[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 7 22:38:02 CDT 2007
Sri Lankan death sentence commuted Sri Lanka
A Sri Lankan army major caught spying for the Tamil Tiger rebels has had
his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment by the country's
Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe says the army major, Piyasiri
Perera, had been caught passing information on key economic and military
targets to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Perera, who was found guilty on 5 espionage counts, was believed to be the
1st person ever charged with treason in the war-torn island nation.
No further details were available.
(source: Radio Australia News)
Prisoner backs 'euthanasia for lifers' calls
A PRISONER serving life in a Welsh jail has called for the Government to
consider allowing voluntary euthanasia for inmates serving long sentences.
The demand from the Swansea Jail prisoner comes a month after 300 Italian
inmates signed a letter to the country's president Giorgio Napolitano
urging him to bring back the death penalty.
The letter was from a member of the Sicilian Mafia, 52-year-old Carmelo
Musumeci, in prison for 17 years, who said he is tired of "dying a little
bit every day."
"We want to die just once," he said, "and we are asking for our life
sentence to be changed to a death sentence."
Now, a prisoner in Swansea Jail signing himself Allien Dewi- David has
written to the prisoners' newspaper Inside Time asking for a law change to
allow certain prisoners to be killed.
The letter reads,"I was listening on the radio to the story in Italy
whereby 300 lifers had sent a petition to the Italian government seeking
the introduction of the death penalty for certain lifer inmates.
"As a long-serving lifer, this got me thinking about the UK and one of the
arguments consistently put forward against the reintroduction of the death
penalty is what if an innocent person is put to death? "However if we
introduced what would amount to voluntary euthanasia for lifers, this
would nullify that argument.
"Obviously there would need to be extensive psychiatric tests for anyone
considering this option, but in principle I believe it's one worth
"As for public approval no problem there, which would in turn lead to
Editor of Inside Time John Roberts said it is the 1st time voluntary
euthanasia for prisoners had been broached in the publication.
He said, "While we have not discussed the issue before, suicide and how to
deal with very long sentences is obviously a big topic inside.
"Many prisoners who are not likely to get out have decided to end it
themselves, the best known examples in recent times being Harold Shipman
and Fred West."
But Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, is
horrified at the idea.
She said, "We would never endorse euthanasia for lifers. The very fact Mr
David would suggest such a move shows the desperation that life
imprisonment can cause.
"Locking people up indefinitely, with little or no hope of release, is
cruel and inhumane. The prison system should be about working with inmates
so that they can return to society without fear of re-offending. In truth,
it is only a very few who are so dangerous that they can never be freed.
"Prisoners do take their own lives frequently and so far this year we have
47 confirmed self-inflicted deaths in custody. The focus must be on
preventing suicides and giving lifers the hope that one day they can
return to their communities as reformed citizens."
It is estimated that only about 30 life-sentenced prisoners will actually
serve a "whole life" tariff, with Ian Huntley and Rose West thought to be
Erwin James, now a columnist with the Guardian after his release from a
life term for murder, said, "Hopelessness abounds among the lifer
population. Many fail to get to the end, some commit suicide, some die of
"Doing life can seem like a hopeless existence, an endless journey to
Prison drug rehab row
The announcement that South Wales only '12-step' drug rehabilitation
programme is to close has triggered concern more convicted criminals will
Swansea Jail currently houses the abstinence-based courses which can cater
for up to 15 prisoners at one time.
It is the only prison in South Wales offering the service and 1 of only 4
in the UK.
Swansea Jail governor Andrea Whitfield announced yesterday it would close
in November in favour of shorter "more intensive" drug and alcohol
rehabilitation courses. She said, "Although we had some success we were
not getting the kind of result that would guarantee future funding.
"Also, it permanently took up 2 meeting rooms which meant other courses
involving a greater number of prisoners were compromised.
"Each prison is run as a business now and has to bid for funding it's
unfortunate but thats the world we operate in now."
The programme helps prisoners to give up drugs, alcohol and other
addictive substances by offering support and addressing the causes of
Swansea AM Peter Black, pictured, said successful treatment can cut crime
markedly once a prisoner is released as they no longer need to steal to
fund their habit. And, he says, disruptive behaviour patterns will also
have been dealt with.
Mr Black said, "I am at a loss to understand why Swansea Prison would want
to close this programme. It offers the opportunity to help stop
reoffending and it can be crucial in breaking the cycle of crime.
"The planned closure of this facility seems to be contrary to all of the
Government's own targets on crime and substance misuse.
"Both the UK Government and the Welsh Assembly Government have their own
programmes for tackling substance abuse and treatment of prisoners whilst
in prison must form a part of this.
"If they are serious about tackling drugs, and more importantly
drug-related crime, then action needs to be taken to ensure there are
rehabilitation services like this one in all prisons."
MEP backs euthanasia
Euthanasia should not be a question of health policy but of human rights
across Europe, campaigning Euro-MP Chris Davies says.
Only 2 EU countries the Netherlands and Belgium permit
And while the issue is a matter for national governments only, a hearing
in Brussels on Thursday night urged EU member states to respond to
evidence of growing public demand to be given individual choice.
Liberal Democrat Mr Davies said afterwards, "It is heartless that British
law should not only force people to travel abroad if they are determined
to end their suffering, but also to threaten with criminal prosecution any
loved ones who assist them.
"The patients concerned experience a living nightmare of suffering. Giving
them the chance to make a choice for themselves about the time to die
should not be regarded as part of health policy but as a matter of human
Italian Radical Party MEP Marco Cappato said, "We have a legally very
unstable situation in Europe where medically assisted dying is legal in 2
EU countries as well as in Switzerland yet the practice is against the law
"Empirical evidence from Belgium and the Netherlands has shown that there
is no 'slippery slope' to increased suicide. Rather the reverse. What we
are campaigning for is the right of the individual to decide for
themselves in full knowledge of the facts."
He added, "There is no question of harmonising law on an EU level as it is
not a European competence but it is a reality and member states need to
confront the matter in their own parliaments and not bury their heads in
The hearing, organised by Liberal Democrats and the World Federation of
the Right to Die Societies, was told medically- assisted dying was now a
"phenomenon" which existed across Europe, either legally or clandestinely.
Countries currently banning the practice were urged to collect and analyse
data on end-of-life medical decisions and review their legislation.
(source: ic Wales)
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