[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 10 13:38:48 CST 2004
Central Asia: Trend Is Away From Capital Punishment
The Grand Duchy of Tuscany is noted for being the 1st sovereign state to
abolish the death penalty, in 1786. Today, more than 130 countries have
stopped executing prisoners in practice, and of those, around 80 have
abolished capital punishment completely. Even in Central Asia, a region
not known for its attention to human rights, the death penalty has been on
the decline. As the world marks Human Rights Day today, RFE/RL looks at
progress being made to rid Central Asia of what Amnesty International
calls the "ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights."
Tajikistan began observing a moratorium on the death penalty in April,
part of a trend that has seen 4 out of the 5 countries in the region
either stop the practice or abolish it outright.
Shermuhammad Shoev, an adviser to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov,
explained to RFE/RL that Dushanbe is following the path being taken by
most countries around the world.
"Keeping in mind the experience of most of the countries in the world that
have abolished or suspended this kind of punishment, Tajikistan has also
chosen this path," Shoev said.
Initially, the death penalty in Tajikistan was replaced by a 25-year
prison term. But a new bill introducing life imprisonment for the 5 crimes
that carry capital punishment is expected to become law soon.
"Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan introduced a moratorium on the use of the death
penalty even before Turkmenistan abolished the death penalty for all
crimes," said Lydia Grigoreva, a Warsaw-based human rights officer for the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). "So out of
five countries of Central Asia, we have only one -- it's Uzbekistan --
which still retains the death penalty and [where] executions are still
Of the 55 members of the OSCE, only Uzbekistan, Belarus, and the United
States continue to carry out executions.Of the 55 members of the OSCE,
only Uzbekistan, Belarus, and the United States continue to carry out
Turkmenistan abolished capital punishment outright in December 1999. The
maximum penalty is now life imprisonment.
In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbaev ordered a moratorium on
executions in December 2003, pending a decision on the complete
abolishment of capital punishment. The country has introduced life
imprisonment as an alternative to the death sentence.
In Kyrgyzstan, President Askar Akaev has extended a moratorium on
executions every year since 1998. The current moratorium expires on 31
Treatment Of Prisoners
Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu noted that, while executions are no
longer being carried out, inmates stuck on death row are often imprisoned
in unacceptable conditions.
"Now there are about 160 people sentenced to death in Kyrgyzstan,"
Bakir-uulu said. "However, the government did not prepare any requisite
conditions for them. When we have investigated the issue and visited their
detention facilities, we witnessed that 5, 6, or 7 people are being held
in one cell."
Anna Sunder-Plassmann, a researcher on Central Asia at Amnesty
International in London, called the treatment of death row prisoners in
Kyrgyzstan "cruel, inhuman, and degrading."
"The prison conditions on death row in Kyrgyzstan are particularly
appalling," Sunder-Plassmann said. "And apart from that, it's a major
problem that many of these death-row prisoners have lived in a state of
uncertainty as to their ultimate fate because they never know whether the
moratorium will be lifted, and they could be executed."
Uzbekistan is the only Central Asian nation to still put prisoners to
death. But Uzbek President Islam Karimov recently signaled an apparent
shift in that policy during comments to journalists.
"I want to tell you absolutely honestly that my personal opinion is that
we must stop pronouncing the death sentence," Karimov said.
Karimov added, however, that the abolition of the death penalty would
ultimately depend on public approval.
Sunder-Plassmann noted that when countries abolish the death penalty, it
is usually attributable to strong political leadership, not public
opinion. She said the idea of Karimov deferring to public opinion in
Uzbekistan is "absurd" in a country where freedom of expression on the
issue is limited.
Sunder-Plassmann said she believes the abolishment of capital punishment
is particularly crucial in Uzbekistan because of the great possibility for
"Amnesty International is fundamentally opposed to the death penalty
because life is a fundamental human right," Sunder-Plassmann said. "The
results of an error are fatal. When we look at Uzbekistan, the scope for
judicial error is very, very large. The criminal justice system is
seriously flawed. In a lot of death penalty cases that we have documented,
there have been serious allegations of torture and ill treatment to
extract confessions. Trials are very often unfair. In many death penalty
cases, judges or investigators wanted bribes so that a death verdict could
Uzbek authorities do not publish comprehensive statistics on death
sentences and executions. But some local NGOs estimate that at least 200
people are executed in the country each year.
According to the Rome-based organization Hands Off Cain, more than 5,500
prisoners were executed in 2003 in 62 countries around the world. The
group said most of the executions took place in China.
(source: Radio Free Europe)
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