[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 19 21:10:41 CST 2006
Bar votes against death penalty
The Malaysian Bar today called for the abolition of the death penalty and
an immediate freeze on all executions.
Lawyers also urged that death-row sentences be commuted, or reduced to
life sentences or fixed jail terms.
The resolutions were part of a motion carried out by the Bar at its 60th
annual general meeting today.
Co-proposer Amer Hamzah Arshad said although the abolition of the death
penalty was often discussed by lawyers, this was the 1st time such a
motion had been proposed at a Bar AGM.
"It came about because a few of us realised that lawyers as a collective
body had not made a clear announcement on the matter."
Lawyers voted overwhelmingly in favour of abolishing the death penalty,
with 105 in favour, 2 votes against and 21 abstentions.
One of the resolutions passed called for an 'immediate moratorium on all
executions pending abolition'.
"We will work with the Bar Council, non-governmental organisations and the
authorities to realise this.
"The workings of the moratorium will be looked into in detail," added
At the AGM today, 2,404 lawyers signed in by 11.15 am, above the quorum of
Yeo Yang Poh, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Ragunath Kesavan and Vazeer Alam Mydin
Meera were returned unopposed as the Bar president, vice-president,
secretary and treasurer respectively for a 2nd term.
"Credit goes to members of the Bar for being here so soon after the
reconvened 59th AGM in October.
"Theyve come today despite an unfair and oppressive quorum requirement,"
said Yeo at a Press conference after the AGM.
1/5 of the Bar must attend an AGM for it to be considered valid.
"This is seen as difficult to achieve, owing to the number of lawyers, and
unfair, as other professional bodies are not subject to similar
Yeo, however, said it was unlikely that lawyers would be faced with the
same problem at the next AGM.
"The authorities have indicated that they understand the difficulties we
face and they are in principle agreeable to changing the quorum
"We are confident it will be a more workable and practical figure by next
The Bar has proposed that the quorum for AGMs and extraordinary general
meetings be fixed at 350 and 700 respectively.
The Bar also unanimously carried a motion to ask the Prime Minister to
urgently implement the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct
Commission as recommended by the Royal Commissions on the Police Force.
A motion of no confidence against the Attorney-General for being
"extremely slow" in prosecuting criminal abuse of police powers was,
Yeo said while there had been few suits against police personnel for
alleged abuse of power, lawyers felt it was unfair to blame the A-G for
"We were unanimous in deciding that the problem should not be attributed
to one person. Many things are not within the A-Gs powers."
(source: New Straits Times)
China slowly reforms death penalty----About 8,000 executed per year,
Amid publicity over several wrongful executions, China is slowly making
headway in revising its system of capital punishment.
One part that isn't changing, however, is the government's insistence on
keeping the number of executions per year a state secret.
A new estimate, reached after research among senior academics, puts the
number at around 8,000, far more than any other nation, legal scholar Liu
Liu, a critic of the death penalty, said government insistence on keeping
execution statistics secret was undermining efforts to reform the
"This is very stupid. If you don't know the exact number, how can you give
useful suggestions for reform?" asked Liu, a scholar at the prestigious
Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
For decades, China has made frequent use of the death penalty as part of
what the government calls "strike hard" campaigns against crime.
In rural areas, often on the very day of conviction, judicial authorities
exhibit prisoners at rallies, minutes before their executions, and give
public servants and students time off to attend.
Several miscarriages of justice involving the death penalty emerged in
news reports last year, sparking an official "kill fewer, kill carefully"
campaign and efforts to reform the judicial process.
Under current death penalty-appeal procedures, hearings are closed even to
defense attorneys, defendants and their families. Judges read court
documents, such as written confessions, then issue rulings. Legal rights
advocates note that police in China routinely extract confessions from
people they arrest, often through torture and duress, and win
extraordinarily high conviction rates in courts.
Supreme People's Court Chief Justice Xiao Yang told legislators this month
that of 683,997 criminal cases that China's courts handled last year,
judges declared 2,162 defendants innocent, the state Xinhua News Agency
Xiao ruled out abolishing the death penalty and said no decision had been
made to halt capital punishment for economic crimes. But he noted that the
Supreme People's Court had instituted measures to bring caution to death
Starting in July, all death penalty appeals must be heard in open court,
allowing prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys to meet face to face.
Moreover, the Supreme People's Court is taking back final review of all
death penalty cases in an effort to curb arbitrary rulings by provincial
judges, some of whom never attended law school.
To handle the reviews, the high court is adding 2 criminal tribunals and
300 to 400 more judges. No timetable has been given.
Legal experts say the central review of appeals will reduce the number of
executions by 20 % to 30 %, since provincial courts often use arbitrary
sentencing and face political pressure to bring down crime rates.
"Local governments think it is a good tool to control public security. If
they lose such power they think, of course, it would not be good," Liu
Public debate about the death penalty indicates that some senior officials
appear to favor reforms. Provincial leaders have resisted revising the
death penalty, fearing they may lose the ability to fight crime.
Surveys show that Chinese citizens overwhelmingly support capital
Some Chinese legal scholars say the government should move slowly in
admitting how many prisoners are executed each year and in releasing
statistics on the rate of violent crime.
(source: Knight Ridder News)
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