[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 2 22:27:32 CDT 2007
Elechi Grants 34 Prisoners Amnesty
At least 34 persons who were either sentenced to death or life
imprisonment were yesterday granted unconditional pardon in the spirit of
the 11th anniversary of the creation of Ebonyi State by Governor Martin
Elechi, while 5 others hitherto sentenced to death, had their sentences
commuted to life imprisonment.
In an address, yesterday, Elechi also appealed to the families, kindred
and communities of those released to accept them with open arms and assist
them to begin life afresh.The governor, who said he was by the action
exercising his constitutional powers on the Prerogative of Mercy, having
accepted recommendations of the State Advisory Council on the Prerogative
of Mercy, said; "only God in his infinite wisdom and knowledge can punish
appropriately and adequately, the presumed guilt of man."
He said the council meticulously examined cases of "some of our
unfortunate brothers and sisters that had been languishing in prisons
either on death row or serving life imprisonment," adding that some of the
issues considered before arriving on the number included; length of stay
in prison, age of the prisoner, his health condition, circumstances of the
particular incident that led to his conviction, remorse shown, report on
the prisoner by the prison officials, Human Rights Commission and other
(source: This Day)
Death penalty call sparks anger at Paris bombs trial
Bombers behind a wave of deadly blasts on the Paris rail network deserved
the death penalty, an Algerian accused of helping to finance the attacks
said on Tuesday, angering the relatives of victims.
Rachid Ramda, who denies complicity in the attacks that killed 8 people
and injured 200, made his comments on the 2nd day of his trial at the
Paris Assizes Court.
"If it had been my father, I think my reaction would have been a little
extreme, I would have demanded the death penalty for the people who did
that," Ramda said of a man burned alive in the attack on the St Michel
suburban rail station in 1995.
France abolished the death penalty in 1981.
One woman, sitting with relatives of those killed or maimed in the
attacks, left the court in tears, covering her ears to block out Ramda's
Ramda, already serving a 10-year term for terrorist conspiracy connected
to the 1995 attacks, added: "I morally and spiritually support the
families of the victims, as I have always done."
That drew more protests from members of the public attending the trial.
Ramda faces life in jail if convicted of complicity to murder in the
attacks. He denies any role in the worst bombing campaign in mainland
France since World War Two.
8 people were killed and some 200 others maimed and wounded in attacks on
the St Michel and Musee d'Orsay suburban railway stations, and the Maison
Blanche metro station.
The blasts were claimed by Islamic militants as punishment for French
support of Algerian authorities, who scrapped multi-party elections in
1992 that an Islamist party had been poised to win.
Boualem Bensaid and Smain Ali Belkacem, who were convicted of two of the
three Paris bombings in trials in 2002 and jailed for life, are due to
give evidence to the trial. Ramda denies knowing them.
At his 1st trial in March 2006, prosecutors said evidence seized at
Ramda's London address, including documents relating to Algerian radicals
and a payment slip with his fingerprints, showed he sent 5,000 pounds
($10,150) to the Paris bombers.
Ramda told the Liberation newspaper on Monday he did not contest the
fingerprints, only the interpretation put on their discovery.
Candidates Pledge to Revive Death Penalty
The 2 presidential candidates who will face off in Guatemala's Nov. 4
runoff election have both stated that they will remove the current de
facto moratorium on capital punishment.
lvaro Colom of the centre-left National Union of Hope (UNE) says he will
do so because the death penalty forms part of the country's laws, and Otto
Prez Molina of the right-wing Patriot Party (PP) has pledged to do so out
Under the government of Alfonso Portillo (2000-2004), Congress revoked
1892 legislation known as the "pardon law", under which the president can
either pardon a death row convict or allow the execution to go ahead.
Since then, Guatemala has no procedure for death row inmates to seek a
pardon or the commuting of their sentence, which means a de facto
moratorium on executions has been in place since 2000, even though capital
punishment is still on the books.
Both candidates have made it clear that if they are elected they will ask
Congress to pass a draft law that will allow executions of those on death
row to go ahead.
The American Convention on Human Rights, which was ratified by Guatemala
in 1978, states that the death penalty cannot be applied as long as any
appeal is pending.
In August 2006, the right-wing Unionist Party (PU) submitted a draft law
to reinstate the presidential pardon power, which could be debated in
"We are prepared to apply the death penalty," retired general Prez Molina
states on his web site. "For that reason, from our very 1st day in office
we will ask Congress to reinstate it, and for the law to be enforced and
the sentences of death row convicts to be applied."
Colom, an engineer and businessman, is also in favour of the application
of capital punishment because "it forms part of our laws, and our laws
must be respected."
He admitted to IPS, however, that he does not see the death penalty as the
solution to society's problems.
In the 1st round of presidential elections, on Sept. 9, Colom took 28 % of
the vote and Prez Molina 23 %.
In Guatemala, 21 inmates have spent between 5 and 11 years on death row,
in isolated wings of high security prisons.
In this impoverished, violence-wracked Central American country, the death
sentence is applicable to crimes like murder, kidnapping, rape of children
under 10, and some drug trafficking-related offences.
60 % of those on death row in Guatemala have been sentenced for kidnapping
(some of the cases involved the death of the victim), and 40 % for
Official figures indicate that in the 1st half of 2007 alone, 2,857
murders were committed, most of them involving the use of firearms.
Opinion polls have shown that a majority of respondents are in favour of
the death penalty, as well as the so-called "social cleansing" or
vigilante justice carried out by on- and off-duty police officers and
private security guards, who often target young men suspected of belonging
to youth gangs.
Capital punishment "is a dissuasive factor that curbs the crime wave we
are facing," said Prez Molina in a televised debate among the leading
candidates prior to the Sept. 9 elections.
The retired general's promise to get tough on crime has been welcomed by a
populace fed up with violence and at the mercy of youth gangs and
organised crime, and with little faith in the country's institutions.
Guatemala has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world.
Mariano Rayo, one of the leading PU lawmaker in Congress, told IPS that
the proposal to reinstate the pardon law is aimed at eliminating the
uncertainty with regard to the application of sentences. He pointed out
that inmates have spent years on death row, having exhausted all legal
avenues of appeal, and that all that is lacking is the president's
decision to pardon them or allow the execution to go ahead.
In an open letter to Guatemalan legislators in May, the International
Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) expressed its concern over
several aspects of the draft law that would reinstate the presidential
pardon power. It also called for the abolition of capital punishment in
The FIDH said the draft law runs counter to international human rights law
by establishing a timeframe of just 30 days for the president to decide on
death penalty cases. It also criticised the fact that if the president
fails to make a pronouncement on a case, the sentence automatically
proceeds to execution, based on the tacit denial of a pardon.
PP lawmaker Oliverio Garca told IPS that the draft law "has a few flaws
that must be revised" before it is passed, but predicted that as long as
the country is afflicted by such high levels of violence, the death
penalty will not be abolished.
When two men were executed by firing squad in 1996, one of the executions
-- which were televised -- was botched, requiring a coup de grace to
complete the job. The howls of outrage from the international community
prompted the government to switch methods.
The latest executions, one of which took place in 1998 and two in 2000,
were carried out with lethal injection, and went ahead despite appeals for
clemency lodged by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The head of the non-governmental organisation Security in Democracy,
Iduvina Hernndez, said it was "highly disturbing" that society and the
countrys political leaders are in favour of the death penalty.
"In Guatemala, it is politically incorrect to say you are against capital
punishment," said Manfredo Marroqun, the director of another
non-governmental organisation, Citizen Action. He said politicians want to
show a society that is sick and tired of violence that they are tough on
The vice presidential candidate for the centre-left UNE, Dr. Rafael
Espada, says he faces a dilemma. "The death penalty is constitutional. As
a doctor I am totally against it, but as a Guatemalan, I respect the law,"
he explained to IPS.
"It has been proven that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent,
but if the death penalty exists, it exists. That is what the law says," he
For Colom, who is running for the presidency for the 3rd time, "the real
problem in Guatemala is the rampant impunity, and that is not solved by
"The killing of people by the state not only affects the rights of those
people but also undermines the humanity of the rest of society. It merely
adds violence to violence," Marco Antonio Canteo, director of the
Guatemalan Institute of Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences, told IPS.
Canteo lamented that the countrys public policies against crime are
becoming more and more hard-line, and said that what are really needed are
proposals that focus on prevention and effective investigation of crimes.
In this Central America country of 13 million, where the official poverty
rate is 51 % (although unofficial estimates put the figure closer to 80
%), less than 10 % of homicides are clarified and lead to a conviction.
"What will it mean for Guatemala to apply the death penalty again, in the
present international context?" wondered Canteo, who advocates "new
security paradigms" that would not imply a return to the countrys
According to the London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International, 1,591
executions were carried out in 2006 in 25 countries, compared with 2,148
in 2005, and a total of 3,861 people were condemned to death, down from
5,186 the previous year.
Guatemala is in the midst of its sixth democratic electoral process since
1985, which marked the end of a series of military dictatorships ushered
in by a 1954 coup detat backed by the CIA (the U.S. Central Intelligence
The country also suffered a civil war between government forces and a
leftist insurgency from 1960-1996, in which more than 200,000 -- mainly
rural indigenous -- people were killed. According to a United Nations
truth commission, the security forces were responsible for over 90 % of
the atrocities committed during the armed conflict.
Current President Oscar Berger is in favour of abolition of the death
penalty. But analysts say that, given the soaring levels of violence and
the majority support for capital punishment in Guatemalan society, whoever
succeeds him on Jan. 14 will be reluctant to assume the political costs of
failing to sign into law the bill that would allow executions to go ahead.
In 2002, then president Portillo submitted to Congress a draft law to
abolish the death penalty, but it was immediately voted down.
Guatemala is 1 of only 3 countries in the Americas, along with Cuba and
the United States, where the death penalty is still applicable to common
Colom believes that Guatemala should move in the direction of doing away
with capital punishment, but stressed that "today the law must be
enforced, and people want to see justice done."
Jorge Herrera, in charge of the PP's security plan, told IPS that although
Guatemala should head towards abolition, the 1st step today is for the
draft law reinstating the president's pardon power to be signed into law,
to resolve the unjust situation in which death row convicts are living in
uncertainty as to what will happen to them.
(source: IPS News)
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