[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 5 18:20:44 CST 2007
5 Million Say No to Death Penalty-----Sant'Egidio Community Presents
Petition to U.N.
A global moratorium on the death penalty isn't just an idea of a few
countries, but the wish of a large part of the world society, according to
a representative of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
Mario Marazziti said this Friday as he led a delegation to the United
Nations to deliver a petition signed by 5 million people from 154
countries calling for an end to capital punishment.
The delegation, led by the Community of Sant'Egidio and the World
Coalition Against the Death Penalty, delivered the petition to Srgjan
Kerim, president of the U.N. General Assembly. Also leading the delegation
was Sister Helen Prejean, the author of "Dead Man Walking," which was the
basis for the 1995 film of the same name.
On Thursday the human rights committee of the General Assembly was
presented with a draft resolution on the issue by the countries of Angola,
Albania, Brazil, Croatia, Gabon, Mexico, the Philippines, Portugal
(representing the European Union), and New Zealand. The text was presented
as a cross-regional initiative with more than 70 nations signing on as
Stopping short of calling for an all-out abolition of the practice, the
resolution calls for a "moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing
the death penalty," reported Reuters.
Will of the world
Asked about the experience of having collected so many signatures,
Marazziti told ZENIT that it was the fruit of 9 years of work. He added,
"To have and collect 5 million signatures you need to talk to about 50
million people in the world, in 154 countries."
Marazziti said that he believes that the death penalty lowers the state
and civil society to the level of a killer, and that while some defend a
culture of life, they wind up legitimating a culture of death.
"For the first time a real moral interfaith and also lay/secular front was
created" Marazziti noted in reference to the petition. "The thing is that
it is a demonstration of the strong will of the world and not just an idea
of human rights that is rooted in the Italian or European tradition."
Respect for life
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations, told ZENIT that capital punishment "undermines human
He added, "Our delegation has been insisting on the conviction that the
right to life is the proper context in which to deal with the issue
because if we respect life in all its stages -- from the womb to the tomb
-- we really can adequately resolve the issue of the death penalty."
It is expected that the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee
will vote on the moratorium during the 2nd half of November. If it passes
there, it will be put to a vote in the General Assembly in mid-December.
A total of 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in
practice, including more than 50 that changed their policies since 1990.
Sixty-four other countries and territories continue to retain its use.
(source: Zenit News Agency)
Hanging and the conscience vote
The Jamaica labour Party promised that should they form the next
government, they would resume hanging. The intoxication of politicking
might have added glibness to their speeches, but, now that they're in
power, they want to fulfil that undertaking. Capital punishment is still
on our books but the previous government was unable to execute anyone
because, simply put, the Privy Council (our final appellate authority) has
placed time limits on executions and specificities regarding a mandatory
death penalty. Additionally, there is international pressure for us to
place a moratorium on executions.
In preparation for bipartisan agreement on the removal of obstacles to
issuing minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator
Arthur Williams, death warrants (hanging people), while on a recent tour
of the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, reportedly said that
Parliament will be asked to vote by conscience (and not by collective
responsibility) on the resumption of hanging.
All that sounds simple and straightforward in theory, but I wonder if
there can be a genuine conscience vote on such a contentious and vexed,
politically charged topic in our current atmosphere of escalating
atrocious multiple murders. Can Members of Parliament representing a
nation of frightened, angry and frustrated people vote their conscience?
Or, will they feel pressured and vote based on popular anecdotal
(unscientific) opinions, the need to assuage anxieties and political
Many people sanction legal and illegal state killings. Generally,
extrajudicial killings are not random occurrences; they are driven by fear
and our flawed legal system. Scared citizens surreptitiously inform on
their suspected tormentor(s) - gunmen and/or terrorists. Desperate people
are, therefore, willing to employ illegal means to get rid of suspected
criminals. So, we can fully expect that most will endorse the resumption
Not really effective
Those clamouring for the death penalty are sick and tired of murders,
worried for their own safety or closely associated with murder victims.
However, according to worldwide studies and experiences, executing
convicted murderers has not proven effective in reducing murder rates.
Interestingly, in the United States of America, (in 2006), the average
murder rate among 'death penalty' states was 5.3 per 100,000 population;
but for 'non-death penalty' states it was only 2.9 per 100,000 population.
Our Members of Parliament must ask themselves several soul-searching
questions before that conscience vote. Is our judicial system so perfect
as to ensure that innocents will not be hanged? Will everyone accused of
murder receive equal legal representation, or will those that can afford
high-powered defence teams have a better chance of acquittal? When we look
at the end of our rope, will we not typically see a deprived young man
from the inner city who has been given an expensive firearm by someone
that will always remain free to inculcate more victims?
Before they vote their conscience, they must ask if our country has done
enough to rescue our underprivileged, marginalised young men from the
clutches of the greedy, power-hungry individuals that have made victims of
us all. Many of our anti-social youngsters have little respect for their
lives and for the lives of others because their circumstances have
sentenced them to a life of violence, ignorance and frustration. How can
we, therefore, teach respect for life by taking it?
A supposedly Christian country such as ours should never consider killing
anyone. And, to clarify a point raised by Observer columnist Anthony Gomes
(May 9, 2007) the (1992) Roman Catholic Catechism - under item 2266 -
condoned capital punishment (as a means of state self-defence), the 1997
definitive edition delegitimised it.
(source: Jamaica Gleaner)
Islam makes it difficult to get rid of death penalty, say experts
Some activists involved in the anti-death penalty campaign in Indonesia
have said that Islam makes it more difficult for Indonesia to get rid of
The debate on the death penalty was reignited in Indonesia - the world's
most populous Muslim country - after a recent Court of Appeal ruling
upheld the death penalty for serious crimes, such as drug trafficking.
Agung Yudhawiranata, the director of campaigns and networking for The
Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) told Adnkronos
International (AKI) that "the problem is based on the Koran, which says
that some crimes are to be punished by death".
"It follows that, in Indonesia, most people believe the death penalty is
allowed and the government is reluctant to say it is against the penalty,
because it would not be popular among common people, he added.
As a compromise, Agung advocated to get rid of capital punishment in
practice, although not literally.
"I think the best way is to compromise in terms of labelling it. It is
better to change the death penalty into cumulative punishment. You could
give a 40-year-old convict, a 70-year detention sentence."
However, Syamsul Alam Agus, head of the Division of Legal Defense for the
Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the
countrys leading anti-death penalty organization, said that the Islamic
faith should not influence the legal system.
"Indonesia is not an Islamic nation and the government should not apply
sharia [Islamic law] inspired law," he said.
In Indonesia only the province of Aceh has the legal rights to partly
The latest debate began after the Indonesian Constitutional Court last
week 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 capital punishment, claiming that according to the countrys
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
Another Gay Execution Planned In Iran
Makwan Moloudzadeh, now aged 21, is staring death in the face in Iran. Hes
been convicted of raping a 13 year old boy and is being sentenced to
death. Only thing is, he was also 13 when the alleged incident took place.
Makwan was arrested on 1 October 2006 in Paveh, in the western province of
Kermanshah. He was held in the prison there, where he was interrogated and
abused. On 7 June 2007 he was sentenced to death.
The witnesses and the 2 people who initially pressed charges against him
have since withdrawn their claims.
During his trial he always maintained his innocence, and during his
incarceration in Paveh he was apparently forced into confessing to having
a sexual relationship with a boy in 1999. Afterwards he went on hunger
strike to protest against his ill-treatment. Before he was even on trial
or convicted of the crime his head was shaven and he was taken through the
streets of Paveh on a donkey, so townspeople could throw things at him and
The treatment of this man is abominable for so many reasons. Even under
Irans civil code he should have only been looking at 74 lashes as
punishment, given that he was a minor at the time of the offence. However,
the judge made use of a legal loophole known as judges knowledge which
overrides such laws.
International law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty against
people convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18,
however according to Amnesty International Iran has executed at least 24
child offenders since 1990, and at least 78 child offenders are sitting on
death row right now.
Makes you realise just how far there is to go in the fight for gay and
Conservatives find slim support for death penalty----Issue takes centre
stage after Day says Canada won't seek clemency for citizens sentenced in
The Conservative government found that just one in five Canadians
supported the death penalty as a criminal deterrent in a survey it
commissioned this summer in support of its justice policies.
Support for the death penalty was highest in Alberta, where almost
one-third supported the idea of capital punishment, and lowest in
Newfoundland with 17 per cent support. In Ontario, 21 % thought some
convicted prisoners should be put to death, according to the poll of 4,005
The issue has taken centre-stage in Ottawa after Public Safety Minister
Stockwell Day announced last week that Canada would no longer seek
clemency for its citizens who are sentenced to death in democratic
countries like the United States.
The comments were in relation to the case of Alberta-born Ronald Allen
Smith, who was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 1982 for the
murder of 2 men in Montana.
In Halifax Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government has
"no desire" to start a debate on capital punishment in Canada, but also
does not want to interfere in the perennial debate that plays out in the
U.S. about the death penalty.
"The reality in this particular case is that were we to intervene it would
very quickly become a question of whether we were prepared to repatriate a
double murderer to Canada," he said. "I think that would send the wrong
signal to the Canadian population."
Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said the government's position is
untenable, in part because it forces Canada to pass judgment on which
states are "democratic" and which are not. He asked in the House of
Commons whether the government would intervene if a Canadian was sentenced
to death in Mexico, for example, but received no answer from the Tories.
"I think this reveals to Canadians just a little sneak preview of what's
really in the back of their minds," Goodale said of the abrupt change to
Canada's long-standing policy of seeking clemency for those sentenced to
death abroad. "And remember that there are several front benchers who
personally would argue for the reinstatement of the death penalty."
The federal government abolished the death penalty in 1976, but former
Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney resurrected the issue in 1987 with a
motion to reinstate capital punishment. The No side won by a 21-vote
margin, 148 to 127.
Day, who now has responsibility for the RCMP and other safety issues,
supported a 1994 motion in the Alberta legislature calling for the return
of the death penalty.
(source: The Star)
Canadian killer fated for execution feels abandoned, says lawyer
Ronald Smith, the Canadian killer whose Montana death sentence sparked a
furor last week in Parliament, feels "kicked to the curb" by Canada after
learning that the Conservative government has abruptly reversed a
longstanding Canadian foreign policy and won't try to halt his execution.
After more than 20 years of seeking clemency for him, the federal
government has decided it will no longer fight to save the life of a man
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called a "double murderer" - and that any
move to "repatriate" Smith to a prison in this country "would send the
wrong signal" to Canadians about violent crime.
Smith's lawyer, Greg Jackson, called Canada's reversal an "egregious"
abandonment of its only citizen on death row in the U.S.
"His head is spinning with the developments," Jackson said of the
50-year-old Smith, a Red Deer, Alta., native who has been on death row at
Montana State Prison since his conviction for the murders of two Blackfeet
Indian men - Harvey Mad Man, 20, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 24 - during a
drunken road trip to the U.S. in August 1982.
Smith's sentence is currently under review in a U.S. federal court, but
his lawyers have exhausted all appeal options at the state level, and
Jackson - as recently as 10 days ago - had described Canada's ongoing
efforts to seek clemency for Smith as his client's best hope to avoid
death by lethal injection.
At the time, voicing support for Smith's bid to avoid execution, the
Department of Foreign Affairs had said that Canada "does not support the
death penalty" and that "it is the policy of the government of Canada to
seek clemency, on humanitarian grounds, for Canadians sentenced to death
in foreign countries."
But by last Wednesday, the Conservative government revealed that it had
adopted a new policy and would no longer petition Montana Gov. Brian
Schweitzer to commute Smith's death sentence.
"We are not going to seek clemency in cases in democratic countries, like
the United States, where there has been a fair trial," the new policy
The government's about-face was quickly condemned by Amnesty International
as "misguided and inhumane," and hammered by all opposition parties as a
re-launching of the national debate on capital punishment, which was
abolished in Canada in 1976.
Both of Canada's national newspapers also criticized the Conservative
government's decision. The National Post argued in an editorial on
Saturday that "if Stephen Harper's party seeks to overturn our nation's
stance on such an important issue, the proper place to do so is Parliament
- not a passing communique involving a single Canadian monster."
On the same day, a Globe and Mail editorial stated: "Were Canada to ask
for clemency for Ronald Smith, it would not be because it has any great
love for Mr. Smith. It would be a statement of principle - that the death
penalty should be put to rest."
At the state prison in Deer Lodge, Mont., Smith was suddenly being
bombarded with media requests for interviews.
But Jackson said Smith "wanted time to, one, talk to me, and, two, think"
about the sudden turn of events.
"(Smith's) immediate comment was that 'Canada had kicked him to the curb
again,' " said Jackson, referring to the weeks following Smith's arrest in
1982 when "the Canadian government did not see fit to respond, contact
him, visit him, advise him of his rights or provide any support,
assistance, guidance, etc."
It was Smith's sense of despair following the killings, his lawyers have
claimed over the years, that prompted him to initially seek the death
penalty rather than accept a prosecution proposal of consecutive life
sentences and a prison transfer back to Canada.
"As a result of his isolation and depression, (Smith) chose to ask to be
executed," Jackson said.
But at the Deer Lodge prison, Smith changed his mind and his lawyers
launched the first in a 20-year series of appeals to have the death
sentence overturned, based largely on the alleged ineffectiveness of his
original defence attorney.
Throughout those years - and up until last week's surprise reversal by the
Conservative government - Canadian officials had expressed support for
clemency in Smith's case and a possible transfer to a prison back in
The latest contacts with Canada, Jackson said, took place earlier this
"Be clear, the Canadian government came to us with representation that
they wanted Ron's sentence commuted so he could be returned to Canada, and
would do everything within its power to accomplish that," Jackson said.
"We did not go to them. This, together with 23 years of representations
that the government supports Ron and wants him home in Canada, make the
change in position most egregious."
Egregious, however, barely begins to describe the horror Smith inflicted
on his victims and their families. More than 2 dozen relatives of Mad Man
and Running Rabbit met last week with Schweitzer and urged him to reject
any Canadian efforts to have Smith's sentence commuted or allow him to be
transferred to a Canadian prison.
But the Conservative government's decision eased all of the pressure that
Schweitzer, less than 2 weeks ago, said he had been feeling from Canada to
grant Smith clemency.
Now the pressure is on Harper and his cabinet colleagues - particularly
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime
Bernier - to reverse their reversal.
(source: CamWest News Service)
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