[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri May 2 10:55:21 CDT 2008
Russia vacillating over abolition of death penalty
How close is Russia to abolishing the death penalty? Possibly just two or
three years away, suggests Penal Reform Internationals director for
Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Victoria Sergeyeva.
Interview by Kester Kenn Klomegah/IPS, Moscow - Victoria Sergeyeva
explains that leading Russian politicians have already made up their minds
on the issue of death penalty, though their follow MPs still need prodding
out of their indecision. Across the country, young, educated city dwellers
would welcome the move.
The Russian Federation recently backed the U.N. General Assemblys call for
the world to move towards abolishing the death penalty. What is the legal
position today in Russia on capital punishment?
Since 1996, Russia has observed a de facto moratorium on executions. The
moratorium came into force by presidential decree at the time the Russian
Federation was joining the Council of Europe. Later, Russia also signed
but has yet to ratify Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human
Rights on the abolition of the death penalty. So, since 1996 no death
sentences have been handed down or executions carried out. But a final
decision on the future of the death penalty still has to be taken. The
Russian Constitution still allows for the possibility of the death
penalty. And the Russian Federation's Criminal Code still envisages
capital punishment for five categories of crimes.
Apart from the 1996 presidential decree, has the moratorium been adopted
In 1999, the Constitutional Court did issue an unprecedented ruling on the
moratorium at least a temporary one. It said that no death sentences
could be passed down anywhere in the Russian Federation until jury trials
had been introduced everywhere in the country. So, this was a
constitutional ban on any court issuing death sentences until this was the
You said it was a temporary ban. When do you expect this process of
introducing jury trials to be completed?
The Chechnya republic will be the last region to complete this process. In
January 2007, the State Duma approved a law postponing trial by jury there
The ruling on jury trials would, it seems, not stand in the way of
abolishing the death penalty ahead of whatever happens in Chechnya. Why
has the Russian Federation been so slow in formally abolishing the death
First of all, there's no common support for death penalty abolition among
Russian deputies. Many MPs are in favour of capital punishment. The death
penalty has been discussed a few times in the State Duma. But each time
the debates have ended fruitlessly.
The authorities have put enormous efforts into ensuring capital punishment
is not applied. But theres something preventing them from striking out
this punishment from legislation. And although there are currently no
executions, theres actually an active struggle going on to re-instate
capital punishment, especially for past and potential acts of terrorism.
So, Russian parliamentarians are indecisive and inconsistent on the death
penalty issue. The MPs very often try to mask this by saying that its the
Russian people who are not yet ready to accept death penalty abolition.
Have you carried out any surveys of public opinion on the death penalty?
Last year, Penal Reform International initiated a worldwide project called
'Global Action on the Abolition of the Death Penalty. This was organised
by our four regional offices. Here in Russia, the Yuri Levada Analytical
Centre conducted a countrywide poll asking some 1,600 people. We found the
majority still supported the death penalty, but not such a high proportion
as in previous years.
The results also showed that the majority of the young and educated in the
large cities actively supported death penalty abolition. Generally, the
number of people supporting the moratorium had increased from 23 % in 2006
to 31 % in 2007. Overall, 11 % of Russian citizens were against the death
penalty and we hope this percentage will continue to grow.
Did you question people on what they thought of life imprisonment?
We did not canvass detailed views on the alternatives to capital
punishment. But what we did learn was that the population is evenly split
on what punishment is the worse: the death penalty or life imprisonment.
This is very important as it seems to suggest that life imprisonment is
seen to be as bad as the death penalty.
Did you find this to be the case in the other countries you surveyed?
I would say this is not just the case in Russia. Most people in the world
would have the same opinion. Prisons everywhere are filling up. Over the
past 3 or 4 years theres been a general increase in prison populations.
This is not just the case in poor developing countries, but also in the
developed Western countries. And the preference is to isolate offenders.
You are familiar with the conditions in the Russian prison system. Is life
imprisonment a humane alternative to the death penalty?
Life imprisonment has existed as an alternative to the death penalty in
Russia since 1992. It should be noted that this punishment is much more
cruel here than in other European countries. Russias 1,600 lifers serve
out their sentences in special correctional colonies with a high level of
supervision. They are totally isolated from society. One really could
describe their living conditions and treatment as torture. When one
considers that they can only apply for early release after 25 years of
imprisonment, their chances of ever returning to society are really very
Are there grounds for optimism that Russian will abolish the death
Some key politicians, including the president, the chairmen of various
committees in the State Duma and Federation Council, including the head of
its Committee on Internal Affairs, have expressed their support for death
penalty abolition. As I mentioned, the State Duma has postponed jury
trials in the Chechnya Republic until 2010. This means that Russia's death
penalty moratorium is extended for another 3 years. But I think it is
going to be very difficult to extend the moratorium further.
Does this mean that you think abolition of the death penalty in Russia
will be announced before 2010?
Yes, it's possible that within the next 2 to 3 years, Russia will ratify
Protocol No. 6 and strike out the death penalty from its national
legislation. I know that in March this year, the State Dumas Committee on
Legislation introduced a draft law on the abolition of the death penalty
and this is now being discussed in the Russian parliament.
(source: Human Rights Tribune)
First major study of country's death penalty finds fatal flaws----Report
calls for halt to all executions amid 'lethal lottery'
Publishing the first ever large-scale study into India's use of the death
penalty, Amnesty International has revealed a system riddled with fatal
flaws. Launching the report at a press conference in New Delhi today, the
organisation called for the Indian authorities to abolish capital
In what is the 1st comprehensive analysis (running to some 243 pages) of
around 700 Supreme Court judgments on death penalty cases during the last
half century, Amnesty International warns that the fate of India's death
row prisoners is ultimately a lottery, with international death penalty
standards regularly flouted.
The report, Lethal Lottery: The Death Penalty in India, A study of Supreme
Court judgments in death penalty cases 1950-2006 - which was jointly
authored by Amnesty International India and the People's Union for Civil
Liberties (Tamil Nadu & Puducherry) - shows that death sentences have been
imposed on those who were children at the time of the alleged crime, and
on the mentally ill.
As the reports shows, even members of India's Supreme Court have
themselves acknowledged 'huge disparities' in sentencing, with some
defendants receiving death sentences and some non-capital sentences for
Amnesty International India Director Mukul Sharma said:
'India stands at a crossroads. It can choose to join the global trend
towards a moratorium on the death penalty, as adopted by the UN General
Assembly last year. It will also then join 27 countries in the Asia
Pacific region that have abolished the death penalty in law or in
'Or it can continue to hang death row inmates, when the judicial system
that puts them there has been shown by this extensive research to be
People's Union for Civil Liberties President Dr V Suresh said:
'While the death penalty continues to be used in India, there remains a
danger that it will be used disproportionately against ethnic minorities,
the poor or other disadvantaged groups. There is only one way to ensure
such inequalities in the administration of justice do not occur: the
complete abolition of the death penalty.'
Though the Indian government will not release full death penalty data,
Amnesty International believes that at least 140 people have been
sentenced to death in 2006 and 2007 and, according to the latest available
official figures, there were 273 people on death row as of 31 December
2005 (though with some 60 to 100 people being sentenced to death by lower
courts every year the real figure is likely to be considerably higher
Meanwhile, rather than the death penalty only being imposed in the 'rarest
of rare cases' - as was claimed by India's Supreme Court in 1980 -
Amnesty's report shows that in the last 15 years the death penalty has
additionally been introduced for kidnapping, drugs and terrorist offences.
Under three 'special laws', the death penalty is actually mandatory, even
though the United Nations has specifically stated that mandatory death
sentences should never exist.
Actual executions, however, have recently become rare in India. Apart from
a single execution in 2004, there have been no executions in the last
decade and Amnesty International is now calling for an official moratorium
to be imposed.
(source: Amnesty International)
Amnesty urges India execution ban ---- The death penalty is carried out by
hanging in India
Rights group Amnesty International has urged the Indian government to
impose an immediate moratorium on executions and move to abolish the death
The group says there are "grave concerns about arbitrariness and
discrimination" in processes leading to the death penalty.
It says 135 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
Indian authorities say the death penalty is rarely carried out and is
usually reserved for serious cases.
Apart from a single execution in 2004, there have been no executions in
the country in the past ten years.
A 1983 ruling by the country's Supreme Court stated that the death penalty
should be imposed only in "the rarest of rare cases".
Only particularly horrific or politically sensitive cases have attracted
In a new report, Amnesty disputes this and says the Indian government does
not disclose how many people have been executed and how many are awaiting
It says, according to official figures, there were 273 people awaiting the
death penalty in Indian prisons as at the end of December 2005.
The group says it "believes this figure to be a gross underestimate".
It says at least 140 people are believed to have been sentenced to death
in India in 2006 and 2007.
It is not clear how the group arrived at the figure.
Indian prison authorities denounced Amnesty's claim that there was no
transparency about prisoners on death row in India.
The death penalty can be imposed in cases relating to terrorism
"Death sentences are carried out under court orders. Every order is
recorded and prison records sent to the federal government regularly.
There is nothing hush-hush about it," said BD Sharma, the chief of prisons
in eastern West Bengal state.
"Such claims are totally sensational," he said.
To put things into perspective, he said, in a big state like West Bengal,
there were 12 prisoners on death row, down from 17 a few years ago.
Amnesty says it studied death penalty cases in collaboration with the
Indian rights group People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) for its
It says that most death sentences handed down in India are based solely on
The report says "innocent people" have been sentenced to death on the
basis of "false and fabricated evidence, often used in manipulated
investigations and prosecutions, with investigating and prosecuting
agencies acting in collusion".
Amnesty urged the government to ensure that the death penalty was not
imposed on anyone suffering from mental disability.
PUCL president DR V Suresh said there is a danger of the death penalty
being "used disproportionately against ethnic minorities, the poor or
other disadvantaged groups".
"There is only one way to ensure such inequalities in the administration
of justice do not occur: the complete abolition of the death penalty."
There have been protests against death penalty in India
In India the death penalty is carried out by hanging. An attempt to
challenge this method failed in the Supreme Court, which stated in its
1983 judgement that hanging did not involve torture, barbarity,
humiliation or degradation.
Under Indian law, the death penalty can be imposed for murder, gang
robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person,
waging war against the government, and abetting mutiny by a member of the
In recent years, however, special courts have also extended the penalty to
cases of terrorism under anti-terror legislation.
Some people are pushing for it to be used against rapists.
Last year, a former member of the Indian parliament, Anand Mohan, was
sentenced to death for his role in a mob killing 13 years ago.
An Indian soldier was also sentenced to death for killing his superior in
Indian-administered Kashmir last May.
The assassins of India's independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi, and former
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were among those executed in the past 60
(source: BBC News)
Amnesty urges India to abolish capital punishment:
Amnesty International Friday appealed to India to declare a "moratorium"
on executions as an interim step towards abolishing the death penalty.
The London-based rights group said there was a worldwide trend towards
abolition and urged India to "declare an immediate moratorium on
executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."
As an emerging power, "India has an opportunity to exercise regional
leadership and to send a strong signal of its determination to fully
uphold human rights" by rejecting the death sentence, it said.
Amnesty India chief Mukul Sharma said the report was based on the belief
that the "death penalty violates the right to life and does not have any
place in the modern justice system."
"There was no comprehensive study on the impact or consequences of
awarding the death penalty" for many decades, he noted.
President Pratibha Patil has about 60 mercy petitions under review for
people on death row including the high-profile case of a Muslim man, Afzal
Guru, sentenced to hang for plotting a 2001 attack on parliament.
The petition is Guru's last hope after the Supreme Court in 2006 upheld
his death sentence for conspiracy in the attack that nearly brought
nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to war in 2002.
He has claimed innocence in the attack and many opponents of his execution
say he did not get a fair trial.
The rights watchdog said it feared India's leaders lacked the political
courage and human rights leadership to abolish the death penalty, with the
public "erroneously" believing it deters violent crime.
After studying 56 years of evidence used to hand down death sentences,
Amnesty said it had found "abuse of law and procedure and arbitrariness
and inconsistencies in the investigation process."
"In practice, the exercise of clemency has even more potential for
abitrariness than the judicial process, especially since there is no
requirement to give reasons for accepting or rejecting mercy petitions,"
The last execution in India was in 2004 when a 41-year-old former security
guard was hanged for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old schoolgirl.
India's Supreme Court ruled in 1980 the death penalty was to be imposed
only in the "rarest of rare" cases. But Amnesty said some people were
handed death sentences for crimes for which others received lesser
Vikramjit Batra, who wrote the report, said "many Supreme court judges
themselves have pointed out the absence of a clear sentencing policy or
what constitutes the rarest of the rare.
He described India's judicial and police system as "riddled with errors,"
saying the Supreme Court had acquitted the accused in 175 of the 728 cases
he reviewed because the lower courts' verdict was erroneous.
(source: Agence France Presse)
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