Thursday, 30 March 2017

Indonesian Death Penalty Moratorium Needs Presidential Push

Source: Human Rights Watch (29 March 2017)

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)

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".


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.


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.


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)

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)

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.