[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 2 10:49:17 CST 2006
I am against capital punishment - Asiamah
Justice Samuel Kwadwo Asiamah, a nominee to the Supreme Court on Wednesday
said he is against capital punishment and personally feels that the death
penalty should be abolished. He said Article 15 clause 2 of the
Constitution guarantees that nobody should be subjected to inhuman
treatment whether under arrest or not.
Justice Asiamah said this when he appeared before the Judicial and
Appointment Committee of Parliament for vetting.
"As a staunch Christian, my religion abhors the taking of human life and
so I think that capital punishment is not the ideal solution." Asked how
his view would be if a case is brought to him and the law requires that
the person should face the death penalty, he replied; "until the capital
punishment is expunged from the statutes book I would have to apply what
the law says in such a situation."
On the perceived corruption in the judiciary, Justice Asiamah said, that
practice must stop and that no judge has the right "to kill a case" but
rather be able to judge according to the law. The nominee said corruption
largely depends on the individual and not the institution per se and that
those without moral character would be liable to corruption.
"One must be morally upright to be able to do his work well and that it is
what the law says that must be applied and not the view of the judge."
On his preparedness to take up the job as a Supreme Court judge, he said,
"If one is offered a job or a position the person must be able to work
according to his capabilities and do the work accordingly and proper."
On whether he would be able, to prosecute churches who put up buildings
anywhere and make excessive noise, Justice Asiamah said one should be able
to distinguish between genuine and fake churches and deal accordingly with
the bad ones.
He agreed that churches should pay taxes: "Because even Jesus Christ paid
On marital rape, the nominee said he would not be able to express his
opinion on it now and that it would depend on the circumstances leading to
Justice Asiamah born on June 6 1938 and has been on the Bench for the past
26 years and holds a Bachelor and Barrister of Law Certificate, a
Teacher's Certificate 'A' and Specialist Certificate in English.
(source: Crusading Guide)
Vietnam Commutes Aussie's Death Sentence
Vietnam announced Thursday it has commuted the death sentence of a
convicted Australian drug trafficker to life imprisonment after heavy
lobbying by the Australian government.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said in a statement that President Tran
Duc Luong has signed an order of clemency for Nguyen Van Chinh, 45 of
"According to competent authorities, stemming from its humanitarian
policy, Vietnam's president has signed a decision to commute the death
penalty to life imprisonment for Nguyen Van Chinh," he said.
The Australian embassy was formally notified via diplomatic note from the
Foreign Ministry on Feb. 28, he said.
Chinh was convicted and sentenced to death last year for heroin
trafficking after a raid on his hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City uncovered
1.05 kilograms (2 pounds) of the drug.
Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last month that he was
told Vietnam was commuting the death sentences for Chinh and a 2nd
convicted Australian drug smuggler, Mai Cong Thanh.
Vietnam announced the clemency for Thanh, 46, of Melbourne, a week ago.
Thanh was also sentenced to face the firing squad last year after police
had found 1.7 kilograms (3.7 pounds) of heroin hidden in 76 stereo
speakers during a raid of his rented workshop. The speakers were among 306
waiting to be shipped to Australia from Vietnam.
Vietnam has some of the harshest drug laws in the world. Possessing,
trading or trafficking 600 grams (1.32 pounds) of heroin or 20 kilograms
(44 pounds) of opium is punishable by death.
However, at least 2 other Australian-Vietnamese have had their death
sentences commuted in recent years because of lobbying by their
government, which banned the death penalty in 1973.
(source: Associated Press)
Scrap death penalties by Maoists' people's court: Deuba
Nepali Congress (Democratic) President Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday said
death penalties given by the Maoists' people's court should be scrapped.
Stating that the peoples court should be the court of sovereign people,
the former prime minister said, The trend of giving death penalty must be
Deuba was speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the 2nd
National Congress of Democratic Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions
(DECONT) in the capital.
He further said the peoples court will create a problem to even the King,
Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala and CPN-UML General
Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Awaiting Death's Footsteps----On Japan's death row, prisoners never know
when the hangman will come. Harsh conditions aim to calm, but critics call
Like all prisoners on Japan's death row, Masao Akahori knew that his
execution would come without warning. The fear made him stiffen at the
sound of the guards' approaching footsteps, wondering if the clack of
boots was a countdown to death or would pass by, fading into the silence
of another reprieve.
One morning in the early 1970s, the march stopped outside Akahori's cell
and a key turned the lock.
"We have come to fetch you," the guards told him.
Akahori remembers his legs collapsing under him, that 5 guards had to drag
him from his cell. He remembers the nervous whispering when the guards
suddenly realized they had come to hang the wrong man.
It was Yamamoto they wanted. In the next cell.
"They put me back, no apology, and went for Yamamoto," Akahori recalls. He
is 75 now, with watery eyes, a ghost of the 24-year-old who was living
under bridges in 1954 when he says police beat a false confession out of
him that he had raped and murdered a schoolgirl. "They closed the small
window in my cell so I couldn't see what was going on with Yamamoto.
"But I could hear them," he says, in a voice that still trembles with the
Akahori says he was so traumatized by his near-death experience that, for
several years, he could not speak. But he did eventually win a retrial,
and in 1989, after 31 years on death row, he was declared not guilty and
Yet his story remains precious. Not simply because he survived to tell it,
but because it offers a rare peek into the mists of Japan's death row,
where prisoners live in conditions designed to induce submission and where
executions, all by hanging, are carried out in secret.
The Japanese government says 75 inmates await execution, living under
rules set out in a 1908 prison law and tightened by directives in 1963:
They are prohibited from talking to other prisoners. Their contact with
the outside world is limited to infrequent, supervised visits from family
or their lawyers. They are not allowed hobbies or television, and may own
only 3 books, though more can be borrowed with the warden's permission as
long as the content is not deemed to preach "subversion of authority."
Exercise is limited to two short sessions a week outside their cells, four
solid walls and one small window. Some rely on sleeping pills, bought with
money provided by their families, to survive the isolation.
Many prisoners live in this purgatory for more than 2 decades while
appeals against their sentences churn through Japan's notoriously sluggish
legal system. But once appeals are exhausted, executions will come without
notice, on the whim and with the stamp of the justice minister.
There are no last meals. Hangings are carried out without witnesses, and
the inmate's family members aren't informed until the prisoner is dead and
they are told to collect the body.
Japan's bar associations and human rights groups have long protested - to
a public that shows little inclination to listen - that conditions on
death row are an "affront to human decency." But corrections officials
argue that the system is designed to ensure prisoners on death row remain
calm, do not become suicidal and do not try to escape.
"We want to maintain the mental stability of those waiting for death,"
says Kenichi Matsumura, a specialist at the Adult Correction Section of
the Justice Ministry. "Emotionally, everybody wants them to face their
last moments in peace."
Whether that works is an open question. During his years on death row,
Akahori often heard those footsteps stop at other cells. Some prisoners
went compliantly, he says. Others fought vigorously.
"Of course, some people don't want to die," Akahori says. "They shout. And
the guards would try to cover their mouths and tie their hands with towels
to take them away."
The gag extends to a clampdown on public information from death row. The
executed prisoner's name is never released, becoming known only if the
family chooses. There are no Stanley Tookie Williams-style media frenzies
in Japan, no debates about the sincerity of a prisoner's remorse or the
merits of redemption. You don't see candlelight vigils outside Japanese
prisons on the night of scheduled executions, because only the authorities
know one is coming.
Even Japanese lawmakers have difficulty seeing conditions for themselves.
In 2003, 9 lawmakers fought for and won the right to visit an execution
chamber, though not witness an execution. It was the first time
legislators had been allowed inside since 1973, according to Amnesty
International, which says Japan's death row violates the country's signed
pledges on human rights protection. (Corrections officials refused the Los
Angeles Times permission to visit any of the seven penitentiaries that
hold death row units.)
What little the world knows about conditions inside comes from the few
prisoners, such as Akahori, who have survived to tell their stories - four
prisoners were released from death row in the 1980s when their convictions
were overturned - or from the rare writings from prison that get past
"We have to sleep under a bright light," Masashi Daidoji complained in his
prison diary, "Being Convicted for Execution." "I asked for an eye mask
but it was turned down as it covers our face. No wonder not a few people
take sleeping pills."
Daidoji is on death row for his role in the bombing of a Mitsubishi Heavy
Industries building by left-wing radicals in 1974 that killed eight people
and wounded 380 others. His diary, passed outside in letters to his family
and published by a small Tokyo publishing house owned by his cousin
Masakuni Ota, is a compendium of complaints about "smelly rice" eaten next
to the toilet, and cells that were freezing cold in winter and
suffocatingly hot in summer.
The book was published in 1997. Daidoji is still on death row.
Indeed, the number of executions in Japan is low, and the pace slow. For
one thing, Japan's murder rate is among the lowest in the world. And
despite overwhelming popular support for the death penalty in Japan, most
justice ministers in recent years have been reluctant to sign death
warrants; they often delay.
Only 1 prisoner was hanged last year, and 2 the year before. The majority
of those condemned to die are, in fact, being condemned to years of
solitary confinement - poised on the brink for a death that could call at
"It's hard to wait," says Akahori, who lives in a small apartment in
Nagoya on the proceeds from a modest settlement he received for his
wrongful conviction. He rarely goes out, but lends his voice to campaigns
on behalf of two death row prisoners still claiming their innocence. One
has been on death row since 1966, the other since 1961.
"I sometimes thought: The sooner, the better. In 1974, I talked to my
supporters and said, 'Maybe it is better I go,' " he says. "I wanted to
die, but I'm not strong-willed enough to kill myself. And I had no
Prison officials defend their treatment of the condemned as necessary
security steps. Matsumura says lights are left on in the cells 24 hours a
day to "allow the guards to watch so they won't run away." Sleep masks are
not allowed because they could be used to fashion a cord that prisoners
might use to kill themselves.
Daidoji's diary records his being alarmed at the "swollen, expressionless
faces" all around him - ill from the mental strain of isolation and lack
of exercise - and he vows to exercise to maintain his health. But the
guards prevent him from even doing push-ups or stretching exercises in his
"Moving your arms around would be OK, but push-ups or something that makes
noise is not allowed - it would disturb others," Matsumura says. Prisoners
are calmer if they are prevented "from getting unnecessary information or
stimulation from the outside world," he says.
So there is no TV. Radio is allowed, but the prisoners have no say over
the station. Some prisons allow videos, but that is at the discretion of
Any prisoner unhappy with his treatment can take it up with a Justice
Ministry representative who must, by law, visit every 2 years.
Critics say the sedated atmosphere on death row leads to a numbed despair,
even among those still trying to prove their innocence. Last fall, Tomoaki
Takanezawa, 38, abandoned his appeals against his death sentence despite
insisting he is innocent of murdering two men in 2003, contending that the
system is so weighted against the condemned prisoner that "the results are
Takanezawa's lawyer said his client had become emotionally unstable under
the strain of living on death row.
Yet there is very little public debate in Japan about the death penalty,
let alone death row conditions. Polls show about 4 in 5 Japanese support
capital punishment, a consensus reinforced by a lingering national trauma
from the 1995 sarin nerve gas attacks carried out by the Aum Supreme Truth
cult, which killed 12 Tokyo subway commuters and sickened thousands.
13 Aum members are on death row, although only one has exhausted all his
appeals. Lawyers for the cult's leader, Shoko Asahara, 50, have refused to
appeal his death sentence, claiming that their client does not speak other
than to groan, and is therefore incapable of preparing a defense.
But last week, a court decided that Asahara was feigning dementia and is
capable of speech. The Japanese media have cited reports that, in
November, Asahara yelled, "Go home, idiots!" at family members who came to
The latest ruling brings Asahara closer to execution, reopening the
emotional wounds from that terrorist attack. It also comes at a time when
Japan has been shocked by an unusual spate of child killings, leaving many
here wondering if their country is sliding toward Western levels of
All of this undermines the tiny political constituency for abolishing the
death penalty or improving prison conditions.
In the fall, Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura announced just hours after
taking office that he would not sign any more execution warrants because
of his opposition to capital punishment. By the next day, a rebellious
Justice Ministry bureaucracy had forced him to "correct" himself. He
promised to carry out his duties with "careful consideration."
"The bureaucrats don't want people to talk about it; they want to continue
going about it in secret," said Ota, the Tokyo book publisher and cousin
of Daidoji. "And the general public tends to be indifferent. This is a
society without much debate, very conformist, very cold toward people who
"Instead of thinking about this issue, they prefer to push it aside, not
to see it. If we don't see it, we don't have to think about it."
Akahori said the hardest part of his incarceration, next to the fear of
dying, was the ban on talking to other prisoners.
"We were not allowed to communicate, but we would knock on the walls at
the back of the cell to make sure the other guy was OK," Akahori says.
"Sometimes they would bring entertainers into the prison, but those of us
on death row were not allowed to attend the show. We had to listen to a
tape of it later."
Matsumura, the Justice Ministry official, explains the rationale: "They
have to be separated. I don't think any prison warden would allow them to
gather. The basic idea is we don't want them to communicate to plan to
"If we give them more freedom, then there is a risk of them escaping," he
says. "If you limit freedom, we can keep control."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
A southern Chinese province has extended the nation's use of the death
penalty to "purse snatchers."
At the same time, rights group, Amnesty International, has called for the
decision to be overturned.
Amnesty says the high court of Guangdong province announced the capital
punishment penalty in an apparent effort to curb a sharp rise in drive-by
purse snatching by motorcyclists.
The previous maximum penalty for violent theft of bags or purses had been
3 years jail.
But the new guidelines state the minimum sentence is 3 years and the
maximum penalty is execution.
Amnesty spokesman, Mark Allison, has described the move as a "knee-jerk
response" and has urged China's Supreme People's Court to conduct an
immediate review of the decision.
(source: Asia Pacific News)
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