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.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Final Declaration: 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty: Oslo, 23 June 2016

Source: ECPM (4 July 2016)

Text of the Final Declaration available:

Video of the Final Declaration available: 

Maldives Foreign Minister Quits Citing Row on Death Penalty

Source: The New York Times (5 July 2016)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Maldives' foreign minister resigned Tuesday saying she has irreconcilable disagreements with the government's decision to implement the death penalty.

Dunya Maumoon said in a statement that her decision to step down was inevitable "because of the profound differences of opinion on the government's policy on implementing the death penalty at a time when serious questions are being asked and concerns being expressed about the delivery of justice in the Maldives."

But local media said the resignation is also a result of differences between President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who is Dunya's uncle, and her father Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who previously ruled the country for 30 years.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is now the leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives.

The rift surfaced last week when Maumoon Abdul Gayoom openly opposed a law to lease out islands and lagoons for tourism projects without competitive bidding.

Last month, the Supreme Court last month confirmed the death penalty for a 22-year-old man convicted of killing a lawmaker in 2012. Just days before the court's ruling, the government had amended rules to allow execution by lethal injection or hanging, indicating that the country's decades-long moratorium on executions will soon end.

The latest dispute could exacerbate the country's already fragile politics, with Maumoon Abdul Gayoom moving to strengthen his hold on the party.

The Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after Maumoon had held power for nearly 30 years. But the democratic gains have receded in recent years.

Yameen Abdul Gayoom is accused of using the courts, government bureaucracy and police to suppress the opposition and the media.

Since he was elected to office in 2013, four senior politicians have been jailed after trials that were widely criticized as lacking due process.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's successor, Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president, resigned under heavy criticism for having ordered the military to detain one of the country's top judges. He then lost a presidential election to Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year after a court ruled that the jailing of the judge was akin to terrorism.

Yameen's former vice president, Ahmed Adeeb, was sentenced to 33 years in prison on corruption and terrorism charges, including an alleged plot to assassinate the president.

Yameen's former defense minister, Mohamed Nazim, and opposition party leader Sheik Imran Abdulla are also serving lengthy prison terms.

Thai government rules out death penalty for rapists despite mounting pressure

Source: South China Morning Post (6 July 2016)

Thailand’s Justice Ministry says it has no plan to execute rapists who murder their victims, saying such a harsh penalty would provoke more rapists to kill.

The ministry’s third-ranking official, Tawatchai Thaikyo, posted the comments on Monday on his Facebook page amid growing outrage over the suspected rape and murder of a 27-year-old teacher, whose alleged attacker was a convicted rapist who lived in her apartment building. The woman’s death has prompted calls for harsher penalties for rapes and capital punishment for fatal rapes.

Capital punishment is legal in Thailand for 35 different crimes, including drug offences, terrorism, national security crimes, murder and fatal rapes. But in practice, the death penalty is rarely used. The last execution was carried out in 2009 for two drug traffickers.

“If raping equals the death penalty, it would encourage rapists to kill all victims to shut their mouths,” said Justice Ministry deputy permanent secretary Tawatchai Thaikyo. “Wouldn’t it be better if we require all convicted rapists to undergo a rehabilitation programme and give them support to prevent them from committing such crimes again?”

Part of the public anger is over the prison system’s failure, in this case, to rehabilitate. The main suspect in the attack Friday is a 27-year-old factory worker who was released from prison last August after serving less than two years behind bars for raping a friend’s wife.

He initially told police that he lived a few doors down from the teacher and knew her apartment door was broken, so he sneaked in late Friday with the intention of raping her but she fought back so he killed her, local media reported.

He later changed his confession to say he had no intention of raping but only wanted to rob the teacher. Another neighbour found the woman’s naked body, her throat slashed, the day after the attack.

Thai drunk drivers taken on gory tour of Bangkok morgue to reflect on their crime

The suspect, identified as Chatree Ruamsungnoen, was arrested on Saturday and police cancelled a subsequent re-enactment of the crime, which is common in Thailand when suspects confess, over concern he would be attacked by angry mobs.

The head of Thailand’s military government also commented on the case, saying he disagreed with the calls for capital punishment.

“Look at what other countries are doing globally. Human rights laws have stopped capital punishment in many countries around the world,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said, adding that severe penalties alone won’t prevent rapes. Even if the punishment were “three executions” it still might not be enough to deter criminals, he said.

“Society has to help pressure them,” Prayuth added, saying public condemnation could be a greater deterrent than the death penalty.

Rights groups say rape in Thailand goes largely unreported and unpunished, partly because police often don’t take complaints seriously.

Thai police receive about 4,000 rape complaints a year and make about 2,400 arrests, according to the Thailand Development Research Institute, a public policy research institute that gets data from the Justice Ministry.

The number of unreported rape cases is estimated at 30,000 per year, the institute says, amounting to a case every 15 minutes.

The victim’s father added his voice to the calls for capital punishment at a news conference after his daughter’s death.

“I don’t want to see laws kill a person,” the father said on Monday. “But if we let such a bad guy go free, he will kill again.”

Nancy explains delay in amending death penalty law

Source: Malaysiakini (10 July 2016)

At Malaysia's presentation of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report at the United Nations in Geneva in 2013, one of the recommendations which had substantive amount of support was for Malaysia to put a stop to executions.

At least 18 states - including Norway - raised concerns about the death penalty and made recommendations for Malaysia to establish a moratorium on executions, as well as take steps to eliminate mandatory death sentences.

In response, the Malaysian government delegation stated it was studying the “issues arising from the imposition of [the] death penalty”, with the view of making recommendations on ways forward.

According to Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 report on Malaysia, official statistics listed 33 executions carried out between 1998 and 2015.

In a written reply to a question by Bukit Gelugor parliamentarian Ramkarpal Singh in May, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said there were 1,041 death penalty inmates as of May 16 this year.

Mandatory death sentence is applied to those convicted of drug-trafficking, firearm offences, murder, and treason.

In November last year, attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali had called mandatory death penalty a “paradox” because it takes away a judge’s discretion in imposing sentences.

In late 2012, International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-Cells) was tasked with providing a comprehensive review of the laws and practices on death penalty in Malaysia.

According to Nancy, the research group appointed Roger Hood, emeritus professor of criminology from Oxford University, as consultant in 2014.

When asked why the study took more than three years, Nancy admitted it took a long time but said it was fair because the review was "very thorough".

“They (the researchers) went back in history to the 1800s. They looked into every aspect of the law, the history, why the law was made in such a way.

“That’s why, according to them, it took so long. They finished only about two months ago,” Nancy told Malaysiakini at the sidelines of the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, on June 22.

The minister said it was important to ensure the recommendations put forth by cabinet echo public opinion on the matter.

“If you see cases that happened in Malaysia, especially the victims' families, they always want an eye for an eye ... So it becomes a challenge for the country.

“It's better to get a proper study to be done professionally and see whether this (amending) is something that the Malaysians can accept because we want to be at par with others as well.

“And not only that, we are talking about a human being, even though talking about what the accused or the perpetrator had done to the victim, it is very difficult for the government to just take away what (punishment) is already there.

So therefore … we feel that we need to go back to the court but still, we need to see what is the outcome of the study on legislative reforms, whether they (the recommendations) include that or not,” she said.

Make study public

The NGOs are urging the government to release the study.

“The study and recommendations must be made public,” said Hector.

For regional grouping Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan), Malaysia going on record in front of its UN peers that it was carrying out a study adds another layer of accountability.

“It is only prudent that the report be made public now that it is completed,” said Adpan executive member Ngeow Chow Ying.

Nancy said it was about timing.

“I cannot pre-empt it because we have to present to cabinet but I believe there shouldn’t be any problem (to share the study with the public) because it is an academic study to propose to the government what is best.

The minister herself has not read the contents of the study.

“I have not seen it (the study) because it is only I-Cells and the AG’s Chambers (which are involved). Once they have prepared the recommendation paper, I will be the one (to read it), the person to table to cabinet.

“But of course it will be up to the government to take which part of the recommendations that the government feel is suitable for Malaysia to pick up,” she said.

Adpan was confident that recommendations from I-Cells’ leader Hood, whose scholarship on death penalty is known globally, would reflect international standards.

“Prof Roger Hood is an authority on this issue and he is a strong abolitionist; his recommendations will be to abolish the death penalty. The report is to be tabled to cabinet for approval. It will be a test on our politicians," said Ngeow.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu added: "Death penalty reforms have been bandied about since 2010. Six years on, it is good to note that some progress has been made and we hope that the government will heed international calls to abolish the death penalty in its entirety."