[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon May 12 10:12:05 CDT 2008
Broadcasters Break Hanging Secrecy Taboos
The final seconds in the life of a Japanese death row inmate -- the
rasping muffled last words, the trapdoor springing open, the whip of a
noose and a Buddhist gong signalling the end -- has made radio history
here, waking listeners up to what goes on in one of the most secretive
execution systems in the world.
In a breakfast radio programme on May 6, Tokyo's NCB (Nippon Cultural
Broadcasting) audience heard the sounds captured by a hidden microphone in
a death chamber as an unknown inmate fell 10 feet to his death beneath the
Osaka prison gallows 53 years ago.
The recording, made specifically to train Japan's future executioners, was
apparently smuggled out of prison and handed to NCB by campaigners against
the Japanese capital punishment. It formed part of a 1-hour documentary on
how Japans 106 death row inmates could expect to go to their deaths as the
country speeds up the tempo of its executions.
"The idea is to have a clean death. The condemned aren't supposed to
struggle or flop around," one veteran guard said, hinting how the inmate's
feet and hands are bound up before the final fall to the recording of
Buddhist monks chanting in the background.
In a separate command room, 3 to 5 executioners simultaneously press
buttons to activate the gallows trapdoor. The system is designed to
relieve anyone of feeling guilty that it was his button that caused the
The training tape included eavesdropping on a conversation between the
condemned man and a family member the day before his execution. "Im sorry
for what I have done," he says, his voice cracking with emotion.
First estimates were that some 100,000 people listened to the early
morning broadcast. Within hours, scores had called in or sent emails to
the station to express their views, 60 % of which were positive, NCB staff
told IPS. "I wept when I heard the voice of the man about to be hanged.
Now I understand what these people feel," one listener told the station.
A university lecturer called in to invite the entire production team to
speak to his students. "This is a huge opportunity for them to discuss the
death penalty issues as Japan stands on the verge of introducing a jury
system for capital cases," he told the station.
But critics accused the programme-makers of being one-sided and keeping
the listeners in the dark about the crime of the executed inmate.
Elsewhere, listeners seemed to welcome the new light that was being cast
on Japan's secretive death row system.
"It was shocking in its detail," Hiro Kawaguchi, 26, a financial services
worker, told IPS shortly after the broadcast. "I learned they build death
chambers of washable material and deck them out with non-stainable,
plastic curtains so they can hose everything down after an execution. It's
unthinkable that they could treat other human beings with such cold
"It was certainly interesting to listen to such a rare programme like this
on the death penalty," Toshie Komatsu, a businesswoman, told IPS. "But the
broadcast didn't discuss the victims' feelings, so I am still undecided on
the issue." Kanae Doe of Human Rights Watch Japan, praised the programmes
producers, saying she hoped their documentary would stimulate debate on
capital punishment and help bring about abolition.
Andrew Horvat, a well-know academic and former representative of the Asia
Foundation, said that he hoped for more than just the sounds from a
hanging but also the pictures.
"I think every person who is in favour of the death penalty should be
forced to witness all executions carried out by the state," he told IPS.
Looking ahead to next year when jury trials will be introduced for capital
offences, he said: "All jurors who vote to send someone to his death must
be there for the send-off. To do otherwise is to fail to take
Katsuhiko Shimizu, director of the NCB programme, refused to say how the
death row tape came into his station's possession. He admitted the
government's public prosecutor had tried to block the broadcast.
But after the station insisted it was in the public interest to air the
tape, official complaints were dropped. All names and anything that could
lead to anyone being identified in the tape were edited out by the station
before it was made public. "There isn't any transparency about the death
penalty. Japanese listeners have no idea or knowledge about it because of
the secrecy. That's why we want to inform them," Shimizu told IPS.
"Inmates are informed of their execution only in the morning of the day
they are to be hanged. Their families only find out about the execution
when they are told to collect the bodies," he added.
According to the latest public opinion poll, more than 80 % of Japanese
support the death penalty.
So far this year, there have been 7 executions, including 4 in 1 day last
(source: IPS News)
Nepalese escape death sentence in China
2 Nepali nationals, arrested for alleged drug smuggling, have escaped
death sentence in China when a court commuted their capital punishment
50-year-old Kharpa Tamang and Da Ghale of Dhading district were earlier
sentenced to death after the duo was nabbed by Chinese security personnel
15 months ago in a narcotic drug case. They were charged with allegedly
concealing some 80-90 capsules of narcotic drugs while landing at the
Now the Chinese court has changed its decision and lessened their
punishment, according to the National News Agency.
The court also said that they could be released from the Sanghai prison on
parole if they show good behaviour, it reported.
(source: Daily News & Analysis India)
Yemen court sentences 4 Shi'ite rebels to death
4 Shi'ite rebels were sentenced to death on Monday after a Yemeni court
convicted them of killing 2 soldiers, a court source said.
3 of the rebels were sentenced in their absence, the source told Reuters.
The rebels killed the soldiers when they ambushed an army patrol in 2007.
Fighting in the northern province of Saada between rebels led by Abdul
Malik al-Houthi and the army has flared intermittently since 2004.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes.
Yemeni officials say the rebels, who belong to the Zaydi sect of Shi'ite
Islam, want to return to a form of clerical rule prevalent until the
The rebels, who want Zaydi schools and oppose the government's alliance
with the United States, say they are defending their villages against what
they call government aggression.
Qatari mediators returned to Yemen earlier this month in an attempt to
salvage a truce brought to the verge of collapse by a mosque bombing that
killed 15 people. Houthi denies government accusations that his followers
were behind the attack.
House to debate death penalty
A CONSCIENCE debate on whether to abolish or maintain the death penalty in
Jamaica is on Parliament's agenda and members of both the Upper and Lower
houses are expected to speak their minds and vote on the burning issue
before the summer break.
Dorothy Lightbourne, attorney general and minister of legal affairs, said
on Friday that debate on capital punishment would take place before the
Charter of Rights was considered by the legislature.
Her comments were in response to a call by her opposition counterpart,
A.J. Nicholson, who made a compelling case for the debate on the
controversial subject to take place now.
Describing the results of a recent media poll on the death penalty as
startling, Senator Nicholson said 71 % of Jamaicans wanted hanging to
"There should be a full constructive debate so that Jamaicans could know
what are the pros and cons," he said.
The Senate was debating a bill to amend the Firearms Act and to validate
and confirm the actions or decisions of officials at the Firearms
Licensing Authority and Review Board between 2005 and present.
Law was not properly enforced
The validation became necessary because the legislation enacted in 2005
was not gazetted, which meant that the legislation was not properly
Nicholson, a former attorney general and justice minister, said the
question of the death penalty should not remain in limbo.
Government Senator Tom Tavares-Finson said Nicholson and his former
government colleagues owe the country an explanation as to why the death
penalty debate did not take place while they held the reins of government.
He said the previous administration for more than 18 years had not
addressed the question of the death penalty in any meaningful way.
This, however, was challenged by Opposition Senator Mark Golding, who said
that the People's National Party (PNP) government had amended the Offences
Against the Person Act, creating a distinction between capital and
The amendment to the Firearms Act, which was the 9th since Independence,
was passed by the Senate.
(source: Jamaica Gleaner)
Kirk set to express outright opposition to death penalty
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is set to express its
outright opposition to the death penalty for the 1st time.
It has never previously resolved to oppose capital punishment
At this year's General Assembly (15 21 May) the Church & Society Council
will be presenting its deliberations on the death issue, having taken a
fresh look at the issue in the light of contemporary international and
The death penalty was briefly discussed at the 2007 General Assembly,
insofar as it related to Saddam Hussein. At that time the Church & Society
Council expressed disappointment at the lack of condemnation of his
execution from politicians in the UK.
The General Assembly has never previously resolved to oppose capital
punishment wherever and whenever it occurs, and the Church & Society
Councils report will give it the opportunity to do so this year.
As a part of its wide-ranging deliberations, the Church & Society Council
has considered Biblical perspectives on the death penalty, ethical/moral
factors and capital punishment in historical and theological perspective,
as well as examining what objectives for society we are seeking through
the implementation of 'punishment'.
The Council's report will welcome the progress that has been made by the
worldwide abolitionist movement in the last 3 decades.
In 1977 only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes.
Today the figure stands at 90. A further 11 are abolitionist for ordinary
crimes and 32 are abolitionist in practice.
Despite this, between 5 and 10 thousand people were executed worldwide
during 2006 with at least 90% of known executions being carried out in
China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the USA. In addition, there are
between 19,000 and 25,000 people who have been condemned and are awaiting
the implementation of their sentence.
The report to the Assembly will recognise that, within the Christian
denominations of the world, there are opposing and honestly held views of
whether the death penalty is acceptable.
However, having tried hard to hear all viewpoints, the Church & Society
Council's final judgement to be put to the General Assembly is that no
system of justice devised and operated by humans is free from error or
arbitrariness. The death penalty conflicts with the right to life
enshrined in the European Convention in Human Rights, and the possibility
of the death penalty has manifestly failed to deter murder, war crimes and
genocide. The death penalty brutalises the society which practices it, and
alternative sentences for serious crimes exist through which restitution
and rehabilitation may be achieved.
The Assembly is set to agree that, at home and abroad, and in all
circumstances, the Church of Scotland affirms that capital punishment is
always and wholly unacceptable and does not provide an answer even to the
most heinous of crimes.
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