[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Sep 30 17:51:51 CDT 2007
COUNCIL OF EUROPE:
Council of Europe backs observance against death penalty
The Council of Europe has declared October 10 the European Day against the
The Council of Europe, with 47 member-states and headquarters in
Strasbourg, is distinct from the European Union. A motion in the European
Union to designate a day of opposition to the death penalty was stymied by
objections from the government of Poland, which requested equal
consideration for opposition to euthanasia and abortion.
On September 27 the European Parliament approved an appeal to a future
Polish government to approve the continental observance. Parliamentary
elections in Poland are scheduled for October 21; the resolution was
addressed to an incoming leadership coalition.
(source: Catholic World News)
Rwanda Calls for End to Death Penalty
Rwanda joined other countries Friday in appealing for a global moratorium
on executions, stressing that if it could abolish the death penalty while
perpetrators of the 1994 genocide still await sentencing, no country
should use it.
Diplomats and human right organizations met at the United Nations to push
for a global moratorium on executions with the goal of ending the death
Rwandan Minister for Cooperation Rosemary Museminali said that her
country, which outlawed the death penalty earlier this year, should serve
as a model for others.
She said that even though genocide perpetrators are still around, "we
still feel it is our moral obligation to preserve the right of life."
Rwanda got rid of capital punishment in part to encourage European and
other countries to extradite suspects in the genocide to Rwanda.
About 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred in 100 days of
frenzied killing led by radical Hutus. The killing ended when Tutsi-led
rebels under current President Paul Kagame defeated the Hutu extremists in
The meeting was co-hosted by the Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema,
whose country began a diplomatic push to gain international support for a
moratorium following the Dec. 30 execution in Iraq of Saddam Hussein. The
moratorium was the focus of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's speech
to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday.
The death penalty is no longer carried out in 130 countries, including the
27-nation European Union, which has fought for global abolition. The U.S.
and China, which both have the death penalty, oppose the moratorium. So
does the conservative government of EU member Poland, even though the
country has no capital punishment.
D'Alema said the group was realistic about the strength of the opposition,
which is why they are pushing for a moratorium before complete abolition.
"For the initiative to be genuinely transregional and mobilize worldwide
political support around a common purposed, our focus today should be on
the goal of a moratorium," he said.
In an interview with The Associated Press after the meeting, D'Alema said
representatives from 101 countries attended the meeting and agreed to form
a task force to pursue the moratorium and draft a General Assembly
resolution, which will need 97 votes - the majority in the 192-member U.N.
General Assembly - to pass.
He said he expected the U.S. and China to fight the moratorium, which he
hopes will come to the General Assembly floor for a vote in December.
"It is one thing to attend an event, it is another to vote for it because
we can expect maybe, much lobbying against (the moratorium), and these are
countries that have a great influence," D'Alema said.
According to Hands Off Cain, a Rome-based anti-death penalty group, more
people were put to death last year - 5,628 - than in either of the
previous 2 years, with China alone accounting for 5,000 executions. Iran
ranks 2nd with at least 215 people put to death.
The United has executed at least 40 people this year, according the Death
Penalty Information Center.
(source: Associated Press)
NGOs Coalition Asks N'Assembly to Pass Death Penalty Bill Into Law
A coalition of local and international non governmental organisations
(NGOs), yesterday called on the National Assembly to immediately pass into
law the draft Death Penalty Moratorium Bill, submitted to it by the Human
Rights Law Service in order to stop executions, pending abolition of the
President of Amnesty International, Senegal, Dr Louis Mendy, who spoke at
a briefing in Lagos on 'Death Penalty Moratorium and Abolition in
Nigeria', also called for the review of all cases of death row prisoners
and examine the cases of those who are older than 70 and those above 60
who have been on death row for more than ten years to see if they will be
suitable for release, as promised by the Obasanjo's administration on May
The coalition also called for the immediately abolition of the mandatory
death sentence, including under Shari'a penal laws, noting that mandatory
death sentences appear to especially target women.
The coalition is made up of Access to Justice, Amnesty International,
Civil Liberties Organisation, Cleen Foundation, Hurilaw, Human Rights
Watch, Legal Resource Consortium, National Coalition for Death Penalty
Abolition, Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, Project Alert and
West African Network for Peace Building Nigeria.
Nigeria's commitment to the internationally recognized and constitutional
right to life that all people in Nigeria should enjoy. On the occasion of
the Independence Day celebrations, we urge President Yar'Adua to bring
Nigeria into line with the global trend towards abolition of the death
"Indeed, a momentum is gathering to end capital punishment in all
countries. 131 countries, from all regions of the world, have abolished
the death penalty in law or in practice and only 25 countries carried out
executions in 2006. Already in 1999, the African Commission on Human and
Peoples' Rights, in its resolution adopted at the 26th Ordinary session in
Kigali (Rwanda), called upon all States that still maintain the death
penalty to consider establishing a moratorium on executions".
"We call on the Nigerian government to join this trend by declaring a
moratorium - pending abolition of the death penalty for all offences - and
by commuting all death sentences under Nigerian criminal law or Sharia
penal laws. A resolution calling for a global moratorium on executions
will be introduced at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 62th
session which begins on 18 September 2007.
Supported by countries from all regions of the world, such a resolution
would be an important milestone towards the total abolition of the death
penalty in all countries", he added
Lone Voices in a Land of Hardening Views
For years after his brother was killed in January 1982, Masaharu Harada,
57, says he grappled not only with the trauma of personal loss but also
with deep anger and hatred for the perpetrator.
Then the opportunity came to express his feelings. "I decided to visit the
murderer in prison to yell at him, telling him how much I hated him. But
when confronted with his anguished apologies, I felt my anger change to
inexplicable sadness for him. Suddenly, at that moment, I was filled with
a sense of relief," Harada told IPS.
That powerful, enduring change in his feelings is what Harada is now
trying hard to convey to the Japanese public. Anti-death penalty activists
welcome the move. They hope he will help soften what they see as hardening
support for the death penalty in a country shocked by recent gruesome
Harada is now a firm abolitionist. Not only did that fateful prison visit
in August 1993 change his mind about capital punishment, but his
experience afterwards strengthened his conviction. The convicted killer,
Toshihiko Hasegawa, 51, who became a Christian before he was hanged in
2001, wrote to him telling of the cruelty he endured on death row.
"I learned from Hasegawa how for months he waited out his hanging in
isolation. His family was barred from visiting him. My requests for more
meetings were turned down. Such treatment is inhuman and does not make me
feel better," he said.
Harada, who lives alone in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, launched
this June the Japan chapter of Ocean, an organisation based in the U.S.
that works to bring together crime victims and the perpetrators in the
hope both can move "beyond the feelings of hatred".
"The kind of work done by Ocean is badly needed in Japan where meetings
between bereaved family members and the criminals are rare. We believe
face-to-face meetings will bring transparency to Japan's secretive death
penalty system," Misako Yagishita, heading Amnesty Japan's anti-death
penalty campaign, said.
Activists who have spoken to family members of hanged prisoners have
compiled a chilling picture of Japan's death row. Some of the inmates are
left languishing for decades on death row before being hanged. Executions
are carried out secretly. There is no prior warning of the day of
execution. Inmates are told they will be executed only hours before.
Embarrassed relatives rarely collect the bodies.
Harada said he supported such a system until his own experience, believing
in the traditional Japanese view that criminals should be ostracised from
Another voice calling for a change of attitudes towards convicted killers
is Dr Masami Hirayama, a mental health specialist. He has long campaigned
for better rights for the mentally ill, accusing the government of failing
to provide psychological treatment for death row inmates. This is
tantamount to denying them a fair trial.
"There is obviously a huge need out there for criminals who have committed
murder because of their mental health problems. Handing down death
sentences on these people without giving them proper medical treatment is
wrong," he told IPS.
But more emotional support was needed for both sides of crime -- the
relatives of the victims, as well as the convicted, he said.
Hirayama runs a non-profit organisation, Grief Care Support, providing
counselling and advice for such people. Lack of similar such schemes in
Japan was an indication of the ignorance of the rights of people with
mental problems, he said.
Many other psychiatrists would agree.
As a clear example of a criminal with a mental disorder, they name Shoko
Asahara, the cult leader sentenced to death by hanging in 2004 for
masterminding the Tokyo underground attack. The deadly sarin nerve gas the
cult released on subway in 1995 killed 12 commuters and injured thousands.
Asahara's defence team have often raised the question of his mental
health. They appealed his death sentence on the grounds that he was
mentally ill. But in August last year, a court-appointed psychiatrist who
examined Asahara found he could be feigning mental illness and was fit to
Asahara's appeal against his death sentence was turned down by the
Japanese Supreme Court in September 2006. Several other cult leaders have
also been sentenced to death.
Anti-death penalty activists believe the case is the biggest single
barrier to the abolition of the death penalty in Japan. A 2005 survey of
public opinion showed that support for the death penalty has been rising
steadily. For the first time it topped 80 p%-- a rise of 23 % since 1975.
Since then, abolition activists have noted growing public sympathy for
Hiroshi Motomura, 31, a family victim of a capital crime, campaigning for
the death sentence. Motomura's wife was raped and she and her daughter
killed in 1999.
In May, the Japanese Supreme Court ordered the life sentence for the
convicted killer in the case to be reviewed by the Hiroshima High Court,
instructing it to take into consideration the death penalty.
Activists are watching with concern the workings of a new law that will
allow crime victims to testify in court against defendants. Many lawyers
believe that that the emotional testimony could work against the
defendants in capital cases and lead to more death sentences. The law was
approved by the Japanese Diet in June.
The appointment of Japan's new justice minister, Kunio Hatoyama is a
reflection of the current pro-death penalty trend in Japan, some activists
say. Hatoyama, a hawkish, open supporter of the death penalty, has
promised a safer society and a crackdown on crime.
There are currently 103 prisoners on death row, according to Amnesty
Japan. In April there were 3 hangings, followed by 3 more this August.
Japan and the U.S. are the only 2 major industrialised countries still
retaining the death penalty.
(source: IPS News)
POLITICS----Justice minister Hatoyama says Kamei 'not human'
Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said Friday he would not meet with
lawmaker Shizuka Kamei, who is opposed to the death penalty and described
the minister as not being human. On Wednesday, Kamei, the acting leader of
the People's New Party that wants to abolish the death penalty, said
Hatoyama "lacks the credentials as justice minister and as a human being."
Kamei was responding to Hatoyama's proposal from the previous day to omit
the procedure in which the justice minister signs an execution order for a
death-row inmate. In response to Kamei's comments, Hatoyama said Friday
that he would refuse a meeting with Kamei because "My character was
attacked 100%. I don't agree with abolishing the death penalty that would
allow a person to live no matter how many people he or she kills. My
standpoint is to eliminate heinous crimes that claim lives."
(source: Japan Today)
RP assists 2 OFWs facing death penalty in Kuwait
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday it has provided the services
of "the best lawyers" in Kuwait to help 2 Filipino workers facing the
death penalty to appeal their convictions to a higher court in the Middle
Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said Manila
has been helping out in appealing the cases of May Vecina and Marilou
Ranario, migrant workers convicted of killing their employers.
The Kuwait appeals court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence meted out
to Vecina for killing her employer's son, an 11-year-old, and stabbing the
boy's 17-year-old sister after an argument with her bosses.
The case is up for automatic appeal to Kuwait's High Court.
Ranario, who had admitted killing her employer in January 2005 after her
boss allegedly berated Filipinos, meanwhile stands a chance for a lesser
sentence through an appeals process in the Kuwaiti Supreme Court, said
"We've instructed our lawyer to make the appeal... The most important
thing is that everything is being done by the government to provide legal
assistance to ensure that all of their rights are protected during these
judicial proceedings," Conejos said.
He said a lawyer has been directed to assist in Vecina's appeal while 3
"high-caliber" lawyers have been on top of Ranario's case.
"So I tell you, in the case of Ranario and all other cases of [migrant
workers] facing charges there, they are being represented by the best
lawyers," he said.
Conejos denied reports that Ranario's execution date has already been set.
"The case is still pending in the [Kuwait] Supreme Court so there is no
setting of any date for execution. Once the Supreme Court decides, and I
cannot tell you when, hopefully, we can get a reversal or a diminution of
sentence. We are also having contingency plans in the case they'll be
sustained," he said.
More than 30 Filipinos face the death penalty abroad and the cases are on
different stages of appeal.
(source: GLobal Nation)
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