[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jun 21 21:08:17 UTC 2006
Key arguments against use of the death penalty
An open letter from Irene Kahn, the Secretary General of Amnesty
International to Mr Chun Jung-bae, the South Korean minister of justice.
Mr Chun Jung-bae
Minister of Justice
I am writing this public letter on behalf on Amnesty International to
welcome the Government of South Koreas decision to examine the question of
the death penalty and to consider the abolition of capital punishment.
Should South Korea abolish the death penalty, it will join the majority of
the worlds nations and take an important step strengthening the global
trend against executions. 122 of the worlds nations have now abolished the
death penalty in law or practice and, during 2005, only 22 nations
actually carried out executions.
Since South Koreas independence in 1948, at least 900 people have been
executed, mostly by hanging. The last executions in South Korea took place
in December 1997 when 23 people were executed at short notice. Amnesty
international commends the fact that there has been an unofficial
moratorium on executions since February 1998 when President Kim Dae-jung,
who had been sentenced to death himself in 1980, took office. There have
been no executions under the present administration of President Roh
Moo-hyun. However, at least three people were sentenced to death in South
Korea in 2005 and one in 2006. Currently63 prisoners remain under sentence
In recent times, numerous countries in different regions around the world
have abolished the death penalty. Europe is almost entirely free from the
death penalty with only Uzbekistan1 and Belarus actually carrring out
executions in recent years. In the Americas, only the United States of
America actually carries out executions on a regular basis. In Africa,
huge strides have been made to see the continent free from executions.
Senegal and Liberia have recently abolished the death penalty and in 2005
only 3 of 53 African countries carried out executions.2
Unfortunately the region of Asia stands out as resistant to this global
trend. The region contains countries with high rates of executions and no
apparent prospect of abolition. Nations such as Japan, China, Singapore
and Indonesia appear to be staunch supporters of capital punishment.
Amnesty International believes that the abolition of the death penalty in
South Korea would provide the region with much needed human rights
leadership and be a valuable example of a nation progressing towards the
full protection of human rights. Such a step would encourage further
positive developments in the region such as the abolition of the death
penalty in Cambodia, Nepal and Timor Leste, and the Philippines decision
this month to abolish the death penalty after it was re-imposed in 1994.
Amnesty International appreciates that the question of the death penalty
often prompts heated political and public debate. The death penalty is
most commonly used in the belief that it acts as a deterrent to violent
crime and governments therefore find it difficult to abandon a measure
they believe protects their citizens. Scientific studies have, however,
consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty
deters crime more effectively than other punishments.
Highlighted below are, according to Amnesty Internationals views and
experiences, some of the key arguments against the use of the death
penalty and some of the most commonly used justifications for state
Executions achieve justice for the victims of crimes and their relatives
Politicians and others who advocate executions continually do so using the
victims of crime and their relatives as justification. For example, in the
USA, prosecutors talk of closure for the victims family that will be
achieved by the execution of the perpetrator. However, such arguments are
simplistic and ignore the complexities of the emotional pain suffered by
those who suffer the loss of a loved one.
In opposing the death penalty, Amnesty International in no way seeks to
minimize or condone the crimes for which those sentenced to death were
convicted. As an organization deeply concerned with the victims of human
rights abuses, Amnesty International does not seek to belittle the
suffering of the families of murder victims, for whom it has the greatest
Naturally, those who have suffered the loss of a loved-one to homicide
often feel great anger towards the perpetrator of the crime and this
emotion manifests itself in expressions of wanting revenge. The victims
relatives may also desire the most severe punishment available as an
expression of their pain and as a mark of their love for the person lost.
It is imperative that the suffering of those close to a murder victim be
supported by the authorities and measures taken to alleviate their
suffering. However, the execution of the murderer does little to address
the long-term emotional pain suffered by the relatives and only inflicts
similar suffering upon the family of the individual murdered.
In reality, the death penalty fails as an expression of the value a
society places on the lives of murder victims and the suffering of their
The death penalty as a deterrent to crime the fear that abolition will
lead to higher rates of criminality ''We would be deluding ourselves if we
were to believe that the execution of...a comparatively few people each
year...will provide the solution to the unacceptably high rate of
crime...The greatest deterrent to crime is the likelihood that offenders
will be apprehended, convicted and punished. It is that which is lacking
in our criminal justice system.''
Statement made by the Constitutional Court of South Africa, when
abolishing the death penalty as unconstitutional in 1995
Many politicians within differing nations and cultures have argued that
the death penalty is necessary as a crime control measure and value
executions for their alleged deterrent effect on the overall crime
situation. For this proposition to be true, it has to be believable that
violent criminals contemplate the results of being detected and held
accountable for their crimes and then decide that the risk of being
executed is not acceptable, whereas long term imprisonment would be. In
reality, Amnesty International suspects that criminals do not think they
will be caught when committing a crime. The best deterrent to violent
crime lies in guaranteeing a high chance of capture and conviction, not
Evidence from around the world also indicates that the death penalty has
no unique deterrent effect. In the USA, Canada and other countries,
evidence does not show that violent crime increases in the absence of the
death penalty. For example, in 2004 in the USA, the average murder rate
for states that used the death penalty was 5.71 per 100,000 of the
population, but in states without capital punishment the murder rate was
only 4.02 per 100,000. Furthermore, in Canada, in 2003, 27 years after the
abolition of the death penalty, the murder rate had fallen by 44 % from
the levels in 1975 before the death penalty was abolished.
One recent example is the US state of New York, where the death penalty
was reinstated in 1995. In the late 1990s, the homicide rate of the state
reversed an upward trend and started to decline. In June 2004, the state's
highest court found the laws allowing for the death penalty to be in
violation of the state constitution and struck down the death penalty. To
date, law-makers have declined to reintroduce capital punishment. Were the
risk of execution to be a deterrent, it would be expected that the removal
of capital punishment (which received widespread publicity) would free
potential murderers to commit crimes and thus the homicide rate would
increase. However the reverse has happened. In the first six months of
2005 (one year after the court struck down the death penalty), homicide
had decreased by 5.3 %.
The ever present risk of executing the innocent
Wherever the death penalty is deployed, there exists a strong risk of
executing a person not guilty of the crime for which they were sentenced
to death. Furthermore, the death penalty has been used arbitrarily against
perceived political opponents, as was the case in South Korea.
Amnesty International has documented cases of the execution of possibly
innocent persons worldwide.3 To date, 123 condemned inmates have been
released in the USA since 1973 after evidence of their innocence emerged.
Furthermore, in China, Nie Shubin, a labourer, was executed as a murderer
and rapist in 1995. Reports suggested at the time that he had confessed to
the crimes under torture. In March 2005, a detainee arrested in connection
with another case reportedly confessed to Nie Shubins crimes voluntarily,
apparently describing the crime scene precisely.
In other countries, numerous persons have been sentenced to death for
crimes they did not commit. In the USA, 122 people have been released from
death row after being declared innocent of the crime of which they were
condemned. Japan acquitted four prisoners who were condemned to death when
it was established that they had been falsely accused; the four men had
spent years under sentence of death, in one case 34 years.
Some crimes are so heinous that society must show its revulsion by
executing the perpetrator An execution cannot be used to condemn killing.
Such an act by the state is the mirror image of the criminal's willingness
to use physical violence against a victim. Additionally, all criminal
justice systems are vulnerable to discrimination and error. No system is,
or could conceivably be, capable of deciding fairly, consistently and
infallibly who should live and who should die. Expediency, discretionary
decisions and prevailing public opinion may influence the proceedings from
the initial arrest to the last-minute decision on clemency.
Central to human rights is that they are inalienable they are accorded
equally to every individual regardless of their status, ethnicity,
religion or origin. They may not be taken away from anyone regardless of
the crimes a person has committed. Human rights exist to protest all
people; they therefore apply to the worst as well as to the best of us.
In addition, experience demonstrates that whenever the death penalty is
used some people will be killed while others who have committed similar or
even worse crimes may be spared. The prisoners executed are not
necessarily only those who committed the worst crimes, but also those who
were too poor to hire skilled lawyers to defend them or those who faced
harsher prosecutors or judges.
The international community has recognised that no crime can be deserving
of the death penalty. The International Criminal Court, the international
tribunals established to death with the aftermath of atrocities in the
former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the Special Court on Sierra Leone (all
courts established to try crimes involving gross violations of human
rights including crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes) exclude
the death penalty as a sentence that can be imposed. This illustrates the
strength of the global tide away from the use of the death penalty.
Executions give society the illusion of control over the threat posed to
public safety by serious crimes. In the immediate period around an
execution there is a feeling that a blow has somehow been dealt against
However, the reality is that capital punishment serves no useful purpose
in the fight against crime. In many societies, it detracts from those
actions that may be instrumental in reducing violence. Once abandoned,
societies become used to living without the brutality of executions and,
with the passage of time, the death penalty ceases to be an issue and is
On behalf of Amnesty Internationals worldwide membership, and in the name
of human rights, I urge South Korea to take this historic step to abolish
the death penalty.
(1) The government of Uzbekistan has committed itself to a moratorium on
executions from 2008.
(2) Somalia, Sudan and Libya.
(source: Amnesty International)
Saddam smiles at threat of death penalty<>P>
In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein smiled and sarcastically quipped 'well done',
on hearing the chief prosecutor call for the former Iraqi dictator, his
half brother and his vice president to face the death penalty.
Saddam, and 7 other defendants, are on trial for crimes against humanity,
focusing on the murders of 148 Shiite civilians from Dujail, an execution
carried out purportedly in response to an attempted assassination of
Saddam Hussein in 1982.
The Dujail case, chosen because it was the easiest and quickest to
compile, is the first of many potential charges, including the gassing of
5,000 people in the Kurdish village of Halabja in March 1988, and the
suppression of a Shia revolt following the first Gulf War.
If found guilty, defendants are meant to be hanged within 30 days of the
appeals process being exhausted, according to the tribunal statutes.
The 8 month trial of Saddam Hussein has been described by a Human Rights
Watch report as falling short of international standards, and has been
blemished by the murder of 2 defence lawyers and the resignation of the
first chief judge in January.
US death row defence beckons for law students
2 Warwick University students are packing their bags for the trip of a
lifetime - as they prepare to work with lawyers representing prisoners on
death row in the USA.
Saisha Brown, 21, and Yindi Gesinde, 19, have just completed law degrees
at Warwick. They will each spend 7weeks in the States working alongside
lawyers representing death row defendants.
The Observer reported back in February how the girls had to raise 2,500
each to fund their trips.
They have held sweet sales and a doughnut sale to raise cash towards the
trip, and are well on their way, although are still appealing for
businesses to sponsor them.
Saisha, who will be leaving in September, is heading to California, while
Yindi is going to Texas next month.
The pair have been warned they may be living and working in small towns
where the victims of the crimes also live. They both want to broaden their
arguments about the morality and practicality of capital punishment.
They also hope their internships will give them an insight into the
workings of the American criminal justice system and help them with vital
experience for a future career.
Saisha said: "It's getting quite real now, it did seem distant but now we
are making plans and booking flights.
"It's an experience we can't predict, it's going to be quite unique."
She added: "It will be quite good to do something different from corporate
law. It's very ground level and very impacting."
Yindo added: "I'm just looking forward to getting out there and doing the
"I've been talking about it so much, it will just be great to be there."
Any businesses or individuals who want to sponsor the students can get in
touch via the Observer on 7649 5914.
(source: The Coventry Observer (UK)
CCJ begins hearing death penalty appeal
The Barbados government yesterday argued that there is no provision in the
island's constitution that provides a basis for its citizens to petition
international bodies with regards to the execution of individuals
convicted of murder.
"Accordingly, there can be no constitutional right to petition the Inter
American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) and not be executed before it
has reported unless that right exists in law at independence on 30th
November 1966 when the Constitution came into being," Queen Counsel Roger
He said no such right existed at independence or in July 1978 when the
American Commission on Human rights treaty was ratified by the state of
Forde was making his submissions before the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court
of Justice (CCJ) that began 2 days of hearing of an appeal filed by the
Barbados government challenging the decision of the islands Court of
Appeal to commute to life imprisonment, the death sentence imposed on
Jeffrey Joseph and Lennox Boyce.
The 2 were sentenced to hang for the 1999 brutal murder of 22-year-old
Marquelle Hippolyte and death warrants have been read to them on 2
The two accused men had successfully challenged, in the Court of Appeal,
that it was a breach of their constitutional rights to be executed while
they were waiting a final report from the IACHR.
They had filed their petition before the IACHR on 3 Sept., 2004.
They also contended that the Barbados Privy Council (Mercy Committee), in
advising the governor-general to carry out the English Privy Council
order, did not comply with the rules of fairness and natural justice.
The Court of Appeal in upholding the appeal said the death warrants were
improperly read to the men and it was manifestly unfair to the men and a
denial of natural justice.
The Barbados government has filed 8 grounds of appeal, arguing that the
Court of Appeal erred in law in that it failed to acknowledge that the
Constitution is the supreme law of Barbados "by in effect holding that the
provisions of an unincorporated treaty can override entrenched sections of
the Constitution" and that the Appeal Court failed to apply the decision
of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council "with the respect to the
issue of the effect of unincorporated treaties on domestic law which said
decision is binding on Barbados."
In addition, the State is contending that the Court of Appeal wrongly
found that the Barbados Privy Council formed part of the policy arm of the
Executive and that it also "wrongly found that the Barbados Privy Council
is an independent quasi-judicial body and not just an advisory body having
a consultative role, but a decision maker."
Forde told the court that while Barbados had joined the IACHR in 1969 and
ratified the convention in 1978, it never incorporated the treaty into its
"It is submitted that the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy by the
Governor General under Section 78 of the Constitution is not justifiable,"
Forde said, telling the 7-member CCJ court this case is not a death
"That has already been decided by the Privy Council. The issue here is the
exercise of mercy. The issue is whether there is a right to mercy. My
submission is that there is no right," he added.
The Privy Council has ruled the mandatory death sentence unconstitutional
in all English-speaking Caribbean countries except Barbados and Trinidad &
Barbados is 1 of 2 Caribbean states that have signed on to the appellate
jurisdiction of the CCJ that was inaugurated just over a year ago.
In the appeal, the Barbados government is contending that the Court of
Appeal also erred in law when it ordered the commutation of the death
sentences on the basis of a number of "irrelevant considerations including
that a "report could not be obtained from the Inter-American process prior
to the expiration of 5 years from the dates of the Respondents
It said that the Court also erred on the basis that the convicted men had
no "access to adequate funding to effectively pursue any further rights
they may have" and that "it would be undesirable to expose the Respondents
to a 3rd reading of the death warrants, and the likelihood of further
The State is also contending that 2 other people who had been involved in
the murder had been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment following their
convictions for manslaughter.
Forde will continue his arguments before the CCJ on Wednesday following
which Queen Counsel Alair Paul Shepherd, who is leading a 4-member team
including Trinidad human rights lawyer, Douglas Mendes, will begin his
Shepherd is representing Boyce, while Maurice Adrian King and Wendy Maraj,
who are representing Joseph, will also make their submission today.
(source: Antigua Sun)
CCJs 1st death penalty appeal: Bajan killers battle hangman
2 BARBADOS killers who had death warrants read to them on 2 occasions in
2002 are fighting another battle to escape the hangman in Bridgetown.
Yesterday, the newly-established Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), began
hearing the appeal of the Barbados government against the decision of the
Barbados Court of Appeal to commute the death sentences of Jeffrey Joseph
and Lennox Ricardo Boyce.
This is the 1st death penalty appeal for the CCJ, although the court has
heard petitions from Barbados and Guyana, the only two countries who have
signed up with the Caribbean court so far.
The appeal is being heard before Michael de la Bastide (president) and
members Rolston Nelson, Duke Pollard, Adrian Saunders, Desiree Bernard,
Jacob Wit and David Hayton, at 134 Henry Street, Port-of-Spain.
The Barbados government is represented by Roger Forde QC, Brian St Clair
Barrow, and Henderson Adrian Cummings QC. Adrian King and Wendy Maraj
appear for Joseph, and Alair Shepherd QC, Douglas Mendes SC, Peta-Gay
Lee-Brace and Phillip Mc Watt represent Boyce.
Forde was the first to address the court. He said the governments appeal
was against the decision of the Barbados Court of Appeal dated May 31,
Joseph and Boyce were sentenced to death on February 2, 2001 for the
brutal murder of 22-year-old Marquelle Hippolite which occurred in April
1999. 2 others pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were jailed. Joseph and
Boyce appealed and the Barbados Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal on
March 27, 2002.
They appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council who dismissed
their final appeal on July 7, 2004. On September 3, 2004, Joseph and Boyce
petitioned the International Committee on Human Rights seeking clemency.
Forde said death warrants were read to both men on June 26 and July 22,
2002, although their petition to the human rights committee has not been
Joseph and Boyce returned to the high court claiming that their
constitutional rights were infringed. They contended that the Barbados
Mercy Committee was obliged under section 78 of the constitution to take
into consideration their claim for clemency.
But Justice Greenidge said he was not satisfied that the government must
wait on the human rights committee for a decision. He ruled against the
condemned men. They appealed and the Court of Appeal of Barbados
comprising Justices Colin Williams, Frederick Waterman and Peter Williams
commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment.
Forde made it quite clear that the exercise of power of the Governor
General was not justiciable, and not subject to review by the courts.
DE LA BASTIDE: Are you saying that however gross the decision of the
Barbados Privy Council (Mercy Committee) by its decisions or
recommendations, it is immune from challenge?
FORDE: Regrettably so.
DE LA BASTIDE: What if the case being considered arose out of the murder
of a relative of the Privy Council and that person sits on the case, it
would still be immune from challenge?
FORDE: You have excluded categories. If the Prime Minister gets up one
morning and dissolves Parliament, it is not subject to review.
DE LA BASTIDE: This is not a dissolution of Parliament, this is dealing
with a mans life.
JUSTICE BERNARD: Are you saying this cannot be reviewed, this sounds
strange to me. A life is at stake.
FORDE: There is no right to clemency. That should not blur the issue. A
condemned man has no right to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy.
The only right he has is that the process is fair.
During his submissions, Forde said the CCJ was not bound to follow the
decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.
DE LA BASTIDE: Dont the courts of Barbados follow the decision in Pratt
FORDE: They examined Pratt and Morgan and they followed it.
DE LA BASTIDE: You think they had a choice?
FORDE: We all have choices. The reasoning seemed to be sound and they
Hearing continues at 9.30 am today.
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