[Deathpenalty] [SPAM] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Aug 20 11:30:15 CDT 2011
Amnesty chief targets death penalty---But ex-DPJ lawmaker knows how tough it is
to effect political change
There is a wide gap between Japan and much of the rest of the world when it
comes to human rights issues, and nongovernmental organizations need to play a
role in changing people's awareness, especially on the death penalty, said
Hideki Wakabayashi, the newly appointed executive director of Amnesty
Japan currently has 120 people on death row. Every day they live in fear, not
knowing when they are going to be hanged.
Meanwhile, the global trend is slowly but surely moving toward the abolition of
According to AIJ, the most recent information shows 139 countries have ended
the death penalty by law or in practice while 58, including Japan, retain it.
During a recent interview with The Japan Times, Wakabayashi, who became head of
AIJ in March, stressed that the government, which is responsible for the death
penalty, also is responsible for creating a society in which some people become
"The death penalty is a symbol of human rights issues," Wakabayashi said. "I
don't think the government has the right to rob the most important right — to
According to a 2010 government survey, 85 percent of the public approved of the
death penalty, the highest rate of support since the survey was first taken in
1994. This public support is often used to back the government's policy of
maintaining capital punishment.
"We can't just pursue advocacy," Wakabayashi said. "We need to win the sympathy
of the general public to change society.
"We need to act so that people supporting the death penalty will change their
opinions — and that will change policies and politicians and ultimately,
But as a former lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, Wakabayashi knows
just how difficult it will be to get the government to move away from
He served as an Upper House member for 6 years starting in 2001, while the DPJ
was still an opposition party, but health problems prevented him from running
again in 2007.
During that time he held several key positions, including as the party's shadow
trade minister and as chairman of a committee to draft a new Constitution.
Looking back on those days he regrets one thing — that he quit the nonpartisan
group of lawmakers promoting abolition of the death penalty after being warned
that affiliation with such an organization would hurt his re-election chances.
"The death penalty is still a controversial issue and I was told that being in
the group would affect my next campaign," Wakabayashi said. "I've always
regretted quitting the group. I am ashamed that I cast my philosophy and
policies to the winds for the election."
When the DPJ took over the government in 2009 after a historic Lower House
election, it was believed that various human rights issues, including capital
punishment, would come to the forefront, especially with the appointment of
Keiko Chiba, a known opponent of the death penalty, as justice minister.
Chiba opened the execution chamber to reporters for the 1st time in an attempt
to increase transparency, and she set up a study panel to discuss capital
punishment, but in the end she also signed off on 2 executions.
Wakabayashi pointed out that DPJ campaign platforms have been written to play
up differences with the then ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
"So when the party includes measures on human rights, those opposed to it
remain quiet . . . to win the election (by presenting a unified front),"
Wakabayashi said. "But whether the party is serious about human rights is
One example, he said, was the DPJ's pledge to establish a human rights
The need for an independent human rights organ has been cited because human
rights issues are currently dealt with by the Justice Ministry, which oversees
prisons and immigration control.
But earlier this month, Justice Minister Satsuki Eda announced that the
commission would be an affiliate of the ministry, triggering criticism not only
from opposition parties but from within the ruling coalition.
"The human rights commission has been eviscerated," Wakabayashi said.
Aside from being a former lawmaker, the director has had an interesting career.
A graduate of Waseda University with a bachelor's degree in commerce and a
master's in forestry from Michigan State University, Wakabayashi worked as a
salesman for Yamaha Corp., the musical instrument maker.
>From there, he became an executive member of the Japanese Electrical Electronic
and Information Union and then worked as a diplomat at the Japanese Embassy in
Washington. He was also a visiting fellow at the U.S.-based Center for
Strategic and International Studies.
"Japan is viewed as a country that is behind when it comes to human rights
issues and I would like to use my experiences to make even a small difference,"
And along with Wakabayashi's appointment this year, the global Amnesty
International saw its 50th anniversary. Despite being one of the largest
international NGOs in the world, with 3 million members and supporters, the
Japanese group has only about 6,500 supporters nationwide.
Wakabayashi said he thinks the low number is a reflection of the limited image
in Japan of human rights, with the focus on issues like discrimination and
But he pointed out that human rights covers other aspects of society, including
labor issues like taking child-care leave.
"I think that the concept of human rights is narrow in Japan," Wakabayashi
said. "It is important to view human rights from a broad angle . . . and to
change the definition and image of human rights."
(source: Japan Times)
Man to hang for drugs
A subcontractor has been sent to the gallows by the High Court for trafficking
154.25gm of drugs.
Chong Soon Wah, 38, was sentenced to death for trafficking 103.02gm of heroin
and 51.23gm of monoacetylmorphines in Ulu Tiram at about 8.30pm on Jan 10,
He had been ordered to enter his defence by the Court of Appeal for his charge
under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which carries the mandatory
death penalty, after the prosecution lodged an appeal against the earlier
decision to acquit and discharge him.
The case was later transferred back to the High Court.
In his ruling, Justice Azhar Mohamed, who was presiding when Chong was
acquitted on March 3, 2008, said the prosecution had succeeded in proving the
case beyond reasonable doubt.
“There is only one penalty for the offence under this Section and I therefore
sentence you to death,” he said.
Chong had also been given the death sentence by the High Court on July 24,
2008, for trafficking a total of 49.19gm of drugs in Taman Desa Jaya at about
8pm the same day, which was later upheld by the Federal Court.
DPP Rahimah Abd Majid prosecuted while Chong was represented by counsel
In an unrelated case, moneychanger Amin Abidin, 52, was slapped with a RM10,000
fine and jailed a day by the Sessions Court here after he pleaded guilty to
bribing a traffic policeman.
He had offered RM150 to Sjn Zamani Abdul Aziz as an inducement not to take
action against his worker Jahafar Ali Esmail for riding a motorcycle without a
Amin, who was charged under Section 17(b) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption
Commission, was not represented.
(source: The Star)
Fresno Sikh fights India death-row verdict
Tejinder Bhullar's brother might be hanged at any time, achingly far from
Bhullar's Sacramento Valley home.
The Indian government calls Bhullar's brother a terrorist who confessed to a
murderous conspiracy. Bhullar calls his older brother, Devinderpal, an innocent
man bent by torture. He's trying to save his sibling by making him a cause
célèbre and a symbol of ethnic oppression.
"I'm really proud to be an American, because I know I could get justice over
here," Bhullar said. "But in India, if you are a Sikh, there's a good chance
you won't see justice."
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Devinderpal Singh Bhullar's
conviction on conspiracy charges. His fate is followed closely within the U.S.
expatriate Sikh community, which includes an estimated 200,000 living in
"Everybody knows about it," said Harjinder Dhillon, a Fresno resident and
former president of the Sikh Association of Fresno. "His life should be
Prosecutors say Devinderpal Bhullar helped plot a 1993 bombing of a Youth
Congress office in New Delhi that killed nine people and injured 29 others. In
August 2002, a divided Indian Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death
sentence under the country's now-defunct Terrorist and Disruptive Activities
Indian authorities identified Devinderpal Bhullar as a member of the Khalistan
Liberation Force. In its heyday during the 1990s, the group fought for Sikh
independence in the Indian state of Punjab.
Tejinder Bhullar, though, insists his brother was neither a militant
organization member nor a bombing conspirator. A resident of the U.S. since the
early 1990s, Bhullar now speaks, writes and travels on his brother's behalf.
"He was not involved in any independence party," Bhullar said. "He was against
the killing of innocent people, and he was very vocal about that."
His brother's confession was wrung out through torture, Bhullar said. A U.S.
State Department report issued last year says that many Indian citizens allege
that authorities used torture to coerce confessions and to extort money or as
Indian Embassy officials did not respond to several calls seeking comment.
Certainly, Indian leaders remain concerned about domestic terrorism. In a March
2009 meeting with FBI director Robert Mueller, for instance, Indian
intelligence officials warned that "Sikh extremism in Punjab is a concern" and
that some Sikh militants are "maintaining a tempo of jihad," according to a
secret State Department memo made available to McClatchy by WikiLeaks.
There is no documented indication that State Department officials have raised
Bhullar's fate with Indian counterparts.
"The U.S. supports due process and a fair and transparent trial for all people,
but beyond that, this is a matter for the Indian authorities," said Beth
Gosselin, a State Department spokeswoman.
Before his arrest, Devinderpal Bhullar was a mechanical engineer and college
instructor. His family members say he was targeted because he was a vocal human
Bhullar's mother, Upkar Kaur, is now a U.S. citizen. She plays a
behind-the-scenes role on Devinderpal's behalf. Soon, for instance, she will be
signing letters beseeching members of Congress for help.
Tijender Bhullar, 32, a married postal worker living with his wife and mother
in Live Oak, north of Yuba City, is more often the public face of the lobbying
campaign. An organization called Sikhs for Justice also lobbies for
In late July, Tejinder Bhullar addressed several hundred supporters rallying
outside the United Nations in New York. In June, a similar rally was held in
Toronto. None of the rallies have moved the State Department or the United
Nations to weigh in on the case.
"They are very quiet on this right now," said Gurbatwant Pannun, legal adviser
to Sikhs for Justice.
No execution date has been set. India has not executed anyone since 2004.
(source: Sacramento Bee)
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi organises demo demanding clemency to Rajiv
After a 2-wheeler rally campaign yesterday, it was the turn of Viduthalai
Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) to organise a protest demonstration demanding that
the 3 accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case not be hanged.
VCK President and Lok Sabha member Thol Thirumavalavan led the demonstration in
front of the Memorial Hall in the city, in which more than 200 VCK cadres
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Thirumavalavan, a strong supporter of Eelam
Tamils, demanded that Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, whose clemency
petitions were rejected by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and were facing
the hangman's noose, should not be hanged.
Claiming that they were innocent, he also demanded the Centre to release them
as they have already spent more than 20 years in prison.
He also appealed to the Centre to abolish death penalty in the country as has
been done in more than 130 countries across the world.
Calling for commuting of the death sentence to Afzal Guru in Parliament attack
case and also to three AIADMK workers in the Dharmpauri bus burning case, Mr
Thirumavalavan urged the Tamil Nadu Government to adopt a resolution in the
State Assembly seeking to commute their death sentences.
''If the State government intervened on the issue, the Centre would definitely
act and stop their death sentences,'' he added.
The anti-death penalty in Tamil Nadu gained momentum with leaders of various
political parties, including the DMK, PMK, MDMK and VCK and rights activists
calling for commutation of the death sentences of the three accused in the
Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
A 2-wheeler rally was also organised yesterday from Chennai city to Vellore
Central Prison, where they were lodged.
(source: New Kerala)
Benin closer to abolishing the death penalty----Benin has committed to
abolition of the death penalty in recent years
Benin has taken an important step towards abolishing the death penalty after
the country’s National Assembly yesterday voted in favour of ratifying an
international treaty banning capital punishment.
Benin would be the 74th state worldwide to join the Second Optional Protocol to
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for the
death penalty to be abolished.
“The Beninese authorities should be commended for this important step that
would bring their criminal justice system in line with the global trend to
outlaw this cruel punishment,” said Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s
Deputy Director for Africa.
“Benin’s President Boni Yayi must act swiftly to finalize Benin’s ratification
of the Optional Protocol and Benin’s example must be followed by neighbouring
West African countries who have yet to abolish the death penalty,” said
While Benin’s penal code has allowed for the death penalty to be handed down
for various offences, Beninese authorities have not executed anyone for more
than 2 decades.
To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the last executions in Benin took place
in September 1987, when 2 people were shot after receiving death sentences for
ritual murder. The previous year, six people had been executed by shooting
after being convicted of armed robbery and murder. The last death sentence was
handed down in 2010 to a woman sentenced in absentia for murder.
At least 14 people are currently on death row in Benin’s prisons.
Benin joins other countries in moving towards the abolition of the death
penalty in Africa. To date, 16 African countries have abolished the death
penalty for all crimes, including three – Burundi, Togo and Gabon – in the last
Despite these important advances, work remains to be done to abolish the death
In 2010, 23 countries carried out executions and 67 imposed new death
sentences. Among the methods of execution used were beheading, electrocution,
hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment, and should
never be used by any state under any circumstances,” said Véronique Aubert.
“Those countries that still execute offenders are increasingly isolated as they
battle against the changing tide of global public opinion and legal practice on
the death penalty.”
(source: Amnesty International)
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