, are currently facing illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa cases before a local court in Nueva Ecija.

Indonesia had earlier said it would respect the legal processes in the Philippines regarding Veloso's case against her alleged recruiters. —KBK, GMA News

Monday, 12 September 2016

Duterte has given the green light for Mary Jane's execution: Jokowi

Source: The Jakarta Post (12 September 2016)

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Monday that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had given the green light for the execution of Filipina death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso.

"President Duterte has given the go-ahead to proceed with the execution,” Jokowi was quoted as saying by Antara news agency in Serang, Banten.

According to Jokowi, the legal process will be followed up by Attorney General M. Prasetyo.

“I have explained to [Duterte] about Mary Jane’s situation and I told him that Mary Jane [has been found guilty] for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. I also told him about the delay in the execution during the meeting,” Jokowi said.

Veloso was arrested at Adisucipto Airport in Yogyakarta in April 2010.

Veloso was excluded from the list of the third round of executions prepared by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in April, as legal procedures continue in a separate but related case in her country. Veloso was on the execution list last year but was granted a stay of execution because her alleged boss had been arrested in the Philippines, and the authorities there requested Indonesian assistance in pursuing the case. (dmr)

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Indonesia’s Push to Execute Drug Convicts Underlines Flaws in Justice System

Source: The New York Times (13 August 2016)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Sixteen years ago, Zulfiqar Ali left his native Pakistan for Indonesia in search of a new life. Last month, that life was on the verge of ending in front of a firing squad.

Mr. Ali has been on Indonesia’s death row since 2005, after he was convicted of heroin trafficking. A government-ordered inquiry later found that he was probably innocent. Still, in July, he was one of 14 convicts, most of them foreigners, who were taken to the prison island of Nusakambangan off Java’s southern coast to be put to death.

Minutes before they were to be executed, on July 29, Mr. Ali and nine other convicts were given a reprieve, for reasons the government has yet to explain. But four were shot dead as scheduled, including a Nigerian who supporters say was framed. And Mr. Ali, like the rest who were spared, remains condemned.

More than a year after Indonesia drew international censure by putting to death 12 foreigners convicted of drug crimes, the country has resumed a war on narcotics by way of executions — and has again put a spotlight on its profoundly flawed justice system.

Critics in Indonesia and abroad say those flaws go so deep that the country should not employ the death penalty at all. Researchers have found that many condemned convicts were tortured by the police into confessing, did not receive access to lawyers or were otherwise denied fair trials.

The resumption of executions means “that the government has ignored that there is something seriously wrong with our judiciary and law enforcers,” said Robertus Robet, a lecturer and researcher at the State University of Jakarta’s sociology department. He characterized the government as “trigger-happy.”Photo

“When you execute someone, you execute the possibility of finding out the truth,” he said.

Amnesty International has denounced “the manifestly flawed administration of justice in Indonesia that resulted in flagrant human rights violations.” Similar concerns have been raised by the United Nations and the European Union, which sent a delegation to try to persuade Indonesia to spare inmates who were condemned to die last year.

Indonesia has long had the death penalty, but its use was sporadic in the years before President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014. Declaring drug abuse a “national emergency,” Mr. Joko denied clemency appeals from 64 death row inmates who had been convicted of drug crimes, most of them foreigners, and the government set a goal of executing all of them by the end of 2015.

That did not happen, but five drug convicts were put to death in January of that year, and eight more in April. (An Indonesian was also executed for murder in January.) Among the convicts executed in April, seven of whom were foreigners, were Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 34, Australians who were arrested in 2005 trying to smuggle heroin out of Bali, the resort island.

The men admitted their guilt, but their lawyers said the judge in the case was corrupt, having offered a lesser sentence in exchange for a bribe. Indonesia rejected appeals by the Australian government to spare them, and Australia withdrew its ambassador in protest.

Also executed in April was Rodrigo Gularte, 42, a Brazilian convicted of drug smuggling who had repeatedly been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Indonesian law forbids the execution of mentally ill convicts.

Dave McRae, a senior research fellow at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia who has researched the use of capital punishment in Indonesia, said that the deficiencies in the justice system here could be found in most countries that still used the death penalty.

“A lot of the objections to Indonesia’s use of the death penalty — inconsistent and arbitrary sentencing and application of the death penalty, allegations of corruption and wrongful convictions, questions over access to lawyers and interpreters and adequacy of representation — are questions that are raised all over the world,” he said.

Such concerns have been raised about the cases against some of the convicts spared last month — and some who were executed, including the Nigerian, Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke.

Mr. Eleweke was arrested in 2003 after the police found heroin at a restaurant he ran in Jakarta, the capital; he said an employee had planted it. His lawyers say that the police beat him until he confessed.

They also say that by law, an 11th-hour appeal for clemency issued to Mr. Joko should have automatically halted his execution. Last week, legal activists filed a complaint with a judicial watchdog against Indonesia’s attorney general, saying that Mr. Eleweke’s execution and those of two others should have been stopped because of those appeals, according to local news reports.

“We cannot have the death penalty here because of the judicial system — it’s problematic, it’s dysfunctional,” said Ricky Gunawan, director of the Community Legal Aid Institute, a nongovernmental organization that represented Mr. Eleweke.

Another allegation of corruption emerged just before the executions last month, when one of the men put to death, an Indonesian named Freddy Budiman, was quoted as saying that he had paid senior law enforcement officials more than $40 million to let his drug smuggling operation continue before he was arrested.Photo

That accusation was included in a report released by a rights activist, Haris Azhar, who had interviewed Mr. Budiman in prison; shortly thereafter, the police, the military and Indonesia’s anti-narcotics board, all of which were implicated in the report, filed a criminal defamation complaint against Mr. Azhar. On Thursday, Mr. Joko ordered those agencies to investigate the corruption allegations.

The case of Mr. Ali, the Pakistani who was spared execution, has also raised concerns.

Mr. Ali, who immigrated to Indonesia in 2000, was accused of drug dealing in 2004 by a friend, Gurdip Singh, who had been caught with heroin; Mr. Singh later said the police had pressured him and offered a reduced sentence to name accomplices. Mr. Ali’s lawyers say their client was arrested without a warrant at his home, where no drugs were found, and signed a confession after being beaten so badly in custody that he needed two operations.

Though Mr. Ali retracted his confession and Mr. Singh withdrew his accusation, both men were sentenced to death in 2005. But the severity of Mr. Ali’s beating drew attention to the case, and the government ordered an unusual inquiry, which concluded that he was likely to be innocent.

The government never acted on those findings, and Mr. Ali and Mr. Singh were among those who nearly faced a firing squad.

“He was never involved in drugs,” Mr. Ali’s wife, Siti Rohani, who lives in West Java Province with their three children, said in an interview.

A spokesman for Mr. Joko, Johan Budi, denied that the judicial system was dysfunctional, saying the executions had followed legal procedures.

Mr. Ali, along with Mr. Singh and several of the other convicts who were given reprieves, is still in prison on Nusakambangan Island, where Indonesia conducts executions. Ms. Siti said she and her husband’s family in Pakistan were in a torturous state of limbo.

“We’re just confused because there is no certainty about my husband’s fate,” she said.

M. Rum, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, declined to explain why Mr. Ali and the other convicts had been given reprieves, saying only that it was “for judicial and nonjudicial reasons.” But he said the executions would eventually be carried out.

Turkey PM steps back from calls for death penalty

Source: Channel News Asia (16 August 2016)

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday (Aug 16) a fair trial would represent a harsher punishment for suspected coup plotters than the death penalty - an apparent step back from threats to re-introduce capital punishment.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had suggested Turkey could bring back capital punishment - abolished in 2004 as part of the country's reforms to join the European Union - in the wake of the Jul 15 failed coup aimed at ousting him from power.

The threat stunned the EU, which makes the abolition of capital punishment an unnegotiable condition for joining the bloc.

"A person dies only once when executed," Yildirim told ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MPs in parliament. "There are tougher ways to die than the death (penalty) for them. That is an impartial and fair trial," Yildirim said.

The prime minister's comments marked a change in tone after Erdogan said earlier this month that if the Turkish public wanted a return to capital punishment, then political parties would follow their will.

Erdogan has also not mentioned the issue in his latest speeches in recent days.

Relations between Brussels and Ankara have already been strained since Turkey responded to the coup by launching a relentless crackdown against alleged plotters in state institutions, amid calls from the EU to act within the rule of law.

Tens of thousands of staff within the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been dismissed or detained since a rogue faction within the military tried to oust Erdogan from power.

Ankara blames Erdogan's ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher in self-exile in the United States, and his movement for ordering last month's coup bid. Gulen strongly denies the accusations.

Yildirim said Gulen would be brought to account for the attempted putsch during which 240 people lost their lives, excluding 34 coup plotters who were killed.

"Those responsible for the blood of our martyrs will be brought to account. We will not bring them to account acting out of revenge. We will bring them to account with justice," the prime minister said.

No judicial executions have taken place Turkey since left-wing militant Hidir Aslan was hanged on Oct 25, 1984 in the wake of the 1980 military coup.

- AFP/ec

Executions: Indonesia disregards its own laws

Source: The Jakarta Post (20 August 2016)

Recently, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) held another round of executions and, similar to last year’s executions, all those executed were drug offenders.

Hours after the executions, Attorney General M. Prasetyo reiterated that other countries should respect the sovereignty of Indonesian law, denying any appeals from countries concerned about the imposition of the death penalty in Indonesia.

The fact that the death penalty exists in our law is not in question, but this does not necessarily mean that the death penalty has always been implemented flawlessly.

In fact, given that the criminal justice system is human-made, it is inherently prone to human error.
In the days leading up to the execution, serious unfair trials and miscarriages of justice experienced by those to be executed were raised by lawyers, family members and human rights groups.

And now we have something more: an unlawful execution.

Outcries over the latest executions came from rights watchdogs, which identified two main errors.
First, at least two out of four of the executed — Seck Osmane and Humphrey Ejike — had pending clemency decisions.

According to the Article 13 of the Clemency Law, an execution of a prisoner who has filed a clemency petition cannot be carried out before the President has issued a presidential decree on the clemency decision.

Article 7 paragraph (2) of the same law previously regulated that one could lodge a clemency petition one year after one’s court decision was declared final and binding.

However, only last June the Constitutional Court declared that such a limitation was not in accordance with the 1945 Constitution and therefore revoked the article.

At that stage, neither of the two prisoners had filed clemency petitions until a few days before the executions. It seems obvious that legally speaking, both Seck and Humphrey still had a right to clemency and could not be executed before the President had made a decision over their petitions.

Second, the AGO violated the law on execution procedures, which regulates that executions cannot be carried out until 72 hours after a prosecutor notifies the condemned prisoners. All 14 death-row prisoners received their notification on July 26 around 3 p.m.

This meant that the executions could only be conducted, at the earliest, on the afternoon of July 29. In reality, the executions took place in the early hours of that day.

Given these two violations, it seems clear this latest round of executions was unlawful.

International communities have taken up these violations and condemned them. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, for example, called on Indonesia to put a moratorium in place, defining Indonesia as the “most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia”. Is this the international image that Indonesia wants to project?

European and Australian governments have also raised concerns over allegations of unfair trials, despite no European or Australian nationals being listed for execution.

This demonstrates that their appeal to Indonesia to halt the execution is not a matter of defending their own nationals, but rather a matter of universal principle.

A distinguished Islamic philosopher from Oxford University, Professor Tariq Ramadan, has also sent an open letter to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. He enlightened the President on how sharia sees the death penalty. He argues that “rahmah [compassion] is an absolute necessity, an essential principle, an imperative duty, even if there is no doubt and all the conditions are gathered”.

Despite the serious flaws and international criticisms, the AGO appeared adamant about its position on executions. Prasetyo has repeatedly said that other countries must respect the sovereignty of Indonesia’s law.

Talking about such sovereignty, the attorney general himself has violated Indonesian law with those infringements. How can we expect foreign countries to respect our sovereignty of law if the law enforcers themselves blatantly disregard it?

That seems to be a paradoxical position and a hypocritical standing. This legal calamity can go on no longer. President Jokowi must stop any further executions.

Thorough evaluation of death penalty cases by an independent team established by the President is imperative.In the meantime, while the team is reviewing all death penalty cases, Indonesia must implement a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.

This third round of executions has shown us that even where an execution is “legal”, it does not mean that it is not intrinsically problematic.

Further, it potentially kills an innocent person. How many innocent lives must we end until we stop this senseless killing?
The writer is a legal fellow at Reprieve UK, based in Jakarta. Reprieve UK advocates for worldwide abolition of the death penalty

Nathan grants zero presidential pardon during his 2 terms

Source: The Independent (27 August 2016)

S R Nathan, the longest serving president from 1999 to 2011 did not grant clemency to any death row inmates during his 2 terms as President.

This is according to the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP) in its statement issued on the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty last October.

SWGDP stated, “Since Singapore’s independence, only seven clemencies have been granted (as at Oct 2015), with the last being exercised by the late President Ong Teng Cheong.”

It went on to reveal that of the 7 clemencies, two were granted in the term of President Benjamin Sheares, one under President Devan Nair, three under President Wee Kim Wee, and one under President Ong Teng Cheong.

Presidential clemencies granted by past Presidents:
• Benjamin Sheares (1971-1981): 2 in 10 years
• Devan Nair (1981-1985): 1 in 4 years
• Wee Kim Wee (1985 -1993): 3 in 8 years
• Ong Teng Cheong (1993-1999): 1 in 6 years
• S R Nathan (1999 – 2011): 0 in 12 years

The SWGDP is an advocacy group in Singapore which believes in giving convicted people a second chance to live. It advocates for the abolishment of the death penalty in Singapore as well as commits to raising awareness on issues surrounding the death penalty.

On its website, it said:



As at Oct 2015, the last clemency was granted by the late president Ong Teng Cheong in May 1998. He commuted Mr Mathavakannan Kalimuthu’s death sentence to life imprisonment. He was 19 when he and two other men killed a gangster in 1996.

‘I have to ask the man up there to forgive me’

After Nathan stepped down as President in 2011, he gave an interview to the media. During the interview, he was asked about granting presidential pardons during his 12-year term in office. He was asked if he found it difficult.

“The constitution clearly lays it down that I have to act on the advice of the cabinet, and the cabinet acts on the advice of the Attorney-General,” he said.

“You have a right to question it… through the process, you determine whether all the facts have been taken into account, whether there’s anything that needs special consideration.”

Upon further probing by a reporter from Yahoo, Nathan finally said, “Of course it’s a difficult thing when it comes to the death penalty. It’s a matter of conscience. That’s the law… and you do your best to see that there is justice done.”

“You are in no position to contradict the submission when you have not heard the case,” he continued. “You can’t purely go on human emotions.”

“I have to ask the man up there to forgive me for what is done for the good of society.”

Death penalty failing to deter drug trafficking in Iran - official

Source: Channel News Asia (27 August 2016)

DUBAI: The death penalty has failed to reduce drug trafficking in Iran, a senior Iranian judiciary official said on Saturday shortly before the scheduled execution of 12 people for narcotics-related offences.

His criticism was unusual in a judiciary that has long been a bastion of the hardline security establishment in the Islamic Republic, which carries out more executions per capita than any other country. Nearly 1,000 prisoners were put to death in 2015, most of them for drug trafficking.

Most narcotics are smuggled into Iran along its long, often lawless border with Afghanistan, which supplies about 90 percent of the world's opium from which heroin is made.

"The truth is, the execution of drug smugglers has had no deterrent effect," Mohammad Baqer Olfat, deputy head of judiciary for social affairs, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

"We have fought full-force against smugglers according to the law, but unfortunately we are experiencing an increase in the volume of drugs trafficked to Iran, the transit of drugs through the country, the variety of drugs, and the number of people who are involved in it," Olfat said.

He said he had suggested to the judiciary chief that rather than the death penalty, traffickers should serve long prison terms with hard labour.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council and a brother of the powerful judiciary chief, said in 2015 that more than 90 percent of executions in the country were for drug-related crimes.

He said the death penalty has not led to a significant fall in drug-related crimes and that the policy must be re-evaluated.

The Islamic Republic seized 388 tonnes of opium in 2012, around 72 percent of all such seizures globally, but says it has lost many security personnel in skirmishes with drug traffickers in volatile regions bordering Afghanistan and also Pakistan.

The United Nations has repeatedly praised Iran's battle against narcotics trafficking but opposed its death penalty.

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Iran urged Tehran on Friday to halt the execution of 12 people on drug-related offences scheduled for Saturday.

"It is regrettable that the (Iranian) government continues to proceed with executions for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the 'most serious crimes' as required by international law," Ahmed Shaheed said in a statement.

Given Iran's large number of executions, some countries including Britain and Denmark have stopped providing funding for the United Nations drug control programme in Iran.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; editing by Mark Heinrich)

- Reuters

Thursday, 11 August 2016

UN asks Maldives to retain death penalty moratorium

Source: Time of India (10 August 2016)

UNITED NATIONS: Voicing concern over recent developments pertaining to capital punishment in Maldives, the UN Human Rights chief has exhorted the government to refrain from carrying out planned executions and uphold the de facto moratorium that has been in place in the country for over six decades.

"The Maldives has long provided important leadership on global efforts to bring an end to the use of death penalty, so it is deeply regrettable that a series of steps have been taken to resume executions in the country," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a press release.

Last November, the High Court decided that the President may no longer exercise the power of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.

In June this year, capital punishment regulations were further amended to allow for hanging in addition to lethal injections as methods of execution.

Further, in July, the Supreme Court issued an order, cancelling the stay order issued by the High Court and reiterated that its decisions on death sentences are final.

"The death penalty is not effective in deterring crime," Zeid said, adding "a judiciary that is unable to consistently apply fair trial standards and is marred by politicisation, must not be allowed to have the final say in matters of life and death."

"There are currently 17 individuals on death row in Maldives. Some cases raise serious due process concerns, with three of them at imminent risk of execution," he said.

"Maldives has upheld the right to life for more than 60 years," the High Commissioner said, urging the leaders and the people of the Maldives "to continue to uphold the moratorium on the death penalty and work towards prohibiting the practice altogether."

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Why executions in Indonesia must stop

Source: The Conversation (3 August 2016)

Indonesia executed four prisoners on death row for drug offences early on Friday. Last week’s killings were the third round of executions under Joko Widodo’s government, and were carried out despite ongoing legal appeals and international pressure.

The firing squad shot dead Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke and Michael Titus from Nigeria, Seck Osmane from Senegal, and Freddy Budiman, an Indonesian national.

These executions were different from two rounds of executions last year that killed 14 people, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Then, the government prepared with a lot of fanfare, went through bitter diplomatic fallouts, and endured international criticism. This time, the government carried out the executions abruptly and quietly.

The government notified families of 14 prisoners only on the Tuesday that executions would take place. The government did not explain why the executions of ten of these prisoners were postponed.

Human rights experts in Indonesia have repeatedly called for the government to stop the use of capital punishment. Hours before the third round of executions, the Indonesia Alliance of Human Rights Lecturers released a short statement addressed to Jokowi.

We urged him to stop the executions. Our considerations are simple. Not only does the death penalty violates human rights, executions in Indonesia are carried out under a deeply flawed justice system.
Violation of the right to life

The death penalty violates the most fundamental right in human life: the right to life. This right is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution in Article 28 I:

The right to life, the right to be free of torture, the rights for freedom of thought and conscience, the rights to religion, the rights to be free from slavery, the rights to be treated equal in front of the law, and the rights to not be charged on retroactive laws are non-derogable rights in any circumstances.

The Indonesian government ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2005, committing itself to uphold international human rights law. Indonesia has yet to ratify the optional protocol to abolish the death penalty.

However, Indonesia’s penchant for executions will weaken the nation’s standing in seeking reprieve for 334 Indonesians on death row in other countries as of last year.
Indonesia violates its own laws

The Indonesian government has repeatedly failed to uphold its own laws regarding death sentencing.

For example, under Indonesian law, executions are prohibited when legal processes are still ongoing. Jefferson was executed despite his pending clemency appeal. Jefferson, convicted in 2004 after the police found 1.7kg of heroin in a room used by one of his employees in a restaurant he ran, maintained that he was innocent and was framed.

By going ahead with the execution despite pending appeals, the government has clearly violated Article 13 on clemency law and ignored the 2015 Constitutional Court decision on the death penalty.

Further, the attorney-general also violated the rights to information of the advocates and families of the prisoners. They have the right to 72 hours notice of execution. The attorney-general only informed lawyers and families 60 hours prior.

The implementation of the death penalty without fixing the corrupt judicial system will not deter people from engaging in the illegal drug trade. Convicting and executing drug dealers will not eliminate drug trafficking in Indonesia as long as corrupt officials are free to abuse the system.

This is clear in the case of Budiman. He was sentenced to death in 2012 for smuggling 1.4 million ecstasy pills from China from behind bars.

Ahead of Budiman’s execution, the head of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Haris Azhar, released a statement on social media that went viral. Azhar said that when he visited Budiman in 2014, Budiman implicated military generals, National Narcotics Agency officials and the police in running the drug trade.

In short, indication of involvement of the state apparatus in Indonesia’s drug trade is really strong. In the last couple of months there have been many news reports on military and police involvement in the drug network. In April, the attorney-general fired 20 attorneys involved in illegal drug offences.

It would not be surprising if the death penalty was merely an attempt to cover-up the corrupt law enforcers.

There are deep flaws in the law and legal enforcement, especially in the process of death sentencing and executions. The death penalty is built on weak institutions. This affects not only justice for the condemned but also the attempt to create a just legal system in Indonesia. The strength or weakness of the institution reflects the quality of Indonesia’s law.

Indonesia will not abolish death penalty, says minister

Source: Asia One (4 August 2016)

JAKARTA - Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto has stressed that the government would not consider abolishing the death penalty, and therefore there was no need to evaluate prevailing laws.

"This is our law. Despite some pressures on us, we have our national legal jurisdiction," Wiranto said on Tuesday.

The death penalty is a harsh punishment, he said, but it is needed to protect many people from the dangers of narcotics and related crimes.

Wiranto's statement ran directly against that of Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, who said that the government and House of Representatives planned to evaluate the death penalty.

Human rights groups and the international community have long urged the government to abolish or adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, saying that it is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which has also failed to create a deterrent effect.

Indonesia executed four drug convicts in the early hours of last Friday, with further legal processes sparing the lives of 10 other death-row convicts who were slated to be killed.

Philippines : Return of death penalty in PH ‘violates’ international law

Source: ADPAN (2 August 2016)

By Paolo Taruc, CNN Philippines

Updated 19:30 PM PHT Tue, August 2, 2016

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte and some lawmakers have called for the return of the death penalty as a way to strengthen the rule of law. But the Philippines could violate international law if it brings the punishment back.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)— an international treaty that, among other things, prescribes states to respect and observe fundamental freedoms. These include freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom from cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment.

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon told CNN Philippines that “The death penalty is categorized as one such cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”

The Philippines has also ratified the ICCPR’s Second Optional Protocol which urges states to abolish the death penalty and prevents them from carrying out executions.

An Optional Protocol is a supplementary agreement to a treaty. According to U.P. Law Professor and Kabayan Party List Rep. Harry Roque, it is “optional” in the sense that those who ratified the ICCPR have the option of ratifying the additional agreement. Not all parties who ratified the ICCPR have ratified its optional protocols.

It is wrong to say that those who ratified the optional protocols may choose to disregard them any time they please.

“If a State… chooses to ratify the optional protocols, it may not disregard their obligations under the protocol. Both the ICCPR and the Optional Protocols are considered treaties under international law, and thus parties to such agreements are bound to comply with them in good faith,” Roque explained.
No turning back?

The Philippines signed the ICCPR on December 19, 1966 and ratified it on October 23, 1986. It opted to sign the Second Optional Protocol on September 20, 2006. The annex was ratified on November 20, 2007.

The Second Optional Protocol explicitly forbids the Philippines — and others states who have ratified it — from conducting executions within their respective jurisdictions: “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.”

However, it provides for one exception: Countries who expressed reservations only during the time of ratification or accession may resort to the death penalty in times of war for those convicted of “a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime.”

The Philippines cannot claim the exception because it did not make reservations when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol. “[I]n no case could death penalty be seen as acceptable under this treaty,” Roque stressed.

According to the document, countries are compelled to “take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty.”

As treaties, the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol form part of international law. Other human rights treaties include the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights.

“Since the Philippines has ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, it would be violating international law by restoring the death penalty,” Roque pointed out.

Complaints against the Philippines?

Roque explained that a complaint may be brought before the international community if the country brings back the said punishment.

“Under the First Optional Protocol (of the ICCPR) which the Philippines has also ratified, individuals may file complaints before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). The UNHRC could then investigate the case and provide a view if indeed there was a violation of the ICCPR or any of the Optional Protocols.”

However, he pointed out that complaints before the UNHRC are not binding decisions, as it is not a judicial tribunal. “Even if it did find violations, it would not have it would not have the authority to enforce its view upon a State.”

Death penalty is ‘retribution’

During his first press conference after the May 9 elections, Duterte said he wanted Congress to restore death penalty by hanging for convicts involved in illegal drugs, gun-for-hire syndicates, and those who commit “heinous crimes” like rapists, robbers or car thieves who kill their victims.

In a speech on June 22, he said that death penalty was a form of retribution apart from a way of deterring crime:

“Para ma-discourage ang tao mag-commit ng crime because there is the death penalty,”Duterte said. “Iyong death penalty to me is retribution. Magbayad ka sa ginawa mo sa buhay na ‘to.”

[Translation: To discourage people from committing crime because there is the death penalty. To me, death penalty is retribution. You’re going to pay for whatever you did in this life.]

Senator Panfilo Lacson also filed a bill that would mete out lethal injection for convicts of crimes including treason, murder, plunder, and rape.

“To reinstate public order and the rule of law, there is an impending need to revisit and re-impose the death penalty on certain heinous crimes,” Lacson said in a statement on July 3.

“[A] death penalty law is appropriately necessary due to the alarming upsurge of such crimes.”

According to the statement, the PNP’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management documented 9,646 murder cases; 31,741 cases of robbery; and, 10,298 rape cases in 2015.

“These translate to an average crime incidence of a murder every 54 minutes, a robbery every 16 minutes, and a rape case every 51 minutes,” the statement added.

At the House of Representatives, the first bill filed in the 17th Congress also seeks to reimpose lethal injection on certain heinous crimes. It was authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez with Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro.

“The imposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes and the mode of its implementation, both subjects of repealed laws, are crucial components of an effective dispensation of both reformative and retributive justice,” read a part of the bill.

Zero-sum game?

Gascon believes that human rights and security are not mutually exclusive: the gain of one is not the loss of the other.

“In our society today what has happened is that there has been rampant criminality and there’s a demand to address that — so people often think that the only way to address it is to reduce human rights. What needs to be done is to have a more purposive process of law enforcement that will in time guarantee safety and security of the population.

“Over the long term, human rights are in fact the best guarantee of safety and security,” Gascon added.

Roque said that it was important to remember the “significance” of international law in dealing with human rights issues. For him, it’s value does not only lie on the enforceability of a certain view.

“The strength of international law lies in the normative values it represents. Rather than using international law as a tool to threaten the administration, it should be used as a reminder to the administration of what the international community expects of the Philippines as a developing nation within the greater international community.” – CNN Philippines

ADPAN Urges Philippines to be Strong and Reject Attempts to Re-Introduce the Death Penalty

Source: Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (5 August 2016)

ADPAN (Anti Death Penalty Asia Network) is shocked that the Philippines seems adamant about moving forward with plans to re-introduce the death penalty. The death penalty has been suspended since 2006, and Philippines is now considered an abolitionist country.

On 28 July 2016, the newly convened Philippine Congress heard a proposal to re-impose the death penalty for “heinous crimes”, giving priority to President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for capital punishment in its first legislative session.

Since late June 2016, House Bill No.1 and several other Bills seeking to re-introduce the death penalty have been filed for consideration of the Philippines Congress. These Bill seeks to reimpose capital punishment for human trafficking, illegal recruitment, plunder, treason, parricide, infanticide, rape, qualified piracy, bribery, kidnapping, illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, car theft, destructive arson, terrorism and drug-related cases.

ADPAN is hopeful that Filipinos and lawmakers that are abolitionist will prevail, and death penalty will not be reintroduced in this ASEAN nation.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the measure is anti-poor and that the death penalty has not been proven to deter heinous crimes. “What deters the commission of crimes are certainty of apprehension, speedy prosecution and inevitable conviction once warranted,…The death penalty is anti-poor because indigent and marginalized accused cannot afford the high cost of [top] caliber and influential lawyers to secure their acquittal.”

Senator Leila de Lima, who continues to oppose the death penalty, is proposing a law to impose “qualified reclusion perpetua” for those found guilty of heinous crimes. Those punished with “qualified reclusion perpetua” would not be eligible for parole at all.


The Philippines signed International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on December 19, 1966 and ratified it on October 23, 1986. It signed the Second Optional Protocol on September 20, 2006 which explicitly forbids states who have ratified it from conducting executions within their respective jurisdictions: “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.”

However, it provides for one exception: Countries who expressed reservations only during the time of ratification or accession may resort to the death penalty in times of war for those convicted of “a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime.”. Philippines cannot claim the exception because it did not make this reservation when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol.

As, such the re-introduction of the death penalty would also be considered a violation of international law.


ADPAN joins Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for Human Rights, in urging Phlipines ‘to remember the experience of Mongolia, which first abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in the 1950s, then reintroduced it, before deciding, last December, to once again stop executing people. In reaching the decision, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj said the people of Mongolia had suffered enough from the death penalty. In his words: “Removing the death penalty does not mean removing punishment. Criminals fear justice, and justice must be imminent and unavoidable. But we cannot repair one death with another.” ‘

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, added, ‘Fear, despair and frustration clearly prevail among all Filipinos amid a rise in crime and drug-related offenses. But it is the duty of political leaders to adopt solutions to the country’s challenges in ways that will support the rule of law and advance the protection of human rights…The arguments are convincing and decisive: On every level—from principle to practice—use of the death penalty is wrong.


ADPAN reiterates that there are no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime. As an example, in Malaysia in 2012, despite the existence of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, it was revealed in Parliament that there was in fact an increase of the persons arrested for drug trafficking.

The possibility of miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable. There has just been too many cases, where persons who have languished on death row for decades have been released. We recall that in January 2011, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice admitted that Chiang Kuo-ching, a private in the Air Force, had been executed in error in 1997 for a murder committed 15 years previously.

The global trend has been towards abolition. Philippines did us proud, when it abolished the death penalty in 2006, and it is hoped that Philippines will reaffirm its commitment to abolition when it stands strong and rejects attempts to re-introduce the draconian death penalty.

ADPAN urges the Philippine lawmakers to opposes attempts to bring back the death penalty,

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of

ADPAN (Anti Death Penalty Asia Network)

Indonesian ombudsman to probe executions

Source: (9 August 2016)

Indonesia's Attorney-General is set to be investigated over the recent execution of four men, with the country's ombudsman saying there appeared to be a "maladministration" in the carrying out of the death penalty.

Ricky Gunawan, lawyer for Nigerian man Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke, who was shot by firing squad in the early hours of July 29, filed a report to the country's ombudsman on Monday alleging the executions were "illegal" as they violated the country's clemency law.

In accepting the report, Commissioner for the Ombudsman Lely Pelitasari Soebakty said it appeared a "maladministration" had occurred in the carrying out of the executions.

"We will investigate this ... We need time to see the document first and because the report to the Ombudsman is personal in nature, we need to verify the document," she told reporters in Jakarta.

At least two of the four men who were shot last month by a firing squad filed last minute clemency requests to President Joko Widodo in the days before their deaths.

The country's clemency law stipulates an execution can only be carried out once a prisoner is informed by the president that such a plea has been rejected.

The men received no such notification.

Mr Gunawan has previously told AAP that when he informed prosecutors of this, they pointed him to a now defunct section of the law which stipulated clemency requests needed to be filed within a year of the outcome of a person's final appeal.

But this section was repealed in June this year by the Constitutional Court, which found the time limitation on clemency requests had the potential to violate a person's constitutional rights.

Mr Gunawan said they hoped that by reporting matter to the ombudsman, President Widodo would be properly informed of what occurred.

"When the Ombudsman has given its recommendation, the president will definitely read (it) so when Attorney-General tries to deny what has happened, he can't run from it."

The Attorney-General HM Prasetyo has been contacted for comment.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Indonesia: UN rights chief urges region's 'most prolific executioner' to end practice

Source: UN News Centre (27 July 2016)

The United Nations human rights chief today expressed alarm at reports that up to 14 people face imminent execution in Indonesia, most of them for drug-related offences, calling on the authorities of “the most prolific executioner” in Southeast Asia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.

The executions will reportedly be carried out later this week at a high security prison on Nusa Kambangan island in central Java. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed its deep concern about the lack of transparency throughout the process and compliance with fair trial guarantees, including the right to appeal.

“The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the Government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein Zeid.

“I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia,” he said.

I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia

The UN opposes the use of capital punishment in all circumstances.

Indonesia suspended a four-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, in a decision that runs counter to an international trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. Several of the individuals put to death in Indonesia since 2013 have been executed for drug-related offences.

Mr. Zeid stressed that under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified, the countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only use capital punishment for “the most serious crimes.”

Drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold of “most serious crimes,” which have been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing, he said.

Zeid acknowledged the challenges faced by Indonesia in combatting drug-related crimes, but stressed that the country's response must be rooted in international human rights law.

The death penalty is “not an effective deterrent” relative to other forms of punishment nor does it protect people from drug abuse, he said, adding that the focus of drug-related crime prevention should involve strengthening the justice system and making it more effective.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Indonesia executions loom as convict Merri Utami is sent to prison island

Source: The Guardian (25 July 2016)

The next round of executions in Indonesia appear imminent following the transfer of an Indonesian woman on death row, Merri Utami, to the execution island of Nusa Kambangan.

Ordinarily female prisoners are not held at Nusa Kambangan, the prison site in central Java where Australian nationals Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed alongside six others in April last year.

Utami was transferred in the early hours of Sunday under high security from Tangerang prison where she has been detained since 2004.

Merri has been placed in an isolation cell and is reportedly the only female inmate being held alongside more than 1,000 people there.

According to Amnesty International, at least 165 people are on death row in Indonesia, and more than 40% of those convicted of drug-related crimes.

Merri’s transfer echoes previous patterns and could indicate the next round is less than a week away, Ricky Gunawan, the director of the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH) in Jakarta, told the Guardian.

“It’s the same like Mary Jane Veloso, she was transferred just days before the notice of the executions was given,” said Gunawan of the Filipina woman who was granted a temporary, last-minute reprieve last year.

In January last year another Indonesian woman on death row, Rani Andriani, was also moved to Nusa Kambangan just days before she was executed.

Prison officials at both Nusa Kambangan and Tangerang prisons have denied Utami’s transfer was linked to executions, but the move does not appear to be routine.

“It could be routine. But with only one transfer, of one prisoner, it doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of routine transfers,” noted Gunawan.

Utami was sentenced to death for carrying 1.1 kilograms of heroin through Soekarno Hatta airport in 2003.

One inconsistency is that Utami claims she is yet to seek clemency for her charges. Under Indonesian law all legal avenues must be exhausted before an inmate can be executed.

But moving prisoners could be one strategy the Attorney General’s Office is employing to speed up clemency claims and clear any legal roadblocks, explained LBH’s Gunawan.

As well as the transfer of Utami, there are other indications Indonesia is once again readying its firing squads, after 14 prisoners were executed in two separate rounds last year.

The embassies of Nigeria and Pakistan have in recent days received letters from the Indonesian foreign ministry informing them their nationals will be “executed in the very near future”, sources close to the Guardian confirmed.

The one Pakistani national on death row here is Zulfiqar Ali. Ali was violently beaten by Indonesian police, later requiring kidney and stomach surgery, until he confessed, said Amnesty International in a 2015 report titled “Flawed Justice”.

The international rights body claimed that half of all prisoners facing capital punishment in Indonesia were subject to police brutality and torture, while foreign prisoners were often denied an interpreter or access to consular services.

President Joko Widodo has reiterated his commitment to his war on drugs and in recent months the Attorney General’s Office has confirmed more executions will take place this year.

Attorney General General HM Prasetyo has stated that executions would take place after Idul Fitri, which happened earlier in July.