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.”