[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 2 02:35:25 CDT 2007
Tories decide to stop opposing death penalty for Canadians convicted
The Conservative government's announcement that it will no longer stand up
for Canadians who face the death penalty in the United States is drawing
fire from the opposition.
The Tories officially announced a change in Canada's foreign policy when
it comes to Canadians on death row.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said his government will not plead
for the life of Alberta-born Ronald Allen Smith, who faces lethal
injection in Montana for the 1982 murder of 2 men.
"We will not actively pursue bringing back to Canada murderers who have
been tried in a democratic country that supports the rule of law," Day
told the House of Commons on Thursday.
"It would send a wrong message. We want to preserve public safety here in
Canada has not had a state-sanctioned execution since 1962, and the
federal government has habitually opposed the death penalty abroad in
cases involving Canadians.
Having simply assumed that Canada's policy would continue, employees at
Foreign Affairs indicated last week that they would seek to have Smith's
But they were publicly corrected by their new political bosses on
The Conservative benches erupted in catcalls when the issue was raised in
the Commons, with a handful of Tory MPs shouting "Murderer!" and "He's a
murderer!" at the Liberals when they raised Smith's case.
The government repeated several times that it has no plans to reopen the
capital punishment debate in Canada.
But Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said the Tories' actions speak louder
than words. He called their sudden reversal of a 3-decade-old Canadian
policy extremely troubling.
"The fact that this government doesn't even want to try (asking for
clemency) shows me what this government would try doing to Canada if they
had a majority," Dion said.
"We could see the return of the capital-punishment debate in Canada."
Canada-U.S. differences on capital punishment became a political
flashpoint with the case of Stanley Faulder.
The Alberta man was executed in 1999, despite the Chretien
administration's multiple attempts to change the mind of then-Texas
governor George W. Bush.
On Thursday, the Liberals pointed out several inherent contradictions and
potential problems with the new Tory policy:
-Canada was among 72 countries that urged the United Nations to call for
an international moratorium on the death penalty Thursday - the same day
the Commons heard Smith would be left to die.
-Canadian law prohibits the extradition of an American citizen back to the
U.S. when facing the death penalty. But even as it protects Americans from
the death penalty, the government will remain silent while Canadians are
executed south of the border.
-In Day's words, Canada will refrain from opposing executions of Canadian
citizens only in stable "democratic countries that support the rule of
That means that every time a Canadian faces the death penalty abroad, the
Canadian government will now need to pass public judgment on whether that
country is a stable democracy - which opens the door to bitter diplomatic
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler - a former justice minister and human-rights
lawyer - says he was shocked by the Conservative announcement.
"We're not asking that (Smith) be returned to Canada," Cotler said.
"We're not saying he didn't get a fair trial. We are saying that on the
issue of capital punishment, this country has a law, this country has a
policy, this country has a principle domestically and internationally. We
will not support capital punishment. Fini.
"What I heard from the Conservative benches was: 'You support murderers.'
Frankly, that is scandalous and shocking."
Liberal MP Dan McTeague accused the Tories of giving tacit approval to
capital punishment because they believe in it.
"Foreign policy is always a mirror of our domestic values," McTeague said.
"Here's the ideologues in the Conservative party trying to do indirectly
that which they cannot do directly - which is capital punishment by proxy.
"(We must) expose for Canadians the ideological bent of this party, which
is an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth mentality. That's completely
inconsistent with where Canadians have been on this issue."
The NDP and Bloc Quebecois also blasted the reversal of policy.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the death penalty is not only
abhorrent, but cast the government position as a diplomatic
"At one point they're going to need to ask another country where there's
the death penalty - to tell them they're not a democratic country,"
"I can't wait to see what that does to international relations. Imagine,
telling another country, 'From you, we want (our prisoner back), because
you're not a democratic country.' "
Smith, who killed 2 men during a road trip south of the border in 1982, is
the only Canadian currently on death row in the U.S. Montana Gov. Brian
Schweitzer has said he is undecided about whether to commute his sentence.
The Red Deer, Alta., man was sentenced to death in March 1983. 7 months
earlier, he killed 2 aboriginal men who offered him a ride while
He marched cousins Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into
the woods by the highway and shot them both in the head with a sawed-off
Relatives of the men have pleaded with the governor not to commute Smith's
sentence. They say the victims were kind men with bright futures, and that
their killings had a devastating effect on the Blackfeet Reservation.
But Smith's lawyer has argued that his client is a changed man, and that
he wants the opportunity to meet with the victims' families and tell them
how sorry he is.
Smith himself requested the death penalty after pleading guilty to two
counts of murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping. He later sought
a life sentence and has since exhausted nearly all of his appeals.
In Canada, a 1967 bill placed a moratorium on the death penalty, except in
cases involving the murder of a law-enforcement officer.
A bill to officially ban the death penalty passed in a free vote in 1976.
A free vote on reinstating the death penalty was held in the House of
Commons in 1987. MPs agreed by a 21-vote margin to maintain the abolition
of capital punishment.
(source: The Canadian Press)
Corruption and death penalty a risky mix, say experts
Indonesian human rights activists have joined the chorus of those
condemning a ruling by the countrys Constitutional Court, in favour of the
death penalty for serious crimes.
Usman Hamid, executive director of the Commission for Missing Persons and
Victims of Violence (Kontras), also warned that capital punishment is
particularly risky in Indonesia, where the courts are ridden with
corruption and, at times, politicking takes precedence over thorough
Kontras, one of the country's leading rights groups, has spearheaded the
campaign to have a moratorium on executions in Indonesia.
"The Indonesian judicial system has lots of problems with corruption and
nepotism, so there is no guarantee that a sentence is objective," Hamid,
who is a lawyer by profession, told Adnkronos International (AKI).
He added that capital punishment is, at times, used to put a lid over
"Unfortunately, it is known that the death penalty has been used as a way
to avoid further investigation into serious crimes," he said.
In this context, he mentioned the recent executions of three Christians in
the restive province of Poso, in Sulawesi. The three faced the firing
squad after being singled out as the masterminds of the sectarian violence
between Christains and Muslims that killed thousands in the region in
"They were killed and the case was closed. But in truth they were
scapegoats and not the real brains," said the expert, voicing an opinion
widely held in Indonesia.
Hamid also criticized the legal system of being "socially unfair."
"Those receiving capital punishment are always poor people. Not a single
rich or powerful person has ever been sentenced to death. Among the
latter, we can name those responsible for the crimes in East Timor or
during the Suharto era. This is really a paradox," he said.
The representative of Kontras concluded by advocating "alternative
punishment, such as life in prison" instead of the death penalty.
However, Agung Yudhawiranata, director of campaigns and networking for The
Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) told AKI that
abolishing the death penalty will require a social and cultural shift, as
well as legal.
"We have to make people understand that if the state abolishes the death
penalty, it doesn't mean that it is pro-terrorism or pro-murder," he said.
The death penalty was a law inherited from Dutch colonial rule. In
Indonesia punishment by death is applicable to murder, terrorism, betrayal
of the military, and for drug traffickers. Executions are done by firing
The latest debate started after the Indonesian Constitutional Court
Tuesday rejected an appeal by 3 Australian and 2 Indonesian drug
smugglers, currently on death row.
The 5 inmates, sentenced under the Criminal Code, had challenged the
legality of the capital punishment, claiming that according to the
country's constitution, every human being has the right to life.
The Indonesian government has reiterated its support for the death
penalty, which it believes to be "an indispensable tool in fighting
(source: AKI News)
Stop the death penalty: Worldwide abolition now
3 men who escaped the death penalty joined forces in New York to campaign
for a global abolition of this irreversible punishment.
Each was sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit - and each
shares a brutal experience of living on death row. Together, they lived
under the shadow of execution for a combined 54 years.
In Uganda, Mpagi Edward Edmary spent 20 years in prison, 18 of those on
death row. He flew 18 hours to continue his fight for abolition at the UN
headquarters in New York.
Mr Menda, now 81, travelled from Japan. A fervent campaigner, he is one of
only 4 people in Japan who have ever been found innocent on retrial and
therefore released from death row.
Ray Krone, from Pennsylvania, was the 100th prisoner on death row in the
US to be released after being found innocent since the death sentence was
first reintroduced in 1973.
At a panel session at the UN headquarters, hosted by Amnesty International
on October 16, the three men gave their compelling personal accounts. Each
one reminded the audience, including UN delegates and journalists, how men
and women who are not guilty of the alleged crime can be sentenced to
death as a result of unfair trials, erroneous decisions and human error.
Mpagi Edward Edmary was accused of murdering a man who was later found to
be alive and well. Because a doctor had received a bribe to falsely
testify that he had carried out a post-mortem on a body, Mr Mpagi and his
brother who was also implicated (and also innocent) were sentenced to
"Life is terrible on death row in Uganda," recounted Mr Edmary in the UN
chamber. "No one was ever given any notice that they would be executed.
Each time, we were taken by complete surprise. We lived in complete fear
of any unusual activity from the wardens."
Through his family's persistence and determination to clear his name, Mr
Edmary was finally granted his freedom by a nine-person presidential
committee in 2000, after years of facing each day with the fear that he
could be executed.
Sakae Menda was charged with murdering 2 people. He gave an extraordinary
account of how through his own persistence to obtain a retrial he was
eventually released. After six retrials and 34 years and 6 months in
prison, Mr Menda was acquitted of charges and released in July 1983.
"During my interrogation, investigators were divided into three teams,
taking turns to interrogate me," said Mr Menda. "Through coercion,
extortion, leading questions and brutal force, they were determined to
elicit a confession."
"On March 23, 1950, [the judge] rendered the court's decision sentencing
me to death, with a trace of a smile. During my imprisonment, I thought
hard about the death penalty," continued Mr Menda. "During this time I saw
off many death row inmates to their end. I saw off 56 inmates... and this
is only those I remember."
Ray Krone vividly recounted how he was an innocent man on whom a waitress
in a bar in Arizona had a crush. The waitress was murdered and he became
the prime suspect of the murder case, being found guilty and then
ultimately being sentenced to death all for a crime which he did not
commit. Eventually after 2 trials and then DNA testing that confirmed his
innocence, Ray Krone was released from jail.
"What happened to me can happen to anyone," said Ray. "It's not enough to
know that you're innocent as I did. Before I knew it I was being sentenced
to death for a crime which I did not do."
The 3 men spoke with calmness, authority and tenacity, appealing to the
delegates at the well-attended event to support the call for a UN
Edward Edmary reaffirmed his opinion about the death penalty after the
event: "The death penalty is not a punishment. A punishment is intended to
reform. By killing someone you are denying them the chance to reform."
It is time for UN member states to end this form of punishment by taking
the first step to call for a global moratorium on executions in November
(source: Amnesty International)
Howard rejects death penalty criticism
Prime Minister John Howard has rejected criticism of the major parties'
death penalty stance from a former chief justice of the High Court.
Sir Gerard Brennan says Australia cannot declare the execution of
Australians to be barbaric, while claiming capital punishment for
Indonesians is acceptable.
The Coalition and Labor have both said they would appeal for condemned
Australians to be spared, but would not lobby to save the lives of
John Howard says he disagrees with Sir Gerard's view.
"I don't think our position's hypocritical," he said.
"Every Australian understands my position, I am not going to plead for the
life of people who murdered Australians, I will never do that.
"That doesn't mean to say that I support the death penalty in Australia. I
don't and I regard arguing for Australians convicted of offences overseas
not to receive the death penalty as an extension of domestic policy in
(source: ABC News)
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