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/

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Duterte’s critics slam ‘barbaric’ death penalty plan to execute six criminals a day

Source: South China Morning Post (20 December 2016)


Philippine Catholic leaders and rights groups have condemned as “barbaric” President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to restore the death penalty and execute “five or six” criminals daily.

Duterte, 71, has made reviving the death penalty in the mainly Catholic nation his top legislative priority as part of a brutal war on crime that has killed 5,300 people.

“There was death penalty before but nothing happened. Return that to me and I would do it every day: five or six (criminals). That’s for real,” Duterte said Saturday.

An official at the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said the Church “totally opposed” Duterte’s plan.

“The Philippines will be viewed as very barbaric,” Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary at its public affairs office, said.

“It’s going to make the Philippines the capital of death penalty in the world.”

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce opposition to the penalty from the Catholic Church, the religion of 80 per cent of Filipinos.

Before assuming office in June, Duterte vowed to introduce executions by hanging, saying he did not want to waste bullets and believed snapping the spinal cord was more humane than a firing squad.

Duterte said he viewed the death penalty not as a means to deter crime but for retribution.

His allies in the House of Representatives quickly pushed for the bill and said they would vote on it by January.

The United Nations’ human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a letter to the Philippine congress this month that reviving the death penalty would violate the country’s international obligations.

But on Saturday Duterte insisted executions were necessary to fight the drug scourge which he said was “destroying” the nation.

While his aides dismiss his incendiary statements as hyperbole, rights advocates said Duterte’s remarks were alarming.

“Setting a quota for executions is just too much. One death is too much because we are talking about lives,” Amnesty International Philippines vice chairman Romeo Cabarde said.

Catholic leaders and rights defenders have instead urged the government to reform a slow and corrupt justice system which they said was likely to send innocent people to death row.

Secillano said bishops planned to dissuade lawmakers from voting for the death penalty and would attend congressional debates next month.

Duterte’s crime war has drawn international criticism from the United States and United Nations over concerns about alleged extrajudicial killings and a breakdown in the rule of law.

Duterte won May elections in a landslide on a promise to eradicate drugs in society - a mandate he often cited to defend his controversial campaign.

A survey by Social Weather Stations released Monday showed while a majority backed Duterte’s drug war, 78 per cent of Filipinos were worried that they or someone in their family would be a victim of extrajudicial killings.

The survey also showed 71 per cent said it was “very important” that police keep drug suspects they arrested alive.

Police have repeatedly said they only shot at criminals who fought back but the nation’s rights agency has questioned this argument and has begun investigating cases.

On Monday, Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa apologised for police killings of criminal suspects but insisted these were done in self-defence.

“Lord, I hope you forgive us even if the ones we kill are bad people,” Dela Rosa said during the police’s Christmas party.

“If the life of a policeman will be lost just to preserve the life of a criminal, that’s a great injustice.”

Dela Rosa added Duterte gave police hefty bonuses for leading the crime war.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

China court finds man executed 21 years ago innocent

Source: Straits Times (2 December 2016)

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-court-finds-man-executed-21-years-ago-innocent

BEIJING (AFP) - China's top court on Friday (Dec 2) cleared a man executed 21 years ago for murder - more than a decade after another man confessed to the killing.

The case of Nie Shubin, who was 20 years old when he faced a firing squad in 1995 after being convicted of rape and murder, is the latest miscarriage of justice in the Communist-ruled country.

"The Supreme People's Court believes that the facts used in the original trial were unclear and the evidence insufficient, and so changes the original sentence to one of innocence," it said in a statement on a verified social media account.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of 99.92 per cent, and concerns over wrongful verdicts are fuelled by police reliance on forced confessions and the lack of effective defence in criminal trials.

Overseas rights groups say China executes more people than any other country, but Beijing does not give figures on the death penalty, regarding the statistics as state secrets.

Nie was convicted of raping and murdering a woman whose body was discovered by her father in a corn field on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang city, in the northern province of Hebei.

But the time, method and motive for the murder could not be confirmed, and key documents related to witnesses and the defendant's testimony were missing, the supreme court said.

The "primary evidence was that Nie Shubin's confession of guilt corroborated the other evidence", but "there are doubts over the truth and legality of his confession of guilt", the statement added.

Nie's family had been campaigning for justice since a serial murderer arrested in 2005 confessed to the killing. But the case was only formally reopened in 2014.

"Thanks to all those who helped on Nie Shubin's case!" his mother, Zhang Huanzhi, 72, said on social media.

The Hebei high court, which convicted and executed Nie, "expressed deep, deep regrets" to his relatives and would investigate "possible illegal problems related to the trial" soon, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Philippines: Don’t Reinstate Death Penalty

Source: Human Rights Watch (3 December 2016)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/03/philippines-dont-reinstate-death-penalty

(New York) – The Philippine House of Representatives should reject a proposal to reinstate the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today. On November 29, 2016, the Judicial Reforms Subcommittee approved Congress House Bill No. 1 (Death Penalty Law), which would reinstate capital punishment for “heinous crimes,” including murder, piracy, and the trafficking and possession of illegal drugs. A house vote on the bill is likely before the end of 2016.

“The Philippine government should acknowledge the death penalty’s barbarity and reject any moves to reinstate it,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “The failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent is globally recognized and the government should maintain the prohibition on its use.”

In a joint letter drafted by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a network of nongovernmental organizations that focuses on issues related to drug production, trafficking, and use, the consortium urged all members of the Philippine House of Representatives and Senate to uphold the right to life enshrined in the 1987 Philippines Constitution. The Philippines is also party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR on the abolishment of the death penalty. The consortium also urged Philippine lawmakers to ensure proportionate sentencing of drug offenses to protect the vulnerable, and invest in harm reduction approaches to protect the health and wellbeing of Filipino people.

The Philippine government abolished the death penalty under article III, section 19 of the 1987 constitution. President Fidel Ramos reimposed the death penalty in 1993 as a “crime control” measure, but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reinstated abolition in 2006.

The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty has been repeatedly debunked. Most recently, on March 4, 2015, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, stated that there was “no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime.” Even with respect to murder, an Oxford University analysis concluded that capital punishment does not deter “murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.”

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

Reinstating the death penalty would violate the Philippines’ international legal obligations. The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR states that “no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed” and that “each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”

Where the death penalty is permitted, human rights law limits the death penalty to “the most serious crimes,” typically crimes resulting in death or serious bodily harm. In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, while urging countries to take an overall “human rights-based approach to drug and crime control.” In its 2014 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board, the agency charged with monitoring compliance with UN drug control conventions, encouraged countries to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses. The UN Human Rights Committee and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of “most serious crime.” In September 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirmed that “persons convicted of drug-related offences … should not be subject to the death penalty.”

“Reinstatement of the death penalty won’t solve any drug-related societal problems that Congress House Bill No. 1 seeks to address,” Kine said. “It will only add to the already horrific death toll that President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has inflicted on Filipinos since he took office on June 30.”