Death Penalty Information
Monday, July 31, 2006
OSCE: EU statement on death penalty in the USA
27 Jul 2006, 14:02 en
Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Permanent Council No. 62227 July 2006
EU Statement on Death Penalty in the USA
The EU reiterates its longstanding and firm opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances. The EU considers that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.
While aiming for the universal abolition of the death penalty, we seek a moratorium in all countries which retain capital punishment as a first step towards this end.
The EU is therefore concerned about imminent breaches of de-facto moratoria in the States of South Dakota and Montana. The EU has learned that Mr. Elijah Page is to be executed in the week of 28 August. This would break a 60 year de-facto moratorium in South Dakota. The EU has equally learned that Mr. David Dawson is to be executed on 11 August. This would break an 8 year de-facto moratorium in Montana.
The EU would like to make an urgent appeal to the competent authorities in the States of South Dakota and Montana to continue the moratoria on the death penalty and urges them to grant clemency to Mr. Page and Mr. Dawson.
The EU trusts that the federal authorities will ensure that the competent State authorities will be informed of this statement.
The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.
Death Penalty Information - Blogs - Amnesty International
GENEVA, July 27, 2006 (AFP) - An international group of legal experts on Thursday urged Bahrain's king to block a tough new law aimed at combatting terrorism.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said it had written to King Hamad to warn that new counter-terrorism legislation approved by lawmakers in Bahrain last week could create "a legal framework prone to abuse".
The legislation, which must still be ratified by the monarch, provides for the death penalty, jail terms reaching life imprisonment, and house arrest for acts of terror or the establishment of terrorist groups.
"The new law on combating terrorism introduces overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism and a number of other crimes, including the association with, the promotion and approval of terrorism," said Gerald Staberock, head of the ICJ's global security and rule of law programme.
"These open-ended provisions are the kind of laws that lend for abuse and that would allow the stifling of legitimate political and social dissent," he said.
"The exclusion of judicial safeguards in the Bahraini law carries a serious and foreseeable risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment," Staberock said.
The ICJ said if the new law came into force, it would reverse recent reforms by Bahrain, as well as running against a UN recommendation that the kingdom bring its counter-terrorism laws into line with the UN Convention Against Torture.
No Outrage for Nigerians in Singapore
Sam Olukoya, Inter Press Service News Agency
LAGOS, Jul 27 (IPS) - When Uzonna Tochi picked up the phone last week he heard the most chilling words of his life. "Please do something fast to save my life; they might execute me anytime now," Uzonna's older brother, Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, pleaded from Singapore.
Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, 19, is sitting on death row in Singapore with Okele Nelson Malachy, 31, condemned in March after being found guilty of transporting 727.03 grams of heroin into Singapore.
Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act carries a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin. The two men will be executed this year if they are not granted clemency from Singapore's president.
Uzonna and human rights organisations from around the world have not given up hope. Still, they say it is hard to garner international outrage to save the life of a poor Nigerian.
M. Ravi, a human rights lawyer and a member of the opposition party, Singapore Democratic Party, wrote in an online appeal that Iwuchukwu and Malachy, as Africans, stand in danger of being executed if nothing urgent is done to save their lives.
Unlike Iwuchukwu, Malachy is classified as stateless and no country has the direct responsibility of pleading for him. He carried a South African passport, but officials believe he is Nigerian.
"There has been a spate of executions of African nationals across Asia, which had gone unnoticed. The Australian and Western counterparts get different treatment in the media," Ravi wrote on the web site.
For instance, German national Julia Bohl, who was convicted for drug trafficking in 2002, escaped the gallows in Singapore when she was released from prison and exiled in 2005.
This year Ravi has embarked on a tour of European countries, holding press conferences and meeting parliamentarians in an effort to seek support for Iwuchukwu and Malachy.
Groups like the Amnesty International also have launched campaigns to save the lives of the condemned men. In Lagos, the country's largest human rights group, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has started a drive to force the Nigerian government to intervene on behalf of the condemned men.
"Since he lost the appeal, I always fear that the next moment might be his last," a ruffled Uzonna told IPS..
He has every reason to be concerned about his brother, who he described as the bread winner of the family. Once a football player, Iwuchukwu first took to trading before leaving Nigeria for Pakistan four years ago.
He was on a trip from Pakistan to Singapore when he was arrested at the Changi Airport 27 November 2004 on allegations of transporting heroin into Singapore. His lawyer told the court Iwuchukwu did not know the pills he was shipping contained heroin. He thought he was bringing in medicines.
The arrest and conviction of his brother is kept secret from his parents, Uzonna said. "My poor parents will die if they hear that a child who has worked so hard to sustain them is facing a death sentence," he said.
Uzonna has visited Nigeria's Ministry of External Affairs twice and that officials promised they would write letters in support of his brother's life. He added he was unsure if the promise was kept.
Officials of the Ministry of External Affairs could not give a definite answer when IPS enquired as to whether they are doing anything to save Iwuchukwu's life.
"The Nigerian government has not done anything public to show it is interested in saving Iwuchukwu's life," says Princewill Akpakpan, head of the penal reform project at CLO.
"The government is hardly bothered about Iwuchukwu because Nigeria, just like Singapore, has the death penalty," Akpakpan told IPS.
If the two had been convicted for the same offence in Nigeria, they would have earned a lighter sentence of between three years and life imprisonment, Jonah Achema, Assistant Director Public Affairs of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, told IPS.
"It would depend on the discretion of the judge and other factors like whether he is a first offender or not," Achema said.
A Nigerian law scrapped the death penalty for drug offenders in 1986. "This is an indication of the evolving nature of our laws," Achema told IPS.
Figures of those executed for drug-related offences around the world are not readily available. But Ryan Schlief, who works on the Singapore desk at Amnesty International in London, told IPS that Asian and Middle Eastern countries that retain the death penalty are doing so to crack down on drugs.
Singapore, in particular, has come under special criticism for its harsh death penalty laws. More than 420 persons have been executed there since 1991, the majority for drug trafficking. Singapore is believed to have the highest per capita execution rate in the world.
Critics question the justification for executing drug offenders. Instead, they say, the best way to deter crime is to increase the certainty of detection, arrest and conviction.
"Drug offenders should in effect not be made to pay with their lives," Akpakpan said.
Moreover, no study has proven that the death penalty reduces crime. In Iran, nearly 2,000 people were reportedly executed for drug offences between 1988 and 1999; a report by the country's official news agency IRNA observes that in spite of the executions, the problem of drug trafficking had not been resolved.
In 1995, 26 governments adopted laws making drug-related offences punishable by death. The countries see the death penalty as an effective and cheap way of removing criminally minded individuals from the society.
Growing pressure from civil society groups for a total abolition of the death penalty forced the Nigerian government to initiate a national debate on whether or not to retain the death sentence.
Singapore has no room for such debates, human rights workers said.
"There is usually little public debate in Singapore about the death penalty, partly as a result of tight government controls on the press and civil society organisations," Amnesty International said in a report.
Amnesty International was a victim of this government control in April 2005, when Singapore denied an AI member permission to speak at a conference on the death penalty organised by political opposition leaders and human rights activists.
Moreover, the Singaporean government rarely grants clemency for drug traffickers, Ravi and Amnesty said, making more urgent the need to keep up international pressure to save the lives of Malachy and Iwuchukwu Tochi.
JORDAN - Positive steps towards abolition of the death penalty
Government reconsidering death penalty — Judeh
By Rana Husseini
AMMAN — The government said it is planning to reconsider capital punishment in Jordan by limiting the cases to which the death penalty is applied, official sources said.
Government Spokesperson Nasser Judeh told reporters late Saturday night following the weekly Cabinet meeting that a legal committee headed by the minister of justice will review all the articles related to death penalty.
"The committee will examine all the clauses and attempt to restrict imposing the death penalty to certain crimes," Judeh told reporters.
There are currently 16 crimes punishable by the death penalty in Jordan.
His Majesty King Abdullah told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Nov. 16, 2005, that "in coordination with the European Union we would like to modify our penal code. Jordan could soon become the first country in the Middle East without capital punishment."
Minister of Justice Abed Shakhanbeh had also told a human rights delegation that was visiting the country two weeks ago that Jordan was considering abolishing several articles concerning the death penalty in the Jordanian Penal Code.
Human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have urged the Kingdom to abolish the death penalty.
AI frequently expressed its unconditional opposition to the death penalty, which it said "has never been shown to have a unique different effect and which is brutalising to all involved in its application."
The organisation further urged that no more executions be carried out in Jordan.
Meanwhile, HRW sent a letter to Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit in recent months asking him to abolish the death penalty in Jordan.
"Jordan should abolish the death penalty. HRW opposes the infliction of capital punishment in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty," the letter read.
In addition, the inherent fallibility of the criminal justice system assures that even when full due process of law is respected innocent persons are sometimes executed, HRW letter added.
In December 2005, the Jordan Bar Association (JBA) criticised the two international human rights organisations’ call to abolish the death penalty in Jordan, describing the request as "interfering" in the country’s internal affairs.
"Capital punishment is applied in many countries including the US and the death penalty is known to be a major factor in preventing crimes and protecting society," JBA President Saleh Armouti said.
Crimes that are punishable by death include acts of treason and terrorism, the instigation of civil war, and attacks against the life of the King.
Premeditated murder and the rape of females under the age of 15 are also subject to capital punishment.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Bali Bombers Plan Final Appeal Against Death Sentences
JAKARTA, July 26 (AP)--Three militants on death row for the Bali bombings will file a final appeal against their convictions, forcing prosecutors to delay
plans to execute them next month, a lawyer and a prosecutor said Wednesday.
The three men were among more than 30 people convicted in the nightclub bombings, which officials say were carried by the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah
Islamiyah terror group. The attack killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.
One of the men's lawyers said he planned to file a final appeal - known as a judicial review - to the Supreme Court soon.
"The attorney general has to be careful," Wiranan Adnan said. "We are going to file a judicial review."
Adnan did not reveal the basis of the appeal, but others lawyers defending the men have said they plan to challenge the verdict on the grounds that the men
were convicted of violating a law passed after the attacks.
Indonesia's Constitution does not allow retroactive prosecutions.
Wayan Pasek Suarta, a spokesman for the attorney general, earlier said that officials planned to execute the three men by the end of August. But he said
if their lawyers filed an appeal then the executions could not be carried out.
After a second round of attacks on Bali last year, the government said it was looking to speed up the execution dates amid fears the defendants were still
exerting influence on militants.
The three have said they have no fear of death and want the punishment to be carried out.
They have already said they would not seek clemency from the president, a process that can take several years. In April, prosecutors tracked down
their relatives and asked them whether they planned to seek mercy. They said they did not.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
DEATH PENALTY-CHINA: RAPID DEATH BY ROAMING VANS
by Antoaneta Bezlova
BEIJING (IPS) - Responding to criticism that it cruelly and arbitrarily executes a large number of its citizens each year, Chinese officials now are gradually moving toward what they say is a more discreet way of killing its prisoners: Mobile vans.
Human rights critics say they may look more like officially sanctioned roaming death squads, which simply allow China to execute its prisoners more quickly, easily and out of the public eye. Chinese legal officials counter that its fleet of mobile execution vehicles are a "more humane" form of carrying out death sentences.
Both sides agree they are a departure from publicly held execution rallies organised in the past.
"I think it is definitely a progress for China and it shows more consideration both for the people sentenced to death and for others (their relatives and the public)," Li Guifang, vice-chairman of the Criminal Affairs Committee of the All-China Lawyers Association, told IPS. "There is less pain and quicker death for the convicted."
Rights activists point out that the evidence from the U.S. shows that lethal injection, too, inflicts pain.
The middle kingdom has developed a fleet of mobile execution vehicles slowly, starting recently after cautiously experimenting with lethal injections for the first time in selected provinces since 1997. It is now adopting them on a larger scale in more localities.
As opposed to the shootings which took place in public, inmates are now executed in purpose-built vans in an almost clinical environment. Prisoners are confined to a bed, similar to an ambulance stretcher, and put to death with lethal injections. The contents of the drug cocktails used for the lethal injections are mixed in Beijing and delivered to local intermediate courts where the trials take place.
The exact number of vans being used is a state secret. What is known, however, is that Yunnan province alone has 18 mobile units in use.
Beijing officials plan to assign a mobile execution to designated provinces, but would not tell IPS which ones. IPS spoke with several Chinese officials involved with the programme on condition they would not be quoted.
The move from firing squad to lethal injection "demonstrates tremendous progress in China's criminal judgement proceedings," Yin Yong, director of Zhejiang province Supreme Court, told the state media in June.
First tried out in 1997 in Yunnan province -- a backward southwestern region bordering the Golden Triangle and notorious for its drug trafficking -- mobile death vans are now readied for use also in booming industrialised places where crime rates have soared, such as the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang and others. Zhejiang plans to start using them from Sep. 1.
Human rights groups claim China executes more criminals every year than the rest of the world combined. The exact number remains a highly confidential state secret. Amnesty International recorded at least 1,770 death sentences carried out in China in 2005 but it says the real number could be as high as 8,000.
The mobile death fleet is being touted by Chinese legal officials as the latest advance in China's judicial system as Beijing tries to revamp its international image ahead of playing host to the 2008 Olympic Games. According to Chinese press reports, each mobile execution van is priced at about 500,000 yuan (60,000 U.S. dollars) each.
They are now in vogue because they allow for death sentences to be carried out without the usual trip to the execution ground and they are cheaper. Lethal injections only require four people to assist in the execution while the usual practice of death by a firing squad needs many guards at the execution site and along the road to the site.
The vans also prove that China has abandoned a long-standing practice of public executions. After China signed the UN Convention against Torture in 1984, it issued new regulations banning execution rallies. Rights activists claim, however, the rallies have continued during the "Strike Hard" anticrime crackdowns first initiated by the government in 1983 and revived in 1996. These rallies no long happen in large cities where foreigners live.
Yet as mobile executions chambers begin to silently roll into more and more towns, making capital punishment easier and faster to deliver, fears have risen amongst human rights activists and death penalty opponents that China is relying more on lethal injection because it is harvesting organs of executed prisoners in an effort to supply the country's growing market for organ transplants.
Chinese hospitals started organ transplants in the 1960s and now perform between 10,000 and 20,000 transplants annually, according to official figures. A kidney transplant in China costs about 7,200 dollars but this official price could swell to 20,000 or even 50,000 dollars if the patient is willing to pay more to obtain an organ sooner. Even those prices though amount only to a fraction of the price for an organ transplant in developed countries.
As patients from Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore flock to China for transplants, the business is bringing in thousands of dollars to the country's under-funded health system. Suspicions are growing abroad that the use of newly developed mobile executions vans may be linked to this boom. The British Transplantation Society and Amnesty International in May strongly condemned China for harvesting prisoners' organs.
China carried out 8,000 kidney transplants last year but only 270, or less than 4 percent of the organs, came from voluntary donations.
"The use of mobile execution chambers exacerbates existing problems with prison-related issues in China," Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, wrote in an e-mail interview with IPS.
"It facilitates the black market trade in organ sales particularly because there is no access for independent monitors, such as the Red Cross, to prisons, detention centres, and labour camps."
In China, it is illegal to remove organs without the permission of the person in question or his family members, but critics say that these obligations are commonly violated not the least because of the secrecy surrounding such operations. Regulations issued in 1984 stipulate that the removal of organs from executed prisoners should be "kept strictly secret, and attention must be paid to avoiding negative repercussions."
Authorities routinely refuse to give relatives access to bodies of executed prisoners, cremating them hastily after the executions, says Robin Munro, a British expert on China's criminal justice system.
"Once the body is cremated, it is impossible to determine whether any organs have been removed," he told IPS.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Japan: Prisoners executed without warning after decades on death rowElderly and mentally ill prisoners are among those waiting decades on Japan's death row -- only to be executed without warning and in secret. Death sentences are often handed down after unfair trials, with suspects having "confessed" to crimes they did not commit after lengthy interrogations, threats and violence.This is the reality of the death penalty in Japan according to an Amnesty International report, released as activists and experts on the death penalty from accross Asia-Pacific meet in Hong Kong to debate the region's high rate of executions compared to the rest of the world."Japan is one of the few industrialised countries which still carry out state killings," said Suki Nagra, East Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International. "By abolishing the death penalty Japan would provide leadership to the Asia-Pacific region, which is currently bucking the global trend towards abolition."One hundred and twenty-five countries across the world have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, with the Philippines the latest Asian country to do so in June. There have also been positive developments in neighbouring South Korea, where a bill to abolish the death penalty is currently being considered by parliament. "As a first step towards abolition, we urge the Japanese government to end the secrecy currently surrounding its use of the death penalty," said Suki Nagra. "The government cannot justify this inhuman punishment on the basis of public opinion when it conceals the reality of the death penalty from people and so stymies public debate."In Japan there are no vigils outside prisons on the day of an execution -- only the authorities know that an execution will take place. The prisoner is notified on the morning of the day of their death. In some cases they are not notified at all. This secrecy means that prisoners live -- under a harsh prison regime and in solitary confinement -- with the ever-present fear of execution. They never know if each day will be their last.The legal process in Japan is so slow that appeals take decades and prisoners wait for years to be executed. Okunishi Masaru is one of a number of very elderly prisoners on Japan's death row. He was sentenced to death in 1961 for poisoning five women and is now 80 years old. In April 2005, the Nagoya High Court granted a retrial citing new evidence that could prove his innocence. His supporters are urging that his retrial begin soon: in March 2006 he is said to have told visitors, "Please clear my false charge while I am alive." The risk of executing the innocent is particularly high in Japan because of its pre-trial detention system using police custody, or daiyi kangoku, as a substitute prison. Suspects can be held in police cells for up to 23 days and are vulnerable to long periods of interrogation. Akahori Masao was sentenced to death in 1958 aged 25 on charges of rape and murder. He always claimed he was innocent and had confessed under duress, saying, "the interrogators hit me on the head, almost strangled me with their hands and kicked me... I decided to agree with all their questions because I could not put up with the torture." It was not until 1987, after four court applications, that his retrial began. He was acquitted aged 59, having spent over 34 years in detention. BackgroundTo see the report, "Will this day be my last?" The death penalty in Japan, please go to: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa220062006.Approximately 87 prisoners currently remain on death row in Japan. The last execution took place on 16 September 2005, when Kitagawa Susumu was hanged for two murders. Since 2000, 11 prisoners have been executed.The oldest prisoner facing the death penalty is 85-year-old Tomizo Ishida.Conditions on death row are extremely harsh, with no communication allowed between prisoners, and are detrimental to the mental health of inmates.All executions in Japan are carried out by hanging.