[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 28 23:56:37 CST 2007
Death row inmate files lawsuit over policy reversal
Ronald Smith, the 50-year-old Albertan facing execution in the U.S., is
taking the Conservative government to court over its decision not to seek
clemency for him from Montana's death row.
Smith, sentenced to death by lethal injection for the 1982 killing of two
Native American men, had been supported for more than a decade by Canadian
officials in his bid to be spared execution.
But a lawsuit filed by Smith's lawyers on Tuesday in the Federal Court of
Canada argues that the government's "unexpected" reversal last month
long-standing foreign policy on the clemency issue violates the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms and has sent as message of "indifference"
about Smith's fate to U.S. officials, placing him "in peril for his life
and at risk of cruel and unusual treatment."
Three federal cabinet ministers involved in making the decision or
defending it in the House of Commons - Justice Minister Rob Nicholson,
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier and Public Safety Minister
Stockwell Day - are targeted in the suit.
A spokesperson in the justice minister's office did not respond to media
requests for comment.
The legal challenge, led by four top Canadian lawyers, also argues that
the government's decision - communicated in an e-mail to CanWest News
Service on Oct. 31 - was a "direct political reaction" to an earlier
CanWest News Service story about Smith's bid for clemency and violates a
"constitutionally-obligatory" practice of intervening to try to save all
Canadians on death row around the world.
"Although sparked by and directed at" Smith, the government's decision
"had not been formally communicated" to him or his lawyers, "who learned
of the decision entirely through the media," the lawsuit states.
"This announcement was a direct political reaction to media reports
describing the Government of Canada's long-standing efforts to seek
commutation for the applicant with the Government of Montana," the suit
argues. Smith "was never apprised" by government officials that they were
"considering abandoning their efforts on his behalf."
Smith's lawyers had discussed the case with Canadian consular officials
"days before" the government's reversal of the clemency policy "and were
led to believe that the Government of Canada would continue to pursue its
commutation efforts" with Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the lawsuit
Liberal leader Stephane Dion quickly applauded the legal challenge,
issuing a statement urging the government to scrap its new clemency policy
before the lawsuit goes to court.
"This Conservative government can not pick and choose which Canadians
deserve to have their rights respected," said Dion. "By not seeking
commutation for Mr. Smith, this government is giving their tacit approval
for his execution, despite the fact that Canadians have rejected the use
of the death penalty."
Amnesty International's Canadian office also announced its backing of the
"It's time for the Canadian government to recognize that its new clemency
policy is hopelessly flawed," said Amnesty's secretary general Alex Neve.
"This shameful abandonment of basic human rights principles tarnishes
Canada's international reputation and endangers all Canadians detained
In October, CanWest News Service reported that Canada was working to save
Smith from execution as part of a decades-old policy rooted in Canada's
1976 abolition of capital punishment.
Days later, a Public Safety spokesperson told CanWest News Service that
the government had halted its effort to seek clemency for Smith.
And on Oct. 31, a Foreign Affairs spokesperson said Canada would no longer
seek clemency for Canadians on death row in "democratic countries, where
there has been a fair trial."
The federal opposition has been united in its condemnation of the policy,
and a host of international human rights advocates - including the Council
of Europe and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, former Canadian judge
Louise Arbour - have denounced Canada's decision.
The newly filed legal challenge states: "Up until this decision, the
Government of Canada had actively sought commutation on humanitarian
grounds of all death sentences imposed on Canadians anywhere in the world,
a practice consistent with that applied by other Western states that have
abolished the death penalty."
Smith's new Canadian legal team - which includes University of Ottawa law
professor Craig Forcese, and high-profile defence lawyers Marlys Edwardh,
Lorne Waldman and Sarah Loosemore - argues that the government has ignored
Smith's rights under the Charter by "abandoning efforts" to seek clemency
on his behalf, "communicating to U.S. officials their indifference to his
treatment," and "at least tacitly signalling their approval of the death
In an interview on Tuesday, Forcese said "enormous damage has been done"
to Smith's bid for a reprieve from execution and that any Canadian who
ends up facing a death sentence anywhere around the world will also be
imperiled by the government's sudden shift in policy.
He said that the case could be heard as early as April.
Among those slated to file affidavits in support of Smith's challenge is
Gar Pardy, a former top consular official with Foreign Affairs who played
a key role in repatriating numerous Canadians imprisoned abroad.
Nicholson came under fire earlier this week in the House of Commons from
Liberal public safety critic Sue Barnes, who argued that Canada's hardline
stance on the Smith case could scuttle efforts to seek clemency for 2
Canadians being held in Ethiopia and China and facing possible death
The government has recently appeared to soften its stance on the policy,
indicating that it would review "each case on its merits" rather than
applying a blanket prohibition on seeking clemency in any democratic
Nicholson has also implied in various statements that "mass" or "multiple"
murderers would not be candidates for Canadian appeals for clemency.
Government officials have not responded to CanWest News Service requests
to clarify the policy.
(source: CanWest News Service)
Jordan commutes death penalty for al-Qaida militant convicted of slaying a
Jordan's military court commuted a 2004 death sentence against an al-Qaida
militant convicted of slaying a U.S. diplomat 5 years earlier to 10 years
According to the brief verdict handed down by Jordan's State Security
Court, the judges concluded that while Mohammed Ahmed Youssef al-Jaghbeer
was involved in terrorist actions, he did not intend to kill the diplomat.
Al-Jaghbeer, 36, was convicted in absentia in April 2004 and sentenced to
death for his role in the slaying of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley, who was
gunned down outside his Amman home on Oct. 28, 2002. Foley worked at the
United States Agency for International Development.
Under Jordanian law, al-Jaghbeer - a Jordanian of Palestinian origin - was
allowed a retrail in 2005 after he was captured in Iraq and extradited by
U.S. forces to Jordan.
(source: Associated Press)
Leading Caribbean jurist speaks on death penalty
A leading Caribbean jurist says regional judges should use their
discretion when imposing the death penalty, as the debate over the
resumption of hangings continues in the region.
Acting Chief Justice of the East Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal, Brian
Alleyne, said the death penalty matter has gone through a "radical change"
in the last several years.
"About 5 years ago our court declared that the mandatory death penalty was
inhumane and inappropriate," he said, noting that judges now decide "in
particular cases of murder if the death penalty will be appropriate or
(source: Jamaica Gleaner)
Plea to save maid on death row
PHILIPPINES vice-president Noli de Castro said yesterday that his
government has asked the Vatican, the European Union and Bahrain for help
to save a Filipino worker sentenced to death in Kuwait.
Marilou Ranario, 33, worked as a domestic help before she was found guilty
of stabbing dead her employer Mahmoud Faraj Al Mubarak on January 11,
2005. Her lawyer said his client suffered from paranoia and claimed the
employer had threatened to harm her before the attack.
Kuwait's Court of Cassation on Tuesday upheld a lower court's decision
sentencing Ranario to death for murder after which protesters as well as
the woman's family members rallied in front of the Philippine Department
of Foreign Affairs, urging the government to try to save her.
Mr De Castro said that with the influences of EU, the Vatican and Bahrain,
he was confident that Ms Ranario would be pardoned before the death
sentence could be implemented, according to news agencies in the
(source: Daily News)
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