Monday, 7 November 2016

Human rights groups join global campaign to abolish death penalty after seven-year hiatus

Source: The Nation (12 October 2016)

Human rights and legal organisations have condemned the death penalty and promised to push for reforms of the judicial process that would ban executions in Thailand.

“The death penalty is not the solution to crime suppression. Unfortunately, it even causes economic damage as it wipes out human resources,” said former deputy prime minister Veerapong Ramangkul during a seminar at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday.

As many as 140 countries, approximately two-thirds of nations worldwide, have already abolished capital punishment, Veerapong said, adding that studies showed that executions did little to deter crime. 

The seminar marked the 14th World Day Against the Death Penalty, jointly hosted by the NHRC, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department and Amnesty International Thailand.

The majority of prisoners sentenced to death are poor people who could not afford to hire lawyers or take advantage of legal protections, while influential figures often can commit crimes with impunity, Veerapong said. 

Capital punishment also violates the human right to life while inflicting harm on those sentenced to death and their families, said James Lynch, deputy director of the Global Issues Programme at Amnesty Inter-national.

He added that grievances caused by executions lead to a “circle of violence”.

Thailand has seen a relatively positive trend to abolish capital punishment due to the third NHRC master plan, said Rafendi Djamin, director of Amnesty International Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Office. The master plan addressing the possible revocation of the death penalty is in line with human rights instruments to which Thailand is party, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, said Kanchana Patarachoke, deputy director-|general of the International Organisations Department.

Also, state agencies and some private organisations have increasingly joined hands to raise awareness about the “unnecessary and cruel” punishment, she said, adding that Thailand’s progress on the issue was “moderate” when compared to other Asean countries.

During a meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2014, Thailand made a tangible positive step by abstaining from a vote calling for a temporary revocation of capital punishment, instead of voting against it, Kanchana said.

Within Asean, Cambodia and the Philippines have legally abolished capital punishment, while Laos, Myanmar and Brunei have stopped carrying out executions in practice.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand are among 58 states worldwide that still carry out executions, according to an Amnesty report.

However, Thailand has not seen an execution in seven years, said Kannika Saengthong, deputy secretary-general of Justice Ministry, adding that the country tends not to apply capital punishment as frequently as before although it has not been banned by law.

In a separate event marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty at Bangkok’s Alliance Francaise, an organisation that promotes French language and culture, EU representatives and the Justice Ministry jointly campaigned to raise awareness about the “cruelty” of the penalty.

“We have to continue campaigning and educate people about the death penalty. State-sanctioned killing still remains in part because of public support. When a horrendous crime takes place, some people support the execution of the offender,” said Pitikarn Sithidej, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department.

Pitikan said her team was working on reforming legislation to harmonise with the current domestic situation and international standards.

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