Saturday, 25 February 2017

Vietnam to build five more lethal injection venues

Source: DTI News (9 February 2017)

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)

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)

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?”


Kuwait: First Executions in 4 Years

Source: Human Rights Watch (26 January 2017)

(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