[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 22 13:20:43 CST 2004
Bulgaria Repealing Death Sentence of Great Poet
The Prosecution Office has officially suggested the repeal of the death
sentence of great Bulgarian poet Nikola Vaptsarov, sentenced and killed by
firing squad by then ruling fascist regime on July 23, 1942 in Sofia.
Nikola Vaptsarov is one of the most prominent poets of Bulgaria, a
representative of the so-called proletarian period. His most famous book
of poems is "Motoring Verses".
Bulgarian journalists and social activists have reiterated many times
their appeal to national prosecution authorities to take due steps to
denounce his death sentence and thus remove this shameful act from
(source: Sofia News Agency)
News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
AI Index: AFR 16/021/2004 22 November 2004
Burundi: Imminent resumption of executions or summary trials and
Amnesty International is calling on the National Assembly of Burundi to
reject draft legislation which was adopted by the Council of Ministers on
16 November 2004.
The bill, presented as a response to rising violent crime, will reportedly
be submitted to the National Assembly this week. It proposes that
perpetrators of violent crimes, including murder, armed robbery and rape,
caught in the act (flagrant dlit ou rput flagrant) be dealt with through a
radically shortened judicial procedure which falls short of
internationally recognized standards for fair trial.
The summary proceedings proposed by the law mean that the whole procedure
from arrest to execution would last less than 40 days - including retrial
- and could be significantly shorter. The emphasis on speed and the
arbitrary cut-off points for police and judicial investigations as well as
court proceedings, including a mere 24 hours in which to appeal against
the High Court verdict, raise serious questions about the fairness of such
Executions are repeatedly mentioned both in the body of the draft law and
its introduction. The latter states that "death sentences have
increasingly not been carried out leading the death penalty to lose its
intended deterrent and eliminating effect. Article 25 of the current law
remedies this situation by fixing the date of execution at no later than
seven days from the announcement of the final verdict, unless clemency is
granted". "This law makes a mockery of justice and the governments
declared commitment to respecting human rights. We are calling on the
National Assembly to reject the draft law and oppose all moves to resume
executions," Amnesty International said.
Although the law states that the right to defence will be guaranteed, it
is impossible to accept that the best possible defence can be prepared in
such circumstances. The timeframe also limits the ability of the courts to
thoroughly and fully examine the evidence before them in order to reach a
fair and just judgement. The law, particularly when combined with specific
provisions of the Burundian Code of Criminal Procedure, opens the
possibility of abuse and score settling.
Following discussion of the draft law by ministers on Tuesday, a number of
modifications have reportedly been incorporated, including increasing the
prison sentences applicable in rape cases and removing some references to
executions. They do not however fundamentally change the law, nor address
Several recent public statements by the President of the Republic and
other senior government representatives expressing their wish to see
criminals "severely punished" and for "examples to be made", leave little
room for doubt of the governments true intentions.
With government officials from the President downwards effectively
demanding the resumption of executions, particularly in high profile
cases, judges and prosecutors are likely to be subjected to intense
political pressure to impose death sentences.
The government is undeniably faced with a serious problem of rising
violent crime. However, sacrificing human lives in the name of a
politically expedient strong stance on crime will not resolve the issues
of justice and accountability that lie at the heart of so many of Burundis
Domestic legislation already provides the necessary framework to bring to
justice perpetrators of such crimes. However, the justice system is
overburdened and under-resourced as well as weakened by corruption and
political interference and decades of human rights abuses committed in
virtual total impunity, as well as years of armed conflict and other
political violence has contributed to lack of respect for the rule of law.
"Rather than offering society greater protection, the death penalty offers
only further brutalization. The government appears to ignore the fact that
violent crime has its origin in the politically motivated and widespread
violence that has plagued Burundi for decades," the organization said.
By resuming executions the death penalty, the Government of Burundi would
be going against the worldwide trend towards abolition. As of November
2004, 81 countries in the world, 10 of which are in Africa, have formally
abolished the death penalty for all crimes. A further 10 African countries
have not carried out executions for the past 10 years or more and are
therefore considered to have abolished the death penalty in practice.
Instead of seeing the death penalty as the solution, Amnesty International
calls on the government to undertake a comprehensive reform of the
criminal justice system that is capable of translating the express
commitments of the government under international standards into reality.
The draft law violates international standards relating to fair trial to
which Burundi is party including the African Charter on Human and Peoples
Rights (African Charter) and the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR). The African Charters fair trial guarantees have
been extended in various declarations as well as in its jurisprudence. The
ICCPR protects the presumption of innocence in all cases, the right to
have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of ones defence,
access to counsel of ones choice, the right to appeal to a higher tribunal
and the right to appeal for commutation of the sentence or pardon. The
draft law also violates international standards on the death penalty to
which Burundi is party.
Over 450 people are currently under sentence of death in Burundi. Many
were convicted after grossly unfair trials, and without the possibility to
appeal. In October 2000, two members of the Burundian armed forces were
executed after a summary trial in which they were denied legal assistance.
The two executed men were not allowed to appeal against their sentence.
Both had been convicted of high profile murders.
More information about the death penalty at
View all documents on Burundi at
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(source: Amnesty International)
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