[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu May 29 14:12:30 CDT 2008
Kurdistan region's justice minister 'wants to abolish death penalty'
The autonomous northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan's justice minister,
Faruq Jamil, on Thursday told campaign group Amnesty International he
wants to abolish the death penalty, according to an unnamed ministry
Jamil met a delegation from Amnesty, which is currently on a fact-finding
mission to Kurdistan to assess alleged human rights abuses and the legal
status of prisoners in the region's jails.
"The minister told members of the delegation he wants to abolish the death
penalty in Kurdistan.
"He also told it about positive developments and the abolition of many
by-laws," said the justice ministry source.
"The justice ministry has since 1991 been amending dozens of criminal laws
to bring these in line with international human rights standards," the
The Kurdistan region's human rights minister, Shirwan Aziz is currently
working on a bill to limit the application of the death penalty together
with a commission from the regional parliament and several international
Q&A: 'Arab Legislations Go Far Beyond Islamic Law'----Interview with Tahar
Boumedra from Penal Reform International
Is Islamic law -- Sharia'a -- the only legal instrument regulating the
death penalty in Arab and Muslim countries?
"No, the death penalty in most Arab and Muslim countries is regulated and
applied according to positive laws -- man made law -- and not according to
Sharia'a," says Tahar Boumedra, Penal Reform International's (PRI)
Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
In an interview with IPS journalist Baher Kamal, Boumedra explains how
this issue was debated during a 3-day regional conference on the death
penalty, which ended in Alexandria on May 14.
"Some delegates -- they came from nine Arab countries -- tried to use
Islamic law to argue against the abolition of the death penalty," says
Boumedra. "But actually death penalty laws go far beyond anything Sharia'a
law ever sought to impose."
The conference, co-organised by PRI and the Swedish Institute in
Alexandria, issued the "Alexandria Declaration" calling for a moratorium
on executions as a step towards abolishing the death penalty in the Arab
IPS: The "Alexandria Declaration" calls on Arab states to comply with the
U.N. General Assembly's resolution on the death penalty of last December.
This called for states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to
establish a moratorium on executions and work progressively towards
abolishing capital punishment. Did your discussions in Alexandria achieve
any development in this regard?
TAHAR BOUMEDRA (TB): Well, to a certain extent, our discussion in
Alexandria reflected somehow the diversity of opinion on the death penalty
expressed in the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly during the
drafting of the moratorium resolution.
At the end of our discussions we agreed to state in the Declaration that
the death penalty was a "violation of the most fundamental human right,
the right to life". We also agreed that this sanction had not succeeded
anywhere in deterring criminality or preventing it.
IPS: Did you focus on the death penalty in the Arab region in particular
or in the Islamic countries in general?
TB: We focussed on the Arab region. We brought together national
coalitions and civil society representatives from the region -- Algeria,
Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates
and Yemen. We had a presentation on the Turkish experience as a Muslim
country that abolished the death penalty.
Regional and international organisations such as the Arab League, the
European Commission and the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights also
IPS: But the debate was mostly about the role Islamic law plays in the
application of the death penalty?
TB: Some delegates did use Islamic law to argue against the abolition of
the death penalty. But they were reminded by the Jordanian scholar,
Professor Hamdi Mourad, and others that the death penalty in the Arab
world is in fact prescribed by positive laws that have nothing to do with
Islamic law -- and, in some instances, are actually a violation of Islamic
I agree with this view. My concern is that Arab positive laws prescribe
the death penalty excessively. The laws go far beyond anything Sharia'a
ever sought to impose.
In the Alexandria Declaration we specifically appealed to all Arab judges
to refrain from using the death penalty in favour of more humane
alternatives. We also called on the judges to adhere to international
IPS: Such an appeal seems to suggest that there was a consensus of opinion
that the legal systems in the Arab region, quite aside from the arguments
over Sharia'a and the death penalty, do not meet international standards?
TB: Most Arab judicial systems are currently undergoing major reforms.
This implicitly acknowledges serious difficulties in the delivery of
In my view, it is a crime to empower a dysfunctional justice system with
the application of such an irreversible punishment as the death penalty.
IPS: Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy over Article 7
of the Arab Charter on Human Rights. This appears to allow for the
possibility of applying the death penalty against minors. How could the
Charter ever have been ratified with such an article?
TB: We did discuss this in Alexandria. Also delegates expressed
astonishment at this article. We urged the Arab League member states to
consider amending this article to eliminate any possibility of applying
the death penalty to children under 18 years of age.
It should be quite clear that ratifying the Arab Charter on Human Rights
without expressing a reservation about this Article 7 (a) is a violation
of the domestic law of the ratifying states as well as international law.
The prohibition of the use of death penalty against children is a
peremptory rule from which no derogation is permitted.
IPS: Algeria has being observing a moratorium on executions for years. But
Algerian courts are still issuing death sentences - several dozens of
people were condemned to death only in the past days.
TB: In Alexandria we expressed satisfaction that Algeria was the sole Arab
nation to vote in favour of the U.N. moratorium resolution last December.
The Algerian vote then was consistent with the country's practice in
observing a de facto moratorium since 1993.
But Algerian courts should refrain from passing down death penalties since
these are not being enforced anyway.
It is hoped that Algeria's draft penal code currently under consideration
will confirm its consistent practice of not carrying out the death
penalty. There is a reasonable expectation that the death penalty will be
eliminated from its provisions.
IPS: Algeria is not the only Arab country that appears to be moving in
this direction. Lebanon has even drafted a law abolishing the death
penalty. Why hasn't this been adopted into law?
TB: The debate on the death penalty in Lebanon has reached an advanced
stage in the civil society. It was only the long-running constitutional
crisis in Lebanon that delayed it being put on the parliamentary agenda.
IPS: What are the possibilities of the Yemeni parliament abolishing the
TB: Well, abolishing the death penalty in Yemen is not yet on the official
agenda. The priority for the time being is to reduce the scope of the
application of the death penalty.
There are approximately 315 cases where the death penalty applies in
If these were cut down at least to the level permissible by Sharia'a -- 5
cases at most -- the country would have gone a long way towards abolition.
Such an approach is advocated by religious scholars and would be welcomed
by tribal leaders.
In the Alexandria Declaration we issued a general appeal to all Arab
nations to do the same and reduce the number of offences for which the
death penalty is imposed.
IPS: Out of 22 Arab countries, 15 voted against the U.N. moratorium
resolution (Bahrain, Comoros, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya,
Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen),
four abstained (Djibouti, Lebanon, Morocco and the UAE) and one was absent
from the vote (Tunisia). Can you see a day in the future when all the
countries in the Middle East will have abolished the death penalty?
TB: I am hopeful that there will be a day when the Middle East and North
Africa will step out against the death penalty.
This day is closely linked to the countries' advancement and achievements
in the field of human rights. The more the universal values of human
rights are upheld, the more we will advance against the death penalty in
(source: IPS News)
In favour of death penalty
I was shocked and shaken when a few days back I came to know that the
government was considering abolishing capital punishment. I am an old
woman whose son was murdered at the age of 19 in cold blood in June 2003.
I fought the murder case of my son and the murderer was sentenced to death
by the additional district and sessions judge, Islamabad. The convict has
filed an appeal before the Lahore High Court in Rawalpindi and it is
The decision of the government, besides being a breach of my human rights,
is repugnant to Quranic law that demands an eye for an eye. If the death
penalty is repealed it would also be a violation of Article 27 of the
constitution enunciating that no law will be enacted which is against the
Islamic injunctions as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. One also
wonders what the government is up to particularly in view of the
prevailing law and order situation in the country. This amounts to giving
licence to dacoits, murderers, hired assassins, rapists and other
criminals to go scot-free and without fear of punishment.
I do not know any Islamic country which has abolished capital punishment.
Being the bereaved mother of a young son, I appeal to everyone to raise
their voice against this proposal.
Sanjeeda Begum ---- Islamabad
(source: Letter to the Editor, Pakistan Tribune)
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