[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 26 18:25:07 CST 2007
North Korea resumes public executions
North Korea has resumed public executions. In October a factory chief
accused of making international phone calls was shot down at a stadium
before a crowd of 150,000 people.
Public executions had declined since 2000 amid international criticism but
have been increasing, targeting officials accused of drug trafficking,
embezzlement and other wrongdoing, the Good Friends aid agency said in a
report on the North's human rights.
In October, the North executed the head of a factory in South Pyongan
province for making international calls on 13 phones he installed in a
factory basement, the aid group said. He was executed by a firing squad in
a stadium before a crowd of 150,000 people.
6 people were also crushed to death and 34 others injured in an apparent
stampede as they left after the execution, said the aid group.
Most North Koreans are banned from communicating with the outside world,
part of the regime's authoritarian policies seeking to prevent any
challenge to the iron-fisted rule of Kim Jong Il.
The North has carried out four other similar public executions by firing
squad against regional officials and heads of factories in recent months,
said the aid group.
"It is aimed at educating (North Koreans) to control society and prevent
crimes," Good Friends head Venerable Pomnyun said in a press conference.
Good Friends, which did not say how it obtained the information, gave no
exact figures of the public executions this year. Some of the group's
previous reports of what was happening inside the North have later been
The report came a week after a U.N. General Assembly committee adopted a
draft resolution expressing "very serious concern" at reports of
widespread human rights violations in North Korea , including public
The resolution, co-sponsored by more than 50 countries including the
United States and many other Western nations, was sent to the 192-member
General Assembly for a final vote.
The North has condemned the draft, saying it was inaccurate and biased.
The communist country insists it does not violate human rights, but it has
long been accused of imposing the death penalty for political reasons,
holding thousands in prison camps, torturing border-crossers and severely
restricting freedom of expression and religion.
Zuma: I'm fit to govern:
ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma is "ready" to be the country's president
if asked to do so, the Sunday Times quoted him as saying.
"If I am asked I will be ready for the task," he told a function for black
businessmen in Sandton, Johannesburg on Friday.
In response to a question from a banker he said he was "fit to govern".
At the meeting Zuma articulated his policy views on a range of issues. He
said the country was too soft on crime and that the police were not being
paid enough. South Africa needed a ministry of law and order instead of
safety and security because "we are not safe".
"We need to put in place more laws that are not liberal and user-friendly
for criminals," he reportedly said.
Corruption was a "sickness of society" and the government should not be
run through patronage.
"You cannot run a country by using friends around you... I wish in the
not-too-distant future we can be in a position to deal with these matters
head-on... It is corruption."
The government had politicised HIV/Aids instead of dealing with the
"I feel we could have done more," he said.
The ANC would be united "like never" before, irrespective of who became
its next leader at the December conference.
On the possibility of President Thabo Mbeki serving a third term, he said
the matter of leaders overstaying their welcome could not be ignored.
"Former president Nelson Mandela did a wonderful thing by stepping down.
But we didn't think there was a problem then. If it is left unattended, it
will cause unnecessary problems."
Earlier on Friday Zuma told a meeting in Cape Town's Mitchell's Plain that
he would consider bringing back the death penalty if a referendum
indicated that this was what South Africans wanted, the Sunday Times
Members of press face death penalty over publication charges
Editor-in-Chief of Al-Share' Weekly Nayef Hassan, the paper's managing
editor Nabeel Subei and Mahmoud Taha, a reporter, appeared on Saturday
before Chief Judge of the State Security Penal Court Ridhwan Al-Namer at
the first hearing for a lawsuit filed against the newspaper by the Defense
At the hearing, the press members demanded that the court adjourn the
hearing so that they can appoint a lawyer to defend them. The judge then
accepted their request and adjourned the trial until December 8.
The 3 journalists were summoned last Wednesday to appear before the court
after the prosecution investigated them regarding the lawsuit by the
Defense Ministry against them for publishing a story about voluntary
fighters who support the army in the Sa'ada fighting. The indictment
demanded that the 3 pressmen be executed under new legal provisions.
Referring Al-Share' Weekly to State Security Court provoked protests at
domestic and international levels because the court specializes in
terrorism and not in publication or press issues.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) warned last August that
the lawsuit filed against the newspaper, followed by a raid on the
newspaper's head-office, is a dangerous assault on the independent press
in Yemen. The federation condemned charges filed by the Yemeni government
against the weekly, accusing it of threatening national security.
It also criticized the government for trying the newspaper in a state
security court, which is usually concerned with terrorism, adding, "If
convicted, the suspected journalists will be executed."
"We are shocked to see Yemeni authorities resorting to penal prosecution
and directing charges to members of the press, and such charges may risk
the lives of innocent journalists," Aidan White, IFJ Secretary-General,
said. "This issue has a terrible effect, as the media will fear publishing
any reports criticizing the government or the army in order to keep its
The Defense Ministry filed a legal action last July against Al-Share'
weekly after the newspaper published a series of stories and reports about
clashes between the Yemeni army and Houthi followers in the northern
province of Saada.
On July 30, ten armed men riding in a car with military plates raided the
newspapers office in search of chief editor Hassan, who was unavailable in
his office at that time. The armed men threatened to kill him in the
presence of newspaper employees.
Representing 600,000 journalists in 114 states, IFJ announced its support
for the protests staged by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS), which
warned that referring the case to penal prosecution is a dangerous
precedent that may have bad consequences for journalists. According to the
syndicate, this precedent may have a negative impact on the constitutional
and legal pillars upon which the journalistic profession has been built
since the establishment of a unified state. "This may lead to abolishing
the constitutional and legal protection of freedom of press and
expression," the syndicate went on to say.
Marwan Dammaj, YJS Secretary-General, had earlier demanded that the Yemeni
government respect the rule of law, ensure legal protection for Al-Share
reporters and arrest the perpetrators who stormed the newspaper's office.
"The newspaper published an article about voluntary tribal leaders who
joined government troops in the fight against Houthi supporters. The paper
also wrote about corruption and the malicious desire of those who want
confrontations between the government and Houthis to last for a longer
period of time in order to serve their personal interests," Nabeel Subei
told the media. It also published reports about groups from the Aden-Abyan
Islamic Army, an active terrorist group in Yemen, who backed the army in
the fight against Houthis. These groups were training volunteers on how to
fight the so-called Sa'ada rebels."
In an unprecedented step, the case file was referred to penal prosecution
instead of press and publication prosecution. According to Article No. 176
of the Yemeni Penal Law, the Defense Ministry filed numerous charges
against Hassan, Subei and Taha, accusing them of harming national security
and stability, influencing the Yemeni army's morale and divulging military
Owned by prominent journalists Nayef Hassan and Nabeel Subei, Al-Share is
an independent weekly that issued its zero issue on the 3nd day of last
June. The papers first issue included reports about the Hashid fighters in
Sa'ada, thereby drawing the attention of readers and researchers seeking
facts about events there.
As the paper devoted a large amount of space for information about
developments, conflicts and complicated relations in Sa'ada, especially
the way army and tribal leaders deal with soldiers and volunteers, this
has helped increase its popularity among readers, particularly those
interested in the Sa'ada crisis.
Observers of the situation consider the issue a distinctive effort by the
newspaper and its reporters, who they believe outperformed other private,
independent and party-affiliated papers in covering developments in the
In an article titled "Bismarck", a name given to Sa'ada volunteers who
back the army in the fight against Houthi loyalists, the newspaper
reported that a large number of these volunteers were killed by the army,
while others fell victim to friendly fire. The newspaper mentioned that
the number of Bismarck fighters exceeded 9,000, most of who came from the
The paper's 1st issue included various subjects related to the Saada
crisis, such as Bismarck in Sa'ada', 'Bismarcks victims', 'Youths with
happy lives', 'The difference between fighters and leaders', and 'Hashid
is a threatening force'. The distinctive issue disclosed human
catastrophes and war crimes against humanity in the northern governorate
that has undergone repeated wars since June of 2004.
(source: Yemen Times)
Tightening the noose----Ottawa's refusal to help a Canadian on death row
in U.S. rekindles capital punishment debate
Should Canada reintroduce capital punishment?
An appropriate penalty to fit the crime, or state-sanctioned murder where
the risk of making a mistake is too high? The lines are clearly drawn in a
debate over capital punishment between Sun Media columnists Lorrie
Goldstein and Licia Corbella, brought to the forefront with the case of a
Canadian man on death row in Montana and a new Canadian policy that has
Ottawa unwilling to intervene to save his life.
LORRIE GOLDSTEIN: Licia, you recently wrote you oppose the death penalty
even in cases such as that of Canadian Robert Allen Smith. I believe in
capital punishment. Please explain to me why Smith deserves to live, a man
you described as "a cold-blooded double murderer" who has shown no
remorse, whose guilt is beyond question and who shot 2 innocent young men
in the back of the head just because he "wanted to find out what it would
be like to kill somebody?" Why shouldn't the state of Montana execute him?
If Smith had committed this crime in Canada why shouldn't we?
LICIA CORBELLA: Actually, Lorrie, what I wrote was that Canada's elected
officials voted against capital punishment in 1976 and that the minority
Conservative government has no right changing the rules with regard to the
death penalty unilaterally. Yes, Smith is a cold-blooded double murderer
and not a sympathetic character at all. In some ways that makes my
position more difficult to defend, but in some ways clarifies it. I simply
dont want to be a party to cold blooded murder through the state. Period.
GOLDSTEIN: I don't accept your description of capital punishment as
"cold-blooded murder" by the state. Thats moral relativism. When a Smith
or a Paul Bernardo or a Clifford Olson preys on us and our children, their
intent is pure, selfish, evil gratification. If the state executes them,
its intent, meaning our intent, is nothing of the sort. Rather, the state
is punishing them and denouncing their unlawful conduct, which is as
legitimate a principle of sentencing as rehabilitation. You wouldn't argue
'self-defence' is the same thing as murder were an individual to do it.
Why do you use the term when the state, through capital punishment, acts
to defend its law-abiding citizens?
CORBELLA: You're right. If the only people who received the death penalty
were people like Smith, Olson and Bernardo we likely wouldnt be having
this debate. They are slam dunks. The problem with the death penalty,
Lorrie, is it has caught innocent people in its irreversible web. The
Innocence Project reports that 208 convicted and jailed people have been
exonerated in the U.S. since the advent of DNA testing. 15 of those people
had been sentenced to death before DNA evidence proved their innocence.
They have since been released. Had they been put to death, that would be
murder, Lorrie. I want no part of that.
GOLDSTEIN: I readily concede that DNA evidence has shown that innocent
people have been executed for murders they did not commit. Further, in
Canada, where we no longer have the death penalty, we must be mindful of
the injustices done to Donald Marshall, Guy Paul Morin, David Milgaard and
But since DNA testing, as you point out, can conclusively prove someone is
innocent of murder in many cases, then logically it follows that it can
also conclusively prove guilt in many cases. And my argument is that in
cases where there is no doubt of guilt, and if the crimes of the murderer
are sufficiently heinous, then capital punishment should be a sentencing
option available to our criminal justice system.
CORBELLA: Sheesh, Lorrie. Your 1st sentence directly above should end this
debate. There is enormous horror and injustice in the statement: DNA
evidence has shown that innocent people have been executed for murders
they did not commit. The problem is, after a fair trial, it is presumed
that there is no doubt of guilt. Those convicted are declared to be guilty
of said crime. What's more, there are numerous instances in which people
are murdered where there is no DNA evidence left behind. It is almost
exclusively sex crimes that lead to death that contain the kind of DNA
evidence that can convict or exonerate. What about execution-style
murders, drive-by shootings, etc.? Eye witness testimony is notoriously
risky and yet it is given enormous weight in a court of law.
GOLDSTEIN: You've acknowledged there are murder cases where the guilt of
the accused is a 'slam dunk.' You have conceded there are cases where DNA
evidence proves guilt beyond doubt. Why shouldn't capital punishment be a
sentencing option in those cases? As for 'enormous horror and injustice'
going forward, things we can change, let's talk about all the cases where
innocents have been killed by murderers who were let out of prison to kill
again. Innocents like 21-year-old university student Lynda Shaw, who, as
you wrote in 2005, was raped, murdered and set on fire by Allan Craig
MacDonald, 6 months after he was paroled in 1989, despite being sentenced
in 1974 to life in prison, for shooting to death police officer Eric
Spicer and taxi driver Keith McCallum. As you wrote: "DNA evidence proved
that convicted double murderer Allan Craig MacDonald was Shaws rapist and
killer." Exactly. And if he'd been executed for committing those first two
murders, our justice system would have saved Lynda Shaw's life.
CORBELLA: I remember Lynda Shaw's death and still feel deep outrage about
it. However, the question is not why wasnt Allan Craig MacDonald sentenced
to death, but why was he let out after 15 years? That had something to do
with the Liberal's faint hope clause, a law that rendered life sentences
in Canada lies. First degree murderers should spend the rest of their
lives behind bars as Olson, Bernardo and other monsters will. Also, it's
not the available evidence that determines whether someone can be put to
death. A case is determined to be a capital case or not prior to the trial
and before all of the evidence is known. Jurors are chosen accordingly.
People who value human life should be pushing our legislators to make life
mean life, not 15 or 25 years. Why not push for that Lorrie, rather than
the death penalty with all of its inherent dangers?
GOLDSTEIN: The 'faint hope clause,' which gutted the sentence of life in
prison, was introduced at the same time as capital punishment was
abolished in 1976, a measure you supported. We were misled by our
government. We were told capital punishment would be abandoned, but a
"life" sentence would mean life. Instead, life sentences (meaning "life"
with no possibility of parole for 25 years) were then further undermined
by the faint hope clause.
It allows our worst murderers to apply for the right to seek parole after
serving only 15 years. Today we have no death penalty and so-called "life"
sentences, save for very rare cases, are a myth. We must restore the
balance in favour of law-abiding citizens and the protection of society.
One way to do that is to bring back the death penalty as a sentencing
option for the appropriate capital crimes, where there is no doubt of
CORBELLA: Presumably every conviction contains no doubt of guilt. Humans
are fallible. Irreversible sentences are therefore illogical. Im dead set
against the death penalty and will vote against any party or government
that tries to bring it back.
Death penalty policy hangs in uncertainty
The Conservative government is not saying if it has re-opened the door to
seeking clemency for certain Canadians on death row in the U.S.
Questions about whether the government has shifted its stance - which
federal officials have not confirmed or denied despite repeated requests
from CanWest News Service - arose after comments made last week by Justice
Minister Rob Nicholson in which he said Canada would consider "each case
on its merits."
Nicholson's other comments in the House of Commons last week suggest the
government might consider seeking clemency for Canadians convicted of a
single killing, but not for convicts facing execution for "multiple" or
"mass" murders - such as Ronald Smith, the 50-year-old double-killer from
Alberta who is currently under a death sentence in Montana.
The latest twist in the clemency controversy follows a string of
high-profile international denunciations of Canada for its recent adoption
of a hands-off policy toward Canadians on death row in "democratic"
countries such as the U.S.
In late October, the Harper government ended long-standing foreign policy
- rooted in Canada's 1976 abolition of capital punishment - of
automatically seeking clemency for any Canadian on death row in any
country beyond our borders.
The new policy - first revealed to CanWest News Service on Oct. 31 after
several inquiries about Smith's bid for clemency - stated that Canada
would no longer fight for the lives of Canadians on death row in
"democratic" countries, such as the U.S., which have "fair trials."
Smith is the only Canadian on death row anywhere in the world.
But last week in the House of Commons, under questioning from an
opposition united in its condemnation of the new policy, Nicholson
appeared to soften the government's position.
Instead of a blanket refusal to seek clemency for Canadians on death row,
Nicholson said "we will look at each case." And each time he defended the
new policy, he pointedly stated that Canada would no longer "necessarily"
intervene to help Canadians on death row who have been convicted of
"multiple" or "mass" murders.
On Friday, Nicholson said: "We indicated yesterday and previous days that
an individual who gets convicted of multiple murders, or a mass murderer,
can no longer count on the Canadian government to necessarily intervene
where an individual has been tried in a democracy that adheres to the rule
of law. I think we have been very clear on that and we will look at each
Nicholson used the same phrasing earlier in the week, as well: "If any
Canadians go abroad to a democratic country where there is the rule of
law, they cannot be guaranteed that Canada will intervene if they become
multiple or mass murderers."
Asked by CanWest News Service if the government's automatic refusal to
seek clemency now applied only to those who commit more than one murder, a
spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier responded: "I refer
you to the minister's (Nicholson's) answer in the House - he was quite
clear on this."
Despite numerous requests for clarification put to an array of federal
officials, CanWest News Service has received no further response.
Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, now the party's human rights
critic, has slammed the government for "making policy on the fly" as it
struggles to defend an "illogical" and "untenable" position.
He argued in an interview with CanWest News Service that a case-by-case
clemency policy would give the Conservative government an executioner's
power over life and death.
Cotler added that when it comes to capital punishment, Canadian law "does
not make a distinction" between those convicted of a single murder and
those found guilty of multiple murders.
"Canada said no to the death penalty, no to the death penalty
internationally, and our Supreme Court has determined that it constitutes
cruel and unusual punishment, even in the case of multiple murders,"
Cotler said during question period on Friday.
Critics have also pointed out that the government's initial refusal to
seek clemency in "democratic" countries is fraught with problems, since
the definition of "democracy" in Asia, South America and other parts of
the world is open to debate.
The government has not supplied a list of the countries deemed democratic
for the purposes of the clemency policy.
Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings said the Opposition expects to
sustain the pressure this week, possibly taking the fight over clemency to
a Commons committee and devoting more opposition time in the House to the
controversy. The federal Opposition parties have already stepped up their
attacks in the House of Commons over the issue, which in recent weeks has
revived Canada's long-latent national debate over capital punishment.
Both Liberal leader Stephane Dion and NDP leader Jack Layton have bypassed
the Conservative government and written directly to Montana Governor Brian
Schweitzer, asking him to commute Smith's sentence and claiming to speak
on behalf of the majority of Canadians.
A recent Harris-Decima poll suggests a bare majority of Canadians are
opposed to the government's new stand on the clemency issue.
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe is also spearheading a petition of
MPs seeking a return to Canada's traditional policy of opposing execution,
in all cases, for Canadians on death row in other countries.
Smith, who is pursuing a final appeal of his death sentence in a U.S.
federal court, faces lethal injection for murdering 2 Native American men
Smith was hitchhiking through Montana when he killed Harvey Mad Man, 24,
and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, to steal their car.
For more than 20 years, until Oct. 26, Canadian policy had been to seek
clemency for Smith - and any other Canadian facing execution - "on
But following a CanWest News Service story about efforts by Canadian
diplomats to help Smith, the policy was rewritten by Oct. 31: "We are not
going to seek clemency in cases in democratic countries, like the United
States, where there has been a fair trial."
Precisely what the policy is today, a month later, awaits further
illumination from the government.
Less than a month after the Conservative government declared it would no
longer seek clemency for any Canadian on death row in the U.S. or in other
"democratic" countries, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appeared to be
softening Canada's new policy as he answered questions last week in the
House of Commons:
- Nov. 20
Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear that we are not prepared to intervene
in the case of a multiple murderer and eventually ask for that
individual's patriation back to Canada. With respect to the law in our
country, we are very clear. We have a busy justice agenda, but this is not
part of it.
Mr. Speaker, we examine each case on its merits. As I indicated to the
House, in the case of the individual who was the multiple murderer, we are
not prepared to intervene. However, we take our responsibility seriously
and we look into all these matters very carefully.
- Nov. 21
Mr. Speaker, we continue to oppose capital punishment at the United
Nations and there are no plans to change the laws in Canada. However, I
believe what has been made clear is if any Canadians go abroad to a
democratic country where there is the rule of law, they cannot be
guaranteed that Canada will intervene if they become multiple or mass
Again, we want to send a message out to anyone who is in the business of
being a mass murderer or a multiple murderer in a democratic country where
there is a rule of law that they cannot necessarily count on the
assistance of the Canadian government.
- Nov. 22
We have indicated that individuals who commit multiple murders or mass
murders abroad in a democratic country that adheres to the rule of law
cannot necessarily count on the Canadian government to claim clemency and
patriation back to this country.
What we have indicated, though, and I will repeat this for the honourable
member, is that multiple murderers and mass murderers who are convicted in
a democracy that adheres to the rule of law cannot necessarily count on a
plea for clemency from the Canadian government and patriation back to this
country. That message should be very clear.
- Nov. 23
Mr. Speaker, we indicated yesterday and previous days that an individual
who gets convicted of multiple murders, or a mass murderer, can no longer
count on the Canadian government to necessarily intervene where an
individual has been tried in a democracy that adheres to the rule of law.
I think we have been very clear on that and we will look at each case.
(source: CanWest News Service)
Botswana against death penalty moratorium
Botswana is among the more than 100 countries opposing the moratorium on
death penalty that was passed by the United Nations General Assembly's
human rights committee.
The resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty is seen as a
key step towards the passing of the nonbinding motion to scrap the death
penalty by the world body.
More than 15 amendments were voted down in two days of acrimonious debate
that touched on whether the death penalty was a human rights issue or a
key domestic matter.
Some Caribbean and other countries accused the European Union, a key
backer of the text, of seeking to impose its values on other nations.
Reuters News Agency quotes Botswana's representative at the assembly, Mr
Rhee Hetanang, complaining that the amendments sought to protect small
countries such as Botswana against growing interference in their internal
"He is of the idea that the death penalty is a domestic criminal justice
issue. No amount of intimidation and bullying will cause us to go against
the expressed wish of the people of Botswana," he says.
The resolution, which calls for a moratorium on executions with a view to
abolishing the death penalty, was passed 99-52 with 33 abstentions.
It is likely to go to the full 192-member assembly in mid-December where
supporters say they expect few countries to change their position.
Vanu Gopala Menon, ambassador of Singapore which has a mandatory death
penalty for most drug offences, accused those who brought the resolution
to the committee of being sanctimonious, hypocritical and intolerant.
Barbados was among the most vocal in complaining that a group of countries
was trying to impose its will, saying it had been threatened with the
withdrawal of aid over the issue.
Human rights organisation, Amnesty International, welcomed the vote as a
historic resolution and a major step towards the abolition of the death
Although the resolution is not legally binding on states, it carries
considerable moral and political weight, Amnesty International said in a
China, Iran, Iraq, the United States, Pakistan and Sudan account for about
90 % of all executions worldwide.
According to Amnesty, 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in
law or in practice - a statistic that opponents of the resolution
They said more than 100 countries retained capital punishment on their
statutes, even if they did not all use it.
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