Death Penalty Information
Friday, January 26, 2007
Singapore executes 2 Africans on drug charges despite international
Singapore executed two Africans on drug trafficking charges Friday despite
pleas for clemency by Nigeria's president, the United Nations and human
Nigerian Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, 21, was hanged at dawn in the city-state
after being convicted of trafficking 727 grams (26 ounces) of heroin
nearly 50 times the 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of the drug that draws a
mandatory death penalty in Singapore, the Central Narcotics Bureau said in
A stateless African named Okeke Nelson Malachy, 35, who was convicted as
the person to whom Iwuchukwu was supposed to deliver the drugs, was also
executed Friday, the statement said.
About a dozen activists held an overnight vigil outside maximum-security
Changi Prison, where the execution was carried out. Just before the
hanging, they stood or sat with their heads bowed, holding roses in the
flickering glow of candles on the ground around photos of Iwuchukwu and a
red-and-white soccer jersey said to belong to him.
Rain began to fall on the silent group.
Prominent Singapore-based art critic Lee Weng Choy, 43, said he disagreed
with Singapore's mandatory death sentence regulation, which he said takes
away the discretionary power of the judiciary.
"I also disagree with its justification as a deterrent. The reality is
that drug trafficking has not been reduced to zero, neither has drug use,"
he said at the vigil.
The execution was carried out despite an appeal by Nigerian President
Olesegun Obasanjo, who asked Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
earlier this week to commute the death sentence.
Lee replied Thursday that Iwuchukwu had committed a serious offense under
Singapore law and had exhausted all legal options.
"We did not take the decision lightly," Lee wrote in a letter. "I realize
that Mr. Tochi's family will find Singapore's position difficult to
accept, but we have a duty to safeguard the interests of Singaporeans, and
protect the many lives that would otherwise be ruined by the drug
Singapore's strict drug laws made international headlines and triggered
an outcry in Australia in December 2005 when the city-state executed a
25-year-old Australian heroin trafficker despite numerous appeals from the
Singapore has said its tough penalties for drug trafficking are an
effective deterrent against a crime that ruins lives, and that foreigners
and Singaporeans must be treated alike.
Human rights group Amnesty International says Singapore has the world's
highest per capita execution rate. Last week it urged its members to push
Singapore's government to grant Iwuchukwu clemency and for a moratorium on
all executions in the country.
The United Nations also urged Singapore on Thursday not to execute
Iwuchukwu because it would violate international legal standards on the
use of the death penalty.
"The standard accepted by the international community is that capital
punishment may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is
based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an
alternative explanation of the facts," said a statement by Philip Alston,
the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
Iwuchukwu, a footballer, was arrested in November 2004 at Singapore's
Changi Airport after arriving from Dubai with 100 capsules containing
heroin that authorities estimated to be worth 1.5 million Singapore
dollars (US$970,000; 795,930).
At the time of his arrest, Iwuchukwu told narcotics officers the pills
were African herbs that he was supposed to give to a sick friend. He also
told officers that he came to try out for soccer teams playing in the
Iwuchukwu's family, who live in Nigeria, could not afford to travel to
Singapore to see him while he was on death row, said Princewill Akpakpan,
a lawyer with the Civil Liberties Organization, Nigeria's largest human
"The execution will place Singapore in a negative spotlight among
civilized nations of the world," Akpakpan said by telephone on Thursday.
(source: International Herald Tribune)
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Friday, January 12, 2007
Justice ministry to solicit views on scrapping death penalty
The Ministry of Justice said yesterday that it will solicit views from all
sectors of society this year on the issue of whether to abrogate capital
Chang Chi-yun, director of the ministry's Department of Prevention,
Rehabilitation and Protection, said the ministry will conduct public
hearings, seminars as well as campus debates to invite the public to think
about and debate the issue.
In addition, the ministry is not ruling out the possibility of holding
another survey to learn the views of the public on the issue, Chang added,
noting that surveys on the issue have not been conducted for a long time.
He noted that President Chen Shui-bian said in 2000 that he wanted to
scrap the death penalty and that the ministry's policy to eventually
abrogate it remains unchanged.
Chang said he has met with members of groups in support of the abrogation
as well as family members of victims who are against the scrapping to
learn more about their views.
The ministry also held a seminar on phasing out capital punishment for the
first time last year, with the participants fully expressing their views,
Chang said. He noted that currently, the concept of getting even is still
prevalent in Taiwan and that the abrogation of the death penalty will have
to await "a maturing of society."
The ministry hopes that the public can think seriously about the right to
life through inter-school debates like the one held last year, he said.
The ministry will also hold public hearings in northern, central and
southern Taiwan this year, inviting people from all walks of life to
In addition, the ministry will commission the Crime Research Center under
National Chung Cheng University to study the issue.
(source: China Post)
Peruvian Congress shoots down death penalty proposal
The majority of the Peruvian Congress decided not to proceed with the
initiative designed to modify the Peruvian Penal Code and give authorities
the power to sentence convicted terrorists to death.
In a rapid and surprise vote, 49 congressmen and women voted against the
initiative while 26 where in favor of permitting executions to convicted
The bill was expected to be submitted to the Justice and Constitutional
Commissions for further evaluation and in depth debate before the
unexpected vote took place.
As a result of the lighting-fast decision, congressman Javier Velsquez
asked the Peruvian parliament to reconsider its vote. However Velsquez's
petition was also shot down by the majority of the Peruvian congress.
The president of the Constitutional Commission Aurelio Pastor, who comes
from the same political party as the Peruvian President and sponsor of the
bill APRA, lamented the hasty decision made by his colleagues.
Additionally, Peruvian Prime Minister Jorge Del Castillo declared that
congress's decision to stop the initiative is not a political loss for his
He indicated that President Garcia was elected for his views on the death
penalty and that Garcia did what he could to get the initiative passed.
"The President and his administration did not fail the people. The
majority of the parliament thought differently. We respect their
democratic decision. Those are the rules of a democracy, sometimes you win
and sometimes you lose," stated Del Castillo.
Though the initiative is not dead yet, it cannot be brought to the
Peruvian parliament until early next year, when, according to Aurelio
Pastor, it will be difficult to resurrect support for the bill.
(source: Living in Peru)
Monday, January 08, 2007
Libyan court confirms death sentence against medical workers
For the 2nd time in 2 years, 6 medical workersfive Bulgarian nurses and
one Palestinian physicianhave been sentenced to die by firing squad by the
The "Benghazi Six"Kristiana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropulo,
Valya Chervenyashka, Snezhana Dimitrova and Ashraf Al Hagoughave been
effectively held as hostages since 1999 on fabricated charges of
introducing the HIV virus into a childrens hospital. They were condemned
by the Libyan Criminal Court on December 19 at the conclusion of a retrial
lasting 5 months. Reports indicate that the workers mental and physical
health is very bad, and at least one has considered suicide.
In 1998, the magazine of the Libyan Writers Association, Laa reported that
HIV infection had appeared in Al Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi.
The report triggered multiple complaints from the childrens parents of a
lack of information from the clinic's administrators. Parents suspected
that the infection had been transferred via blood transfusion.
The response from the Libyan government was severe. Benghazi, Libya's 2nd
city with a population of 1 million has long been a centre of opposition
to Colonel Muammar Gadhaffis government. In the late 1990s, Islamic groups
launched attacks on government posts on the citys fringes. Alarmed at the
possibility of the HIV outbreak becoming a focus for public anger over the
real state of health and social conditions, Gadhaffi closed down Laa, had
Filipino, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Libyan and Palestinian health workers
arrested, and started an anti-foreigner witch-hunt. He dismissed the
health minister, Dr Solaiman al-Ghemari, and claimed that the CIA was
responsible for the infection.
Most of those arrested were eventually released. But the 6 remaining in
custody were accused of working for an external power, charged with
indiscriminate killing for the purposes of subversion and conspiring to
infect hundreds of children at the hospital with HIV. They were tortured
and held incommunicado for months, and a "confession" was extracted from
one of the nurses that she had injected children with contaminated
products. The confession was retracted in 2001.
International scientific outcry
International medical opinion rejected the Libyan government's
accusations, pointing instead to the decrepit state of the Libyan
healthcare system, undermined by years of UN and US sanctions, as the
source of HIV infection.
A 2002 report by the Italian National Institute for Infectious diseases
stated that by the spring of 1999 it was possible to point to infection in
402 children, every one of whom had received intravenous fluids,
antibiotics, steroids or bronchodilators between February and September
1998. The report concluded that one particular strain of the virus was
involved, and it was likely of West African origin.
In 2003, Professor Luc Montaigner, one of those credited with identifying
the HIV virus, and his colleague Professor Vittorio Collizzi produced a
report tracing the development of the Benghazi epidemic from a "patient
zero" who was present in the hospital in 1997before the victimised medics
started work. The 2 eminent scientists presented this evidence in the 2004
trial, which in May of that year sentenced the medical workers to death.
Immediately after the verdict, Libya let it be known that the death
sentences were negotiable. Ramadan al-Fitouri, head of a group
representing the families and undoubtedly speaking with government
approval, demanded that the infected children be treated in Europe, an HIV
clinic be opened in Benghazi and compensation paid for each child. The
compensation figure eventually settled at around US$10 million per child,
in total more than US$4 billion. This remains the Libyan position, and the
medical workers are hostages until such time as the government is paid.
To this end, after the 2004 verdict, the Libyan Supreme Court threw out
the verdict in 2005 and ordered a retrial. The long-delayed Criminal Court
retrial eventually opened July 2006, and after going over the same ground,
the court reached the same verdict and sentenced them to death once again.
Recent articles insisting on the hospital workers' innocence have appeared
in the Lancet and Nature, and protests were registered by 114 Nobel
Laureates, the UK Royal College of Nursing, Amnesty International, Human
Rights Watch, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and
the American Chemical Society.
The case can be appealed again to the Supreme Court.
The medical workers and Libya's rehabilitation
The medical workers' lives have become pawns in international machinations
surrounding efforts to reintegrate the former pariah regime, and the
immense oil reserves within its territory, into the affairs of world
By the early 1980s, the left-posturing nationalist Gadhaffi regime was
increasingly isolated following the intensification of the US government's
"roll-back" strategy designed to increase pressure on the Soviet Union. In
1981, 2 Libyan fighters were shot down by US aircraft, and in 1985, all
Libyan products were banned from the US, while in 1986, US aircraft bombed
Tripoli and Benghazi.
Blame for the December 1988 attack on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,
Scotland, became a political issue. The US and British governments
initially pinned the bombing on Iran, but, following Iranian acquiescence
over the 1991 Desert Storm invasion of Iraq, pointed the finger at Libya
and used the Lockerbie disaster as a pretext to introduce United Nations
sanctions on that country in 1992.
In 1999, diplomatic relations with the UK were restored as part of a deal
organised with the assistance of the UN. Under its terms, Libyans
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah were handed over to be
tried for the Lockerbie attack. The medical workers disappeared from their
lodgings a matter of weeks before al-Megrahi and Fhimah were flown to the
Netherlands for trial.
The healthcare workers' arrest allowed the government to make use of them
in two ways: as scapegoats for the HIV crisis in Benghazi and to divert
attention in Libya from the decision to hand over two citizens for a trial
held in the Netherlands, under Scottish law, on a former US airbase.
Fhimah was eventually released, but al-Megrahi was sentenced to 20 years
in jail and remains in Greenock prison.
In 2003, Libya agreed with the US and Britain to pay US$2.7 billion
compensation to the family members of the 270 killed in the Lockerbie
crash. The US$4 billion compensation requested after the foreign medical
workers' 2st death sentence in 2004 was interpreted as a counterclaim to
the Lockerbie pay-off. In fact, the children's families' request of US$10
million per infected child matches the amount paid each of the families in
the Lockerbie deaths.
In the aftermath of Libya's compensation agreement, its renunciation of
its nuclear programme and the assistance offered against Al Qaeda in 2003,
the US government accelerated steps to end economic sanctions, open
travel, trade and diplomatic relations. In 2006, it finally removed Libya
from the list of states alleged to be sponsoring terrorism.
Prodigious volumes of investment, along with restored diplomatic and
military ties, have followed. In addition to reviving longstanding
relations between Libya and Marathon Oil, Amerada Hess and Conoco, most of
the worlds major oil companies have bought exploration and exploitation
rights in Libya.
Players include BP, Exxon, Gazprom, Nippon Oil and Petrobas. Libya also
has large-scale and lucrative infrastructure, engineering and aircraft
contracts. Investment flows into Libya were estimated at US$6-US$7 billion
in 2004. Seven billion dollars' worth of contracts were reported to be on
offer in 2006, while the country has built up financial reserves of more
than US$30 billion. One US$3 billion oil refinery has been approved and
another is under consideration. A number of free-trade zones have been
established. According to Harvard Business School economist Michael
Porter, the country has "one of the highest rates of business formation in
the world" and is "contributing to the wealth and stability of surrounding
As well as a string of high-profile political visitors, including top US
diplomats in 2006, Libya has been incorporated into US military plans for
the region. Libya featured on the list of CIA rendition flight stopover
points. France and Italy have held joint military exercises with Libyan
forces, and the country is viewed by the European Union as a key ally in
policing immigration on its southern shores.
The frenzied competition for Libyan oil rights, arms and infrastructure
contracts and influence explains the muted complaints from world leaders
over the verdict delivered against the medical workers. US Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice stated that she was "disappointed" by the verdict,
while a spokesman for the EU, Johannes Laitenberger, said he was shocked.
Speaking for the UN, Secretary General Kofi Annan hoped that a "humane
solution" could be found.
None of the major powers wants to upset the Gadhaffi government too much.
And none of them are prepared to offer the compensation payments it
demands for the families of the HIV-infected children, although some
children have received treatment in Europe and small sums have been
offered for a local clinic.
In addition to the question of acceding to Libyan blackmail, none of the
major powers would want to set the precedent of a significant transfer of
wealth from the rich to poor countries to alleviate the HIV crisis
overwhelming large areas of Africa. While the Benghazi case involves
around 400 children, according to the World Health Organisation there are
23,000 people living with HIV in Libya alone, while in sub-Saharan Africa
totals are in excess of 24.5 million.
(source: Asian Tribune
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Capital punishment becomes ever more localized.
Sunday, December 31, 2006; Page B06
THE YEAR 2006 saw the fewest executions in the United States in a decade, 53. The use of capital punishment has been dropping since 1999, when 98 people were executed. The number of new death sentences is also falling precipitously, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center, and the number of people on death row is dropping off as well. At least for now, capital punishment remains in retreat.
Perhaps the most striking indicator of this retreat is the degree to which executions are becoming a local phenomenon. While the preponderance of states have a death penalty, very few use it as a routine feature of their criminal justice systems. This year, 14 states carried out executions, but only six of them -- Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma and Virginia -- carried out more than one. Together, these states accounted for 85 percent of executions this year. All by itself, Texas, which executed 24 people, accumulated 45 percent. Over the previous three years, the leading six states for executions accounted for between 70 and 83 percent of executions annually. The less the death penalty gets used, the more it becomes a creature of its heartland: the South, and Texas especially.
Although 38 states and the federal government have the death penalty on their books, only 18 states have executed more than 10 people since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Many states with laws that permit capital punishment use it only rarely -- such as Maryland -- and some don't use it at all.
Now is a good time to push for repeal of death penalty laws in states outside the region truly committed to its use. Crime and murder rates, though increasing, remain low. Many Americans are rightly concerned by the rash of wrongful convictions, including those of death row inmates who have been exonerated. The death penalty's decline should be translated into policies that will prevent its easy re-emergence if circumstances change.