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Death Penalty Information

Monday, December 18, 2006

China: 3 executions in China leave others wary
3 executions in China leave others wary

The Chinese government executed 3 house church leaders in November on
murder convictions in what the leaders of 2 Christian organizations
ministering in China describe as part of a vicious government campaign to
eliminate one of the countrys house church groups.
Despite evidence that the defendants from the Three Grades of Servants
movement had been severely tortured into confessing, the Chinese
government secretly executed the groups founder Xu Shuangfu along with Li
Maoxing and Wang Jun in late November for the murders of leaders of
Eastern Lightning, widely regarded as a violent Chinese cult.
"Chinese government officials know the West will not tolerate such blatant
religious persecution," said Paul Hattaway of Asia Harvest. "But if they
manage to pass it all off as a domestic criminal matter, the West is
largely silenced.
"In the past the Chinese have even cleverly defended such crackdowns by
asking, If America is able to prosecute the Branch Davidians, and Japan
the cult that let off sarin gas in the Tokyo subway, then why can't we
also deal with dangerous cults in our country?'"
The government's persecution against Three Grades, which has been ongoing
for several years, has included the imprisonment of hundreds of members,
according to other house church pastors, and the deaths of at least 15
people. Along with the 3 men executed, 3 other leaders were given two-year
suspended death sentences and 11 were sent to prison for sentences of 3 to
15 years. The 3 men had been convicted of murder earlier this year in
Shuangyashan City in China's Heilongjiang Province. Their appeal was heard
in October and the verdicts were upheld.
Defense attorneys contended that no direct evidence linked the men to the
crimes other than the confessions the men and other church members made
after being tortured. Chinese law prohibits the use of confessions
obtained through torture.
"The defense lawyers have clear evidence that those 3 were tortured," said
Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association. "During the trial, they saw
the scars and wounds on [the defendants] bodies."
According to news reports, as many as 20 Eastern Lightning leaders were
killed in 2002 as a result of clashes with Three Grades of Servants.
Eastern Lightning has been accused of using kidnappings, violence and
seduction of pastors in an effort to take members from other groups. Fu
called Eastern Lightning "a mafia group with Christian uniforms."
In April 2004, Xu was kidnapped and relatives received a demand that a
ransom of more than $350,000 be paid. Later, it was learned that Xu was
under arrest by the government. About 90 other leaders of his group also
were arrested during this time.
During his imprisonment, Xu, who was believed to be in his 60s, and most
of the others arrested were subjected to severe torture. Xu's ordeal
included being shocked with electrical devices, hung by his wrist for
hours at a time and sleep and food deprivation, according to his lawyer.
He finally confessed, according to his defense lawyer, because the torture
was so severe "that he would rather die than live in such a dreadful
According to the religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide,
Xus daughter said her father revoked the confession immediately after
interrogation records were read in court and stated that it was signed
under severe torture.
Lawyers and relatives were not informed of the executions until after the
bodies of the three men had been cremated. Fu believes the bodies of the 3
men were cremated by the government to eliminate physical evidence of the
The appeal process and executions were completed about a month before the
Jan. 1 enactment of a new law that gives the Supreme Peoples Court sole
authority to sentence people to death.
Fu said he believes Three Grades of Servants had been targeted by the
government because it has been so successful. With as many as 500,000
members, the group is aggressive in church planting and evangelism, well
financed by members and well organized, Fu said.
The group has been labeled a cult by the government, but Fu and Hattaway
believe that label is unwarranted partly because it is difficult to know
the groups beliefs and practices because of the secrecy many Chinese house
churches require to protect themselves from the government.
Fu said he has never read anything by the group that contradicts essential
Christian doctrine, but he does have concerns about their practices, which
reportedly include corporal punishment for church discipline.
"Given the evidence that I have so far, I still think their main doctrines
are orthodox, but I dont have sufficient knowledge to know more about
accusations, especially regarding their practices," Fu said.
Regardless of whether the group is a cult, other house church leaders are
concerned that the Chinese government disregarded its own laws to convict
the men and will do the same to other house churches.
The governments strategy, Hattaway said, is to label a group an "evil
cult," usually by the China Christian Three Self Patriotic Movement, one
of two government-sanctioned Protestant groups in China. An article
usually comes out in the Three Self magazine Tianfeng listing a group's
crimes and heretical beliefs and practices. The government then arrests,
interrogates, prosecutes and even executes members of the group
"The worst part of the process is that so many Christians believe what
they read and do not question the validity of the information," Hattaway
said. "This is a very dangerous thing to do.
"[The Chinese government] is conducting a similar attack on the South
China Church at the moment, with as many as 700 of their members being
arrested and prosecuted for belonging to an 'evil cult,'" Hattaway said.
He added that the Born Again house church movement suffered a similar fate
and several other main house church movements in China are on the
government's cult list.
"Any house church now will likely be called 'evil cults' if they refuse to
register with the Chinese government," Fu said, "and they will face severe
persecution like this. No church should feel they will be exempted."
Said Hattaway, "Some of the house church leaders I know have told me they
are deeply concerned that a similar fate awaits them.
"If their group is one of those placed on the list of 'evil cults' they
know it is a matter of time before they are also targeted for systematic
destruction," Hattaway added.
Fu called on Christians worldwide to find out what's really going on in
China and not rely only on news reports. When they know of specific cases,
he asks that they pray.
"We ask our American brothers and sisters to take more action," Fu said.
"Write to President Bush and other elected officials to take specific
action against the persecution and to urge the Chinese government to obey
its own constitution and its own laws."
Members in the house church movement in China also need to learn from what
happened to the Three Grades of Servants and realize that the government
will use any means to destroy a group, Fu said.
"Church members should be careful before the Lord, before the people and
before the government," Fu said. "If there are any unbiblical practices,
even among church members, it will be used by the government to damage the
whole church."
If a church member is even suspected of a crime, "the governments real
motivation is not to seek justice," Fu said, "but to destroy the house
church group."
(source: BP News)
Japan: Waiting for the hangman: New executions feared in Japan
Waiting for the hangman: New executions feared in Japan

No one knows when the executioner will come. In Japan, when a new day
dawns, 96 people ask themselves, 'Will this day be my last?'
All of them have been sentenced to die by hanging, but none of them know
their execution date. They only learn when they are going to die on the
morning of the execution.
For a few of the death-row inmates, that day might be near - and more
likely to occur after the Japanese Diet, or parliament, ends its current
session next week.
'It raises the possibility that executions will be carried out,' said
Makoto Teranaka, secretary general of Amnesty International in Japan.
Executions - the most recent of which was on September 16, 2005 - always
come when the Diet is not in session, which hinders debate on the death
penalty. Against this background, Japan's national bar association has
urged Justice Minister Jinen Nagase not to approve any executions.
The group warned the minister of the potential that innocent people could
be hanged and also pointed out the worldwide trend toward the abolition of
the death penalty. It urged the government to impose a moratorium on
executions so the necessity of such a sentence could be examined.
But just last month, Nagase said the government had no intention of
abolishing the death penalty and was not considering calls to implement
sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole because
'it might be linked with the abolition of capital punishment.'
Polls have shown that a large majority of the Japanese public approve of
the death penalty. Japan is one of the few industrialized countries that
retains it, and its use of the ultimate punishment, the secrecy
surrounding it and its prison conditions have been denounced by Amnesty
International and other human-rights groups for years.
Because of a drawn-out appeals process, prisoners sometimes wait decades
for their executions, leaving elderly prisoners among those living on
death row. The oldest is 86-year-old Ishida Tomizo, who had his request
for a retrial denied in 2004, 13 years after he submitted it.
According to human-rights activists, death-row inmates in Japan are housed
in solitary confinement and may not talk to other prisoners. Their contact
to the outside world is limited to occasional, supervised visits with
their closest relatives and their attorneys, the activists said.
Watching television or pursuing hobbies is also denied death-row
prisoners, and many endure their isolation only with the help of sleeping
pills, they added.
When the justice minister's execution order finally arrives, the prisoner
usually has only a few hours to live. The inmate's relatives hear of the
death only after the hanging.
To the public, the Justice Ministry only releases the number of the
execution. The name of the prisoner only is learned if his or her family
releases it.
The government defends the secrecy as protecting the family from shame.
Critics, however, accuse the government of a lack of transparency that
begets a lack of information for a public discussion over whether Japan
should retain the death penalty.
'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, and East Asia campaigner for Amnesty International. '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.'
(source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

Friday, December 15, 2006

USA: fewer sentenced to death in 2005
USA: Witnessing an execution
USA: "inmate seemed like he would never die"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Japan: Bar Ass. calls for halt to executions
Lawyers request justice minister to suspend execution of convicts

Japan's national association of lawyers on Wednesday requested that
Justice Minister Jinen Nagase not approve the execution of the 96 convicts
currently on death row in the country.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations presented a letter requesting
that the minister not carry out capital punishment, citing the possibility
of innocent people being wrongly convicted and a trend abroad for the
abolition of the death penalty. The group also recommended the government
impose a temporary moratorium on the death penalty and review the
necessity of the punishment.
The request comes as the year-end approaches, with the Diet ending its
current session on Friday, a period when executions often take place
"while people's attention is drawn to other places," the group said in the
The federation, which includes all lawyers who have passed the Japanese
bar exam, said it has submitted similar requests twice a year to the
justice minister, who holds the discretionary power to give the final
go-ahead for an execution.
The last execution was held Sept. 16, 2005.
Nagase's predecessor Seiken Sugiura, who stepped down in September, did
not issue a go-ahead for the execution of a death-row inmate during his 11
months in office.
(source: Kyodo News)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Uganda: over 500 on death row
566 on death row

A total of 566 inmates condemned to death are being imprisoned at Luzira
Prison and Kirinya Prison in Jinja.
Previously, condemned inmates were kept at the tightly-guarded Upper
Prison in Luzira.
However, because of congestion, some had to be transferred to Kirinya.
Women inmates are held at the Womens Prison at Luzira.
The Assistant commissioner of Prisons in-charge of prisoners, Wycliff Jack
Kururagyire, yesterday said 367 of the inmates were at Luzira and 199 in
He named the longest serving inmate on death row as Hajji Birikade, who
has been in Luzira for the last 24 years. Birikade was sentenced to death
on August 17, 1982 after he was convicted for kidnap with intent to
Criminal offences that attract the death sentence include treason, murder,
rape, terrorism and aggravated robbery.
Once an inmate is convicted by the High Court, he/she has a right to
appeal before the Supreme Court.
But once the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country,
upholds the death sentence, the inmate is kept in prison pending his/her
The President, in exercise of his powers using the Prerogative of Mercy,
is the only person who can set inmates free after they are condemned to
Before the President pardons an inmate, a Committee of Prerogative of
Mercy, composed of 12 members, meets and submits the names of those
seeking presidential pardon.
The Attorney General/Minister of Justice chairs the committee that is
under the Ministry of Justice.
The committee is charged with the responsibility of processing a report on
all the inmates seeking a presidential pardon.
The report is composed of facts of the case, the evidence adduced, the
findings and a brief outline of the background of the accused. The report
also indicates why the inmate should be considered for clemency.
Upon receiving the report and the names of inmates seeking pardon, the
President may then exercise his right of pardoning any inmate.
The last inmate who benefited from such a presidential pardon was Abdullah
Nasur, the former Central Province Governor in the late Idi Amin's regime.
Nasur was released on September 11, 2001 after 22 years on death row. He
had been convicted for the murder of a Masaka mayor in 1972.
The President also signs the death warrants for the inmates who are
Prisons authorities carry out executions within 72 hours on receiving
orders to do so.
The last executions at Luzira were carried out on April 27, 1999 when
Hajji Musa Sebirumbi was executed along with 27 others.
Sebirumbi was a former Uganda People's Congress chairman for Luweero South
and the area National Security Agency (NASA) operative.
He was convicted for the murder of Edidian Lutamaguzi and four others who
refused to disclose the whereabouts of then rebel leader Yoweri Museveni
and members of his National Resistance Army (NRA) during the 1980s war
against the late Milton Obotes regime.
Condemned inmates in 2003 petitioned the Constitutional Court, saying the
death penalty should be abolished.
The court, however, upheld the penalty as enshrined in the constitution
but ruled against prolonged stay in prison after one is condemned to
death, saying it amounted to psychological torture.
The inmates appealed against the ruling before the Supreme Court, which is
yet to give its ruling.
(source: New Vision)
USA: New Jersey: Crime victimes speak against the death penalty
Guinea: will executions resume?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Russia: moratorium on death penalty extended
Russian lawmakers move to extend moratorium on death penalty

Parliament on Friday extended a 10-year moratorium on the death penalty to
2010, an extension of e years, by delaying the introduction of juries in
court cases in the rebellious republic of Chechnya.
Some Western governments and domestic opponents of capital punishment have
pressed President Vladimir Putin to scrap it for good. But he is also
under pressure from conservatives at home who will probably use the issue
in campaigning for parliamentary elections next year.
The State Duma passed a bill under which juries will replace 3-judge
panels in Chechnya in 2010, rather than in 2007 as had been planned.
Russia, which still has capital punishment in its criminal code, has
observed a moratorium on carrying out death sentences since 1996.
Three years later the Constitutional Court ruled that no court could
sentence criminals to death until all courts had switched to jury trials.
Chechnya is the last region with no juries because of "technical
problems," officials said.
"The introduction of the new law means that, for another three years,
courts will not have the right to impose death sentences," a senior
Communist Party deputy, Viktor Ilyukhin, said after the Duma vote.
The bill has yet to be considered by the Federation Council and signed
into law by Putin, but analysts said it would probably pass those stages
Russia committed itself to scrapping the death penalty in 1997, when it
signed a protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. But it has
never ratified the document, citing strong opposition at home.
(source: International Herald Tribune)
Rwanda: Substitute Death Penalty with Restorative Justice
Substitute Death Penalty With Restorative Justice

The on going debate on the proposed lifting of the death penalty has
fetched mixed responses.
The survivors of genocide see it as the victory for those who orchestrated
the 1994 Genocide while the convicts and their families see it as being
long overdue. This is not surprising to majority of Rwandans. It was
anticipated. However, facts on the ground should help people digest and
take a firm and reasonable stand on this paradoxical issue of justice in
Opposing the death penalty
The execution of the death penalty has been a topic of debate for many
years. There are two parties who argue whether or not it is a fitting and
adequate punishment, whether or not it acts as a deterrent to crime and
whether or not it is morally wrong.
The main reasons in support of the death penalty include deterring others
and to duly punish crime committed. They are most concerned with the
protection of society from dangerous criminals. Those who support it,
subscribers to the "an eye for an eye" principle, feel that execution is
the only way to satisfy the public as well as themselves. They feel much
the same way about murderers who are sentenced to die. As far as they are
concerned, the criminal brought his punishment upon himself.
This section of people do not see the death penalty as being morally
wrong. For them, the most likely source of constitutional difficulty with
capital punishment is the prohibition against "cruel and unusual
punishment". In fact, some consider execution to be more humane than life
imprisonment because it is quick and instantaneous.
And this is where the contradiction comes in. Imprisonment is seen as an
insufficient safeguard against the future actions of criminals because it
offers the possibility of escape and release on parole. "We think that
some criminals must be made to pay for their crimes with their lives, and
we think that we, the survivors they violated, may legitimately extract
that payment because we, too, are their victims," a remark from a survivor
of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Contrary to popular belief, the death penalty does not act as a deterrent
to crime. "Expert after expert and study after study have emphasised the
lack of correlation between the threat of the death penalty and the
occurrence of violent crime," an Isaac Ehrlich's study on the deterrent
effect of capital punishment in America revealed. The absence of
deterrence is clearly shown in Rwanda where after execution of some key
genocide convicts, the very orchestrators of the genocide, actually
continued the killings.
Abolitionists believe that the offender should be required to compensate
the victim's family with the his/her own income from employment or
community service. There is no doubt that someone can do more alive than
dead. By working, the criminal inadvertently "pays back" society and also
their victim and/or the victim's family. There is no reason for the
criminal to receive any compensation for his work. That is why Rwanda's
release of prisoners to serve in public interest was upheld by the
international community.
Supporting the death penalty
Abolitionists consider the death penalty an insufficient form of
punishment because it is cruel and inhumane, there is no proof that it
deters violent crime, it can be inflicted upon innocentpeople of any
crime, the costly process of appealing gives the death penalty a hefty
price tag and with it, the chance to make restitution to the victim and/or
the victim's family does not exist.
The essence of the abolitionist perspective is this: "The death penalty
has been a gross failure. Beyond its horror and incivility, it has neither
protected the innocent nor deterred the wicked. The recurrent spectacle of
publicly sanctioned killing has cheapened human life and dignity without
the redeeming grace which comes from justice meted out swiftly, evenly,
There is debate within Rwanda's criminal justice system about the moral
status of the death penalty. The survivors hold that the death penalty is
justified; convicts and their families as well as the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) argue that it is not.
Death penalty is justified from either a retributive or a utilitarian
framework, sometimes using both theories for a combined justification.
Abolitionists reject these contentions arguing that the principle of the
sanctity of human life gives each person an inalienable right to life and
thus prohibits imposition of the death penalty. Scientific research and
technological developments provide modest contributions to both arguments.
Rwanda's position on justice after the genocide has been mainly that of
ushering restorative justice. Whatever other description there may be for
restorative justice, at its heart it is a movement of hope and
non-violence. It contains the possibility of offering people traumatised
by crime or caught up as the offended, a positive hope filled and
respectful way forward.
The media and the community consistently rage against the violence so
prevalent in our society. In as much as restorative justice helps people
take responsibility for their actions, initiates a healing process and
offers a way forward, it undermines the very core of that violence by
providing a non-violent respectful way of procuring justice. It should be
welcomed as a genuine breakthrough in the resolution of conflict and in
the creation of justice. It is justice that matters, justice that everyone
wants. Restorative processes will deliver better justice.
Looking to restorative justice
In as much as it works towards the restoration of dignity of those
affected, it is an essential part of the modern peace movement. Creating
international peace built on justice among nations is a priority for all
people of good will. But building domestic peace has not had the same high
profile. Yet it is of equal importance. Many would argue that without one
you cannot have the other. Conflict resolution at a domestic level
(Gacaca) surely is the proper platform from which to build peace
As the theologian Walter Wink points out, the myth of redemptive violence
has been the choice of every major social grouping of the 20th century be
it socialist, Marxist, capitalist or communist. This concept enshrines the
belief that violence saves, that war brings peace and that might makes
right. Nations have made redemptive violence the acceptable way of
resolving injustice. Internationally, if nations have had a grievance it
has been resolved either by the threat or use of violence. Most of the
destruction, mayhem and death were justified as being right and just. Only
violence would correct (redeem) the injustice.
The results of this redemptive violence have been horrendous. We have just
emerged from the most bloodthirsty century in history, with hundreds of
millions of innocent people killed in its name.
We have applied the same philosophy and approach to domestic conflict,
especially crime. 'Beat them and beat them hard', has been the catchphrase
through the ages as well as 'Lock 'em up (an act of violence) and throw
away the key', with the hope that this violence would somehow redeem the
situation and produce justice; It rarely, if ever, does. And so more and
more prisons have been built and, while flogging and execution have been
reduced or abandoned, the culture of state violence has remained.
Restorative justice is a movement of non-violence. It provides a mature
human response to complex situations of conflict and crimes like genocide.
It does not necessarily provide a solution either. But it is a process
that respects those involved and enhances the families and communities to
which they belong. It recognises that violence is unacceptable and
provides a non-violent but challenging and positive way of proceeding.
Restorative justice appeals to the better side of human nature and not the
destructive, vengeful dark side. It is a movement of hope. The government
is showing imagination and courage in promoting some restorative justice
processes through Gacaca courts. It is vital the best people get to run
these pilots. But this is not just another government project.
The success of the courts is dependent on community ownership and
acceptance and a passion for better forms of justice. Without these three
things, they will not succeed.
The abolition of the death penalty in this country will not happen because
of a few people calling for change from the safety of academia or
government departments. It will happen because people in the country with
vision dreamt of a better way forward, committed themselves to it,
regardless of the time, cost or energy involved. The success will depend
on how much they educate the community and force the vested interests to
shift their focus.
What is now required is a genuine working and respectful partnership
between the Government, the Courts and the community. Such a partnership
involves mutual trust and recognition of the gifts that differing parties
bring to the process. The move forward cannot be left in the hands of one
sector only. Each has something important to offer.
The Government must bring political will to bear and provide leadership
and that is all. It is in the community that restorative justice will
succeed or fail. It is people from the community who, when trained, will
make the best facilitators and provide the best resource networks.
(source: Opinion, The New Times)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

How do we deal with those guilty of atrocities
Iran: campaign against stoning launched
Wisconsin: no return of the death penalty
Kuwait: man alive 5 hours after being hung
Sri Lankan still alive five hours after hanging in Kuwait: reports
KUWAIT CITY, Nov 29, 2006 (AFP) - A Sri Lankan national who was executed in Kuwait for murdering an Asian woman during a robbery remained alive five hours after he was hanged and pronounced dead, newspapers reported Wednesday.
Sanjaya Rowan Kumara was pronounced dead by doctors eight minutes after he was hanged but medics who transported his body to a morgue said they noticed he was still moving, Al-Qabas daily reported.
Forensic experts were immediately called to examine the body and they confirmed that "there was some weak pulse in his heart," the daily said.
The examination was repeated several times and each time "the dead body showed some signs of life," Al-Qabas quoted unnamed medical sources as saying.
"They eventually pronounced him completely dead at 1400 hours local time," five hours after his hanging, the sources said.
The justice ministry refused to comment on the report but head of the criminal execution department, Najeeb al-Mulla, who supervised the hanging, told Al-Watan newspaper the report was "baseless."
Kumara was sentenced to death by Kuwait's three courts for killing the woman while he was attempting to burgle her house. Four accomplices were sentenced to various terms in jail.
The Sri Lankan was supposed to be hanged with four others on November 21 but the public prosecutor ordered a stay of execution, an interior ministry official said at the time without elaborating.
The hanging took place at the central jail and the public were not allowed to view the body.
Kuwait has executed a total of 71 people, three of them women, since its first use of the death penalty some four decades ago. Most have been convicted murderers or drug traffickers.
The views expressed in these pages are those of individual AI campaigners or researchers, and do not necessarily reflect official AI policy.