Death Penalty Information
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Openness on executions a welcome change
In a major switch from its hitherto secretive policy, the Justice Ministry
for the 1st time disclosed the names of 3 death row inmates executed on
We believe the government should not hesitate to reveal such details on
executions that have been carried out in accordance with the law by this
Commenting on the ministry's decision to publicize the names of the
executed inmates, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said, "It's necessary
for [bereaved families of] crime victims and the public to know and
understand if capital punishment is carried out properly and solemnly."
The ministry apparently made this decision out of consideration for the
victims, both dead and alive, of the crimes committed by executed inmates,
and the victims' families. Disclosing the executed inmates' names also
fits in with the trend toward greater information disclosure in recent
Previously, the ministry had not immediately revealed even the fact that
some convicts had been executed. Instead, it only listed in an annual
report the number of people executed each year.
The ministry had defended the practice by saying it needed to consider the
mental anguish that executions would cause for the convicts' families and
other death row inmates.
From 1998, however, the ministry started publicizing the number of
executions soon after the sentences were carried out. Media organizations
have, on their own accord, traced and reported the names of inmates put to
Public support death penalty
In a Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll in December last year, 80 % of
respondents said the death penalty should be maintained or that they
"somewhat" support the continuation of capital punishment. Many people
apparently believe the death penalty serves as a deterrent to heinous
crimes to some extent.
As long as society supports capital punishment, it would only be natural
for the ministry to reveal the facts about the execution of inmates.
Some U.S. states that have the death penalty release the names of executed
inmates on Web sites or through other channels.
After the lay judge system, which will be applied for trials of serious
crimes, starts in the spring of 2009, ordinary people--together with
judges--will have to decide whether a defendant should be condemned to
Doubts may arise over how the lay judge system is run if information on
executions is kept secret, even as citizens are set to participate in
determining whether a death penalty should be handed down in specific
cases. Perhaps the ministry also had this concern in mind when it changed
tack and revealed the names of the 3 men put to death Friday.
Death row getting longer
According to the Criminal Procedure Code, the death penalty is carried out
at the order of the justice minister.
However, Hatoyama once commented: "I wonder if there's a way to
automatically proceed with the execution [of death row inmates] without
the involvement of the justice minister."
The death penalty is the ultimate punishment. That is the very reason that
an execution order signed by the justice minister--who wields the
overriding responsibility for judicial administration--is required to
carry out an execution. We must say Hatoyama's remarks were inappropriate
The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that the justice minister should
give an execution order within 6 months after a death penalty has been
finalized. But, in practice, it takes an average of seven years until an
execution is carried out. As a result, the number of inmates waiting on
death row has increased to 104.
We hope the ministry's decision to reveal the names of executed inmates
will give momentum to debate about how this nation should run its capital
(source: The Yomiuri Shimbu
Monday, December 03, 2007
Conformist Media Blamed for Public Apathy
Lack of media interest in reporting on death penalty issues is responsible
for widespread public indifference to whether or not Morocco eventually
abolishes capital punishment, according to analysts and activists here.
"The Moroccan media has not yet made abolition part of its agenda," Driss
Ould Kabla, editor-in-chief of the Al-Michal weekly, told IPS.
Despite its 15-year-long unofficial moratorium, when the time came to vote
on the recent U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide
moratorium on executions and eventual end to the death penalty, Morocco
sided with the rest of the Arab world and joined the pro-capital
Morocco was one of the 52 countries -- many of them Arab -- which voted
against the moratorium resolution on Nov. 15. Moroccan diplomats did not
even take to the floor during the two days of debate in the General
Assembly's human rights committee -- unlike Egyptian and Syrian diplomats
who expressed strong criticism.
The Moroccan media largely ignored the country's stand on the U.N. General
Al-Michal is the only Moroccan newspaper that regularly reports on death
The near-total media blackout on death penalty issues is largely due to
the failure of the press to jettison its antiquated conformist mentality
-- not because of official censorship, Kabla said.
"We have a long history of support for the death penalty from all
quarters, political, social and religious," Kabla explained.
Expressing dismay at the absence of media interest in this event, Kabla
said that the press did find its voice when there were even more
controversial issues to report. "The Moroccan independent press has been
showing enough daring on other issues," he stressed.
This sensitive reporting involved recent coverage of the alleged
extra-judicial killings during the rule of King Hassan II who died in
1999. Some human rights activists have alleged the killings could number
in the hundreds.
Kabla's own investigations into some of these killings -- particularly
those alleged to have been carried out at a secret service villa in Rabat,
the Moroccan capital -- were published in his own weekly and re-published
on many websites in Arabic.
Kabla said that NGOs shared some of the blame for public apathy towards
death penalty abolition: "Abolitionist NGOs are not communicating widely
Ahmed Kouza, an Amnesty International activist, agreed that the Moroccan
press was tame in its reporting on the death penalty. Press fail to
appreciate the relationship between abolishing capital punishment and
furthering democratic values, he suggested.
But otherwise the Moroccan media was playing a "crucial role in the
democratic changes taking place in the country", Kouza told IPS.
"Abolition is an integral part of this on-going 'democratic transition' in
the country", he argued.
The 'Democratic Transition' was launched in Morocco in 1998 when King
Hassan II named opposition leader Abderrahmane Youssoufi as prime
Hassan II ruled from 1961 to 1999. His son, King Mohamed VI, who acceded
to throne in July 1999, continued the democratic reforms. He also launched
a reconciliation process with victims of human rights violations under his
father by setting up the Equity and Reconciliation Board (IER).
The IER -- in its final report submitted to King Mohamed VI in 2005 --
recommended the abolition of the death penalty as part of this
In 2006, Bouchra Khiari of the Democratic Forces Front, seized the
initiative by introducing a bill in parliament to abolish capital
punishment. "There was a thoroughgoing debate at this time between the
abolitionists and advocates of the death penalty," Kabla said. But even
this lively debate was not widely reported in the media "because the
abolitionist movement is not yet influential enough," he explained.
Kouza believes that it is only a matter of time before the Moroccan press
will take up reporting the death penalty issue. "The political and social
engagement is still missing," Kouza said. "But journalism is certainly
becoming more professional."
Independent media outlets are flourishing. Since the 'Democratic
Transition', the media landscape has seen the addition of some 400 private
newspapers. The state broadcasting monopoly has been broken up. There are
now 11 independent radio stations -- although television is still
Morocco's last execution was in 1993, but death sentences continue to be
handed down for murder. Human rights activists believe there are more than
150 currently on death row in the country.
(source: IPS News)
Death Penalty Serves Interests of Despotic Regimes----Interview with Nedal
Nedal Naeiseh: Syrian writer, journalist and anti-death penalty campaigner
Syria strongly opposed the recently passed U.N. resolution calling for an
immediate moratorium on executions and end to capital punishment. But
Nedal Naeiseh -- Syrian writer and journalist -- believes the regime is
close to the day when it will join the growing number of abolitionist
In an interview with Abderrahim El Ouali, IPS correspondent for North
Africa and the Middle East, Naeiseh says solving the Middle East conflict
would remove any pretext for retaining capital punishment in his country.
Some excerpts from the interview:
IPS: You write regularly on abolitionist issues. Is there an active
anti-death penalty movement in Syria?
Nedal Naeiseh: There is no engaged, organized intellectual movement
working to abolish the death penalty in our country. There are individuals
who are campaigning. These, and independent groups, can only take on a
small number of cases because they lack funds and the facilities to lobby.
In Syria civil society organizations, independent associations and
political parties are almost non-existent. But there is an official
current -- still not so obvious -- progressing towards the abolition of
this barbaric punishment.
There is no doubt in my mind regarding Syria, Syria really intends to be
part of the global movement for radical international change. This
especially includes respecting the United Nations call for the abolition
of the death penalty.
Standing in the way of achieving this are some pressing regional problems.
IPS: The Syrian penal code calls for the death penalty for anyone who
belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group. Does this mean that
any other opposition group would face the same sanction?
NN: You are referring to law number 49. This was introduced in 1980 after
the bloody clashes that took place between the Muslim Brotherhood and the
Syrian regime. There were specific circumstances that led to this law; it
was to stop the bloody conflict of that period . . . We do not want such a
law applied in Syria or any other part of the world.
I should say here that the law is semi-suspended. All death sentences have
been reduced to 12 years imprisonment or even less. But there were
undoubtedly past abuses in the application of this law. The sentences are
now made public and published in the media.
I really do not think that any other political organisation has faced --
or will face -- such a measure as long as constitutional rules are
followed and violence is not advocated to achieve political ends.
IPS: In Syria the application of the death penalty is often tied to
collaboration with the enemy, which means Israel. Does this mean that
abolition depends on finding a solution to the Syrian-Israeli conflict in
particular, and the Arab- Israeli conflict in general?
NN: There is certainly a solid connection between the death penalty and
the on-going state of emergency in Syria and the Syrian conflict with
Israel. In nearly all legal codes around the world you will find sanctions
for collaborating with the enemy. It is termed high treason and severely
Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict would certainly lead to some radical
constitutional and legal changes in Syria. Then, efforts could be focused
on amending the laws now in force so they meet standards you would find in
the most developed countries. Solving this conflict would remove the
pretext for applying the death penalty -- or ever extending it.
IPS: Criminals who commit revenge crimes in Syria escape the death
penalty. When the family of a murder victim takes revenge against the
murders family or friends, in court they can argue that there were
extenuating circumstances. Is this encouraging murder by letting these
criminals go without full punishment?
NN: Syrian lawmakers are influenced by our customs and tribal traditions
because of the moral value they have in society. But, in my view, this
does not mean that the laws meet recognized legal standards and are
humane. Any criminal must be punished according to modern legal norms and,
of course, the death penalty is not one of these.
You are correct. What happens is unjust. It encourages more killings under
the guise of taking revenge. Also, no one should be punished for a crime
committed by another person. Revenge killings are absolutely illegal and
should be punished by the law.
There are other crimes even more dangerous than revenge crimes. I am
talking here about honour killings. These are also another kind of death
penalty carried out by individuals outside the law. Many women are killed
when there is suspicion they have committed adultery or because of an
innocent rendezvous. Many innocent girls are victims of unjust tribal and
sectarian laws. I can say that there are 2 kinds of laws existing in our
society: tribal laws -- some of which derive from Sharia law -- and modern
laws. But the first group remains the more influential of the 2.
IPS: Under the state of emergency in Syria is there really space for
abolitionist groups to work?
NN: The state of emergency and the absence of civil society organizations
and suspicion of any social movement are preventing any lobbying.
Under the emergency laws now in force any meeting of more than 2 people is
criminalized. But actually in our public activities we find these measures
IPS: If another Arab state were to abolish the death penalty, would this
influence Syria to do the same?
NN: No, I dont think so. Arab countries have many similarities but they
vary in degree.
Syria, because of its ethnic and religious diversity and openness to
global changes, might be more prepared to abolish the death penalty and
adhere to modern and enlightened ideas. But for this to happen there must
be a general campaign here to increase death penalty awareness in society.
IPS: If Muslim scholars were to agree that the death penalty violates
religious teachings, would this oblige political regimes in the region to
NN: Scholars have always been servile and entirely dependent on the
political regimes in our region. They have always been mouthpieces of the
politicians. Throughout the entire history of the region there has been a
strong alliance between politicians and scholars.
Regimes have respected the holy texts only in so far as they have served
their own interests. The texts have always been interpreted by scholars in
a way that has ensured the continuity of these regimes and their
interests. Many Muslim reformists who have attempted to interpret the holy
texts in a more liberal way have faced criticism and accusations of
Our scholars have always been too conservative . . . they have closed
their eyes to the changes taking part in the rest of the world. Weve never
seen them taking an individual, intellectual stand on social issues.
I am sorry to say, the death penalty serves the interests of despotic
regimes in the region and it is futile to expect scholars will speak out
(source: IPS News)