[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 30 10:32:14 CDT 2007
Fair Appeal for Domestic Worker on Death Row
The Saudi Court of Appeals should recognize that a foreign worker on death
row was a child at the time of her alleged crime, when a baby died in her
care, Human Rights Watch said today. The court should also review the
fairness of the original investigation into Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan
domestic worker, and her trial. Last month, a Shari'a court in Dawadmi,
Saudi Arabia, sentenced to death Nafeek, 19, ruling that she had murdered
an infant in her care in 2005. Nafeek filed an appeal last week.
International law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before
the age of 18.
"This case raises many troubling questions about the treatment of children
and foreigners in Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system," said Nisha
Varia, senior researcher in the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights
Human Rights Watch urged the appeals court to consider evidence verifying
Nafeek's age was 17 at the time of the incident, review her access to
lawyers and translators during the interrogation and trial, and examine
the conditions under which she made a confession.
Nafeek had been employed in Saudi Arabia for two weeks as a domestic
worker when her employers' 4-month-old baby died while entrusted to her
care. Human Rights Watch has obtained a copy of Nafeek's birth
certificate, which shows her year of birth as 1988, although her passport
lists it as 1982. Human Rights Watch's research in Saudi Arabia and Sri
Lanka in late 2006 found that migrant workers are often unfamiliar with
immigration regulations, and labor recruiters routinely falsify workers'
passports in order to meet age requirements for jobs abroad.
Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC), which expressly prohibits the death penalty or life sentences
without parole for offenses committed before the accused turned 18.
Nevertheless, Saudi law gives judges wide discretion to treat children as
adults in criminal cases, and courts have imposed death sentences on
children as young as 13. Individuals charged with a capital offense rarely
have access to lawyers during interrogation and trial, and often do not
even receive a copy of the verdict.
"By imposing the death sentence on Nafeek, who was 17 when the baby in her
care died, Saudi Arabia flouts clear and specific human rights
obligations," said Varia.
Human Rights Watch also urged the government of Sri Lanka to provide
stronger protections to its workers abroad. There are approximately 8
million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, including 550,000 workers from
Sri Lanka. Those facing criminal charges often have poor access to
translators, legal assistance, and information about their cases. Nafeek,
first arrested in 2005, did not have access to legal counsel until after
the court sentenced her to death in 2007.
Sri Lankan embassies have begun to provide support services for migrant
workers who have either faced workplace abuse or been accused of crimes,
but these remain grossly inadequate compared to the demand. The Sri Lankan
government should ensure provision of timely legal aid to its nationals
facing criminal complaints, and legal aid, shelter and other assistance to
nationals who have suffered abuse. The government of Saudi Arabia should
provide legal assistance free of charge to criminal defendants who cannot
afford to hire a lawyer.
Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because
of its inherent cruelty and its finality. Given the possibility of
mistakes in any criminal justice system, innocent persons may be executed.
In 2007, Saudi Arabia has executed more than 100 persons.
For additional Human Rights Watch reporting on Saudi Arabia or migrant
domestic workers, please visit: - On Saudi Arabia:
http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=mideast&c=saudia - On migrant domestic workers:
(source: Human Rights Watch)
Cyberspace Casts Light On the Lives of Death Row Inmates
"Can governments solve urgent social or political problems by executing a
few or even hundreds of their prisoners?" asks Benjamin Mawaya, sweltering
on death row in Zambia's Mukobeko high security prison in Kabwe, 150
kilometres from the capital of Lusaka.
Before anyone in the cyberspace community has time to click on a reply
button, he posts an answer. "Nowhere it has been shown that the death
penalty has any special power to reduce crime or political violence;
everywhere experience shows that execution brutalizes those involved in
the process. It is imposed and inflicted arbitrarily and it is used
disproportionately against the poor."
Mawaya then swiftly concludes with a question for anyone who wants to go
on debating with him: "If today's penal system does not sanction the
burning of an arsonists home, the rape of a rapist or the torture of a
torturer, it is not because they tolerate the crimes. Instead, it is
because societies understand they must be built on a different set of
values from those they condemn. Why not apply these principles to capital
The internet platform allowing Mawaya to address an audience outside his
stifling cell has been provided by the Canadian Coalition against the
Death Penalty, a voluntary organisation. "We make webpages for death row
prisoners anywhere in the world," says its director, Tracy Lamourie.
Zambia's death row inmates -- who presently number 304 -- are the first in
Africa to use this opportunity to pour out grief, seek moral and financial
assistance, and make friends beyond their prison walls. Just how they
found out about the website, Lamourie does not know for certain. But one
likely possibility is that the link was passed on during an internet Bible
class run from churches in Britain.
"Now every week we are getting more requests. One prisoner will tell
another saying 'These people have helped me get some friends and contacts
in the outside world'," Lamourie says.
Mawaya, who is waiting for the appeal against his death sentence to be
heard, gives away little about himself on his webpage. His first aim is to
exchange opinions about the death penalty, executions, torture and
Job Kasonda Kapita, a former police officer, tells every would-be pen pal
right away why he was sentenced to death in 1994. "I shot and subsequently
killed a violent suspicious suspect I wanted to arrest for disorderly
conduct all occurred within the station yard five metres from my office."
Behind bars he has become a writer, publishing poetry on his webpage.
Certain inmates use their pages to seek "assistance" as well as "mutual
fellowship". Evans Fundula, 33, is one. "Before conviction, I was
blessedly married with two children aged 14 years and 11 years, both
girls," he explains. His wife left him when she heard of his sentence and
now his family needs help to look after the children.
He also tells of the "injustice" of not having the money to hire a lawyer
for his defence. "You are the bridge to us vulnerable in this darkest and
One of the most powerful of entreaties comes from Lewis Kalumba, from the
Democratic Republic of Congo. He is the father of three daughters and a
son, he writes. His wife has also left him and is now married to another
man and living in a "far-away" town.
He needs money for his family to visit him: "I am a poor suffering soul.
Reproach has broken my heart. I am full of heaviness."
Bishop Enocent Silwamba, executive director of the support organisation
Prison Fellowship of Zambia, praises the websites for reducing the
isolation and suffering on death row. There are 6 times more inmates in
this prison than it was built for. They are shut away from the rest of the
prison community. One has been on death row for 30 years, according to
It is highly unlikely that any of the inmates will be executed - at least
as long as President Levy Mwanawasa is in office. He has pledged not to
sign any death warrants, and has also indicated that he will soon commute
all death sentences to life terms.
But until there is an amendment to the constitution, the courts will
continue to condemn people to death -- and the webpages from death row to
accumulate on the internet.
(source: Inter Press Service)
UN protests execution of militant
The top United Nations envoy in Iraq called for the abolition of the death
penalty on Sunday after a militant convicted of killing 22 people in an
attack on the UN mission's headquarters was hanged.
Ashraf Qazi, special representative of UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon,
was reacting to the execution of the man blamed for the August 2003 attack
that killed his predecessor Sergio Viera de Mello and 20 colleagues.
"The United Nations has consistently encouraged states to abolish the
death penalty, which it also rejects in cases of war crimes, crimes
against humanity and genocide," the envoy's spokesman said in a statement.
Qazi "also reiterated his hope that the government of Iraq would abolish
the death penalty and prevent further executions.
(source: Agence France-Presse)
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