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Death Penalty Information

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Botswana: "They must hang"
They must hang - Nasha

She was debating the State of the Nation Address by President Festus
Mogae. Although she did not mention any names, Nasha said it is unfair for
some people to be paid for speaking for the rights of murderers, under the
guise of Ditshwanelo, while they forget about the rights of the dead.
"The rights of the dead are the same as those of the living," she said.
Nasha said that many people have lost lives to merciless criminals. She,
however, appreciated that the judicial system did not sentence to death
any person who kills by mistake.
She stated that any person who commits a premeditated murder should not be
forgiven, citing the Molepolole murder in which the man confessed to the
High Court in Lobatse on how they executed the woman and removed her
private parts for ritual purposes. The court has since sentenced the man
to death.
Nasha emphasised that Botswana made theright decision to maintain the
death penalty and that some countries in the region regret abolishing it.
The death penalty should be implemented irrespective of gender, Nasha
said. She said that Botswana should not be pressurised by any organisation
to abolish the death penalty.
"We can't make laws in order to please the international community or
whoever," she said.
Nasha defended President Mogae's silent diplomacy on Zimbabwe saying that
shouting at President Robert Mugabe would not achieve any positive
She cited the Lesotho conflict in 1998 in which Botswana Defence Force
(BDF) soldiers and their South African counterparts calmed the situation.
She said that she travelled with Minister of Foreign Affairs and
International Cooperation to Lesotho knowing that they could be shot and
"We held closed door meetings with conflicting parties and the situation
was brought under control," Nasha said. The minister said that media in
Botswana is doing their job professionally except for a few individuals
who do not abide by the ethics. She said that it would not be fair to
paint all media houses with the same brush.
(source: Mmegi, Botswana)
Europe: death penalty debate is East v West
Texas: mentally ill man faces execution
A Growing Plea for Mercy for the Mentally Ill on Death Row

LIVINGSTON, Tex. — Scott Louis Panetti says he was drowned and electrocuted as
a child and that he was recently stabbed in the eye in his death row cell by
the devil. Mr. Panetti says he has wounds that were inflicted by demons and
healed by President John F. Kennedy.
"The devil has been trying to rub me out to keep me from preaching," Mr.
Panetti, explaining why he faces execution, said in an interview from behind
thick glass in the Polunsky Unit here in East Texas, where condemned prisoners
are held before transfer to the death house 45 miles west in Huntsville.
Despite Mr. Panetti’s obvious mental illness — he was a mental patient long
before he gunned down his in-laws in 1992 — he served as his own lawyer at his
murder trial, throwing the courtroom into chaos with frequent gibberish. Now
the hyperactive and gangling Mr. Panetti, 48, has become an illustration of
the growing quandary over the application of a 1986 Supreme Court decision
barring execution of the insane.
The ruling appears to be limited to those without the capacity to understand
that they are about to be put to death and why. Whether Mr. Panetti fits that
definition is a matter of dispute.
In an appeal to the Supreme Court that could affect the cases of other
mentally ill prisoners awaiting execution, Mr. Panetti’s lawyers argue that
while he has a "factual awareness" of his execution, he has a "delusional
belief" that it is unconnected to his crime, and that he should therefore be
spared lethal injection.
The case of another mentally ill death row inmate, Guy T. LeGrande, who
represented himself and is scheduled to die Dec. 1 in Raleigh, N.C., is going
through its final state appeals, with his lawyers arguing that he, too, is
delusional, and that he hastened his execution by abandoning his defense.
Charged in the contract killing of a woman whose husband pleaded guilty to
plotting the murder and is serving life, Mr. LeGrande, 47, says he is innocent
and was framed. He appeared in court in 1996 in a Superman T-shirt, cursed the
jurors as "Antichrists" and taunted them, "Pull the switch and let the good
times roll." They took less than an hour to sentence him to death.
Experts and advocates in the field say the issue of executing the mentally ill
is the next frontier in death penalty law.
"This is an emerging issue," said Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the
Death Penalty Information Center, a research institute in Washington that
opposes capital punishment.
Mr. Dieter cited the Panetti and LeGrande cases as gray areas in which "the
death penalty may be extreme punishment given their reduced culpability."
Franklin E. Zimring, a professor of law at the University of California,
Berkeley, and author of "The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment"
(Oxford University Press, 2003), said there was something "indigestible" about
these cases.
"We assume people don’t want to die," Mr. Zimring said. "But these are
defendants that call the legal system’s bluff."
Concern over execution of the mentally disabled prompted the American Bar
Association last August to join a widening chorus of professionals calling for
a halt to death sentences and executions for defendants with severe mental
disorders that "significantly impaired" their rational judgment or capacity to
appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct. The moratorium was endorsed
earlier by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological
Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The groups also opposed death sentences for prisoners with mental disorders
that impaired their ability to assist their lawyers and make rational
decisions on their appeals. The Supreme Court has already barred execution for
the mentally retarded and for juveniles.
"An increasing percentage of people executed are people giving up their
appeals," said Ronald J. Tabak, a lawyer at the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate,
Meagher & Flom in Manhattan and a specialist in capital cases who led the bar
association’s death penalty task force. "And of these, a significant
percentage have serious mental illness."
The Supreme Court’s 1986 ruling, on a Florida case, Ford v. Wainwright, left
much unclear. Although no state permitted execution of the insane, the
justices affirmed that the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual
punishment prohibited it. But they did not provide a standard for determining
when someone was competent enough to be executed.
In a concurring opinion later adopted as law by lower courts, Justice Lewis F.
Powell Jr. said it was enough "if the defendant perceives the connection
between his crime and the punishment." Justice Powell also said that the
Constitution "forbids the execution only of those who are unaware of the
punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it."
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that Mr.
Panetti had the requisite legal awareness. And the Texas attorney general,
Greg Abbott, has argued that the execution, as yet unscheduled after having
been postponed in 2004, should proceed.
There is no dispute that Mr. Panetti is "profoundly mentally ill," his lawyers
Gregory W. Wiercioch, Keith S. Hampton and Michael C. Gross said in a petition
seeking to overturn the Fifth Circuit ruling. In the decade before the
murders, they said, he was hospitalized 14 times in six institutions for
schizophrenia, manic depression, auditory hallucinations and delusions of
persecution. Believing the devil was in his furniture, he buried it in the
backyard, and thinking the devil was in the walls, he hallucinated that they
were running with blood.
On Sept. 8, 1992, Mr. Panetti, dressed in military fatigues and carrying a
sawed-off shotgun, a rifle and knives, invaded the Fredericksburg home where
his estranged wife, Sonja Alvarado, had taken refuge with her parents, Joe and
Amanda Alvarado. In front of his wife and their 3-year-old daughter, known as
Birdie, he shot the Alvarados to death and took his wife and daughter captive
before releasing them unharmed and surrendering.
In 1994, a first jury deadlocked on his mental competency, but a second found
him able to stand trial.
Waiving legal counsel, Mr. Panetti represented himself, appearing in court in
cowboy garb and seeking to subpoena Jesus before deciding "he doesn’t need a
subpoena — he’s right here with me." He attributed the killings to an alter
ego named Sarge Ironhorse and, testifying in Sarge’s voice after calling
himself as a witness, recounted the killings:
"Sarge is gone. No more Sarge. Sonja and Birdie. Birdie and Sonja. Joe, Amanda
lying kitchen, here, there blood. No, leave. Scott, remember exactly what
Sarge did. Shot the lock. Walked in the kitchen. Sonja, where’s Birdie? Sonja
here. Joe, bayonet, door, Amanda. Boom, boom, blood, blood. Demons. Ha, ha,
ha, ha, oh, lord, oh, you."
When Judge Stephen B. Ables tried to cut him off, Mr. Panetti said, "You puppet."
Mr. Panetti does appear to have moments of lucidity, and these disconcerted
the juries at his competency hearing and trial, planting suspicions that he
might have been faking.
"Not to make excuses," he said in the death row interview, "but when someone’s
insane, they’re insane."
Psychiatrists testified that schizophrenic patients often spoke intelligently.
Asked in the interview if he understood he was on death row for crimes he
committed, Mr. Panetti said: "Certainly not. They are in a strong
delusionment. They’ll be undeceived by delusionment."
- - - - -
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

EU call for Saddam H. not to be executed

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Uganda: executing soldiers to "protect human rights"
Pakistan: Man commuted and freed from death row
Finland: only 33 percent of Fins support the death penalty
Poll: Nearly 1 in 3 Finns would support capital punishment ----
Middle-aged, men, and right-wingers most likely to support death penalty

A fresh survey indicates that 29 % of Finns would approve of the death
penalty as a punishment for certain crimes committed during peacetime.
The poll was published by the late-edition tabloid Ilta-Sanomat on
Saturday. It was conducted by Suomen Gallup.
Men and middle-aged Finns were the most likely to favour capital
Whereas 36 % of men would support the death penalty, only 22 % of women
found it acceptable. As many as 41 % of those aged 35 to 49 are in favour
of capital punishment.
Nearly 1/3 of supporters of the Centre Party, the National Coalition
Party, and the Greens said that they approve of the death penalty.
The most resistant to capital punishment were supporters of the Left
1 in 5 students were in favour of executions, while 43 % of manual
labourers and 14 % of pensioners felt the same way.
There was no significant correlation with support for the death penalty
and the respondent's place of residence, although residents of Northern
Finland were the most critical toward capital punishment.
(source: Helsingin Sanomat
Iraq: Secret death chambers
Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006
Iraq's Secret Death Chambers
Saddam could face the gallows by year's end. But Iraqi executioners are already busy
Before he is put to death, Saddam Hussein will be allowed one last phone call. He will be given a glass of water, a moment to pray and an opportunity to make a statement about his life and crimes. The entire event will be recorded on video to be stored in the Iraqi government archives. Then his neck will be slipped into the noose of a 2-in.-thick hemp rope. A few moments later, his life will end.
That's how recent executions have proceeded in Iraq--at least when the equipment works. Since the Iraqi government reintroduced capital punishment in 2004, several executions have been beset by glitches and logistical snafus. At first, executioners used an old rope left over from Saddam's regime that stretched too much to break the condemned's neck; it sometimes took as long as eight minutes for the hanged to die. New ropes brought in for later executions jerked harder on the convicted person's spine, but executioners soon noticed the cords fraying on the bend of the reinforced steel installed in the cement ceiling of the gallows. During a recent round of executions, on Sept. 6, the rope snapped after 12 hangings, sending a condemned man plummeting 15 ft. through the trap door onto the hard concrete floor below. Miraculously, he survived. "Allah saved me!" he shouted. "Allah saved me!" For 40 minutes, prison guards, officials and witnesses engaged in heated arguments over whether or not to interpret the broken rope as divine intervention.
It may not be an efficient process, but the death penalty is back in vogue in Iraq. After the U.S. invasion, capital punishment was suspended by L. Paul Bremer, head of the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, but interim Prime Minster Iyad Allawi reinstated it a year later. Since September 2005, when three men were hanged in the southwestern city of Kut after being convicted of running a murder-and-kidnapping ring, the Iraqi government has executed 50 prisoners convicted of murder or kidnapping, says spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says the government plans to execute "two or three more batches of 14 or 15 each" in the coming months. Al-Maliki told the BBC last week that Saddam too could be hanged "before the end of the year." For the beleaguered Iraqi government, the practice of executions plays a political role as well as a legal one: amid the inescapable violence on Iraq's streets, the death penalty plays well with Iraqis tired of seeing gangs commit murder with impunity. "From the Iraqi point of view," says al-Maliki's adviser, "they don't like to see a lot of people get killed every day and have a low number of executions."
And yet an examination of the way the death penalty is administered in Iraq casts doubt on the government's candor about the frequency of executions, and that raises questions about whether justice is being flouted in Iraq's rush to execute. According to an Iraqi official involved in coordinating executions, the hanging rope has been used more extensively than has been publicly acknowledged by the Iraqi government. Three days of secret executions took place between December 2005 and March 2006, says the official, who attended all three sets of hangings. When the additional executions are taken into account, according to an official in the Prime Minister's office who declined to give an exact number, approximately 90 have been executed, almost double the officially declared tally.
The government's underreporting of executions reflects a general lack of transparency in the process. Hangings are conducted in secret, at a heavily fortified location in Baghdad built by an American contractor. Only a few officials are notified beforehand, and the vast majority of the names of those executed are never made public. Human Rights Watch, which monitors the fairness of judicial systems around the world, is concerned about the ability of defendants in Iraq to get a fair trial and access to a thorough appeals process. Iraq has repeatedly rebuffed requests from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights for statistics on the country's death-penalty cases, leading the high commissioner to request that Iraq commute all death sentences. The government has refused. In a written response to the U.N., the government said that suspending capital punishment would "undermine our policy on crime," citing capital punishment as a "public deterrence."
That was the objective when the Iraqi government announced in March that they had executed an infamous psychopath and insurgent hit man named Shukair Farid, "the butcher of Mosul," whose gang slaughtered more than 200 during a yearlong rampage in the northern city. Farid, a police lieutenant, had gained fame after appearing on the hit reality-TV interrogation show Terrorism in the Hands of Justice, on which he told in gruesome detail of the scores of Iraqi lives he took, often using his uniform to trap victims. Farid didn't go easily. On the morning the convoy of Iraqi officials drove out to oversee the execution, 30 cars ambushed them with gunmen firing PKC automatic weapons. After fighting their way through to the gallows, the executioners were surprised at how defiant Farid was as he faced his own death. When asked to verify his identity before they put the rope around his neck, Farid said, "That's me, so what." "That guy was ready to go to hell, I guess," says a government official.
But there are many others on death row who continue to profess their innocence. Women doing time for murder in Baghdad live in a single 10-bunk cell in Khadamiyah Women's Prison in the northern part of town near the Tigris River. There waits Zayneb, a brown-haired woman in her late 20s wearing a black head scarf, convicted in September of conspiring with her husband to murder three relatives. The judge gave her three death sentences, one for each relative who was murdered. She says she didn't have anything to do with their deaths. She has only one chance to appeal the ruling before she faces the noose. The reality of her predicament sinks in as Zayneb looks at the empty bunk across the room, until recently occupied by a friend of hers who has been transferred to another jail to wait for her own execution. "We spent a long time together here," Zayneb says, tears welling up in her copper-colored eyes. "They took her two days ago." She sees little hope for herself. "I am convicted of three crimes. If one is waived, what about the other two? For sure I will be hanged."
The saving grace for defendants like Zayneb is that Iraq's judicial system operates at a crawl. It's a "lethargic process," says Basam Ridha, an adviser who has been tasked by al-Maliki to hasten the punishment. Some cases, says Ridha, have taken a year or more just to be heard by the investigative judge, who decides if the case needs to go to trial or not. Other prisoners short-circuit the process and find ways to get out of prison, either by paying their jailers or, in some instances, bribing the judge to dismiss their case.
Saddam, though, is almost out of time. If his sentence is upheld by the appeals court, Iraqi and U.S. officials say the plan is for him to be hanged from the same gallows used for common criminals. That could change for security reasons, says a U.S. lawyer working closely with the court, but even a technical snafu probably won't be enough to save him now. Remember the man who slipped the noose, believing Allah had saved him? His reprieve didn't last long. "We hanged him," says an Iraqi official who watched as prison guards took down his body and wheeled it into the adjacent refrigerated morgue. "We followed the law."
With reporting by M. Ezzat, Mark Kukis/Baghdad

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Russia: opposes execution of Saddam Hussien, extends own ban on the death penalty
MOSCOW, Nov 15, 2006 (AFP) - Russian lawmakers Wednesday passed a resolution opposing the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein saying it would destabilise the Middle East, while also voting to extend Russia's own moratorium on the death penalty.
Executing Saddam -- who was sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity for ordering the execution of 148 Shiites in the 1980s -- would destabilise the wider region, according to the text.
"Carrying out the verdict will not resolve the problems of the Iraqi people, but rather risks provoking new ones, reviving stronger opposition, vengeance and hostilities," said the resolution, approved unanimously by the lower house.
"Any measure which can provoke a rise in violence, an aggravation of the existing disagreements in Iraq, not only goes against the vital interests and needs of Iraqi society, but will seriously destabilise the situation in the whole region."
The text also alleged "interference in Iraq's internal affairs" by "certain foreign politicians" who it said backed the death sentence for the deposed dictator.
Russia's foreign ministry had initially reacted to the sentence by saying that the judges' decisions "should be carried out without interference from abroad", in the words of spokesman Mikhail Kamynin -- an apparent reference to the United States.
The US has distanced itself from the decision to execute Saddam, however, claiming the death sentence is a long-established part of Iraqi law and was handed out on the initiative of the Iraqi court.
Also on Wednesday, Russia's lower house, the Duma, passed by a large majority a measure that allows its moratorium on death sentences to be extended to 2010.
Russia has not formally abolished the death penalty, despite signing on to the European Convention of Human Rights which forbids executions in peace time.
However, it passed a regulation in 1999 which effectively prevented courts from sentencing people to death. The rule states that death sentences could not be given until local assizes courts had been set up in all parts of the country.
The only Russian region not to have such an institution is the breakaway Caucasus republic of Chechnya. Wednesday's measure postponed until 2010 the upcoming deadline for one of these courts to be set up in the territory, effectively extending the moratorium.

Monday, November 13, 2006

USA: no reintroduction of the death penalty in Wisconsin despite vote
USA: Texas - condemned prisones go on hunger strike
Morocco - abolition of the death penalty held up

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vietnam: death penalty no deterrent to drug offences
Trinidad: no hangings..........
Hangman's hands are tied...

AS at October 25, there were 84 persons on death row in Trinidad and
Tobago, 78 of them male and 6 female. However, only 15 of them can be
considered as being eligible now for facing the death penalty, because
they were all convicted after July 7, 2004. This is the date on which the
Privy Council had ruled in a judgment that the death penalty was mandatory
and not discretionary, contrary to a decision it had reached in an earlier
matter, on November 20, 2003. This case is known as Roodal vs the State,
Privy Council 18 of 2003.
The Privy Council judgment of July 2004, came as it considered the
Trinidad and Tobago case of Charles Mathews vs the State.
Shocked and flabbergasted by the decision eight months earlier, the
governments of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica got together and
mounted a response, which had the effect of having the Privy Council
overrule itself, a development which AG John Jeremie declared last week as
"unprecedented, in that the Privy Council by practice and tradition had
rarely overruled itself and never before in an appeal so soon after a
substantive decision". Mr Jeremie pointed out in a statement on the matter
that the Privy Council had again met "for the 1st time in an appeal from
the Caribbean", with nine members in the review of the Roodal decision, as
it deliberated on the Mathews case "the largest panel to sit in well over
half a century".
But while the mandatory nature of the death penalty was restored, the
earlier ruling had the effect of creating an expectation among those
persons on death row at the time that they were not necessarily going to
be executed, and they had the right to apply for such reliefs.
Because, as the Attorney General reiterates in his statement, Trinidad and
Tobago is committed to the rule of law, all those persons who were on
Death Row up to July 7, 2004, have the right to seek judicial review of
their matters, on the basis of the Privy Council's ruling in November,
Outside of this, however, another ruling of the Privy Council has eaten
into the ability of the State to carry out the death penalty, this being
the decision in the Jamaican case of Pratt and Morgan. By virtue of this
judgment, delivered on November 2, 1993, no person who is convicted of
murder but who is not executed after five years can be put to death.
Dozens of convicted persons have had their sentences commuted as a result.
They have formed what Mr Jeremie called "a special class of inmate on
death row."
While the Government repudiated and denounced the Inter-American
Convention on Human Rights on May 26, 1999, thereby blocking appeals to
this body after this date, the Attorney General's statement disclosed that
this body continued to accept petitions after this date, where it
concluded that allegations of human rights violations against convicted
prisoners before this date were valid.
All of this has had the effect of making a mess of the State's attempt to
carry out the death penalty.
In opposition at the time, the PNM had howled bloody murder at the
Government for opting out of the protocols from the Inter-American court,
and vowed to reverse this decision. Last week's statement made no mention
as to whether in fact this has been done.
What it did say, as a tacit complaint, was that "the time-consuming nature
of applications before ... international bodies, coupled with the
inordinate and somewhat obvious delays of these bodies literally
guaranteed that Trinidad and Tobago could not carry out a sentence of
death on any person so sentenced."
So that 7 years after the country opted out of the optional protocols at
the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, despite the spectacular hangings
of ten persons in 1999, and approaching 5 years after the PNM returned to
power, the State's hands remain virtually tied.
Of the 15 persons on Death Row who have no presumption about not being
spared the noose, all have appeals in progress. And Mr Jeremie provides a
further litany about what is keeping them.
Notes of evidence from the high court are not yet ready and as such the
Record of Appeal cannot be settled for the hearing of the appeal; the
judge's notes from the trial are not yet ready; the appeal has not yet
been placed on the Court of Appeal list and given a date of hearing; the
defence lawyer for the appellant has not settled the Record of Appeal; the
defence lawyer is not yet ready; the appellant has not yet retained an
attorney to argue his/her appeal.
- Next week: A rare and arbitrary fate - Conviction for Murder, the
Mandatory Death Penalty and the Reality of Homicide in Trinidad and
Tobago. A Study by Roger Hood and Florence Seemungal
(source: Trinidad News & Express)
Peru: the death penalty for terrorist
Peru's President in favor of death penalty for terrorists

On a day when thousands of Peruvians visit cemeteries to honour their
dead, Peru's President Alan Garcia announced that he will send a law to
Congress to apply the death penalty for terrorists. With this law, Garcia
is mainly targeting the resumption of subversive activities by the
"Shining Path" (Sendero Luminoso), a maoist guerilla group. Since the
capture of its leader Abimael Guzmn in 1992, it has only been sporadically
Two months ago, Peru's Chief of State pronounced himself in favor of
capital punishment for rapists of children who kill their victims.
Although the debate on this subject continues thoughout Peruvian society
without obtaining a consensus, Garcia advanced his latest proposal.
He affirmed that his initiative includes the execution for remaining
Shining Path insurgents that are being reorganized with the purpose of
reviving the armed warfare by means of terrorist attacks.
"Those who commit serious crimes of terrorism, those who are trying to
return our country to the fight of the 80's and early 90's, will face a
firing squad," he remarked.
He also warned that in case the "Shining Path" tries again to infiltrate
Peru's schools, universities, unions or other organizations, the
government "will intervene."
"If the circumstances demand it, the Constitution authorizes a declaration
of emergency I hope that I will have sufficient evidence and suspicions to
respond in a proportional way", he said.
In order to avoid that the population is alarmed by his statements, Garcia
said the security during the regional and municipal elections on November
19 is guaranteed and that a specific threat or indication of subversive
activities during that day does not exist.
(source: Living in Peru News)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

China acts to reduce high rate of executions
China Acts to Reduce High Rate of Executions
Published: November 1, 2006
BEIJING, Oct. 31 — Responding to domestic and international criticism of its extensive use of capital punishment, China adopted new rules on Tuesday requiring review of all death sentences by the Supreme People’s Court, state news media reported.
The move, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, restores a power that was stripped from the Supreme Court in 1983 and given to provincial courts as part of a major crackdown on crime. The authorities are facing mounting criticism from human rights groups and Chinese legal scholars for what they say is the widespread and arbitrary use of the death penalty.
China executes more people every year than all other nations combined, by some Chinese estimates, up to 10,000 a year. Chinese courts have been embarrassed in recent years by a number of executions of people who were later proved innocent.
China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, approved the amendment to the law, which "is believed to be the most important reform of capital punishment in China in more than two decades," the official New China News Agency said in a brief report.
The state news media have estimated that the number of executions could drop by as much as 30 percent under the new system, though they have not said how they arrived at that figure.
Human rights groups welcomed the change, saying it was likely to lead to fewer executions, but they urged the authorities to take further action. "I think this is a positive step, but it falls well short of what is needed," said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who is based in Hong Kong.
Chinese political leaders strongly defend capital punishment as an essential tool to fight crime and preserve social order in a country of 1.3 billion that is undergoing wrenching economic and social changes. The authorities also argue that the death penalty is an important deterrent to official corruption, which has emerged as a major threat to the reputation of the governing Communist Party.
However, legal experts say that as living standards rise and China becomes an important international power, the country’s senior leadership is uncomfortable that the death penalty is so readily applied.
They say the reform can also be seen as part of President Hu Jintao’s commitment to "build a harmonious society," which covers a range of social concerns, including pollution, growing inequality and access to education and health care. The public has long chafed under a legal system that is widely perceived as favoring the wealthy and politically connected.
China does not disclose the number of executions it carries out under the criminal code, where almost 70 offenses carry the death penalty.
Citing publicly available reports, Amnesty International estimates that at least 1,770 people were executed in 2005 — more than 80 percent of the world’s total — and 3,900 were sentenced to death. In 2004, Amnesty said, 3,400 were executed in China out of 3,797 it documented in the world that year.
Local courts had been given the power to impose the death penalty by Deng Xiaoping, who was angry about a wave of crime and corruption that threatened his economic reform program, which was still in its infancy. From the early 1980s until now, they have operated with virtually no oversight, a situation that has led to the widespread and, legal experts say, indiscriminate use of capital punishment.
In a report on Sept. 21, Amnesty said shortcomings in the legal system for people sentenced to death included a lack of prompt access to lawyers, the absence of the presumption of innocence, political interference in the courts and the use of evidence obtained by torture.
"No one who is sentenced to death in China receives a fair trial in line with international human rights standards," Amnesty said in the report.
The Chinese authorities have already recruited 200 judges for the top court and opened new courtrooms to handle the extra work arising from the change, according to the Chinese news reports.
Some Chinese legal scholars say lower courts will now have to be more careful in imposing the death penalty, handing down more long prison terms instead to avoid the scrutiny of the high court.
Human rights groups and supporters of legal change in China are now urging the government to introduce more sweeping changes, including the establishment of an independent judiciary.
"So far, the leadership is not willing to take on real reform," Mr. Bequelin said.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vietnam: Woman escapes execution by becoming pregnant
Saudi Arabia - more executions
SAUDI ARABIA----executions
Saudi Arabia executes Nigerian woman, Saudi man

Saudi Arabia executed a Nigerian woman on Tuesday for drugs smuggling and
a Saudi man for murder, taking to 16 the number of reported executions in
The official Saudi news agency said Amina Amouri Mohammad from Nigeria was
executed in the coastal city of Jeddah for smuggling cocaine into the
Barakat bin Sadun bin Raja' al-Outaibi, a Saudi man, was put to death in
the capital Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia implements strict Islamic law and usually carries out
executions by public beheading with a sword. The country executed 86
people in 2005 and 36 in 2004.
Officials have not explained the fall in the executions in the first half
of this year, which follows criticism from human rights groups over the
high rates in previous years.
Saudi Arabia executes convicted murderers, rapists and drug traffickers.
(source: Reuters)
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