[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 23 00:44:36 CDT 2007
'Chemical Ali' execution 'in days'
Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam Hussein's cousin, and widely known as
"Chemical Ali", will be executed "in the coming days," an Iraqi government
spokesman has said.
Legal arguments and religious holidays have delayed al-Majid's execution,
which was confirmed on September 4 by the Iraqi supreme court and due to
be implemented within 30 days.
Al-Majid was convicted earlier this year of presiding over the killing of
thousands of Kurds during the Anfal campaign in the 1980s.
Asked whether he would be hanged soon, Ali al-Dabbagh said: "I think so,
yes, in the coming days."
Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, delayed the hanging of al-Majid until
after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which ended on Monday.
Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai, the former defence minister, and Hussein
Rashid Mohammed, former deputy operations director of the Iraqi armed
forces, were also sentenced to death for their part in the campaign.
All 3 were convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity
2 members of the Iraqi presidential council - Jalal Talabani, the
president, and Tareq al-Hashemi, the vice-president - have refused to sign
the execution order.
"US forces who hold those indicted must not hand them to any party without
permission from the presidential council," Hashemi said in a statement on
It is not clear if al-Maliki believed the three-member presidential
council -Adil Abdul Mahdi, the vice-president and third member - were
legally required to sign the execution order, as they did not in the case
of Saddam Hussein.
Badie Aref, a lawyer who represented Saddam before he was hanged on
December 30, 2006, said that al-Maliki's committee had not convened yet
and that any execution of al-Majid would now be illegal.
Badie said: "The committee ... is useless because the constitution is
clear and must not be misinterpreted.
"They have no right to implement the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid
after more than 30 days according to their own interpretation of the
court's law, to which they must be committed."
Mirembe Nantongo, a US embassy spokeswoman, said: "Our understanding is
that there is still discussion within the government of Iraq about how to
proceed with this case and we are awaiting further clarification from
The Anfal military campaign against the Kurds in 1988 killed an estimated
Al-Majid, once among the most powerful and feared men in Iraq, ordered the
use of mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds, who had allegedly
worked with Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
(source: Al Jazeera)
Hussein officer finds unlikely defenders
A commander of an anti-Kurd campaign is slated to die, but some are urging
a pardon as a sign of reconciliation.
He was the military commander in a campaign that killed as many as 180,000
Kurds, and he played a key role in suppressing a Shiite uprising against
Saddam Hussein. Now, awaiting execution, Hussein's defense minister has
become the focus of an unlikely debate on reconciliation in Iraq.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and other politicians are arguing that
the life of Sultan Hashim Ahmad Jabburi Tai should be spared. While some
Shiite Muslim clerics urged during Friday prayers that Tai be hanged,
others argued that he was a soldier following orders, and that before the
2003 war that toppled Hussein, he had been in contact with the opposition.
They also are mindful that the messy execution of Hussein in December is
regarded by some as proof that the new Shiite-led government is
selectively applying justice.
Tai is one of three officials sentenced this summer to hang for their
roles in Hussein's 1988 Anfal campaign. Also awaiting execution are Ali
Hassan Majid, Hussein's first cousin who is known as "Chemical Ali" for
his role in the poison-gas killings of the Kurds, and Hussein Rashid
Mohammed, the former deputy head of army operations.
The verdict was upheld by an appeals court Sept. 4, but then the case was
plunged into limbo.
The executions were delayed during the holy month of Ramadan. Vice
President Tariq Hashimi -- who, like Tai, is a Sunni -- then petitioned a
Justice Ministry council to decidewhether the hangings could be carried
out without the approval of the Iraqi Presidential Council, made up of
himself, Talabani and Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi.
The Justice Ministry council declared that the presidential council must
endorse the court order, but cannot block it. Both sides see that
decision, returned about 10 days ago, as backing their positions.
Tai's family believes that Talabani's and Hashimi's opposition has so far
spared his life. An Iraqi official close to the case said Talabani and
Hashimi believe that Mehdi, a Shiite, would support them in blocking the
However, the main Shiite parties are opposed to commuting Tai's sentence
because he played a key role in suppressing the 1991 Shiite uprising
against Hussein at the end of the Persian Gulf War, the official said. Tai
negotiated Iraq's surrender to the Americans, but won the right to retain
helicopter gunships that were later used in beating back the Shiite
Though no one publicly defends Majid, Tai is regarded by some officials as
a good soldier.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, also a Kurd, acknowledged Tai's
role in the Anfal campaign, but said many people were looking past that in
the name of the nation's future.
"As a sign of reconciliation, many people believe he should be pardoned,
or not executed," Zebari said.
Zebari acknowledged that Tai had been in contact with the Iraqi opposition
before the war, and added that he was often touted as a possible
replacement for Hussein. It remains a mystery whether Tai cooperated with
U.S. forces in the countdown to war.
In September 2003, Tai surrendered voluntarily to Army Gen. David H.
Petraeus, who was then in charge of the northern city of Mosul. Petraeus
is now the overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.
"Before turning himself in, he . . . said, 'I'm innocent. I haven't done
anything I'm ashamed of,' " his son, Ahmed Hashim Tai, said in a telephone
interview. The son said he believed the Americans and Petraeus had reneged
on a promise to protect his father.
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite, has not made it clear whether he
thinks Tai should hang, but Mariam Rayes, who resigned last week as a
legal advisor to Maliki, said the prime minister had decided not to
interfere with the court orders.
Rayes, with the main Shiite political bloc, said she was against Tai's
execution. "There are some sides in the government like Tariq Hashimi and
. . . also me that asked to lift the death penalty against Sultan Hashim,
as he was following orders and would have faced death if he hadn't done
what he was ordered to do," she said.
Iraq's rifts were reflected Friday in Sunni and Shiite mosques, where
Shiite clerics argued for Tai's death and Sunni preachers urged that he be
"We are asking to accelerate the implementation of the execution decision
against the 3 convicts from the Anfal case," Sadruddin Qubanchi, a
prominent cleric aligned with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, said in
the Shiite holy city of Najaf. "We refuse any pressure applied to prevent
In neighboring Jordan, 17 former Iraqi generals issued a statement calling
on the Iraqi government to spare Tai's life.
"Please halt your spirit of vendettas and revenge," said Lt. Gen. Raad
Hamdani, a former commander of Hussein's elite Republican Guard. "You are
also calling for a new era."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Top Envoy Speaks out Against Death Penalty Following Afghan Executions
The top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan this week expressed concern at
the recent execution of 15 prisoners in the capital, Kabul - the first
time the death penalty has been used in 3 years.
"The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has been a staunch supporter of
the moratorium on executions observed in Afghanistan in recent years,"
said UNAMA chief Tom Koenigs, recalling that the UN had previously stated
its concern over the use of the death penalty.
In a statement, he acknowledged the sovereign right of the Afghan people
and their Government to decide how to carry out their own laws, but called
for Afghanistan to "continue working towards attaining highest human
rights standards and ensuring that due process of law and the rights of
all citizens are respected."
"It is my personal view that the death penalty should be abolished
worldwide," he added.
Also today, UNAMA reported that more than 353,000 Afghans have returned to
their homes so far this year - nearly 348,000 of them from Pakistan and
more than 5,000 from Iran - with the assistance of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Over 16,000 Afghans returned to their home country from Pakistan and Iran
last month, UNAMA's Nazifullah Salarzai told reporters in Kabul, adding
that the pace of returns is slowing down as winter approaches.
"We're now seeing return numbers averaging 200 per day - down from a peak
of over 12,000 assisted returns per day in April," Mr. Salarzai stated.
While UNHCR's voluntary repatriation operation from Iran will continue
throughout the winter, its operation from Pakistan will take a "winter
break" at the end of October and then resume next March.
Since 2002, some 5 million Afghan refugees have returned to their
battle-scarred homeland, mostly from Pakistan and Iran, a majority aided
by UNHCR. Most of the 3 million registered Afghans remaining in
neighbouring countries have been abroad for more than 2 decades.
Guatemala Complies with Inter-American Court Ruling
The Guatemalan justice system commuted a death sentence handed down in
1999 to 40 years in prison this week, in compliance with a 2005 ruling
issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In May 1999, Ronald Ernesto Raxcac was sentenced to death for the
kidnapping of an 8-year-old boy under article 201 of the Guatemalan Penal
Code that was modified in 1996 so that it automatically imposes the death
penalty for anyone convicted of kidnapping regardless of whether the
victim suffers any harm at all, and does not allow the judge to consider
Raxcac has been transferred to another prison, where he is now being held
in better conditions, Ovidio Girn, who presented his case to the
Inter-American Court in 2005, told IPS.
The case was referred to the Inter-American Court in September 2004 by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) after the Centre for
Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Institute for Public Criminal
Defence in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Institute of Comparative Studies
in Penal Sciences (ICCPG) filed a complaint in 2002.
"We appreciate that the Guatemalan state has complied with the
Inter-American Court verdict in a reasonable timeframe. It is a step
forward," CEJIL lawyer Marcela Martino told IPS after a Guatemala court
commuted Raxcacs sentence on Wednesday.
David Dvila, with the ICCPG, also described the compliance with the
sentence as "an advance, an achievement after many years of work,"
although he considered the 40-year sentence "still very long."
Raxcac was found guilty of the August 1997 kidnapping of eight-year-old
Pedro Alberto de Len, who was seized while waiting for the school bus near
his home in the capital. The boy was rescued the following day by the
This is the second time the Guatemalan state has implemented an
Inter-American Court sentence. In June 2006, Fermn Ramrez, who was
convicted of the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl, also had his death
penalty commuted to 40 years in prison.
In the case of Raxcac, the Court pointed out that article 201 of the Penal
Code was modified to expand the scope of the death penalty after Guatemala
ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits
expansion of the application of the death penalty. In addition, it ordered
a sentence "proportional to the nature and gravity of the crime."
The Court also urged the Guatemalan state to reinstate the presidential
power to pardon or commute sentences and put an end to a legal vacuum that
is blocking death row prisoners from exhausting all legal means of defence
and seeking a pardon or the commuting of their sentences.
Up to Wednesday, Raxcac was 1 of 21 inmates on death row who have spent
between 5 and 11 years in isolated wings of various Guatemalan prisons.
In 2000, 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.
A de facto moratorium on executions has been in place since then, although
capital punishment is still on the books.
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 has made it through the
first few obstacles in Congress.
The 2 candidates who will face off in the Nov. 4 presidential runoff
elections, the centre-left lvaro Colom and the rightwing Otto Prez Molina,
have both pledged to remove the de facto moratorium on capital punishment.
In its sentence, the Court ordered the Guatemalan state to provide Raxcac
with adequate medical and psychological treatment and medicines as well as
educational and labour activities aimed at making his reinsertion in
society possible once he serves out his sentence.
Girn, at the Institute for Public Criminal Defence in Guatemala,
criticised "the injustice and lack of proportion between the crimes that
are committed and the sentences that are handed down."
"We still have flawed legal proceedings, people who have been wrongly
sentenced to death," said Girn, who called for a reform of article 102 of
the Penal Code, to live up to the observations of the Inter-American
In this impoverished, violence-wracked Central American country of 13
million, the death sentence is applicable to crimes like murder,
kidnapping, rape of children under 10, and some drug trafficking-related
Sixty percent of those on death row in Guatemala have been sentenced for
kidnapping (some of the cases involved the death of the victim), and 40 %
"We hope the reforms of the penal code and the draft law" on the
presidential pardon will be approved, said Girn.
In an open letter to Guatemalan legislators in May, the International
Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) expressed concern over several
aspects of the draft law, while calling for the abolition of capital
punishment in Guatemala.
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.
Martino also said the latest version of the draft law "does not fulfil the
requisites" outlined by the Inter-American Court, which said executions
should not go ahead until the president reaches a decision on whether or
not to grant a pardon.
CEJIL said in May that the draft law creates a procedure for granting a
pardon for death row inmates and establishes that the power to grant or
reject it lies with the president, but does not specify which
administrative body should process the request for a pardon -- a gap that
affects the convicted partys right to a defence.
Furthermore, the NGO stated, the draft law fails to specify the criteria
on which the decision on whether or not to grant a pardon or commute a
sentence is to be based.
Opinion polls show that the death penalty is supported by a majority of
the public in Guatemala, where 50 % of the population officially lives
below the poverty line -- or as much as 80 % according to unofficial
figures -- and which has one of the highest per capita murder rates in
A total of 2,857 homicides were recorded in the 1st half of 2007 alone.
(source: IPS News)
The government of Mali has announced that it is to remove the death
penalty from its statute books.....
The Malian government has announced that it is ending capital punishment
and replacing it with life imprisonment. The announcement came at the end
of a cabinet meeting held on Wednesday at which a Bill was adopted which
would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life time
The bill will be passed to Parliament and if approved will become law once
it is signed by Amadou Toure, the Malian President. Despite having the
death penalty Mali has not executed any convicted criminals in over 26
years, the last time being in 1980 when 2 convicted armed robbers were
hanged. Since then most death penalty sentences have been commuted to
prison sentences by the President clemency.
Famously in 1999 ex-President Moussa Traore was sentenced to death on
charges of massive corruption but had the sentence commuted to life
imprisonment, he was eventually released in 2002.
The move in Mali comes shortly after Gabon had also announced it is to
abolish the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
The last woman to hang .. but did she die for her husband's crime?
IT LOOKED a harmless, everyday scene, but not to the woman standing in her
living room peeking out the side of her curtains. She was suspicious, but
was she right?
It was night-time. But Duke Street was still heaving with people, carts
and motors that day, June 20 1923.
There were many industries based there. It was a main route out to the
east of Glasgow and row after row of tenements were packed to the gunnels
So busy that people didn't notice much. That's what someone had hoped.
Helen Elliot was a curtain-twitcher. A wee bit nosy but harmless enough.
Home entertainment was in its infancy then, with few working folk able to
afford a wind-up record player or big box wireless. Helen's entertainment
was through her window, out there on the street, and something was
A lorry had pulled up to the kerb and the driver was helping a youngish
woman lift a cart down from the back.
So what, most folk would have thought. It was common to hitch a lift from
lorries back then. But as the cart was lifted down, was that a human foot
Helen had seen flop over the edge?
She couldn't ignore that, could she?
The lorry driver, Thomas Dickson, was a good soul. When he passed the
woman pushing the cart with a young child perched on top, he pulled in
It was just outside Coatbridge and he guessed, rightly, that the woman was
walking all the way into the east end of Glasgow. That was some walk
especially with the heavily laden cart and the kid.
The woman was 30-year old Susan Newell, the child her 8-year old daughter
Janet by an earlier marriage.
They were in luck. They were heading to Duke Street and the lorry driver
was going exactly that way.
As he helped the woman down with the cart, Thomas Dickson thought for the
2nd time that it weighed a ton. But it would have been nosy to ask what
was in the cart, and Thomas wasn't that. Unlike Helen Elliot.
Helen ran and got her sister, telling her in a voice shaking with fear
what she'd seen.
Together, they followed the woman with the cart and the child until she
turned and headed into the close at 650 Duke Street. Now they needed help.
Helen blurted out her story to two men, Robert Foote and James Campbell.
Foote carefully sidled through the close at 650 Duke Street, and arrived
in time to see the woman clamber over a wall adjoining 2 back greens.
Campbell caught Susan Newell dropping down the other side. Her behaviour
was too suspicious, so the men grabbed her and sent someone for the
While they were waiting for the cops Newell blurted out that in the cart,
wrapped in a red quilt, was the body of a teenage boy.
She'd come to Duke Street to dump the body. The place was so busy, so
built up, that no one would find it in a hurry.
Even when they did, the area was so infamous for violence that they'd
assume the deadly deed had been done by a local - not someone out in
Susan Newell's plan was sound and might well have succeeded if only that
foot hadn't slipped out while Helen Elliot was watching.
The dead boy was 13-year-old John Johnston. Both Susan Newell and her
husband, John, were charged with his murder.
At the trial, the jury heard from neighbours that young John Johnston had
been seen going up to the Newells' flat in Newlands Street, Coatbridge, at
around 7pm on June 20 1923.
A short while later, loud thumps were heard. An adult voice screamed,
"Shut that f*****g door," then there was silence.
MORE damning evidence came from the mouth of a babe. Susan's own daughter,
Janet McLeod, told how she returned to the house later that evening to
find her mother with Johnston's corpse lying on the floor.
According to Janet, her mother wrapped the corpse in a red quilt, dumped
it in the cart, and, with her sitting on top, set off to Glasgow.
The evidence against Susan Newell was damning and her pleas of innocence
looking thinner and thinner. But what of her husband?
John Newell produced a line-up of witnesses, mostly his relatives, who
swore that he was with them that day at a family funeral in Glasgow and
had stayed over.
Lord Kinross, for the prosecution, was most reluctant to accept this
evidence and suggested the relatives were lying.
Medical evidence found that John Johnston had died in a brutal way. He had
been throttled so viciously his windpipe had burst, and battered about the
head so hard that sections of his skull were smashed in.
Finally, he had suffered extensive burns when still alive. Would a woman -
even a young, fit woman - have the strength to inflict those injuries?
Lord Kinross wondered aloud.
And what of that shout the neighbours heard, "Shut that f*****g door." Had
it been a man's voice? 2 adults talking to each other?
So Lord Kinross did his best to sow doubt in the jury's minds. He wanted
wife and husband to be convicted.
Kinross failed. After only 37 minutes deliberations, the jury found John
Newell not guilty and Susan Newell guilty.
Susan appealed, and several public petitions pled for clemency. One
problem-she still protested her innocence.
While the state didn't like to hang women, it would show no mercy to
someone who showed no remorse, had to admit her guilt.
She refused. So on October 10 1923, she made history by becoming the last
woman to be hanged in Scotland. The place of her death? Duke Street
Prison, a short walk from where she tried to hide the evidence that dark
(source: Daily Record)
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