Death Penalty Information
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
March 14, 2007
GENEVA, March 14 (Reuters) - The government of Iraq, which was heavily criticised internationally for the way it executed Saddam Hussein, wants to abolish the death penalty, its human rights minister said on Wednesday.
The first step would be to limit capital punishment, which was re-introduced over two years ago to combat spiraling criminal violence, to the most extreme cases such as genocide and crimes against humanity, Wijdan Michael told the United Nations Human Rights Council.
"We are working at the present moment in order to pave the way to eliminate capital punishment in Iraq, after restricting it to the largest possible extent," Michael said, speaking through an interpreter.
Images of the country's former dictator being taunted as he awaited execution in December, and the accidental decapitation of his half-brother and aide Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti during a January hanging, caused an outcry.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour appealed unsuccessfully to Iraq to stop the executions of Saddam and his aides on the grounds that their trials for crimes against humanity did not meet minimum international standards.
Under international law the death penalty can only be used as an exceptional measure, and there must always be a right of appeal against the sentence, something that was denied to Saddam, she said.
Although the United Nations opposes capital punishment, the death penalty still exists in nearly 70 countries, including the United States, which led a 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam and unleashed a sectarian conflict.
More than 1,200 people convicted of insurgent activity by the U.S.-sponsored Central Criminal Court of Iraq have so far been sentenced to death, but there are no precise figures on convictions and executions.
Capital punishment was frequently used under Saddam, but it was suspended by the U.S.-led military alliance.
The minister said Iraq, where human rights activists say torture and abuse is widespread in prisons, also wants to join the optional protocol of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits cruel and inhuman punishment and arbitrary executions.
AGO criticized over death penalty
Legal experts have criticized Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh over his
rigid stance regarding the implementation of capital punishment in
"Despite progress in the country's legal system, such as the on going
judicial review on the death penalty for drug dealers in the 1997
Narcotics Law, the Attorney General has not yet been able to escape from
his legalistic and normative views on capital punishment," the Operational
Director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor Imparsial, Rusdi Marpaung,
told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
"Regarding drug trafficking, for example, the government cannot solely
rely on deterrence principles to handle such a crime.
"There are other problems that need attention, such as monitoring the
abuse of addictive substances and the involvement of government officials
in drug trafficking," he said.
Rusdi was commenting on a statement by the Attorney General on Friday that
the government would continue implementing the death penalty in criminal
cases, including for drug abuse and trafficking.
"Capital punishment in our legal system has been adopted from the old
Dutch legal system during the colonial period. Holland itself abolished
the implementation of the death penalty over 50 years ago," he said.
According to Rusdi, the United Nations has reported that there is no
evidence to suggest that the death penalty is an effective deterrence
The Executive Director for the Center for Indonesian Law and Policy
Studies, Bivitri Susanti, also said capital punishment was ineffective in
"Its deterrence effect has been proven ineffective, especially when court
verdicts have turned out to be wrongly implemented ... And the death
penalty itself violates basic principles of human rights, no matter what
the case is," Bivitri told the Post
"It would be better for the government to make sure the jail terms imposed
on prisoners are fully implemented," she said, citing that many inmates in
Indonesia had managed to walk out of prison before completing their jail
Rusdi agreed, saying the United States hands down maximum jail terms of up
to 200 years.
"That way, American prisoners still naturally die in prison, but not
because of the death penalty."
Bivitri said it was not necessary for Indonesia to remove capital
punishment from its legal system as some countries have done.
"As in other countries, Indonesia could still retain capital punishment in
its legal system, but only on the condition that the judges selectively
impose the sentence on convicts," she said.
Besides the narcotics law, other laws including the death penalty are the
Criminal Code, the Anticorruption Law, the Antiterrorism Law, the Law on
the possession of firearms and explosives, the Law on subversive
activities and the 2000 Law on the Human Rights Court.
According to Rusdi, about 60 laws in Indonesia's legal system apply
capital punishment, including new laws such as the State Secrecy Bill.
(source: The Jakarta Post)
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
After being eliminated in the first round last July, she switched her support to the then vice-pres-ident, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was standing against President Joseph Kabila. She then represented him in a Supreme Court challenge to Kabila’s victory.
But as the appeal began Nlandu was arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms and inciting an insurrection. She was put before a military tribunal and has been refused medical assistance despite her deteriorating health.
“These charges carry the death penalty and the intention is to find her guilty,” said her husband, Professor Noel Mbala. “Kabila wants to kill her, because of her human rights work, assisting people who had been illegally arrested, because she was the first woman to run for president, and because of the appeal. He wants to kill her to show everyone he’s powerful and in charge.”
The family have lived in London since 1998 when they fled Congo after opposing the government of Laurent Kabila, the late father of the current president. Mbala and their two teenage sons now have British nationality but his wife refused to give up her Congolese citizenship.
He has now turned their small council flat in Lambeth, south London, into a campaign headquarters, sending out e-mails to ministers (Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, did not reply), human rights agencies and church groups. The mantelpiece is lined with photographs of Nlandu, their children and football trophies won by their two sons, aged 13 and 16.
“The boys are very disturbed,” Mbala said. “One of them goes days at a time not eating or speaking.” Two elder daughters are in Belgium, lobbying opinion makers there.
Mbala admits he feared for his wife when she returned to contest the elections. The first democratic elections since independence from Belgium in 1960, they followed a five-year war that drew in armies from five other African countries and left as many as 4m dead.
“I was worried because I know my country and know there’s no rule of law and anything can happen at any time,” he said. “But I thought the presence of the international community, election observers and the world’s biggest UN peacekeeping operation would act as a guarantor.”
Although the two rounds of voting in July and October took place amid acute tension and outbreaks of violence as well as allegations of vote-buying, the international community was highly relieved they went ahead at all.
But when Kabila was reelected, Bemba alleged fraud and appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the result.
It was as Nlandu left the court on November 20 that she was given a message, supposedly from Bemba, to wait outside St Luc Ma Campagne church, where someone would collect her. She travelled there in one car while her driver and aides followed in another vehicle. But at the church she became suspicious and left.
The next day she discovered that occupants of the other car had been arrested. As the Supreme Court began to hear the appeal on November 21, violence erupted outside between Bemba supporters and police. The session was abandoned and Nlandu went to the Kin-Maziãres police station to find out what had happened to her associates.
As she was waiting to go in she telephoned her husband, the last time he spoke to her.
According to a statement she wrote later, the police colonel said: “Madame Nlandu, at last you are here.” He told her that three grenades had been found in her driver’s car and accused her of being behind a fire at the Supreme Court which had started after she left. He then allegedly tortured one of her aides in front of her.
Since then she has been held in Makala high-security prison. “She is in very degrading, inhuman conditions,” said Mbala. “It’s noisy, there are 10 women packed into each cell and she sleeps no more than two hours a night. Congolese prisons provide no food so my sister takes it to her.”
He is worried about her health. She has been suffering from a pulmonary infection, malaria and high blood pressure. When she appeared before the tribunal in January she was so weak that she could hardly walk.
Anneka Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, which has taken up Nlandu’s case, visited her last week. “She was not at all well,” she said. “She’s desperate, depressed and has been around Congo long enough to know they can convict her on no evidence.”
The tribunal that is supposed to be deciding her case has not sat since the end of January when the supposed witnesses admitted they had been paid by the government to incriminate Nlandu. “This is a case that doesn’t stack up at all,” said Van Woudenberg. “It’s clearly political.”
She pointed out that Kabila’s victory had been followed by a crackdown on opposition members. “Nlandu’s case is more high profile but it’s just one of a number of cases we are following. The one common thread is the lack of evidence and that they are all members of the opposition.”
Run Date: 03/09/07
By Cynthia L. Cooper
Death sentences imposed on three Iraqi women--some of them mothers with young children--have spurred international concerns about the conduct of their trials and the abrogation of international prohibitions against the death penalty for new mothers.
(WOMENSENEWS)--In Frankfurt, Germany, protestors planned to erect a scaffold and post a woman under it with a rope around her neck. In Stockholm, Sweden, and Ankara, Turkey, protestors gathered in front of the Iraq embassies.
These events, hastily-announced in the past two weeks, were to demand a halt to pending executions by hanging of three young women in Iraq.
The women--Wassan Talib, 31; Zaynab Fahil, 25 and Liqa' Qamar Muhammad, 26-- were charged with vague crimes of acting against the public welfare, according to reports emerging from the war-torn country. Amnesty International issued an "urgent action," asking members around the world to send letters of protest, fearing that the executions were imminent.
The cases underscore worries by human rights organizations about the sufficiency of the justice system in Iraq. Questions have arisen about the fairness of proceedings, the lack of legal representation, transparency in the justice system and use of the death penalty as well as the legitimacy of the legal tribunals themselves.
"If the tribunal under which they were tried does not meet minimal standards, it's bogus. It becomes a lynch mob," said Karen Parker, a lawyer and co-founder of the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers in San Francisco. Parker and her organization endorsed efforts of the Brussels Tribunal, a multinational affiliation of human rights activists who monitor Iraq, to block the executions. The tribunal is coordinated over the Internet by leaders in varied locations.
Incarcerated in Baghdad
Although many details of their cases are unclear, the three women are all charged with activities related to the ongoing conflict in Iraq and are incarcerated in al-Kadhimiya Prison in northern Baghdad.
According to information collected by Amnesty International, Wassan Talib and Zayneb Fadhil were sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq on August 31, 2006, after being convicted of killing members of the Iraqi security forces in the Baghdad district of Hay al-Furat in 2005, charges that both deny. Zayneb Fadhil, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, has reportedly said that she was not in the country at the time of the incidents.
Liqa' Qamar Muhammad was convicted of participating in a kidnapping in 2005 and sentenced to death on Feb. 6, 2006. Her husband was detained and charged with the same crime, according to Amnesty International. Muhammad has an infant daughter, who was born in prison and remains there with her.
The International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, a network of lawyers in the United States, points out that the U.N. has passed a resolution against imposing the death penalty on new mothers.
The group called for the Iraqi government to repudiate the executions. "We have received information that these three were denied legal counsel," the group said in a public statement. Denial of counsel violates international guarantees to a fair trial, the group said.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva expressed similar concerns.
High Commissioner Seeks Specifics
"If people are sentenced to death under an unfair trial, that would be illegal in international law," said Jose Diaz, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in an interview with Women's eNews. Diaz confirmed that the High Commissioner has been prompted to seek specifics about the women's situations.
In Baghdad, a U.N. official was on the ground doing just that. The official, who asked that her name and title be withheld out of consideration for her safety, told Women's eNews in a phone interview that she has learned that five women are on death row in Iraq. The executions are not imminent, as many feared, she said because of ongoing appeals and because the president has yet to sign execution warrants. But she is still trying to ascertain the legality of the trials that lead to the death sentences. "Absolutely, the question is: 'How fair were the trials? How fair were the investigations?' We don't know how the trials looked, so we don't have the core information."
A fourth woman of concern to Amnesty International is Samar Sa'ad Abdullah, also sentenced to death for the murder of her uncle and four members of his family on Aug. 15, 2005; charges that she denied.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, said Sheila Dauer, director of the Women's Human Rights Program of Amnesty International USA in New York. "If the women have been denied fair trials, once you use the death penalty, you can't go back. There can be mistakes, there can be bias."
Embassies Withhold Comment
Officials at the Iraqi embassies in New York and Washington D.C. did not respond to requests for clarification of the women's cases. One employee in the political division of the Republic of Iraq Embassy in Washington, who declined to be identified, said, "A lot of media issued a lot of news for the Iraqi women. We have no idea. The media in our country are free. We cannot give out any statement."
Although there has been minimal publicity about the women in the United States, people in other parts of the world have sent letters of protest, posted on the Web site of the Brussels Tribunal. Among them are the European Women's Lobby, a coalition of 4,000 non-governmental organizations, the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, the Italian Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the Iraq Solidarity Association in Stockholm. Over 100 individuals and organizations endorsed a strongly-worded Brussels Tribunal statement "Hanging the womb of Iraq--Stop the executions of 3 Iraqi women."
Parker, who specializes in armed conflict law, asserts that the legal system in Iraq is shattered and needs to be reestablished by Iraqis themselves, instead of utilizing the tribunals set up under U.S. occupation. "If we are going to go there and bring justice to Iraq, we should make sure that every proceeding is squeaky clean. And these tribunals are not," she said.
Cynthia L. Cooper is an independent journalist in New York with a background as a lawyer. She writes frequently about justice issues.
Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information:
Association of Humanitarian Lawyers:
Amnesty International Urgent Action:
The Brussels Tribunal:
Monday, March 12, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Death Penalty Stifling Free Speech
HARARE, Feb 27 (IPS) - Zimbabwean rights activists are campaigning with unprecedented vigour for an end to the death penalty as the country’s political and economic crisis deepens, arguing that this is essential for an open debate on the nation’s future and its joining the "civilised democracies of the world".
"The death penalty is a threat to freedom of speech," Edson Chiota, the national coordinator of the Zimbabwe Association for Crime prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders (ZACRO) told IPS. He was interviewed while attending the Third World Congress against the Death Penalty in Paris at the beginning of February.
"The government is trying to silence the opposition. If you publicly criticise the state leader, there’s a good likelihood that you will be charged with treason. That’s a threat to be feared. Treason carries the death penalty," Chiota said.
Zimbabwe activists recall how two leading politicians were charged with treason in a campaign of intimidation before past elections.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been charged with treason three times, the last just ahead of the 2002 presidential elections. This trial lasted almost two years. It ended with a surprise acquittal.
Ndabaningi Sithole, the leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) was also charged with plotting to overthrow the government. This was just ahead of the 1996 presidential elections.
But he was found guilty. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but released because of failing health. His sentencing disqualified him from attending parliament until his death three years later.
Both politicians claimed they had been framed by the state security service.
Launching ZACRO’s national anti-death penalty campaign with a newspaper article on Jan. 4, Wonder Chakanyuka, ZACRO’s information and publicity officer, side-stepped the issue of how the death penalty was being used to silence dissent. He stressed rather that it was alien to the country’s African traditions and left-over relic from colonial times.
"It was used to intimidate and eliminate black people and as Zimbabweans we cannot continue having this law on our books," he wrote in an opinion article.
"An increasing number of African states have abolished the death penalty and Zimbabwe cannot afford to be left behind," he added.
The article in the state-backed newspaper 'The Herald', ended with an editorial note that ZACRO’s crusade against the death penalty was not party-based and should not be used to "demonise" the country.
This appears to confirm ZACRO’s view that Robert Mugabe’s regime will not block its campaign.
"We have never clashed with the government on this issue," Chiota said. "They are letting us go free. This means that they want to leave the public to take up its position."
ZACRO’s campaign is likely to gather strong public support from many non-governmental organisations, churches, traditional leaders, lawyers and even members of the justice department.
"Killing someone for an offence will not change or solve anything," David Chimhini, executive director of the Zimbabwe Civic Educational Trust (ZIMCET) told IPS.
"No one has the right to kill another."
ZIMCET advocates life sentences in place of the death penalty for the most serious crime of murder.
The Human Rights Trust of South Africa (SAHRIT) has also staunchly come out against the death penalty. The death penalty should be replaced by life imprisonment for "reflection and reform".
"The courts can sentence someone to death, but they cannot be 100 percent sure that the person has committed the crime," Noel Kututwa, its executive director, told IPS.
He expressed scepticism that the Mugabe regime would listen to the voices of the abolitionists. "I don’t see the government moving an inch on the death penalty law," he said.
Zimbabwe lawyers have also expressed concern over the possibility of judicial error and are likely to strongly back the ZACRO campaign on this issue.
One of the most tragic cases was that of Sukoluhle Kachipare, a mother who was condemned to death for allegedly inciting her 17-year-old maid to murder her own new-born child.
Only a concerned nation and international campaign saved her from the gallows in 1997. She would have been the first woman to be executed in Zimbabwe since 1898, when the British colonial regime executed the spirit medium Mbuya Nehanda.
Though Kachipare’s sentence was first confirmed by the Zimbabwe Supreme Court, lawyers continued her legal battle. She was eventually acquitted, Stanford Moyo, president of the Zimbabwe Law Society told IPS.
Church groups are expected to take part actively in the ZACRO campaign -- especially Christian churches. There are roughly seven million Christians in Zimbabwe, just over half the population.
Anglican bishop Sebastian Bakare has publicly preached that state killing is against "the word of God and all biblical commandments".
"It does not prevent people from committing violent crimes. Rather, it creates an illusion that violent crime is under control and being eliminated," he told IPS in an interview.
All groups are likely to rally behind the campaign’s call for an end to the secrecy surrounding the death penalty issue in Zimbabwe.
"The lack of public information is the biggest concern," Irene Petras, the acting director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told IPS.
ZACRO’s Chiota complains that his organisation is barred from visiting any death row prisoner. "We can’t say anything about them. Only the authorities know their situation exactly."
High Court records show the number on death row totals 47. But efforts by IPS to obtain a list of the names was met with the response "classified information".
ZACRO now intends to take its anti-death penalty campaign to all ten provinces in the country. It has plans to print and distribute millions of pamphlets and posters. Everyone in the country will be offered a campaign T-shirt.
But only with outside funds will it be possible to finance such ambitious plans. Though nearly 100 years old, the prisoners’ rights organisation still operates from humble offices in the old township of Mbare in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.
Inflation is currently the highest in the world -- some 1,600 percent. Unemployment is over 85 percent and the economy is in a free fall. A third of all men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV positive.
But rather than despairing, ZACRO activists seem undeterred.
"We are trying to get a movement going. There’s never been a fully-fledged campaign before to make this issue really visible," said Chiota.
"When the death penalty is gone, we believe that people will come out of their shells and express their hopes and wishes." (FIN/2007)