Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Singapore to enforce death penalty for nuclear terrorism acts

Source: Channel News Asia (8 May 2017)

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/parliament/singapore-to-enforce-death-penalty-for-nuclear-terrorism-acts-8827782

SINGAPORE: A person who commits a fatal act of terrorism using radioactive material or nuclear explosive devices will face the mandatory death penalty under new laws passed in Parliament on Monday (May 8).

The legislation paves the way for Singapore’s ratification of the United Nations’ (UN) International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).

Second Minister for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said that while the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack in Southeast Asia was remote, the rise of terror group Islamic State means Singapore cannot discount such a scenario and must treat the threat seriously.

“Especially when many countries, including those in our region, use nuclear energy, or are actively exploring the use of nuclear energy,” he added. “In February this year, Malaysian authorities arrested eight people connected to the theft of Iridium-192, a radioactive material which can be used to make dirty bombs.”

It will now be a criminal offence to intentionally and unlawfully use any radioactive material or nuclear explosive device, or use or damage a nuclear facility leading to the release of radioactive material, to achieve the effects of terrorism.
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The penalties will be pegged at the same level as a murder offence in the Penal Code and therefore, in the event of death caused, lead to the gallows, said Mr Lee, adding that in any other case, life imprisonment will be the punishment.

The new laws also provide for extra-territorial jurisdiction - meaning any person outside Singapore who commits an act which constitutes a nuclear terrorism offence if carried out in Singapore, is deemed to have committed the act here, said Mr Lee.

“If taken into custody, the person would be charged, tried and punished accordingly in Singapore. This provision allows us to prosecute the offender in Singapore, if it is not possible or desirable to extradite him,” he explained. “It ensures that perpetrators do not escape punishment, regardless of which country they are from, and where they committed the offences.”

But Singapore must also facilitate extradition requests by the 109 other countries who are parties to the Convention, and provide mutual legal assistance with its domestic framework.

“WE TAKE THE POSSIBILITY SERIOUSLY”

Mr Lee later told the House that Singapore has, over the years, been preparing and developing to deal with the risks of nuclear terrorism.

“Agencies such as NEA (National Environment Agency) and SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) have developed the necessary operational capabilities to deal with illicit use of nuclear and radioactive material in Singapore,” he said. “MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) and NEA have also been working together to tighten security measures at premises storing high-risk radioactive material.”

To begin with, Singapore has a strict regulatory regime put in place by NEA to make it hard for radioactive material to end up in the wrong hands, said Mr Lee.

“On import, valid permits are required for all cargo entering our port checkpoints - if necessary they will be subject to X-ray screening and radioactivity checks,” he added.

“Thus far, we’ve not detected any breaches involving radioactive material in Singapore.”

An inter-agency committee continually assesses the threat of nuclear terrorism in Singapore, and in the event of an attack, there will be processes to deal with possible scenarios.

“Should such an incident occur, MHA will coordinate a whole-of-Government response,” Mr Lee outlined. “SCDF will render assistance to casualties and contain the radioactive material, assisted by our armed forces where necessary. NEA will provide technical advice to help mitigate harm. The police will investigate the act, find the perpetrators and take them to task.”

He added: “Beyond efforts from agencies, Singaporeans will need to be prepared for an attack.” Authorities may have to evacuate people from affected areas, and members of public may also need to be trained on how to reduce inhalation of harmful substances.

“There are no immediate threats, but we take the possibility seriously,” said Mr Lee. “It is timely we put in place the necessary legal framework now and join the international community to combat terrorism in all its forms - including nuclear terrorism.”

Source: CNA/jo

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Beware Vietnam's Death Machine

Source: The Diplomat (20 April 2017)

http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/beware-vietnams-death-machine/

One Thursday in July 2013, Barack Obama and his Vietnamese counterpart, Truong Tan Sang, sat down in the Oval Office to discuss Thomas Jefferson. Sang brought to this historic meeting between the two nation’s presidents a letter Ho Chi Minh had sent Harry Truman, prior to the Vietnam War, seeking cooperation with the United States. Uncle Ho’s words, said Obama, were “inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson.” In fact, when the Proclamation of Independence was read by Ho in 1945, he chose to begin with an extract from America’s Declaration of Independence, its principal author being Jefferson.

While a visit to the White House by the Vietnamese president was an occasion for historical reflection, the here-and-now was what really mattered. Indeed, diplomacy and trade were the main talking points, signaling the start of an emboldened relationship between the two nations. But the U.S. president did at least mention Vietnam’s human right’s record.

“All of us have to respect issues like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly. And we had a very candid conversation about both the progress that Vietnam is making and the challenges that remain,” Obama said after the meeting. Sang’s only comment was that the two men “have differences on the issue.”

Little reported afterwards was the execution of a 27-year old Vietnamese man named Nguyen Anh Tuan, a convicted murderer, which took place on August 6, just two weeks after Sang’s visit to White House. Tuan’s execution was the first in years, and the first since Vietnam replaced firing squads with lethal injections in 2011. However, a ban on importing “authorized” lethal drugs meant it had to use untested domestic poisons. Tuan took two hours to die, reportedly in harrowing pain.

Between the date of Tuan’s death and June 30, 2016, Vietnam executed 429 people (or an average of 147 executions per year; or 12 each month). Additionally, 1,134 people were given death sentences between July 2011 and June 2016. The number remaining on “death row” is not known.

These figures only came to light after the public security ministry decided to release them in February. They are normally classified as state secrets and rarely revealed. Surprising many around the world who thought the numbers to be much lower, Amnesty International reported this month that Vietnam is now the world’s third-most prolific executioner of prisoners. Only China and Iran are thought to have executed more people.

In June 2016, the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights provided a lengthy report on the death penalty’s mechanisms in Vietnam, explaining that capital punishment is applied for 18 different offenses, down from 44 in 1999.

Like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors this includes harsh drug laws, and Vietnam metes out the death penalty for those caught in possession or smuggling 100 grams or more of heroin or cocaine, or 5 kilograms or more of cannabis and other opiates. Other crimes, including murder and rape, also carry a death sentence.

After reforms during the 2000s, “the death penalty was effectively abolished on certain crimes, such as robbery, disobeying orders or surrendering to the enemy. But in other cases, crimes were simply re-worded to mask their appearance and deceive international opinion,” the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights report reads.

Particularly troubling is the fact that the Vietnamese regime wields capital punishment for vaguely-defined crimes of “infringing upon national security,” explains the report. These include carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration (Article 109 of the reformed Criminal Code), rebellion (article 112), and sabotaging the material-technical foundations of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (article 114).

Returning to the recent execution figures, it is worth considering why the regime would choose to announce them in February – knowing the reaction they would cause – and whether they are not masking a far larger number of executions.

One problem is that they came with no information as to what the prisoners were being executed for. We might assume that most were for drug offenses or murder, as has been the case in the past, but it is by no means certain. That leads one to wonder whether any of the people executed were arrested for simply protesting against the regime.

Even if they weren’t, capital punishment and human rights are by no means detached issues, as some claim. What is the connection between the drug trafficker, the murder and the human-rights activist in the regime’s eyes? They are all a risk to national security. Indeed, in his famed essay, “Of Crimes and Punishments,” Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria described the death penalty as a “war of the whole nation against a citizen whose destruction they consider necessary.”

But what is the “nation” in Vietnam? It is not just an arbitrary land defined borders. No – according the regime’s own laws, it is defined as akin to the “people’s administration.” Since the Communist Party and the Nation are effectively the same under the law, an attack on the Party becomes treasonous. Indeed, the law makes “no distinction between violent acts such as terrorism, and the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression,” the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights report reads.

Moreover, what is a “citizen” in Vietnam? And if it is to be treasonous to attack the Party, and thereby the Nation, does this mean the person who wishes the end of the Party is not a citizen? When France did away with the peine de mort in the early 1980s, Francois Mitterrand’s Minister of Justice said the scaffold had come to symbolize “a totalitarian concept of the relationship between the citizen and the state.” It is this same totalitarian relationship that knots capital punishment and human rights in Vietnam.

What also catches the eye is the hubristic nature of Hanoi’s release of the execution figures, coming as they do as criticism of the regime increases. They might be better read as a boast, not an admission. The overriding message is: We are prepared to kill, and have done so more than most people thought.

Following the 2013 meeting between Obama and Sang, some pundits thought Obama’s ambition was to embolden Vietnam’s reformist politicians through diplomatic engagement and improved trade links. This became America’s foreign policy towards Hanoi for the next three years. It didn’t work, however, and suppression has remained as essential as ever for the Communist Party, perhaps even more so, especially as criticism of the Party’s rule nowadays swells on issues such an environmentalism.

So while Vietnam’s economy has flourished since Obama’s rapprochement, its civil society has languished somewhere between desperation and enviable bravery. Obama’s administration bears responsibility for this, and the strategic patience it gambled on played only into Hanoi’s hands. Naive, perhaps. Or just willfully remiss, as Vietnam’s amity was necessary for America’s counter-Beijing Asian ‘pivot’. Maybe, then, Vietnam’s activists were jettisoned for the sake of geopolitics – an unexceptional component of America’s Janus-faced foreign policy.

Today, however, U.S. trade links are far from assured. U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP has jeopardized the free-trade bounty Hanoi was counting on. Vietnam now appears keen to formalize a bilateral free-trade agreement with the US, and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said last month that he wants to visit Washington as soon as possible

In a perverse situation, Trump’s administration now wields the stick that Obama chose not to use. Moreover, it has the ability to bargain in a way Obama couldn’t: No trade pact without improved human rights. Since the Communist Party’s legitimacy depends on a growing economy – and a fifth of all Vietnam’s export are to the United States, which could be further hampered if Trump pushes through trade tariffs and increased taxes on imports – Hanoi might be strong-armed into opening up space for criticism, in return for the United States opening more trade links.

Still, this depends on how much Trump values a human-rights laden foreign policy, which some analysts claim he doesn’t. That said, the State Department’s decision to give the imprisoned Vietnamese activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh the “International Women of Courage Award” certainly irked Hanoi.

Perhaps this explains the adroit use of executions statistics by the Vietnamese regime, and the appropriate timing of their release. The numbers will raise hairs in Europe; the European Union (EU) bars membership for countries with capital punishment, though not for countries with which it agrees free-trade agreements, it seems. The EU-Vietnam FTA that should become effective next year but contains no condition regarding Vietnam abolishing the death penalty (surely patronizing, given that the EU has higher expectations of European countries than others).

The execution figures, however, put the United States in an awkward position. It cannot condemn Vietnam when it is still a practitioner in capital punishment, as well as the loudest proponent of drug prohibition internationally, too. As is to be expected, the White House has been silent on the matter. If the Washington can stomach the totalitarian ethos behind Vietnam’s capital punishment then why can’t it overlook Vietnam’s human right’s record, Hanoi may well argue. Indeed, the moral lecturer on human rights has the mirror turned on it when capital punishment arises.

One might assume, then, that with little international support for capital punishment abolition in Vietnam, the cogs will no doubt continue rotating on the death machine, at least until a true separation between the Nation and the Party, and between the State and the Citizen, takes place.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Amnesty flags China’s non-transparency on ‘capital offenses’

Source: Asia Times (11 April 2017)

http://www.atimes.com/article/amnesty-flags-chinas-non-transparency-capital-offences/

Lack of transparency in relation to enforcement of terrorism and drug laws in China is identified as a growing area for concern by Amnesty International in a report published today.

‘China’s Deadly Secrets’, a companion to the organization’s annual report on capital punishment around the globe, notes that the country has sought greater diplomatic, military and law enforcement co-operation from other countries in its attempts to combat terrorism and stem the drug trade. However it flags a lack of understanding internationally as to how the law is applied in such cases as a concern.

Charges of “terrorism” or “extremism” are cited as a possible smokescreen for broad persecution of religious minorities and individuals who criticize the Chinese government. The authors also note that drug-related offences do not belong to the category of “most serious offences” to which the death penalty should be restricted under international law.

Amnesty’s annual report reveals that China remains the top executioner in the world, with thousands killed by authorities each year.

The human rights NGO says China executed thousands of people in 2016, more than all the other countries around the world put together. However, the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China “still remains unknown” as the data is kept secret.

Excluding China, 23 states around the world executed a total of 1,032 people in 2016, a 37% decrease from the 1,634 in 2015, when the organization recorded the highest number of executions in a single year since 1989. Other countries making up the world’s top five executioners in 2016 were Iran (at least 567), Saudi Arabia (at least 154), Iraq (at least 88) and Pakistan (at least 87).

Despite the significant year-on-year decrease, the overall number of executions in 2016 remained higher than the average recorded for the previous decade, Amnesty said.
Breakdown of death executions, excluding China. Source: Amnesty International

New disclosures in Vietnam and Malaysia also found that the numbers of executions in those countries were higher than previously thought. Vietnam executed 429 people from August 6, 2013 to June 30, 2016. The figures were first revealed in Vietnamese media in February 2017, making the country secretly the world’s third biggest executioner over the last three years, according to Amnesty.

“The magnitude of executions in Vietnam in recent years is truly shocking. You have to wonder how many people have faced the death penalty without the world knowing it,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International at the launch of the report in Hong Kong. “This conveyor belt of executions completely overshadows recent death penalty reforms.”

While unable to arrive at a conclusive figure for China, the report exposes hundreds of death penalty cases missing from its national online court database. Amnesty counted at least 931 reports of executions in China’s public news media from 2014 to 2016; however only 85 of them were recorded in the state database.

“How many people are executed in China every year and how they are executed remains completely unknown,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director for East Asia at Amnesty International. “This really stands in contrast with what the government is claiming in recent years.” The online database is touted as the government’s “crucial step towards openness” and evidence that the country’s judicial system has nothing to hide.

The database contains only “a tip of an iceberg” in relation to the thousands of death sentences that Amnesty International estimates are handed out every year in China, Bequelin said. The organization is “calling on the Chinese government to come clean, and disclose the actual level of capital punishment,” he added.

The total number of death sentences reported in 2016 (as opposed to executions carried out) jumped to 3,117 in 55 countries, exceeding the record-high total of 2,466 in 2014. The increase was mainly led by spikes in 12 countries including Bangladesh, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The organization’s improved ability to obtain credible data on countries such as Thailand is cited as having contributed to the higher overall figure.

'Alarming' executions in Vietnam: Amnesty

Source: The Australian (11 April 2017)

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/alarming-executions-in-vietnam-amnesty/news-story/12cd7b02b61d356865c56651e4b90ad4

Secrecy around executions continues to plague some Southeast Asian countries, with newly released figures showing the "disturbing" use of the death penalty in Vietnam, Amnesty International says.

At least 1032 people were executed worldwide in 2016, while at least 3117 were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International's global report released on Tuesday.

The figures, while alarming, are considerably less than the reality because they exclude the thousands of executions believed to have taken place in China.

This secrecy continues to plague some countries in Southeast Asia.

Like China, Amnesty says Vietnam continues to classify figures on the death penalty as state secrets.

However, according to the report, new information obtained this year reveal executions have been carried out at a higher rate than previously understood.

In February 2017, Vietnam media reported statistics by the ministry of public security showing 429 people had been executed between August 2013 and June 2016, at an average rate of 147 executions a year.

"(This) placed Vietnam over a three-year period as effectively the third-biggest executioner in the world," Amnesty International's deputy director of global issues, James Lynch, told AAP, putting it behind China and Iran.

The figures raise as many questions as they answer - with no context provided as to what people were executed for, when they took place or the details of their cases' legal proceedings.

"Secrecy is a huge concern, not only Vietnam but also Malaysia ... when new information comes to light it is disturbing, the number of executions were higher again than people had expected. The size of death row was higher than expected," Mr Lynch said.

"There needs to be a much more structured program of transparency about the imposition of the death penalty to allow for a more informed debate."

Also of concern in the region were calls by the Philippines government to reintroduce the death penalty as a measure to tackle crime and threats to national security.

It's a step backward for Southeast Asia, where the Philippines has been a key abolitionist.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Indonesian Death Penalty Moratorium Needs Presidential Push

Source: Human Rights Watch (29 March 2017)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/29/indonesian-death-penalty-moratorium-needs-presidential-push

Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo dropped fresh hints this week that he supports reinstatement of the official moratorium on the death penalty, but only if the Indonesian public supports the move. “Why not? But I must ask my people. If my people say OK, they say yes, I will start to prepare [to reinstate a moratorium].”

We’ve been here before. In November 2016, Jokowi suggested the Indonesian government might emulate European governments by moving toward abolishing the death penalty. At that time, Jokowi said his government was “very open to options” on death penalty alternatives, without elaborating. But since then, neither he nor his government have taken any serious steps to change Indonesia’s policy. On the contrary, in recent weeks Indonesia seems poised to execute up to six convicted drug traffickers from foreign countries on the prison island of Nusa Kambangan.

The gap between Jokowi’s rights-respecting rhetoric and the absence of policy measures to back it up is unsurprising. Jokowi has a well-earned reputation for talking the talk on human rights policies, but consistently failing to deliver. He’s stalled on accountability plans for past gross human rights violations, such as the massacres of 1965-66; failed to abolish discriminatory laws fostering religious intolerance; and lacked follow-through on promises of accountability for abuses in Papua.

Indonesia ended a four-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, and Jokowi has made the execution of convicted drug traffickers a signature issue of his presidency. Jokowi has justified using the death penalty by saying drug traffickers on death row have “destroyed the future of the nation.” In December 2014, he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an “important shock therapy” for anyone who violates Indonesia’s drug laws. Since taking office in 2014, his government has executed 18 convicted drug traffickers, though no executions have taken place this year. The majority of those executed have been citizens of other countries, and Jokowi rejected their government’s calls for clemency, citing national sovereignty.

Jokowi should not hinge his action on so fundamental an issue as capital punishment on the vagaries of popular support. Instead, he should take this opportunity to demonstrate leadership and bolster his rhetorical support for a death penalty moratorium with real action. Indecision is no reason to impose an inherently cruel punishment.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Erdogan sees Turkey parliament restoring capital punishment

Source: Channel News Asia (19 March 2017)

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/erdogan-sees-turkey-parliament-restoring-capital-punishment/3606628.html

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday (Mar 18) he expected parliament to approve restoring capital punishment after next month's referendum in a move that could end Ankara's bid to join the EU.

His remarks came as Ankara was locked in a bitter standoff with Europe after Germany and the Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from campaigning for a 'yes' vote ahead of the Apr 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers.

The spat has seen Erdogan unleashing a volley of barbs against Berlin and The Hague, even likening Germany's leaders to Nazis, in remarks which were on Saturday rubbished by Berlin's top diplomat as "ludicrous".

With the bitter standoff showing no sign of ending, his remarks on restoring the death penalty looked set to further strain relations.

Turkey completely abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its efforts to join the European Union and the bloc has made clear that any move to restore it would scupper Ankara's already-embattled membership bid.

Erdogan raised the idea of bringing back the death penalty after the failed coup of Jul 15, suggesting it would bring justice to the families of the victims.

"I believe, God willing, that after the April 16 vote, parliament will do the necessary concerning your demands for capital punishment," Erdogan said at a televised rally in the western city of Canakkale, his words greeted by loud cheers.

To become law, the bill would still need to be signed by the head of state. But Erdogan said he would sign it "without hesitation".

'IGNORE HANS AND GEORGE'


EU officials have repeatedly warned Turkey that restoring capital punishment would spell the end of its decades-long bid to join the bloc.

But Erdogan and his ministers have said they need to respond to popular demand for such a move to deal with the ringleaders of the coup.

The Turkish strongman said he did not care what Europe thought about such a move.

"What Hans and George say is not important for me," he said, using two common European names. "What the people say, what the law says, that's what is important for us," he added.

Erdogan has repeatedly raised the idea that Turkey could restore capital punishment. But this is the first time he has directly called on parliament to approve it after the referendum on constitutional change.

No judicial executions have taken place since Oct 25, 1984 when leftwing militant Hidir Aslan was hanged following the 1980 military coup.

After the measure was outlawed, the 1999 death sentence against Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan - and others on death row - was commuted to life behind bars.

A POLITICAL GAMBIT


In his latest salvo, Erdogan blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel for backing a Dutch refusal to let Turkish ministers hold rallies in Rotterdam. "Shame on you! You are all the same," he said.

"You will not divert this nation from its path. On Apr 16, my nation will give the West the most beautiful response to its false behaviour, God willing," he added.

Analysts say Erdogan is happy to pick a fight with Europe in a drive for nationalist votes that could prove crucial in determining the outcome of what is expected to be a tight referendum.

He has particularly needled Germany and the Netherlands by saying their behaviour was reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Denouncing his remarks as "ludicrous", German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also accused the Turkish leader of openly playing to the gallery ahead of the referendum.

"He needs an enemy for his election campaign: Turkey humiliated and the West arrogant," Gabriel said in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine on Saturday.

GULEN GUILT? BERLIN UNCONVINCED

And in comments likely to further anger Ankara, Germany's intelligence chief said Berlin was unconvinced by Turkish assertions that US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen was the mastermind behind the July 15 coup.

"Turkey has tried on different levels to convince us of that fact, but they have not succeeded," foreign intelligence service chief Bruno Kahl told Der Spiegel.

In the wake of the putsch, Ankara launched an unprecedented purge of alleged Gulen supporters, with some 43,000 people jailed and awaiting, or on, trial.

Kahl said that the coup was launched by "part of the military" who expected to be hit by a purge.

- AFP/ec

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

China says it uses death penalty sparingly

Source: The Japan Times (12 March 2017)

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/12/asia-pacific/crime-legal-asia-pacific/china-says-uses-death-penalty-sparingly/#.WMfSXPnyvIU

BEIJING – China’s chief justice said Sunday that his country, which is believed to execute more people than the rest of the world combined, gave the death penalty “to an extremely small number of criminals for extremely serious offenses” in the past 10 years.

The actual number of executions in China is a state secret. A 2007 decision that all death sentences must be reviewed by the Supreme People’s Court is believed to have reduced the number of executions dramatically.

Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said in his report to the national legislature that the court has “strictly controlled and prudently applied” the death penalty, without giving any figures.

Dui Hua, a U.S.-based rights group that focuses on legal justice, estimated that about 2,400 people were executed in 2013, one-tenth the number in 1983. It said that, according to its sources, the number of annual executions remained largely unchanged in 2014 and 2015.

China can punish 46 crimes with the death penalty. It is typically given in cases of murder, rape, robbery and drug offenses.

Zhou also said Sunday that over the coming year, courts will use the law to severely punish crimes of harming state security and violent terrorism “to resolutely safeguard the country’s political security.”

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Philippine House approves reinstating death penalty

Source: The Straits Times (8 March 2017)

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/philippine-house-approves-reinstating-death-penalty

The Philippine House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a Bill to reinstate the death penalty, more than a decade after it was abolished.

Despite intense lobbying by the influential Roman Catholic church and human rights and pro-life groups, the proposal was passed yesterday 216 to 54, with one abstention, eight months after it was filed.

President Rodrigo Duterte pushed for the reinstatement to add even more teeth to his brutal war on the narcotics trade.

"The death penalty to me is retribution… You pay for what you did in this life," he said last year.

Under the House-approved Bill, so-called heinous crimes would be punishable by death. Those include some forms of rape and murder, as well as drug offences, including the import, sale, manufacture, delivery and distribution of narcotics.

Capital punishment would typically be carried out by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection.

The Philippines abolished capital punishment in 1987, shortly after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a popular revolt. President Fidel Ramos reinstated it in 1993, citing "crime control". In 2006, President Gloria Arroyo, following a vote in Congress, suspended it.

Mrs Arroyo, now allied with Mr Duterte's party, voted against the Bill. So did Mrs Imelda Marcos.

The debate now moves to the Senate where legislators are expected to await a ruling by the Justice Department on whether it contravenes the country's commitment to international conventions.

But Justice Secretary, Mr Vitaliano Aguirre II, is a fraternity brother of Mr Duterte's, and is not expected to oppose the Act. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, an ally of the president, is expecting a close fight. "I'm predicting maybe anywhere from 14 versus 10 or 10 versus 14 either way," he said.

The opposition Liberal Party, of former president Benigno Aquino, is already digging in. "We maintain that the death penalty is cruel, degrading, inhuman. We commit to stopping the death penalty in the Senate," Senator Francis Pangilinan, the party president, said.

At least nine senators have said they oppose capital punishment. The Senate has to pass its own Bill, that will then have to be reconciled with the one the House passed.

Once consolidated, it will be sent to Mr Duterte for his signature.

Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate justice committee, said he would hold hearings on the Bill but the soonest he expects the debates to start is June. He added that if the committee can agree on a proposal, he will have one of the death penalty advocates in the Senate sponsor it. He mentioned, in particular, Mr Manny Pacquiao, a boxing champion and Christian preacher who believes death as punishment is sanctioned in biblical teachings.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Vietnam to build five more lethal injection venues

Source: DTI News (9 February 2017)

http://www.dtinews.vn/en/news/017/49419/vietnam-to-build-five-more-lethal-injection-venues.html

Five more venues to facilitate lethal injections will be built in Vietnam in the coming time according to the Ministry of Public Security.

A report from the ministry showed that since the first execution carried out using lethal injection in August 2013, 429 prisoners on death row had been executed by this method by July 2016 at five facilities in Hanoi, HCM City, Nghe An, Son La, and Dak Lak.

The National Assembly amended the Penal Code in 1999 and 2009 in which the number of death-eligible crimes were reduced from 44 to 22. However, the number of death sentences, especially in crimes relating to drugs, murder, and rape, has not declined for many reasons, the report said.

There were 1,134 criminals given death sentences in five years between July 1st, 2011 and June 30th, 2016.

According to the ministry, there have been many difficulties in carrying out executions using lethal injection instead of firing squads during the trial period, especially in obtaining lethal drugs and relieving the pressure of holding hundreds of death row inmates in prison.

"But this is certainly a more humane method of execution which causes less pain to the convicted and their family, and relieves pressure on executors, the ministry claimed.

The injection will contain three substances -- sodium thiopental, an anesthetic; pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant; and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Friday, 17 February 2017

‘Reviving death penalty in PH a setback for Asean’

Source: The Manila Times (16 February 2017)


THE revival of capital punishment will be an embarrassment for the Philippines and a setback for the rest of Southeast Asia, a number of lawmakers from the region said on Wednesday.

Lawmakers Kasthuri Patto of Malaysia, Mu Sochua of Cambodia, and Filipino opposition lawmakers Edcel Lagman and Tom Villarin issued the warning in a forum organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Parliamentarians for Human Rights in Quezon City.

“It would be a shame if the Asean nations [like the Philippines]will stand to say we have kept the death penalty. Does a nation lose face when it fights for its people by upholding freedom, justice, equality, democracy and right to life? A nation will lose its face when it listens to the masses of misinformed public and supports the corrosion of human rights,” Patto, a member of the parliament of Malaysia representing the Batukawan constituency, said in the forum titled: “A Dialogue on the Death Penalty and Regional Responses.”

If the Philippines restores the death penalty, the effort to abolish capital punishment in the region will suffer a huge blow, said Sochua, member of the National Assembly of Cambodia representing Battambang for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

“We need a very strong member state [in Asean]to play that role who champions and protects fundamental human rights and the freedom of our people. If one Asean nation slips back to death penalty, you might pull back others. That’s why we are certain that we will defend our position against death penalty,” he said.

Cambodia experienced state-sanctioned genocide during the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979, leaving around three million dead. Among Asean nations, only Cambodia and the Philippines have abolished the death penalty.

“We have always been inspired by the Philippines. The People Power movement, the fight for democracy, human rights, and we want to continue to put you on a very high position. If we are alone in that fight, it won’t be a comfortable place,” Sochua said.

The women parliamentarians then echoed Lagman’s earlier call to his colleagues to heed their consciences in casting their vote on the death penalty measure.

“Life is sacred. Our conscience is at stake here as representatives of the people. Through the years, we in Cambodia have witnessed a lot of atrocities, Cambodians killing Cambodians, and the state-sponsored genocide is part of it. As members of the parliament, we cannot vote for anything according to what is dictated by our parties. We are elected by our people to promote human rights and respect human life. We are elected by our people, not appointed by our parties,” Sochua stressed.

“We should mobilize the region and join the Philippines in its fight to keep the abolition of the death penalty. Death penalty is not a solution to injustice. If we invest in reforming the judiciary and going after corruption from the top level, that will be beneficial and serving justice to our people in the long run,” Sochua added.

Patto said Asean’s non-interference policy, which the Duterte administration has repeatedly stressed, could put citizens at risk, citing those facing the death penalty for various offenses in countries with weak justice systems.

“When an Indonesian was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia even if it was based on a flawed case, the Indonesian government pleaded for mercy; to free the Indonesian from the gallows. There were fits of laughter back home because it is so funny that Indonesia is begging for mercy when Indonesia is executing people like it’s nobody’s business. That is also what is happening in Malaysia since we have Malaysians facing death penalty in Singapore for drug trafficking offenses,” Patto said.

“Filipinos are also in death row in Indonesia. I want to be of help to the Malaysians facing death penalty in Singapore but how? Malaysia has the death penalty. Authorities there would just tell me, why then is it so easy for you [to execute people in Malaysia and [it is supposed to be]difficult for us? My point here is this cycle of death must come to end at some point,” Patto said.

Six of the 10 Asean nations still have death penalty laws, including Malaysia. Three of the six however, have taken steps toward scaling down executions in the past two years.

A briefer provided by the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights showed that Thailand has pledged to commute death sentences and review the imposition of the death penalty on drug-related offenses. It has chosen not to execute prisoners since 2009, following a periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council.

Malaysia’s Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali said in November 2015 he would propose to the cabinet that death penalty be abolished.

Vietnam approved amendments to its criminal code that reduced the number of crimes punishable by death to 18 from 22.

Laos, Myanmar and Brunei have not abolished capital punishment but have not executed any prisoner for at least 25 years.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines with the adoption of the 1987 Constitution.

In 1993, however, Congress passed Republic Act 7659, or the Death Penalty Law, which revived capital punishment.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in June 2006 when she signed Republic Act No. 9346, also known as An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Indonesia reaffirms use of death penalty despite criticism

Source: Jakarta Post (1 February 2017)

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/indonesia-reaffirms-use-of-death-penalty-despite-criticism.html

Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Wednesday that Indonesia would continue to impose the death penalty on those guilty of extraordinary crimes, including drug trafficking.

“We never claimed to have stopped executions,” Prasetyo told lawmakers from the House of Representatives’ legal affairs and human rights commission during a hearing on Wednesday.

Prasetyo explained that executions had been put on hold while Indonesia lobbied for international support to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

“We are still implementing the death penalty, but are focusing on the greater interest for the time being. The government is trying to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council,” he emphasized. (dan)

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Pakistan: Senate Committee on Human Rights to Debate Misuse of Blasphemy Laws

Source: The Wire (13 January 2017)

https://thewire.in/99465/pakistan-senate-committee-human-rights-debate-misuse-blasphemy-laws/

Islamabad: A Pakistani senate committee is set to debate how to prevent the country’s blasphemy laws being applied unfairly, despite opposition from religious conservatives who support legislation that carries a mandatory death penalty for insulting Islam.

Senator Farhatullah Babar told Reuters that the Senate Committee on Human Rights, of which he is a member, will start discussions on blasphemy laws as early as next week, based on recommendations from a 24-year-old report.

He said it would be the first time in decades that any parliamentary body had considered a formal proposal to stop the abuse of the blasphemy laws.

According to Babar, the committee would consider a proposal making it binding to investigate complaints before registering a case, to ensure “genuine blasphemy” had been committed and the law was not being used to settle scores, as critics say it is.

He also said the committee would debate whether life imprisonment was an adequate punishment, instead of the mandatory death penalty.

Many conservatives in Pakistan consider even criticising the laws as blasphemy and in 2011 a Pakistani governor, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard after calling for reform of the laws.

His killer was hailed as a hero by religious hardliners, and tens of thousands of supporters attended his funeral after he was executed last year.

If the committee makes any recommendations, it would be only the first step in a long process to bring about change in how the laws are enforced.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office declined to comment on the senate committee’s moves.

His party’s support would be needed for any measures to move forward, and while legislation protecting women’s rights has been passed and Sharif has reached out to minorities, it is unclear if he would risk a backlash over blasphemy.

Unearthed report

Hundreds of Pakistanis are on death row for blasphemy convictions and at least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from the Centre for Research and Security Studies based in the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan’s religious and political elites almost universally steer clear of speaking against blasphemy laws, but a small group of lawmakers has been looking for ways to reduce abuses.

Babar said the Human Rights Committee hit a “gold mine” when he discovered a 24-year-old senate report that called for a more specific definition of blasphemy and said further debate was needed on whether expunging “imprisonment of life” from an earlier law had been correct.

“So we convinced other senators that here we have a chance, we have a starting point, we have this report in hand. Let’s debate it and see how we can prevent abuse of this law,” Babar said.

However, powerful religious conservatives who have millions of followers strongly support the laws.

Tahir Ashrafi, head of the influential Pakistan Ulema Council of Muslim clerics, said it would oppose any change.

“Make new laws to punish those who abuse blasphemy laws,” Ashrafi told Reuters. “But no one can even think about changing this law.”

‘Firmer stance’

Last week, Pakistani police arrested 150 hard-line activists rallying in support of the blasphemy laws on the anniversary of the assassination of Taseer, the Punjab governor shot dead by his bodyguard for calling for reform.

Police have also resisted a demand by hard-liners to register a blasphemy case against Shaan Taseer, the slain governor’s son, over a Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under the “inhumane” legislation.

“This government has shown a firmer stance than the government when my father was martyred,” Shaan Taseer said.

But public opinion remains a major obstacle to reform. On the outskirts of Islamabad, thousands still visit the shrine of Mumtaz Qadri, executed last February for Taseer’s murder.

The large shrine, with a glass roof and shiny marble floors, was built over his grave days after the burial.

Taxi driver Waheed Gul says he has come to the shrine every day since it was built, “What better way to spend my days than to pray every day at the grave of someone who sent a blasphemer to hell?”

(Reuters)

Kuwait: First Executions in 4 Years

Source: Human Rights Watch (26 January 2017)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/26/kuwait-first-executions-4-years

(Beirut) – Kuwait carried out seven executions by hanging on January 25, 2017, the first time the Gulf state carried out the death penalty in four years, Human Rights Watch said today. Kuwait’s decision reflects a growing trend in the region to increase the use of, or lift moratoriums on, the death penalty.

Kuwait executed two nationals, including a member of the royal family, an Ethiopian woman, a Filipina woman, two Egyptian men, and a Bangladeshi man in Kuwait’s central prison, according to KUNA, Kuwait’s state news agency. The executions were the first in Kuwait since 2013, when Kuwait executed five people. The 2013 executions ended a de facto death penalty moratorium that had been in place since 2007.

“Executing seven people in one day shows Kuwait is moving in exactly the wrong direction on the death penalty,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Kuwait government should be reinstating the moratorium on the death penalty instead of hanging seven people.”

Kuwaiti courts convicted all seven of those executed of violent offenses between 2007 and 2011, including six for murder and one for kidnapping and rape. The Filipina and Ethiopian women, migrant domestic workers, were convicted of murdering members of their employers’ families, according to Al Jazeera, and the member of the royal family who was executed, Sheikh Al-Sabah, was found guilty of killing his nephew, also a royal, in 2010.

Courts sentenced the Kuwaiti woman to death for having set fire to a wedding tent in 2009, killing almost 60 people. The two Egyptian men were also convicted of murder, and the Bangladeshi man of kidnapping and rape, according to KUNA.

Human Rights Watch has documented due process violations in Kuwait’s criminal justice system that have made it difficult for defendants to get a fair trial, including in capital cases. Kuwait maintains the death penalty for non-violent offenses, including drug smuggling.

In the regional trend to increasing use of the death penalty, in January, 2017, Bahrain ended a six-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty, executing three people. In December 2014, Jordan ended its eight-year moratorium on the death penalty, executing 11 people. Saudi Arabia and Iran consistently have some of the world’s highest execution rates. Saudi Arabia has executed more than 400 people since the beginning of 2014, and human rights groups in Iran report the country may have executed as many as 437 in 2016 alone.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error. A majority of countries in the world have abolished the practice. In 2012, following similar resolutions in 2007, 2008, and 2010, the United Nations General Assembly called on countries to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, progressively restrict the practice, and reduce the offenses for which it might be imposed, all with the view toward its eventual abolition. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called on countries to abolish the death penalty.

“Kuwait’s killing of seven people on January 25 highlights the alarming trend in the region for countries to return to or increasingly use the death penalty,” Whitson said. “The death penalty is inherently cruel and should never be used, regardless of the crime.”

Thailand considers death penalty for officials convicted of graft

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Legislative battle on Death Penalty begins

Source: CNN Philippines (17 January 2017)

http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/01/17/death-penalty-bill-revival-house-of-representatives-speaker-alvarez-lagman-baguilat.html

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The debate on the controversial death penalty bill takes center stage in the House of Representatives as Congress resumes session.

The House leadership said they intend to vote on the bill after 30 session days of debate.

But for such a controversial measure, its fate lies on public support and, eventually, on the number of votes it can gain from lawmakers.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez could only bank on the majority coalition to get the green light for the death penalty bill. He says he's confident it would pass the debates.

"Meron tayong coalition, meron tayong supermajority. Kung meron mang lilihis doon siguro mga 5 or 10," Alvarez said. [We have a coalition, we have a supermajority. If there will be some who will take a different direction, there's only about 5 or 10.]

Equally confident is the House Minority bloc - which believes the bill won't make it in Congress.

They claim they have the numbers to block it's approval.

"Conscience vote, tiyak panalo kami and it will be a wide margin pero kung party vote, panalo parin kami but by a slim margin," Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.

Lagman claims a number of members from the super majority, including allies of President Duterte are now rethinking their support for death penalty.

Among them, PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles. In a text message to CNN Philippines, Nograles explained, while he is pro-administration, he is also pro-life.

"I cannot support the death [p]enalty bill. I believe that Congress must prioritize legislation increasing the number of courts, prosecutors, and public attorneys so we can speed up the judicial process from the average of 7 years for the first decision down to hopefully less than a year trial," Nograles said.

"It is my duty to play an active role in the debates and I hope that the debates will be factual," he added.

Alvarez said he expects the bill would be voted on after a month of debates, but Lagman thinks it will take longer than that.

Lagman said at least 50 congressmen have signified their intent to ask questions about the bill.

He recalled it took him and then Cebu Representative Pablo Gacia about three weeks during the 13th Congress to finish their questions during debates on the abolition of the death penalty.

For his part, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said the leadership should make sure there is quorum during the debates.

"When we start the debates, kung matagal yung interpellation, pag wala ng quorum, titigil din 'yung debate," Baguilat pointed out. [When we start the debates, if the interpellation will take long and there would be no quorum, the debates will cease.]

Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin also said the church, civil society groups, and even international parliamentarians are ready to go all out against the reimposition of death penalty.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Jia Jinglong: Chinese villager executed despite campaign

Source: BBC News (15 November 2016)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37985339

The execution of a Chinese villager - despite widespread calls to commute his sentence - has drawn criticism from those who say this country's courts have one way of handling the powerful and a different way of handling the poor.

In early May 2013, Jia Jinglong was preparing for his wedding day.

He wanted to have the ceremony at his family home in Hebei Province, not far from Beijing in northern China.

However, just prior to the big day, his house was knocked down to make way for a new development.

Adding to his woes, his fiancee then called off the wedding and he reportedly lost his job.

Jia Jinglong felt it was all too much. He sought revenge for the upheaval in his life following the destruction of his house without proper compensation.

In February 2015, he took a nail gun and went looking for the village chief, the man he decided was to blame. Then the groom-to-be-no-longer shot and killed the chief, 55-year-old He Jianhua.

For this he was sentenced to death.

Class and injustice

In accordance with the rules governing all death penalty cases, his went to the Supreme Court for ratification. It was cleared to proceed.

There has been a major public campaign to have his death sentence commuted because of extenuating circumstances. Even some newspapers controlled by the Communist Party have been arguing that he should be spared.

But now word has come through from an official social media account run by the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court: Jia Jinglong has been executed.

Some outside China will be wondering why the general public and Chinese media might have felt the need to campaign for somebody who admitted to murdering his local Communist Party secretary.

Well it all comes down to class and injustice in modern China.

These types of forced demolitions are routine here. It would be hard to argue against the premise that for years this country's central government has turned a blind eye while property developers, in league with corrupt local officials, have bulldozed people's houses, using paid thugs to beat up villagers if they try to resist.

It is a way of clearing out pesky residents which continues to this day.

The "compensation" paid is usually nowhere near enough to buy an apartment in the same area, forcing evicted families to move to distant, low-grade housing estates.

How can I say this so confidently? Because I've seen it first hand time and again. I've seen the houses being destroyed, I've seen the crying families and I've seen the men sent in to silence them.

Ask pretty much any China correspondent and they will tell you the same thing.
'Pushed into a corner'

We are constantly approached by desperate people claiming their homes have been effectively stolen and destroyed. The BBC could do a story on one of these cases in a different location every week if we wanted to.

Because this is seen here as such a widespread abuse of power against the lao bai xing (the ordinary punters) there has been a view that - while murder is not to be condoned - Jia Jinglong was pushed into a corner; that the crimes against him should have meant commuting his death sentence to some lesser penalty.

After all, people will tell you, government officials and those in the upper echelons of society are saved from a lethal injection for much less.

These cases are posing a real problem for the Communist Party in terms of perceived legitimacy, especially when its reason for monopoly power is supposed to be delivering a more just world for the downtrodden.

In 2009, a 21-year-old woman working as a pedicurist in a hotel building was on a break, washing some clothes.

Attached to the hotel was a massage and entertainment complex called Dream Fantasy City. Offering food, drink, massages, karaoke and often prostitution, these types of establishments are popular with government officials.

When a local Communist Party figure approached Deng Yujiao asking her to stop washing her clothes and instead provide him with "special services" he fully expected to get his way.

She told him she didn't do that kind of work there. It's said he then took a wad of cash from his pocket and started slapping her on the face with it. He then pushed her onto a lounge and got on top of her. To defend herself she stabbed him four times with a small knife. One of the blows struck him in the neck, causing the director of the local township's business promotions office to bleed to death on the spot.

Deng Yujiao was charged with murder.

Her case drew huge waves of support from Chinese people using the Internet to campaign in her favour. To many, she was seen as a hero. Finally somebody was standing up to these small-town, corrupt and arrogant officials.

The social media posts were censored but the momentum could not be stopped.

Prosecutors dropped the murder charge and granted bail. She faced a lesser charge of "intentional assault" but was never sentenced. This was apparently due to her mental state.

There are considerable parallels in these two cases but certainly not in one respect.

Despite the public outcry there was to be no sparing Jia Jinglong.

His crime was committed in the new era of President Xi Jinping. Justice now appears to be more hardline and the Communist Party remains well and truly in charge of the courts and all that takes place inside them.

UNGA 2016 Resolution – How Countries Voted

Source: Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (19 December 2016)

https://adpan.org/2017/01/10/unga-2016-resolution-how-countries-voted/

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY(UNGA) MORATORIUM ON THE USE OF THE DEATH PENALTY RESOLUTION..19/12/2016

[117 of the UN’s 193 member states voted in favour of the proposal. Only 40 states voted against it and 31 abstained at the vote]

Below the Draft Test of the Resolution (for the final text, visit UN Website)

The General Assembly,

Guided by the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations,

Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Recalling the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and in this regard welcoming the increasing number of accessions to and ratifications of the Second Optional Protocol,

Reaffirming its resolutions 62/149 of 18 December 2007, 63/168 of 18 December 2008, 65/206 of 21 December 2010, 67/176 of 20 December 2012 and 69/186 of 18 December 2014 on the question of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, in which the General Assembly called upon States that still maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing it,

Welcoming all relevant decisions and resolutions of the Human Rights Council,

Mindful that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable,

Convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to respect for human dignity and to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights, and considering that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty,

Noting ongoing local and national debates and regional initiatives on the death penalty, as well as the readiness of an increasing number of Member States to make available to the public information on the use of the death penalty, and also, in this regard, the decision by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 26/2 of 26 June 20145 to convene biennial high-level panel discussions in order to further exchange views on the question of the death penalty,

Recognizing the role of national human rights institutions in contributing to ongoing local and national debates and regional initiatives on the death penalty,

Welcoming the considerable movement towards the abolition of the death penalty globally and the fact that many States are applying a moratorium, including long-standing moratoriums, either in law or in practice, on the use of the death penalty,

Emphasizing the need to ensure that persons facing the death penalty are treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity and in compliance with their rights under international human rights law,

Noting the technical cooperation among Member States, as well as the role of relevant United Nations entities and human rights mechanisms, in supporting State efforts to establish moratoriums on the death penalty,

Bearing in mind the work of special procedures mandate holders who have addressed human rights issues related to the death penalty within the framework of their respective mandates,

Reaffirms the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations;

Expresses its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty;

Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 69/186 and the recommendations contained therein;

Also welcomes the steps taken by some States to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed, as well as steps taken to limit its application;

Further welcomes initiatives and political leadership encouraging national discussions and debates on the possibility of moving away from capital punishment through domestic decision-making;

Welcomes the decisions made by an increasing number of States from all regions, at all levels of government, to apply a moratorium on executions, followed in many cases by the abolition of the death penalty;

Calls upon all States:

(a) To respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, in particular the minimum standards, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984, as well as to provide the Secretary-General with information in this regard;

(b) To comply with their obligations under article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, particularly the right to receive information on consular assistance;

(c) To make available relevant information, disaggregated by sex, age, and race, as applicable, and other applicable criteria, with regard to their use of the death penalty, inter alia, the number of persons sentenced to death, the number of persons on death row and the number of executions carried out, the number of death sentences reversed or commuted on appeal and information on any scheduled execution, which can contribute to possible informed and transparent national and international debates, including on the obligations of States pertaining to the use of the death penalty;

(d) To progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and not to impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age, on pregnant women or on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities;

(e) To reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed;

(f) To ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to apply for pardon or commutation of their death sentence by ensuring that clemency procedures are fair and transparent and that prompt information is provided at all stages of the process;

(g) To establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

Calls upon States which have abolished the death penalty not to reintroduce it, and encourages them to share their experience in this regard;

Encourages States which have a moratorium to maintain it and to share their experience in this regard;

Calls upon States that have not yet done so to consider acceding to or ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty;

Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session on the implementation of the present resolution;

Decides to continue consideration of the matter at its seventy-third session under the item entitled “Promotion and protection of human rights”.

Some observations of a friend as follows:-

The plenary session of the UN General Assembly adopted yesterday its sixth resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with 117 votes in favour, 40 against and 31 abstentions.

The text of the resolution includes some positive new additions compared to 2014, including:

-a reference to the role of national human rights institutions in contributing to ongoing local and national debates and regional initiatives on the death penalty;

-a request to make available relevant information on any scheduled execution, in addition to other information already listed in previous resolutions;

-a call on states that still retain the death penalty “To ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to apply for pardon or commutation of their death sentence by ensuring that clemency procedures are fair and transparent and that prompt information is provided at all stages of the process;”

Unfortunately the opponents of the resolution managed this year to include in the resolution a new paragraph that recalls their sovereign right to determine their legal systems, as follows:

“1. Reaffirms the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations;”

While the number of the votes in favour remained the same as in 2014, there have been some interesting changes in the voting, both positively and negatively:

Positive changes:

-Guinea, Malawi, Namibia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka moved from abstention to vote in favour;

-Zimbabwe moved from vote against to abstention;

– Swaziland also moved from not present to vote in favour (but voted against the resolution in previous years).

-Lesotho moved from not present to abstention (but abstained in previous resolutions, so did not mention this in our AI statement); Nauru moved from not present to vote in favour (but supported the resolutions in previous years, so we did not mention this in our statement).

Negative changes:

-Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Philippines, Seychelles moved from vote in favour to abstention;

-Maldives moved from abstention to vote against;

-Burundi and South Sudan moved from vote in favour to vote against.

Several states also did not vote yesterday, for whatever reason, contributing to the final results:

-DRC, Gambia, Senegal went from abstention to not present;

-Rwanda went from vote in favour to not present.

This leaves us with a somewhat bittersweet result: on one hand, the number of votes in favour has not become higher compared to 2014; on the other hand, some of the positive changes might signal the beginning of new journeys towards abolition.

2016 has been a very challenging year all around, including for the death penalty-some of the negative vote changes were somewhat expected, some perhaps speak to greater human rights challenges.

Thank you nonetheless for your continued work to get us all here-look forward to more work together in the new year.

Amnesty International’s public statement on yesterday’s vote can be found below and at this link: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/act50/5389/2016/en/