[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 13 18:15:49 CST 2007
SAfrica's Tutu calls for global ban on death penalty ahead of UN vote
The death penalty is a violation of fundamental human rights, and it
should be abolished around the world, South Africa's Desmond Tutu wrote in
a comment piece in The Guardian on Tuesday.
Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former archbishop of Cape Town, was
writing ahead of a vote on a draft resolution at the United Nations
General Assembly calling for a moratorium on executions with the ultimate
goal of abolishing the practice later this month.
"I am delighted that the death penalty is being removed from the globe,"
Tutu wrote, referring to steadily rising numbers of countries that have
abolished capital punishment in either law or practice.
"The death penalty ... says that to kill in certain circumstances is
acceptable, and encourages the doctrine of revenge.
"If we are to break these cycles, we must remove government-sanctioned
According to Giuseppe Manzo, a counsellor at Italy's UN mission, 72
countries co-sponsored a draft resolution on the death penalty which was
circulated earlier this month, ahead of a vote by the full 192-member
"The time has come to abolish the death penalty worldwide," Tutu wrote.
"The case for abolition becomes more compelling with each passing year."
2 previous attempts to secure adoption of such a resolution in the General
Assembly failed in 1994 and 1999.
According to human rights group Amnesty International, 133 countries have
abolished the death penalty in law or practice, while 64 countries and
territories retain and use capital punishment, although the number of
countries which actually execute prisoners in any one year is much
"In country after country, it (capital punishment) is used
disproportionately against the poor or against racial or ethnic
minorities," Tutu wrote in The Guardian.
"It is often used as a tool of political repression. It is imposed and
inflicted arbitrarily. It is an irrevocable punishment, resulting
inevitably in the execution of people innocent of any crime.
"It is a violation of fundamental human rights."
(source: Agence France Presse)
NAPOLITANO: DEATH PENALTY DISCUSSED WITH QATAR EMIR
Italian president Giorgio Napolitano raised the issue of a moratorium on
the death penalty in his meeting yesterday with the emir of Qatar
Al-Thani, at the head of a country whose legislation still includes the
"There is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Qatar," said the
Head of State in response to a question during his visit to the
desalination plant that Tisia is building a few kilometres from Doha.
"We have once again brought up our arguments," he added, "and met with a
reasonable attitude," despite the cultural and religious traditions of
Qatar. Napolitano also said that he was not able to predict what stance
Doha will take in the United Nations.
The president also stressed that he was able to "have direct contact with
the speed at which modernization is advancing and the introduction of a
democratic mentality" in the Arab country. As concerns modernization, "it
is important that Italy take part." In addition, Qatar shares
"acknowledged affinities" as concerns the position taken on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in Lebanon.
Death and diplomacy: Ottawa's disappointing track record
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government said it
will no longer intervene on behalf of Canadians on death row in the United
States. The announcement caught most opponents of the death penalty by
Had Mr. Harper not ruled out reintroduction of the death penalty in Canada
during the last election? How could his government possibly justify
refusing to intercede on behalf of Ronald Allen Smith, a Canadian who
faces lethal injection in Montana?
There are also broader issues: The sudden decision concerning Mr. Smith,
made without any public discussion, is another chapter in a disappointing
Conservative track record of indifference toward Canadian detainees who,
for one reason or another, have either been abandoned or defended without
Although Mr. Smith has been convicted of murder, he is a Canadian citizen.
There should be no doubt that our country has an obligation to protect him
and any other Canadian at risk of cruel and degrading treatment
inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Perhaps Mr. Harper's
government has forgotten that our Supreme Court ruled the death penalty
inconsistent with the Charter in 2001. The court held that Canada must
seek assurances from foreign prosecutors before it extradites even
foreigners to face charges that might bring the death penalty.
Tories won't plead case of Canadian on death row
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has justified his government's
position by saying Canada does not want killers in its midst. In doing so,
he distorts the issue. The question is not whether Canada should accept
back a person convicted of murder in the United States. At this point, all
that was expected was that the government continue to fulfill its consular
obligations and formally request that a Canadian citizen not be subjected
to inhumane treatment in the form of the death penalty. But given the
government's refusal to intercede, Canadians are right to wonder whether
this is just the first step in some hidden agenda to restore the death
The Smith case raises other serious issues about this government's
commitment to its citizens. In other cases involving Canadians in urgent
need of consular assistance, its responses have been ambiguous seemingly
guided more by a desire to placate its political constituency than by any
genuine concern for Canadians detained abroad.
Certainly, in the case of Huseyin Celil, the government forcibly protested
his detention to the Chinese government, an intervention strongly
supported by human-rights groups. But the move was also completely
consistent with the policy of the Bush administration and the views of
many on the right who have been extremely critical of Chinese human-rights
violations. (It is probably no coincidence that Mr. Harper met the Dalai
Lama less than a week after he was received in the White House.)
By comparison, the government's response to other Canadians in need of
diplomatic protection has been all but non-existent if the intervention
might raise the ire of Washington or Mr. Harper's base. Take the case of
Omar Khadr, the Canadian awaiting a show trial in Guantanamo Bay. Mr.
Harper has steadfastly refused to intervene on his behalf, leaving Mr.
Khadr as the only Western national at Guantanamo Bay and Canada alone
among all Western nations in insisting, despite overwhelming evidence to
the contrary, that the 21-year-old will get a fair trial there.
And then there is the case of Bashir Makhtar, a Canadian citizen who was
rendered by Kenya to Ethiopia in January and is still being held
incommunicado there without charge or access to legal counsel. Ottawa's
efforts to obtain his release have, to date, been extremely tepid. If
applied, Canada could exercise substantial political muscle in Ethiopia.
But the latter is Washington's proxy in the Horn of Africa and is
supported by the same right-wing constituency that Mr. Harper seeks to
appease. So, again, Canada's efforts are coloured by broader domestic and
Canadians have a right to expect that their government will intervene on
their behalf in a forceful manner whenever they are at risk of cruel and
inhumane treatment. But the conduct of this government suggests that it is
more concerned about politics. Devaluing the citizenship of unpopular
Canadians in difficulty abroad cheapens it for everyone.
(source: Marlys Edwardh and Lorne Waldman have both represented clients
facing extradition or deportation to the death penalty; The Globe and
Poll suggests opposition to Tory policy on death-penalty clemency
A new poll indicates respondents oppose - by a margin of 50 % to 43 - the
decision by the Harper government to stop seeking clemency in all cases
where Canadians are sentenced to death in foreign counties.
The Harris-Decima survey, provided exclusively to The Canadian Press, also
suggests sharp divisions on the subject along party lines. 58 % of
Conservatives polled supported the government's move, while strong
majorities in all other parties opposed it.
There were also splits along other lines, suggesting younger, female and
urban voters are more likely to oppose the decision.
Those are precisely the demographic groups the Tories have been hoping to
woo in greater numbers in the next election in their quest to form a
The poll of just over 1,000 respondents was conducted Nov. 1-4 and is
considered accurate to within 3.1 % points, 19 times in 20.
(source: The Canadian Press)
US halts Iraq executions over row
The US has said its forces in Iraq will not hand over 3 of Saddam
Hussein's aides for execution until Iraqi leaders settle a legal row about
A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Baghdad said the multi-national forces
would retain physical custody of the 3 men until consensus was reached.
Ali Hassan al-Majid, Hussein Rashid and Sultan Hashim were convicted in
June of killing up to 180,000 Kurds in 1988.
Iraqi law says they should have been hanged within 30 days of an appeal.
An appeals court upheld the sentences on 4 September.
But the executions have been delayed by a major row between Iraqi Prime
Minister Nouri Maliki and Iraq's 3-man presidential council, which has
refused to approve them.
President Jalal Talabani opposes the death penalty in principle, while one
of his deputies, Tariq al-Hashemi, has threatened to resign if Sultan
Hashim is executed.
Mr Hashemi has said the former defence minister was simply obeying Saddam
Hussein in order to survive, as many did at the time.
But Mr Maliki has insisted that if the presidency does not give approval,
the hangings should go ahead by default.
Mr Maliki has said the US has helped violate the constitution.
Responding to Mr Maliki's criticism on Monday, US embassy spokeswoman
Mirembe Nantongo said that until the controversy among Iraqi authorities
was settled, it would not hand over the convicted men.
2 of Iraq's presidential council have opposed the executions
"There continue to be differences in viewpoint within the government of
Iraq regarding the necessary Iraqi legal and procedural requirements for
carrying out death sentences issued by the Iraqi High Tribunal," she told
the AFP news agency.
"Coalition forces will continue to retain physical custody of the
defendants until this issue is resolved," she added.
Last month, US ambassador Ryan Crocker insisted that it was essential that
all legal aspects of the case be resolved.
"This is an Iraqi judicial process. We think it is very important that the
rule of law be respected here and that, when and as necessary, that the
time be taken to be sure that all of the issues are clarified," he told
reporters in Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein was also tried for his role in the so-called Anfal
campaign, alongside the three convicted men, before he was hanged last
(source: BBC News)
Trade unionists faces death penalty for "treason"
In a series of disturbing incidents, following the imposition of emergency
rule, Pakistan's military rulers are seeking to quell all democratic
dissent by giving the army wide ranging powers to bring people before
military courts and threatening the death penalty against activists.
Liaquat Ali Shah, one of the leaders of the solidarity campaign for the
Karachi Pearl Continental Hotel Trade Union, and a trade union leader in
his own right at the State Bank of Pakistan, has been charged with
treason, an offence which carries the death penalty.
G. Fareed Awan, a supporter of the Pearl Continental Hotel Karachi Workers
Solidarity Campaign who was arrested following the declaration of
On 5th November, after speaking at the Karachi Press Club and calling for
the return to democracy in Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Shah, along with 4
others, was arrested and charged with treason. These arrests have occurred
along with hundreds, possibly thousands, of others across the country
which have targeted trade unionists, political leaders, activists,
journalists and lawyers who provide high profile support to the campaign
to restore democracy in Pakistan.
The charges of treason mark a new level of intimidation. The implicit
violence carried via the potential death sentence of a treason charge is
designed to threaten all democracy activists.
To further the military's agenda of stamping out all opposition, on 10th
November, an ordinance was declared which amended the Army Act (1952) and
gave the military the power to court-martial civilians (ie trial by
military courts). Among the wide-ranging jurisdiction given to the Army
are the powers to try persons who may have given "statements conducive to
public mischief". In effect, all democratic opposition to the military of
Pakistan has been declared illegal and Pakistan's citizens have no legal
recourse whatsoever to justice.
However, opposition to these latest arrests is occurring and meetings have
been held to demand the release of all imprisoned trade unionists,
political leaders, journalists and lawyers.
(source: No Sweat)
Political Parties Display Double Standards
The high-profile cases of 3 Indonesian Islamist militants and 6 Australian
drug mules facing execution in Bali have thrown the spotlight on this
country's "inconsistent" position on capital punishment.
''We cannot declare the execution of Australians to be barbaric and the
execution of Indonesians to be acceptable. That now seems to be bipartisan
policy," said former chief justice of the Australian high court, Sir
Gerard Brennan, in a speech at the 2007 Justice Awards in Sydney on Oct
Both the government and the opposition Labour Party say they oppose
capital punishment and that they would appeal for clemency for Australians
facing the death penalty overseas.
Foreign minister Alexander Downer has previously appealed to Indonesia to
spare the lives of the 6 members of the so-called 'Bali 9' facing
execution -- the 3 others have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms -- for
Downer is expected to formally seek clemency for the group -- who were
arrested by Indonesian authorities acting on information provided by the
Australian police -- once all appeal possibilities have been exhausted.
Labour, for its part, has largely supported the government's efforts. In
2006, the then-opposition foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd -- who now
leads the opposition -- commended prime minister John Howard for his
successful efforts in winning a reprieve for 2 Australians sentenced to
death in Vietnam.
Rudd has also backed the government in its opposition to the death
sentences given to members of the 'Bali 9' and paid tribute in 2005 to
Howard and Downer for appealing to Singapore for clemency -- albeit
unsuccessfully -- for the life of Australian Van Nguyen.
But what may appear to be a principled stand against capital punishment
does not extend to intervention on behalf of condemned terrorists.
Howard says that he will not oppose the execution of the 3 'Bali bombers'.
The men are awaiting the firing squad for their roles in the 2002 bombings
on the Indonesian island which killed 202 people, including 88
Downer echoed Howard's sentiments in a doorstop interview in October. "The
Australian government will not lift a finger to support these 3 people who
killed 88 Australians in Bali," he said.
While the government seems to be selective in its opposition to the death
penalty, it has been Labours stance which has provoked controversy in
Kevin Rudd -- hoping to become Australia's next prime minister after the
general election on November 24, with recent polls indicating that Labour
remains a slight favourite to win -- appeared to contradict his own
party's platform in October when he said that no government he led would
apply diplomatic pressure "in defence of an individual terrorists life".
This was in response to comments made several days earlier by Labour's
foreign affairs spokesman, Robert McClelland, who denounced the death
sentences handed down to the Bali bombers. Rudd -- who opposed the
execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein -- quickly reprimanded
But McClelland's comments appeared to conform to the Labour Party's
platform. This is seemingly unequivocal on this issue, stating that Labour
opposes the death penalty "no matter what the crime".
The platform says: "Labour in government will strongly and clearly state
its opposition to the death penalty, whenever and wherever it arises and
will use its position internationally and in the region to advocate for
the universal abolition of the death penalty."
"I think, unfortunately, that the leader of the opposition and the prime
minister are both playing politics on the issue and theyre both
essentially playing to the electorate," says the president of the
Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), Ian Brown.
With this month's elections possibly being Labour's best chance yet to end
Howard's 11-year reign in office, Rudds apparent contradiction of his
party's platform seems to have occurred with one eye on the election.
Resentment towards the Bali bombers runs deep in Australia.
Brown says that the positions taken by Rudd and Howard towards the death
penalty are "simply an exercise in attempting to drum up votes".
"It waxes and wanes and is flexible according to whether or not theres an
election campaign on," Brown argues.
A Labour campaign spokesperson responded to questions from IPS by saying
that the party's stance remains clear. "We are universally opposed to
executions carried out in any jurisdication," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that a Labour government would pursue a campaign
for the elimination of capital punishment, but that this would take place
through the U.N.
But while Labour remains convinced of the clarity of its stance on the
death penalty, civil society groups are not so sure.
"Having a position where you vocally oppose the death penalty for some
people and not others, is certainly contradictory and disappointing," says
Michael Walton, a member of the general committee of the New South Wales
Council of Civil Liberties (NSWCCL).
Walton says that it is the "inconsistencies" on both sides of Australian
politics with regards to capital punishment is of concern to the NSWCCL.
These inconsistencies tend "to suggest that perhaps the policy is more a
policy of rights for Australians rather than rights for human beings,"
Walton told IPS.
He argues that the positions of the 2 major parties undermine efforts for
clemency for Australians on death row in other countries.
Politicians "need to be consistent in their opposition to the death
penalty, otherwise it does put Australia in a difficult position when it
comes to seeking clemency for Australians held overseas," says Walton.
Brown of ASA agrees. Australia's position on the death penalty was
"hypocritical in the extreme," he told IPS.
"It seems, for example, the Indonesians will perceive that there is a
strident opposition (in Australia) to the death penalty when there are a
number of convicted drug mules awaiting a death sentence (the 'Bali 9'),
but not when the Bali bombers are similarly awaiting a death sentence,"
Brown said. "It means that Australia, from an international perspective,
lacks any credibility on this issue," he added.
(source: IPS News)
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