[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 1 23:15:24 CST 2006
Conviction and Death Sentence of Former Intelligence Chief Flawed
The trial of Assadullah Sarwari, who was sentenced to death on Sunday for
his role in heading Afghanistan's brutal intelligence agency during the
Communist government of the late 1970s, violated basic fair trial and due
process standards, Human Rights Watch said today. Sarwari was convicted by
a special National Security tribunal and has the right to appeal his
sentence within 20 days. Human Rights Watch said that the case highlights
the need for urgent judicial reform in Afghanistan and the establishment
of a proper system of accountability for all those who committed human
rights abuses over the past 25 years.
"A notorious human rights abuser has been convicted but his trial was so
flawed that it actually represents a setback for the cause of justice in
Afghanistan," said Sam Zarifi, research director of Human Rights Watch's
Asia division. "The court of appeals should throw out this conviction and
show that in today's Afghanistan, the rule of law applies, even to the
most notorious former leaders."
Sarwari has been detained since 1992, when he was taken by the Afghan
Northern Alliance forces who won control of Kabul after the fall of the
Communist government. He was held without trial or even clear charges
until December 26, when he was put on trial accused of responsibility for
the killing of hundreds of Afghans.
Sarwari did not have legal counsel at his trial because he could not
afford a lawyer and the court could not find any lawyers willing to
represent him. The trial was summary in nature, taking only one day for
the prosecution and defense to present their cases. Because the
proceedings were conducted so quickly, Sarwari did not have adequate time
to question witnesses or challenge the evidence against him. While Sarwari
challenged the authenticity of a document he allegedly signed ordering
illegal executions, no evidence was offered to show it was authentic and
the court turned down his request for a forensic test. The National
Security Court that conducted the trial is a special branch established by
the Supreme Court, but its exact mandate and procedures are unclear.
"The thousands of victims of the Communist government are desperate to see
justice done, but this can only be accomplished through fair trials and
due process of law," Zarifi said. "This case shows that Afghanistan needs
a judicial system that can properly handle cases related to the human
rights violators who have brutalized Afghanistan for the past 3 decades."
The Sarwari trial was the 1st attempt to hold a senior government official
accountable for past crimes in Afghanistan. In light of the many failings
of the trial, Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government to
immediately implement a recently approved blueprint for transitional
justice. In late 2005, the Afghan cabinet approved a plan for establishing
a system of transitional justice and accountability. The 5-part,
multi-year plan envisages a comprehensive approach that includes
establishing documentation centers and museums to chronicle the human
rights violations of the past 3 decades. The plan also sets up oversight
panels to prevent human rights abusers from holding senior government
positions, and sets out the possibility for pursuing past abusers in
Because Afghanistan's criminal code does not yet have provisions for
addressing gross human rights abuses of the past, the charges against
Sarwari did not address allegations of systematic human rights violations
leveled at the Communist government.
"Afghanistan must not establish a bad precedent with the 1st trial of a
past human rights abuser," Zarifi said. "Sarwari's case should be referred
as soon as possible to a transitional justice process that can properly
address the allegations against him as well as other figures from
Afghanistan's bloody history."
Human Rights Watch called on President Hamid Karzai to publicly unveil the
transitional justice action plan immediately and to ensure that the
government addresses the many well-known human rights violators who still
hold high positions in the government and parliament, and not just those
like Sarwari who no longer have political patrons.
In recent surveys and national consultations, the Afghan people have
consistently favored achieving accountability for past human rights abuses
through a judicial process that is led by Afghans with significant
international support to the country's weakened judiciary. However, this
trial did not involve any international assistance and did not come close
to meeting international standards.
Human Rights Watch also expressed grave concern about the use of the death
penalty in Afghanistan. Since 2001, over 25 death sentences have been sent
to the president's office for a decision on execution or commutation, but
Afghanistan has carried out the death penalty only once, when a low-level
Taliban commander was executed in October 2004.
"It is troubling to see the Afghan government resort to the death penalty
without proper judicial safeguards, even after thousands of Afghans were
executed by various governments over the past 25 years," said Zarifi. "As
a matter of principle, Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all
circumstances, but in a country with such a weak and politicized judiciary
it is unthinkable that it should be imposed."
Why Australia Needs the Death Penalty
Do you still get your ideas about American crime from American cop shows?
If so, your ideas may be a little out of date. Over the past decade,
American cities have become suddenly and dramatically safer.
Between 1995 and 2005, the number of murders in the United States dropped
from nearly 25,000 a year to under 15,000. An American was less likely to
be murdered in 2005 than in 1960. And the total rate of criminal
victimisation tumbled to its lowest level since records began in 1974.
It would be rash to credit the death penalty alone for this triumph. But
it would equally be wrong to deny capital punishment its share of the
When crime is punished lightly, criminals feel empowered--and crime
proliferates. In the 1960s, for example, US courts placed new restrictions
on police, raised new barriers to criminal prosecution, and shortened
sentences for the convicted. As crime rates surged between 1960 and 1969,
the number of prisoners actually declined.
It was as if the US had decriminalised crime. What happened next has been
described by one American writer as "the great havoc": a collapse of order
that ravaged once great cities like Detroit and exacted widespread
economic and social costs. In 1974, one US household out of three said it
was a victim of crime, and crime eclipsed inflation, unemployment, Vietnam
and Watergate as the number one concern of American voters.
In a democracy, the number one concern of voters gets attention.
Aggressive politicians, especially Republicans, began to run for office
promising action on crime: more police, tougher sentences--and the return
of the death penalty. In 1974, the Supreme Court effectively overturned a
1972 decision against the death penalty and soon the worst offenders were
being sentenced to die. The 1st of the "new" death sentences was carried
out in 1977 in Utah.
Yet while execution was often sought after 1974, for nearly two decades it
was rarely imposed. Procedural delays and manoeuvring by lawyers extended
stays on death row from 6, to 9, to a peak of 11 years.
And through it all, public opinion in favour of the death penalty
intensified--and with it, the swing to the political right. By 1994,
nearly 80% of Americans supported the death penalty. That year the
Republicans recaptured both houses of Congress from the Democrats for the
first time since 1952. The year before, the Republican Rudolph Giuliani
won the mayoralty of New York on a get-tough-on-crime platform. Giuliani
supported the death penalty. So did the Republican governor of New York,
George Pataki. In 1995, New York would become the 38th state to restore
its death penalty. In 1994, the number of executions rose above 20 a year
for the first time. Perhaps not coincidentally, 1994 was also the year in
which US crime rates--led by those of New York City--began to turn
dramatically and decisively down.
It would be an exaggeration to credit the death penalty alone for the
improvement. In the 2 decades since 1974, more than 400,000 Americans have
been murdered--and barely 1000 of their killers have been executed. In no
year since the restoration of the death penalty has the number of
Americans executed exceeded the number killed by lightning.
So rare a punishment cannot qualify as a deterrent. Nor can it function as
a tool of ultimate justice. Many horrendous murderers escape execution.
What the death penalty does do, however, is express as forcefully as
society can--both to criminals and law-abiding citizens--that the
authorities take crime seriously. It is not a substitute for all the other
tools needed to defeat crime: more police and patrols, stricter laws,
longer sentences and better economic opportunities.
If societies want to wind back crime, however, they need to begin by
sending a clear message that the sheriff is back in town--that crime wont
be tolerated and will be punished to the full extent of the law. And
nothing broadcasts that message like restoration of the most extreme
It is striking that Britain has imported many of the best US
crime-fighting methods (but not the death penalty), only to see its rates
of crime and violence continue to deteriorate. On some level, the bad guys
dont yet take the law seriously.
And as a society becomes safer, it can afford to again rediscover some
leniency. Support for the death penalty has begun to decline again in the
US. The number of executions is beginning to trend down. Yet crime levels
remain low and continue to decline further: New York is now very nearly
the safest 100,000-plus city in the US and probably one of the safest big
cities in the world.
Restore the death penalty, and you restore safety. Restore safety, and
everything becomes possible. Refuse the death penalty, and the job of
reimposing legal order becomes much more difficult: citizens live in fear,
trust in authority and law fade.
There may be another way of protecting society. But why ignore success?
(source: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research - David
Frum is a resident fellow at AEI)
News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
AI Index: ASA 17/015/2006 1 March 2006
China: Guangdong bag snatchers may face death penalty
Drive-by thieves who use violence may now face the death penalty,
according to an alarming announcement by the Guangdong provincial
"We urge the Supreme People's Court to conduct an immediate review of this
decision with a view to overturning it," said Mark Allison, East Asia
researcher at Amnesty International. "Extending the death penalty to cover
more crimes goes against the international trend towards abolition."
The Vice-President of the Guangdong High People's Court, Chen Huajie,
announced on 28 February that the penalty for bag-snatching had been
increased to a minimum prison sentence of 3 years, and can now include the
death penalty. The ruling was a result of a new judicial interpretation
that defined all kinds of violent bag-snatching by motorists as 'robbery'.
The crime of bag-snatching used to attract a maximum sentence of 3 years
in prison in Guangdong, according to reports in the Chinese press.
The move has been prompted by fears that such crimes are on the rise in
the southern province of Guangdong, according to reports. The official
Chinese press stated that over 80,000 people had been convicted of
'robbery' and 'violent robbery' in Guangdong between 2003 and 2005,
accounting for more than 1/3 of the total number of criminals convicted.
"We recognize the duty of governments to combat crime, but this is a
knee-jerk response -- it shows that China's Strike Hard crime campaign
mentality is still prevalent, at least in some parts of the country," said
Mark Allison. "There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime
more effectively than other punishments."
Any increase in the use of the death penalty is contrary to the strong
international trend away from the use of capital punishment. 122 countries
now no longer have the death penalty in law or practice and only a
fraction of the world's nations actually carry out executions. China
should follow this trend and implement the first steps towards the
abolition of the death penalty, rather than increase its scope.
Chinese legal scholars have also voiced doubt over the decision. For
example, Professor Dong Likun from Shenzhen University in Guangdong has
criticized China's periodic Strike Hard campaigns against crime for
leading to miscarriages of justice. Quoted in the South China Morning Post
on 28 February he asked "Can we really give the death sentence to a purse
The decision flies in the face of more positive moves in connection with
the death penalty in China, including a recent announcement by Xiao Yang,
the President of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), that all death penalty
appeal cases must be held in open court from the second half of this year;
and an earlier announcement that the SPC is to resume its role of
reviewing all death sentences passed in China.
"We welcome moves towards reforms such as these, but it remains to be seen
whether they will lead to better quality trials and a significant
reduction in the number of people sentenced to death," said Mark Allison.
"Whatever their impact, they must not be seen as a substitute for more
wide-ranging reforms aimed at the complete abolition of the death penalty
One leading Chinese abolitionist and legal scholar, Liu Renwen, cautioned
yesterday that the SPC is currently too short-staffed to review all death
penalty cases and that lower courts appear to be resisting the reform,
apparently because local authorities are concerned about losing their
power to control crime.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty as a violation of the
right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
Pending full abolition of the death penalty in China, Amnesty
International continues to urge the Chinese authorities to make public
national statistics on death sentences and executions; to reduce the
number of crimes punishable by the death penalty, including economic
offences and other non-violent crimes; and to introduce a moratorium on
executions to safeguard the right to life.
The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that "Extension of the scope of
application of the death penalty raises questions as to the compatibility
with article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights." China has signed the ICCPR, and in doing so has signalled its
intention to ratify that treaty. Although China is not yet formally bound
by the ICCPR, it should be assumed that China will observe the major
provisions of that treaty pending ratification. Under international law, a
state that has singed a treaty must do nothing to defeat the 'object and
purpose' of that treaty.
All AI Documents on China:
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(source: Amnesty International)
State Calls for Stay of Execution in Pa Sallah Jengs Case
Following a High Court ruling last December for the immediate
reinstatement of Mayor Pa Sallah Jeng to his mayoral position by Justice
Ahmed Belgore, the State yesterday filed a stay of execution.
Mayor Jeng was however not in court as he was not 'served' to attend
court. It would be recalled that the former Mayor of Banjul, Pa Sallah
Jeng, was accused of misappropriation of funds belonging to BCC.
(source: The Point)
Execution of 2 men in southern Iran
2 men are to be executed in the oil city of Ahwaz, provincial capital of
Khuzistan, southern Iran, at dawn on Thursday, charged with involvement in
Khuzistan province's deputy governor Mohsen Farokh-Nejad, alleged that the
two men, identified as Ali Affrawi and Mehdi Navasseri, were responsible
for a bombing in Ahwaz back in October intending to deepen ethnic
Mullahs' regime has blamed the unrest in Khuzistan on Britain whose forces
are based just across the border in southern Iraq, an allegation that
London has denied.
(source: National Council of Resistance of Iran)
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