[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Oct 13 16:26:50 CDT 2007
A Saddam Aide's Aborted Execution
Saddam Hussein's last defense minister was saved from the gallows last
month by an unlikely savior the United States. On the night of September
10, Sultan Hashem was five hours away from his death, his will written and
the executioner ready, a senior Iraqi official told TIME. The Iraqi
government had planned to carry out his death sentence at 3 a.m. on the
sixth anniversary of 9/11. But Hashem, like all high-value prisoners from
the former regime, was in U.S. custody. And at 10 p.m., word came that the
helicopter from the U.S. prison at Camp Cropper was not coming, and the
condemned man would not be handed over. Hashem's life was spared for the
The stalled execution produced a series of heated telephone calls between
U.S. and Iraqi officials who had arranged the hanging. The reason given by
the U.S. for failing to hand over Hashem, according to an adviser to Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was the public disapproval of his death sentence
by President Jalal Talibani and Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. But Iraqi
officials in Maliki's office suspected that Hashem was being shielded
because of his key role in secret contacts with the U.S. before the
invasion of Iraq contacts that U.S. intelligence sources say led Hashem
to assist the U.S. in minimizing resistance by the Iraqi Army, which
largely faded away in the face of the invading Americans. Hashem's
influence was over the professional army rather than the Republican Guard
or other elements personally loyal to Saddam, said a former officer of the
Defense Intelligence Agency in Iraq. Yet, his actions on behalf of the
U.S. "saved American lives," says the same source, and perhaps the lives
of quite a few Iraqi troops as well.
A former CIA officer with long experience in Iraq told TIME that turning
over Hashem for execution would be a "gross miscarriage of justice." The
CIA officer also confirmed longstanding reports that the U.S. had, in
fact, sought to bring Hashem into a senior role in a post-invasion Iraqi
government because of his identity as a Sunni, and as a "soldier's
soldier" who was respected by a broad spectrum of the military.
Still, the ability of Hashem's American friends to protect him may be
limited. Regardless of what assistance the former defense minister may
have offered the U.S., he will eventually be turned over to the Iraqis to
be hanged should the Baghdad government request it, a spokesman for U.S.
commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus told TIME. The spokesman said the
execution orders for Hashem had not yet been formally approved and added,
"We will hand him over, he has been convicted by an Iraqi court if they
request it, we will hand him over." A senior Iraqi official insists that
the request to hand over Hashem was made on September 10, and that the
U.S. had misinterpreted Iraqi law by claiming that further approval was
If the U.S. military does in fact hand Hashem over for execution, the move
would stand in jarring contrast to guarantees of safety and security given
to the Iraqi personally by Petraeus when Hashem surrendered in 2003.
Hashem was one of the very few top Iraqis to surrender himself voluntarily
to the United States. Petraeus, then commander of U.S. forces in northern
Iraq, personally arranged his capitulation, guaranteeing his safety and
medical treatment. "I officially request your surrender to me," Petraeus
wrote in a personal letter to Hashem, noting the general's "reputation as
a man of honor and integrity is known throughout this country."
Then Petraeus declared: "You have my word that you will be treated with
the utmost dignity and respect, and that you will not be physically or
mentally mistreated while under my custody."
Asked about these assurances, Petraeus's spokesman said the U.S. general's
guarantees were no longer operative, despite the fact that Hashem is being
held in a U.S. military camp under Petraeus's command. As the spokesman
put it, the earlier assurances in the letter "were specifically to ask for
Hashem's surrender there was no intimation of any further guarantees
while in Gen. Petraeus' custody."
Hashem had been sentenced to death for directing the brutal Anfal Campaign
in the late 1980s in which thousands of Kurds were massacred by the
regime, many in the notorious chemical-weapons attack on civilians at
Halabjah. The sentence was upheld by an appeals court, but several Iraqi
politicians, including President Jalal Talibani have spoken out against
hanging Hashem. Although Talabani has consistently opposed the death
penalty on principle even in the case of Saddam Hussein other
politicians may be concerned that the execution of a respected Sunni
soldier could be disruptive to national reconciliation in an Iraq deeply
divided along sectarian lines.
A senior Iraqi official insisted to TIME that Hashem's execution will
proceed in coming weeks, following the end of the Ramadan fast and the Eid
holiday on Saturday. "It will happen," he said, contending that the Iraqi
High Tribunal that tried Hashem is an independent special court that does
not require a presidential signature to carry out its orders. If Hashem is
hanged, it will likely be along with 2 other Ba'athists convicted as war
criminals, notably Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali."
(source: TIME magazine)
Call me strange, but I reckon death by beheading, stoning, firing squad,
hanging or electrocution is, well, un-Australian.
But judging by the ruckus this week when Opposition foreign affairs
spokesman Robert McClelland suggested Australia should campaign against
the death penalty in Asia, it may be time we revisited the issue of
capital punishment here and abroad.
Politicians should have the will to put the re-introduction of capital
punishment in Australia on the upcoming election agenda.
Perth talkback radio was awash with callers wanting the Bali bombers to be
shot "with bullets soaked in pigs' blood".
You are either for the death penalty or against it there are no grey
It's a disgrace our federal politicians are too spineless to discuss the
Mr McClelland raised the issue of capital punishment because of the
inconsistent signals the Federal Government has been sending.
Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer
have been blowing a dog's whistle on this issue for years. Their argument
to other countries has been, "Of course we are against the barbarity of
capital punishment, but by all means you do your local best to kill
whoever you please, in whatever fashion, be they alleged terrorist, drug
smuggler or otherwise".
It's a cynical each-way political bet appeasing the bloodlust and desire
for revenge of many Australians over the Bali bombings and other
international atrocities, and keeping the high moral ground with no
ostensible blood on our hands.
Kevin Rudd showed himself to be the "policy-free zone" many suspected when
he chastised Mr McCelland. It was a perfect time for Kev to stand on
principle and firmly state that he agrees with the UN General Assembly's
protocol of 1989 that calls for international abolition of the death
penalty. He has to realise that the electorate will want to see courage,
commitment to principle and moral integrity, even if the timing is not
Australian National University research in 2004 found that 51 % of
Australians favoured the reintroduction of the death penalty.
Both Liberals and Labor are scared to own up to supporting the policy, but
they are more than happy for other nations to do their killing. It's a
"wink, wink nudge, nudge" foreign policy.
I'm against the death penalty because people make mistakes. Our judicial
system is fallible and commits some terrible blunders. Imagine the death
penalty in WA. The names of John Button, Darryl Beamish, Rory Christie and
Andrew Mallard spring to mind.
Because of wrongful convictions, 95 people have been released from death
row in US jails since 1973.
The death penalty has also been proven not to deter murderers.
Why give these religious terrorists the martyrdom they crave? Last week's
The Sunday Times reported Bali bomber Amrozi wanted the death penalty so
he could "meet with his lovers (all 72 of them), his prophets and
beautiful angels". Better to let him rot for life, forgotten in some
obscure Asian pigsty of a jail.
Every time I hear that Port Arthur mass murderer Martin Bryant has again
failed to commit suicide, I think: "Good, keep the bastard alive and let
him reflect on what he has done. That is hell on Earth."
Death, really, is too good for many who we impulsively wish to execute.
Revenge and justice is best served cold over time. We need truth in
sentencing. For the term of his natural life with hard labour should mean
(source: Column, Phil Haberland, The Sunday Times)
Bali bombings, and the death penalty
On Monday night, I and several other members of the Socialist Equality
Party attended a public meeting organised by the Wentworth Human Rights
Forum titled "Human rights in 21st century Australia." The event was
designed to cover up the Labor Party's collaboration with the Howard
governments assault on democratic rights. Labor's foreign affairs
spokesman Robert McClelland was the keynote speaker, and appeared
alongside failed Labor candidate George Williams, former Hawke government
minister Susan Ryan, author Linda Jaivin, and the Labor candidate for
Wentworth, George Newhouse.
McClelland gave a seven-minute speech in which he struggled to cite a few
instances in which Labor had marginally different policies on human rights
than the Howard government. I challenged him on Labors support for
government legislation on every issue raised in the meetingfrom the
mandatory detention of refugees to the draconian anti-terror laws. I also
condemned Labors enthusiastic support for the so-called war on terror,
which has provided the ideological cover for the bipartisan assault on
In response, McClelland lamely indicated that he preferred the term "fight
against terror" to "war on terror." He went on to issue a strident defence
of Labor's policies. "In dealing with terrorism, it is nothing more [and]
it is nothing less than criminal action, murderous criminal action," he
declared. "They should be called murderers; they shouldn't be glorified as
being somehow above, somehow a warrior for a cause or an ideology. They
are simply murderers, and they need to be dealt with as that."
In the course of the meeting, McClelland addressed just 2 sentences to the
subject of capital punishment, both of which reiterated existing Labor
"The government voices concern for capital punishment, but when it comes
to sensational issuesthe execution of Saddam Hussein, the Bali bombers, or
whoever it isthe government will always play the political line rather
than as a matter of principle [say] that we as a nation are opposed to
capital punishment," he said. "And in terms of what Labor will do in
government, we have committed ourselves to driving a regional agenda of
like-minded countries to eradicate capital punishment in our region, a
region where 80 % of all executions in the world occur."
Towards the end of the meeting, a young journalist from the Australian
asked McClelland 2 questions which had been written out for her before the
meeting: whether Labor would review the Australian Federal Police's
policies on sharing intelligence and other information with foreign police
and security agencies, and whether Labor believed that those convicted of
the terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia on October 12, 2002 should have
their death sentences commuted. McClelland's brief replies again repeated
existing Labor policy.
Nothing that took place in the meeting, however, prepared me for the
Australian's blaring headline the following morning, "Save Bali bombers:
Labor." The story, written by the newspaper's political editor Dennis
Shanahan, featured the subhead, "Campaign against executions launched on
anniversary of attack," and described how McClelland supposedly launched a
major initiative in defence of the Bali bombers at the forum the night
"Labor has thrown the death penalty in Asia into the election campaign,"
Shanahan declared. But Labor had in fact done no such thing. The only
campaign was that of the Murdoch press, using an entirely manufactured
None of the direct quotes the Australian attributed to the foreign affairs
spokesman was actually uttered during the forum. Shanahan, who did not
even attend the public meeting, lifted the quotes from a pre-released
script which McClelland subsequently chose not to read from. Having
received the text of the speech prior to the meetingwhich contained no new
policy initiatives and did not mark the beginning of any "campaign"the
paper wrote up its lead story without any regard for what actually
occurred at the Bondi forum.
Tuesday's headline article relegated breaking news of the death of an
Australian soldier at the hands of insurgents in Afghanistanthe 1st such
combat death in the Middle East since 2002to a small article on the
Relishing the opportunity to parade their "war on terror" credentials,
senior Howard government ministers immediately weighed in. Echoing the
Australian's line, Treasurer Peter Costello jumped on the fact that
McClelland's "speech" was delivered a few days before the 5th anniversary
of the terrorist attack. "I think it was a very strange time for the Labor
Party to come [out] in support of the Bali bombers," he declared. "Let's
not forget, the Bali bombers killed 88 of our fellow Australians. Let's
have some sympathy for the 88 dead and their families, rather than
sympathy for those who cruelly and cold bloodedly decided to kill them for
no reason, other than they were Australians."
Howard expressed his support for the death penalty. "The idea that we
would plead for the deferral of executions of people who murdered 88
Australians is distasteful to the entire community," he declared. "I find
it impossible myself as an Australian, as prime minister, and as an
individual, to argue that those executions should not take place when they
have murdered my fellow countrymen and women."
Cynically exploiting the grief of the Bali victims' families, journalists
extracted inflammatory comments from a few who angrily condemned
McClelland. Other sections of the mediaincluding every major newspaper,
television news, and talkback radiopicked up the story and ran with it
throughout the week.
The Australian's campaign was a calculated ploy. Orchestrated just prior
to a federal election campaign, it was designed to exploit the 5th
anniversary of the Bali bombings to drown out opposition to the
destruction of democratic rights and the neo-colonial wars that are being
fought in the name of the "war on terror." The Murdoch press insists that
every terrorist act is explicable only in terms of "evil," Islam, or some
deficiency in Arabic culture, while denouncing anyone who points out that
the crimes carried out by the US and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Lebanon, and the Palestinian occupied territories have created the
recruiting ground for Islamic extremists.
The political and media establishment is deeply concerned that the entire
framework of the so-called war on terror is beginning to unravel.
Opposition to the Iraq war continues to grow and government terror scare
campaigns are now widely met with scepticism and outright disbelief. It is
in this context that the Australian has manufactured a furore over the
Bali bombings and the death penalty.
The Labor Party immediately accommodated itself to the reactionary
offensive. Opposition leader Kevin Rudd wasted no time in seizing the
opportunity to demonstrate his right-wing "me too" credentials. He
cravenly apologised for any suggestion that Labor opposed the death
penalty for the Bali bombers and insisted that McClelland do likewise.
Rudd even hinted that McClelland may not be appointed foreign minister if
the opposition wins the election.
"When it comes to the question of terrorism, my attitude has always been
hardline and will always be hardline, and that is that every measure
should be deployed to track down, to hunt down and to destroy terrorists
and terrorist cells wherever they are in our part of the world," the Labor
leader declared. "I believe that if terrorists are incarcerated they
should be allowed to rot in jail. I believe that terrorists should rot in
jail for the term of their natural lives and then one day be removed in a
Rudds attempt to maintain Labors nominal opposition to capital punishment
while engaging in some chest-thumping anti-terrorist rhetoric was belied
by significant policy U-turns. He disavowed party's stated policy of
encouraging the abolition of capital punishment in Asia, saying that it
would now be a matter left to the UN. He also declared his full agreement
with the Howard governments position that no effort be made to encourage
the commutation of the Bali bombers' death sentences. These statements
confirm that both major parties have effectively junked their opposition
to the death penalty.
Like the Howard government, Labor will place the ruling elite's corporate
and strategic interests in neighbouring countries ahead of the lives of
Australians convicted of serious offences overseas. In 2005 the
Singaporean government hanged Australian citizen Van Nguyen for drug
trafficking with the tacit approval of the Howard government. Members of
the "Bali 9" group, who were convicted of drug charges, now face execution
in Indonesia, again with the Australian governments support. These young
people have been sentenced to death as a direct consequence of the
Australian Federal Police (AFP) handing over intelligence to Indonesian
authorities, rather than detaining them on Australian soil where there is
no capital punishment. Labor has refused to criticise the AFP for its
role. The Australian journalist at Monday night's human rights meeting was
no doubt fishing for some controversy on this issue when she asked
McClelland about Labors policy on police intelligence sharing.
Rudd's craven response drew widespread criticism. Opposition to capital
punishment in Australia is deeply felt and has a long history. The last
execution in the country, that of Ronald Ryan in 1967, was met with a
nation-wide mass movement. Despite the best efforts of sections of the
media and the major parties there is no mass constituency for the
reintroduction of the death penalty. Significantly, a majority of the
letters published in the Australian condemned Rudd for repudiating
"It is hypocritical of Western countries to champion democracy on the one
hand and yet condone the ultimate abuse of democratic ideals on the
other," one correspondent wrote. "Just when McClelland had us thinking
that the Labor Party might stand for something after all, his leader steps
in and gives him a public dressing down."
The entire episode provides a salutary lesson in just how the
establishment media manufactures political issues to fit their own
right-wing agenda, while ignoring the concerns of ordinary people.
Significantly neither McClelland's strident defence of the war on terror
nor my remarks exposing the bipartisan support for attacks on democratic
rights were mentioned in Shanahans scurrilous article.
(source: Patrick OConnor, Socialist Equality Party candidate for
Grayndler; World Socialist)
Doubt over guilt left hanging
On February 18, 1957, at 6.30pm, Wanganui farmer Walter James Bolton
climbed the steps to the Auckland Prison gallows and was hanged for the
murder of his wife.
Bolton was the last person to receive the death penalty in New Zealand and
now new evidence has emerged that suggests the Crown may have got it
Bolton, 68, who was known as Jim, was found guilty of murdering his wife
of 43 years, Beatrice Bolton, by poisoning her with arsenic.
In the case, the prosecution alleged Bolton killed Beatrice because he was
in love with another woman - his sister-in-law Florence Doughty, with whom
he had a sexual affair. Lawyers for the Crown claimed Bolton had concocted
a potion of arsenic from sheep dip and laced his wife's tea with it on
several occasions, requiring hospital treatment, before a large dose
killed her on July 11, 1956.
Bolton was found guilty by an all-male jury in his hometown of Wanganui,
and lost a Court of Appeal case, despite his claims of innocence.
But was there enough reasonable doubt in the case for our last
state-ordered death to be considered an unjustified murder?
New evidence shows that Bolton made statements to police at the time -
which were not shared with the jury - admitting he suffered from erectile
dysfunction. This affected the relationship he had with Doughty. He also
recounted how Doughty seduced him on at least 1 occasion.
A father of 6, Bolton paid large sums of money for his wife's healthcare
(he even placed her in a private hospital); and was the only member of the
family to agree to an autopsy, which then revealed Beatrice's organs were
riddled with poison.
There is also the question of why Bolton persisted with a method of murder
that was not working over a period of time - experts agree arsenic does
not accumulate in the organs of the body - and 50 years later, scientists
still disagree on whether Boton would have had the knowledge of chemistry
to make the poison.
Would Bolton have been found guilty of murder before a court today?
That is the question being posed by documentary maker Bryan Bruce, who
reveals evidence that was never heard by the original jury on the Bolton
case, in the final episode of the television series The Investigator.
Bruce argues that the outcome might have been very different if the jury
had heard all the evidence.
"A lot of the case [in court] depended on seeing Bolton as a sexual
predator, which he didn't seem to be capable of being. You could have
argued a lot more vociferously for reasonable doubt, if you were defending
him now," Bruce says. "I think the Crown could equally have argued that
Doughty had opportunity and motive to kill her sister."
However, this was not suggested, and a Court of Appeal case claiming the
jury could not have found him guilty based on the evidence to hand, also
failed. He was hanged less than 13 weeks after being sentenced. His was
New Zealand's last execution but it would be another 32 years before the
penalty was officially removed from the books of law.
Ultimately, Bruce argues Bolton may have been the victim of small-town
judgement, rather than having been convicted on the evidence to hand. "He
was probably convicted as much for his sexual morals as for whether he had
killed his wife or not... I think that Jim Bolton deserved the benefit of
It is a case that demonstrates the dangers of the death penalty.
Bruce says: "From time to time, when someone commits a heinous crime in
this country, kills a child perhaps, you hear people saying bring back the
death penalty... But the law can get it wrong, and death is final."
53 men and 1 woman were executed in New Zealand between 1842 and 1957. The
death penalty was abolished in 1941, but reinstated in 1950.
The issue of state executions has been in the news again, with Prime
Minister Helen Clark announcing last week New Zealand would support a UN
initiative to abolish the death penalty worldwide, saying "capital
punishment is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading
(source: New Zealand Herald)
Yemen's famous female prisoner is spared noose
Yemen's most prominent woman prisoner, Ameenah Abdul Latif, has been freed
after 10 years in jail for allegedly murdering her husband in 1998.
She is now staying with friends as ties with her family are severed, the
film producer who played a crucial role in her release yesterday told Gulf
"The authorities on Tuesday finally allowed Ameenah to walk out of the
prison after we completed all the legal procedures and requirements,"
Khadija Salami said in Manama where she made a short stop.
"I now feel so relieved after the strenuous legal and social battles we
had to endure for years to get her out of prison. Her release is one of
the proudest moments in my life," said the first female Yemeni producer
whose documentary on Ameenah's life and prison conditions earned her
international fame and awards.
Khadija escorted Ameenah out of the prison and took her to an undisclosed
"I will now see how I can help her find a job and slowly resume her life
after the terrible times she suffered," she said.
Ameenah had been sentenced to death for allegedly taking part in the
murder of her husband, Hezn Hasam Qabail. At the time of her arrest in
1998, she had no documents to prove her age, a common occurrence in Yemen.
A government-appointed doctor established her age at the time of the crime
as being between 14 and 15. Under Yemen's laws, she can be sentenced to
death only if she is 15 at the time of the murder.
However, Yemen has signed the Child Rights Convention, which states that
18 is the legal age for capital punishment.
Ameenah said she was initially tortured into confessing the murder, but
has later continually maintained her innocence. In 2002, she was scheduled
to be executed, but was saved because a rape allegedly at the prison made
In 2005, she was again scheduled to be executed, but the execution was
stayed pending a review to determine her age at the time of the offence.
Khadija, who shared with Ameenah the pain of being forced into a marriage
at the age of 12, helped raise her case by presenting to the world a
chilling account of the woman prisoner on death row.
(source: Gulf News)
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