[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 12 10:14:20 CDT 2004
Death-penalty debate rages anew in India
India is once again hotly debating capital punishment.
This time the discussion has been provoked by the death sentence given to
Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was convicted of raping and murdering a
14-year-old schoolgirl. Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has stayed
Chatterjee's hanging and is examining a clemency petition from his family.
In the meantime, there is intense debate in the media over the relevance
of the death penalty. While some influential members of the government and
public argue that Chatterjee deserves no mercy and that his sentence
should not be commuted to one of life, others feel that this form of
punishment negates the very idea of reforming a criminal.
The latter group's point of view is gaining ground, and not just in India.
Amnesty International's latest information shows that 80 countries have
abolished capital punishment for all crimes; 15 nations have done away
with it for all but exceptionally brutal crimes, such as wartime
atrocities; and 23 countries are "abolitionist," retaining the death
penalty in law but not having carried out executions for the past 10 years
78 other states and territories retain and use capital unishment, but the
number of executions is declining every year.
Despite this trend, in 2003 at least 1,146 prisoners were sent to the
gallows in 28 countries, and at least 2,756 people were sentenced to death
in 63 nations. These statistics include only cases known to Amnesty
International; the true numbers are certainly higher.
In 2003, 84 % of all known executions took place in China, Iran, the
United States and Vietnam. In China, the limited and incomplete records
available to Amnesty International indicated that at least 726 people were
executed, but the actual number is believed to be much higher. A senior
Chinese legislator suggested in March that China hangs "nearly 10,000"
people a year. Iran executed at least 108 people in 2003; the U.S., 65;
and Vietnam, 64.
Sadly, however, scientific studies consistently fail to find any evidence
that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to serious crime. A U.N.
survey conducted in the U.S. in 2002 concluded, "It is not prudent to
accept the hypothesis that capital sentence deters murder to a marginally
greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly
lesser punishment of life imprisonment."
Moreover, the homicide rate in countries that have abolished this form of
retribution has not risen. For instance, in Canada, the murder rate per
100,000 of the population actually fell from a peak of 3.09 in 1975 -- a
year before the abolition of capital punishment -- to 2.41 in 1980. This
figure has since continued to decline.
In India, what could perhaps be looked into is a longer "life term" in
place of the 12 or 14 years (and sometimes less) now in vogue. In the
U.S., the length of life in prison is coterminous with the natural life of
the convicted person.
Those in India who oppose the abolition of capital punishment fear that a
convict, once free, could prove to be a menace to society. However, a good
reformative justice system would allay this fear.
The death penalty is no answer to murder. State-sponsored killing cannot
be condoned, and the idea of a "tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye"
is not only primitive but places India and others in the Dark Ages.
Besides, you cannot prevent a crime of passion with any kind of law. Nor
can you check a serial killer. You cannot hang a man twice. You cannot
stop a terrorist committed to a cause, since he has no fear of losing his
own life. The deterrent hypothesis thus stands quashed.
Worse, as long as the death penalty exists, the risk of sending the
innocent to the gallows can never be totally eliminated. After all, no
human system is infallible. A 1987 study revealed that up to 350 people
convicted of capital crimes in the U.S. between 1900 and 1985 were
innocent. Some of them escaped by minutes, but 23 were actually executed.
In India, it is quite likely that there have been significant miscarriages
of justice given the state of the judiciary and the complexities of
society. The legal system is not only bogged down in archaic law but also
suffers from a terrible manpower shortage. It takes years for a verdict to
be reached in a criminal case, and instances of judicial error due to work
pressure cannot be ruled out.
In a country ridden with caste, communal and religious disparities, and
far-from-perfect policing, instances of willful conviction are probably
On a positive note, 2 recent cases of clemency have originated with the
relatives of victims. Sonia Gandhi, president of India's ruling Congress
Party, obtained clemency for Nalini, one of four sentenced to death for
the murder of her husband, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. And the
widow of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines, who together with
his 2 young sons was burned alive by Hindu activists in India, has
recommended clemency for the murderers.
(source: The Japan Times)
'Does capital punishment really act as a deterrent?'
In January 1994, the Calcutta high court sentenced Dhananjay Chatterjee to
be hanged until death for raping and then murdering teenager Hetal Parekh
on March 5, 1990 in a flat in Kolkata's Bhawanipur area. The Supreme Court
later confirmed the sentence.
10 years after the order was passed, he was to be hanged at the Alipur
Central Jail in Kolkata on Friday, June 25, over the objections of human
rights groups and prominent personalities who oppose capital punishment.
Now, friends, relatives, even some jail inmates have petitioned President
A P J Abdul Kalam pleading that Chatterjee's death sentence be commuted to
life imprisonment. On the other hand, Hetal's well-wishers are adamant
that he be hanged.
rediff.com presents the arguments for and against capital punishment.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Kamini Jaiswal is against capital
punishment: I agree that the death sentence is passed in cases where the
crimes committed are most horrendous and heinous. Everyone in society is
very worked up about the rape and killing of the 14-year-old girl.
I would say that rape of any woman is as dastardly as this particular
case. Rape coupled with murder makes it more heinous. But are we really
setting an example by taking the life of an individual or by hanging the
culprit? Has experience shown that the death sentence acts as a deterrent?
Normally, hanging is the punishment for serial killers, psychopaths or in
case of terrorist violence in which a large number of people have died. In
cases pertaining to individuals, death sentences are rare.
In case of a serial killer, the man has lost his balance of mind. A normal
person would kill another person except out of reasons of animosity,
jealousy etc. But if there is no reason, then that person needs treatment.
In case of terrorists, experience has shown that the death sentence has
not yielded the desired results. They are not deterred because they kill
for a cause.
And what if an innocent person is hanged? Every innocent life lost would
produce ten more terrorists.
By executing someone you are not solving the problem because it continues
to exist even after the convict has been hanged to death. You are only
doing away with the person who committed the crime.
You are not making his life miserable because he is dead and gone. You are
making the lives of those left behind miserable. You are, in fact,
punishing those who have done nothing wrong while the convict is relieved
of his agony.
The need is to change the thinking of the person concerned and the
punishment should be life imprisonment without remission.
Also, the convict should be made to work and earn for himself instead of
being fed at the expense of the State. Some part of what he earns should
be given to his family outside the jail.
Another important factor that should be kept in mind is the quality of our
We know how our police functions. We know how innocent persons are caught
and convicted while the rich and famous get away with murder. We have
worse cases where people in power have raped women and murdered them. Why
have we not hanged them?
Instead, they are given high positions.
Under the circumstances, the death sentence should not be given to anyone.
Amnesty asks China to save Nepalese from death row:
Rights watchdog Amnesty International has taken up a 25-year-old Nepalese
woman's fight to save the life of her husband who is on death row in China
for drug smuggling.
In a statement Thursday it urged a complete moratorium on the use of the
death penalty in China and a review of the trial in accordance with
international trial standards.
Purna Maya Shrestha had come to Kathmandu from remote Sindhupalchowk
district to plead for her husband Ishwori Shrestha's life after reading in
a Nepalese daily that he has been sentenced to death in Tibet.
Her 27-year-old husband and another Nepalese Rabi Dahal, 38, were
sentenced to death on May 30, a year after Chinese police arrested them in
Khasa, near the Sino-Nepal border.
The men, who used to travel frequently to Tibet reportedly for business
purposes, were arrested for having in their possession two sacks
containing 29.85 kg of drugs.
Though the two men appointed a lawyer, it is not clear whether an
interpreter was provided or whether they were able to fully understand the
process of their trial.
Purna Maya says she last spoke to him in late February when he sounded
confident that he would be acquitted.
According to her, the sacks were given to him by a friend for safekeeping
and he did not know what they contained.
She has had no news from him since then. Neither was she nor was anybody
from Dahal's family officially informed about the death sentence.
Now the mother of two children aged four and five is camping in the
capital, petitioning the Nepalese government, the Chinese Embassy in
Kathmandu and human rights agencies.
Taking up her case, Amnesty said in a statement that the Chinese criminal
justice system had become so "flawed that it is impossible for the Chinese
judiciary to adequately establish guilt in this case, or in any other
The international rights watchdog has petitioned the chairman of the Tibet
Autonomous Regional People's Government Jampa Phuntsog Zhuren, Chinese
premier Wen Jiabao, president of the Tibet Autonomous Regional High
People's Court Nyima Zhamdui Yuanzhang and diplomatic representatives of
7 years ago another Nepalese abroad had hit the headlines.
Govinda Prasad Mainali, a Nepalese migrant worker in Japan, was arrested
in March 1997 for overstaying. He was to be deported as per norms but
police charged him with the murder of a Japanese woman and robbery.
Since then, Mainali has been in detention in Japan.
Though the Tokyo district court acquitted him, the verdict was overturned
by the high court.
The case was also taken up by Amnesty, which expressed concern at the
"illegalities" during police investigations and urged an independent probe
into Mainali's "ill-treatment".
In another case, Purna Raj Bajracharya was held in solitary confinement in
the US for over three months on the suspicion that he was a terrorist
connected with the 9/11 attacks.
Bajracharya had gone to the US in 1996 on a tourist visa and stayed on
even after his visa expired, working in a pizza parlour.
He was arrested when FBI officials spotted him videotaping street scenes
that included the FBI office.
The news of Bajracharya's plight came to light recently when the FBI
officer investigating his case decided to make it public.
It is a problem that goes beyond individual cases.
Thousands of Nepalese work as blue-collar workers in the Gulf, Hong Kong,
Korea, Japan, India and the west where they often stay on as illegal
migrants even after their visa has expired.
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