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.