[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jun 4 23:53:14 CDT 2005
The Paradoxes of a Death Penalty Stance
In the debate between Europe and the United States over the death penalty,
no country is more vocal than Germany. German media regularly decry
executions in Texas. A recent U.S. Supreme Court case concerning the
rights, under international law, of foreign defendants in capital cases
grew in part out of a German lawsuit before the World Court on behalf of 2
German citizens on death row in Arizona. (The Supreme Court dismissed the
case on May 23 for technical reasons.) German objections to capital
punishment slowed Berlin's cooperation with the U.S. prosecution of
alleged al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, who faces the possibility
of the death penalty -- though the two countries eventually worked out an
Contrasting their nation's policy with that of the Americans, Germans
point proudly to Article 102 of their Basic Law, adopted in 1949. It
reads, simply: "The death penalty is abolished." They often say that this
56-year-old provision shows how thoroughly the postwar Federal Republic
has learned -- and applied -- the lessons of Nazi state-sponsored killing.
(Communist East Germany kept the death penalty until 1987.)
But the actual history of the German death penalty ban casts this claim in
a different light. Article 102 was in fact the brainchild of a right-wing
politician who sympathized with convicted Nazi war criminals -- and sought
to prevent their execution by British and American occupation authorities.
Far from intending to repudiate the barbarism of Hitler, the author of
Article 102 wanted to make a statement about the supposed excesses of
Allied victors' justice.
The International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg sentenced 11 top Nazis
to death, all of whom were hanged in November 1946 except for Hermann
Goering, who committed suicide. The Western Allies hanged or shot dozens
of lesser-known war criminals -- including 284 at a U.S. Army prison in
Landsberg between November 1945 and June 1951. Though SS men who had
supervised death camps and massacred Jews were among the condemned, many
Germans bristled at victors' justice. "The longer the executions went on,"
reports a town history on the Landsberg Civic Association's Web site, "the
louder became the voices demanding an end to them. There was a broad
political alliance in favor of clemency efforts."
Meanwhile, there was little opposition in West Germany to capital
punishment for ordinary criminals. A poll by the Allensbach Institute in
February 1949 showed that 77 % of West Germany's population favored it.
The largest left-wing party, the Social Democrats, had a long
anti-death-penalty tradition, but, given the political climate, it did not
campaign on it.
Germans began the formal process of writing the new Basic Law in August
1948. Initial drafts submitted to a 65-member Parliamentary Council
contemplated retention of capital punishment. It was not until a meeting
of a special subcommittee on Dec. 6 that a single delegate, Hans-Christoph
Seebohm, surprised everyone by proposing to get rid of the death penalty.
Seebohm, who ran various industrial enterprises under the Nazis, led the
tiny, far-right German Party -- which also advocated using "German Reich"
instead of "Federal Republic."
Addressing the council, Seebohm equated executions "in the period before
1945 and in the period since 1945." As British historian Richard J. Evans
notes in "Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany,
1600-1987," the rightist politician was "thinking above all of the
execution of war criminals, to which he and his party were bitterly
opposed. Preventing Nazi war criminals from being sentenced to death would
certainly help the German Party in its search for voters on the far
Both Social Democrats and Christian Democrats initially rejected the
Seebohm initiative but gradually began to see its advantages. To the
Social Democrats, it offered right-wing political cover for an idea they
dared not pursue on their own. And for more than half of the Christian
Democrat delegates, Evans reports, the political advantages of trying to
shield Nazi war criminals trumped their belief in the death penalty for
ordinary murder cases. Social Democratic arguments about turning the page
on Nazism, belatedly made, were not decisive. Rather, writes Evans, "only
the hope of being able to save Nazi criminals from the gallows . . .
persuaded conservative deputies from the German Party and the Christian
Democrats to cast their votes in favor of abolition in sufficient numbers
to secure its anchorage in the Basic Law. Had it merely been the question
of common homicide that was at issue, the vote would never have been
After the Basic Law went into effect on May 24, 1949, Germans bombarded
U.S. High Commissioner John J. McCloy with pleas for clemency based on
Article 102. Among those joining what Vanderbilt University historian
Thomas A. Schwartz calls "this intense and emotional campaign" were both
Christian Democratic Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Social Democratic
leader Kurt Schumacher. In a Jan. 31, 1951, final report on U.S.-held war
criminals, McCloy said he was not bound by the provision, but he still
commuted the death sentences of 10 of the last 15 condemned war criminals
in Landsberg. The final hanging took place on June 7, 1951.
The death penalty for common murderers, as opposed to war criminals,
remained popular in West Germany. Polls showed 71 % in favor as late as
1960. Christian Democrats tried repeatedly to reinstate it, but failed due
to lack of support from the left. (The Basic Law could be changed only by
a two-thirds vote of parliament.) Later, amid more open discussion of
Nazism and the Holocaust, opposition to the death penalty did become truly
popular -- and Article 102 acquired its contemporary symbolism.
When U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003, Germany's
Social Democratic chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, had wide backing in
declaring: "I am against the death penalty, and that goes for everyone --
even a dictator, like Saddam Hussein, who treated other people in the
cruelest way." Schroeder was remaining true to his society's postwar
traditions -- truer, perhaps, than he realized.
(source: Charles Lane; the writer covers the U.S. Supreme Court for The
'Dead Man Walking' author seeks to end control of the noose
The death penalty is part of the same societal paradigm as war, as both
are used by the state to impose control through violence, according to
Sister Helen Prejean.
While 120 countries worldwide have suspended or abolished capital
punishment, Japan and the United States stand alone among leading
industrialized democracies in maintaining this system.
Prejean, 66, author of the highly acclaimed book "Dead Man Walking," was
in Japan last week to campaign for a death penalty moratorium.
During an interview with The Japan Times, the Roman Catholic nun voiced
concern over a reported increase in support for capital punishment among
the Japanese public; some 81.4 % of 2,048 adults who responded to a 2004
Cabinet Office survey said they were in favor of the death penalty, up
from 79.3 in 1999.
"This says to me one thing -- that there does not yet exist a way in Japan
of getting out information to the general public about the death penalty,"
"Terrible murders have happened, the Aum (Shinrikyo cult), the
schoolchildren massacre. . . . And when you have a public that's afraid,
they instinctively reach out for the most harsh or the strongest possible
punishment to try to be a corrective in society."
Prejean pointed out, however, that there are no clear-cut criteria for
imposing the death sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court says it "cannot be handed down to ordinary murders
(but to) only the worst of the worst" -- yet nearly eight out of 10 people
convicted of murdering a Caucasian are sentenced to death, she noted.
"Who the victim is makes a huge difference," Prejean said. "We see that we
actually have a selective mechanism for choosing people for death."
In Japan, the Penal Code states that the death sentence can be given for
crimes such as murder, insurrection and arson. In most cases, capital
punishment is meted out for multiple slayings.
"I wonder if someone killed three homeless people in Tokyo, would it
arouse the same passion?" Prejean asked. "Because it is how much the
citizen is valued and how much fear is evoked in people (who fret that) it
could happen to our family that evokes (support for) the death penalty."
Unlike the jury system in the U.S., trials in Japan are currently played
out before a panel of 3 judges.
A new quasi-jury system will be introduced by May 2009, under which lay
judges selected from among the public will sit together with professional
judges in trials centering on serious crimes. This means that, at some
point, the lay judges may have to hand down the death penalty.
"It will change people's attitude (toward the death penalty) when people
get personally involved in a process either of conducting executions or
(handing down) death (sentences)," Prejean said. "They're really being
asked to do an impossible thing."
On May 28, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations held a death penalty
symposium attended by professors and religious experts, including Prejean.
She discussed her own experiences in seeing six death-row inmates to their
executions -- and how she believes that two of them -- featured in her new
book, "The Death of Innocents" -- were in fact not guilty. Prejean pointed
out that 119 death-row inmates have been found to be innocent and
exonerated in the U.S. since capital punishment resumed in 1977, following
a 10-year moratorium.
In Japan, 4 condemned inmates have been given retrials and acquitted over
the past 30 years.
Hoping to be the 5th is Masaru Okunishi, whose death sentence was
finalized in 1972 by the Supreme Court for mixing poison with wine at a
local gathering, resulting in the death of five women, including his wife
and his lover.
In April, the Nagoya High Court granted a retrial and ordered the
suspension of Okunishi's execution -- a decision that has been appealed by
Present at the symposium was Okunishi's lawyer, Izumi Suzuki, who read
aloud part of Okunishi's testimony that was submitted to the court in
"Looking back, I have lived in terror and agony ever since my death
sentence was finalized," Suzuki read. "For 33 years, except for public
holidays (when there are no executions), I spend my mornings in fear and
when I am given lunch, I am relieved. Other than that, I feel like I'm
living in hell. Every night as I lay down to sleep, I often hope the night
would never end."
Okunishi, now 79, was 35 years old when the poisonings took place.
"Okunishi spent most of his life in solitary confinement at the Nagoya
Detention Center," Suzuki told the symposium. "While living in fear of
being executed, he has continued to plead his innocence. (I) now know the
horror of misjudgment by the courts."
Prejean took part in another symposium Sunday entitled "The Death of
Innocents -- The Truth of the Fukuoka Incident."
The 1947 Fukuoka Incident was a robbery-murder that resulted in the
execution of the convicted ringleader, Takeo Nishi; a death sentence that
was later reduced to life imprisonment for his accomplice, Kenjiro Ishii;
and shorter terms for four others, including Kiyoki Fujinaga.
Prejean has been campaigning for a retrial in this case, together with the
Furukawas, a Buddhist family that founded the Seimeizan Schweitzer Temple
in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Last week, Ishii, Fujinaga and relatives of Nishi filed for a retrial at
the Fukuoka High Court.
At the symposium, Fujinaga and Ishii told the audience that they were
tortured into confessing by police interrogators. Both said they were told
that if they didn't cooperate and confess, they would end up like Nishi --
whom they witnessed being tied and hung upside down from the ceiling, with
his face pushed into a bucket of water.
New York-based photographer Toshi Kazama, who has captured images of 20
juveniles on death row in the U.S., recounted the terrifying miscarriage
of justice that befell one of his subjects.
A young black man was arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of a
tourist in Louisiana in 1996. The man's sister believed in his innocence
and sought to find a lawyer who was willing to represent him. 2 years
later, the lawyer proved the man's innocence and he was released.
"No amount of regret will bring back the lives of those innocent people
once they are executed," Kazama said. "As long as we continue (the death
penalty), we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again."
(source: Japan Times)
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:
Lack of translator saves man from death sentence
The absence of an Urdu-Arabic translator at the Ajman Court of Appeal in
the case of an Asian drug trafficker led to the death sentence issued by
that court to be repudiated by the Supreme Federal Court.
Failure to abide by judicial procedures was because the Court of Appeal
did not have a translator. The Asian man involved in the case was charged
with drug trafficking and possession.
Abdul Hakeem, a Pakistani, was caught red-handed in a trap set to catch
him involving an undercover policeman at Al Manama area. He was trying to
sell 1.5kg of hashish for Dh16,000. Police had acted on a tip-off that the
man intended to sell the contraband. He had concealed the hashish in a
coffee pot. A letter was found with the pot as if it was being sent to his
home country to mislead inspection authorities. It was revealed that he
was using coffee pots to conceal hashish on his way to drug buyers.
The convict tried to implicate another person called Sheerallaah Manda
Akbar by claiming he had given him the drugs and instructed him to sell
them for the mentioned amount.
Sheerallah denied any link with the convict and the seized drugs. On
interrogation, Abdul Hakeem admitted that a person called Zard Allah
Rahmanallah residing in Fujairah owned the drugs and that he asked him to
involve Sheerallhm, once arrested in retaliation for a dispute the 2 had
The Ajman Federal Criminal Court of First Instance had convicted Abdul
Hakeem of trafficking in hashish and sentenced him to death. It also
acquitted the two suspects and issued an order to destroy the confiscated
narcotics. The convict appealed against the death ruling, but the Court of
Appeal upheld the verdict.
The Supreme Federal Court, however, recanted the ruling due to the absence
of a translator during the appeal session, a matter that violated judicial
(source: Khaleej Times)
Pakistani Militant Sentenced to Death
An Islamic militant was convicted and sentenced to death Saturday for
planning 2 suicide attacks that killed 45 minority Shiite Muslims last
year at mosques in this southern city, a government lawyer said.
Gul Hassan, a member of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, was captured
shortly after the bombings in Karachi. On Saturday, judge Haq Nawaz found
him guilty of orchestrating the attacks, according to government
prosecutor Mazhar Qayyum. Hassan's defense lawyer, Mushtaq Ahmed, said he
"There was no solid evidence against my client," he told reporters. "We
will prove it."
As many as 127 people were also injured when the suicide attackers
detonated bombs at the Shiite mosques on May 7 and May 31, 2004.
Pakistan has a history of sectarian violence, mostly blamed on rival
majority Sunni and minority Shiite extremist groups. About 80 % of
Pakistan's 150 million people are Sunnis and 17 % are Shiites.
The schism between Sunnis and Shiites dates back to the 7th century and
involves a dispute over who was the true heir to the prophet Muhammad.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty for killer rapist
A man who raped and murdered a 7-year-old girl and then hid her body in a
box three years ago was on Friday sentenced to death by a court in the
West district of Tripura.
Additional District Judge of West Tripura, Subhash Bhattacharya, had
convicted Samir Bhaumick on May 27 for the rape and murder of 7-year-old
Puja Dutta in his studio at Charilam on December 11, 2002.
Pronouncing the sentence, the judge said the case fell squarely within the
ambit of rarest of the rare which deserved capital punishment. Terming
Bhaumick a cold-blooded criminal, the judge said he not only raped the
minor, but also strangled her.
In a separate judgment, the Guwahati High Court Agartala bench awarded
life imprisonment to H K Tawari, principal of a Navodaya School, South
Tawari was accused of raping a class VIII girl in 1998. The 14-year-old
later gave birth to a boy.
(source: The Decca Herald)
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