[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Aug 25 10:27:35 CDT 2011
Pakistan moratorium on death penalty continues
His house is by a graveyard. His favorite haunt – a makeshift men’s club where
fellow Christians while away the day sipping tea and singing folk songs – is a
large carpet spread beneath an old tree in a graveyard. For Sabir Masih, 1 of 3
hangmen in Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province, death is a way of life.
“As you know, in Islam and in Christianity the response to death is death,”
says the tall, dark-skinned hangman. “And that’s the way it should be.”
But for the past 2 years, Pakistan’s gallows have remained unused, and Mr.
Masih has showed up at work, at Lahore’s infamous Kot Lakhpat jail, just to
collect his pay checks. That’s because, since 2009, Pakistan’s civilian
government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has refused to sign
execution papers for some 8,000 prisoners on death row.
“Our opposition to the death penalty is on compassionate grounds. We feel if
the death penalty can be avoided, that is good,” says Farhatullah Babar, a
parliamentarian and spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari.
The moratorium has been welcomed by human rights activists who say that
Pakistan’s police and prosecution system lacks the competency to produce
reliable convictions. It’s also a rare positive in a country where human rights
abuses are all too common.
Prior to the moratorium in 2009, hangings in Pakistan had increased annually
under the military-ruler President Pervez Musharraf. According to figures
compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 134 hangings took
place in Pakistan in 2007, placing it among the world’s top executioners,
alongside China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
“Given that the miscarriage of justice is widespread, given there is nothing
resembling due process, stopping the death penalty is only the humane course of
action,” says Ali Dayan Hassan, a Pakistan researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“We are of the view that the death penalty should be abolished,” he adds.
Still, Pakistan's police force is considered one of its weakest institutions
and is often criticized for chronic corruption and cultural prejudices
affecting women and religious minorities in the country. Though the
death-penalty is currently inactive, extra-judicial killings remain common.
Back at the gallows...
“At times I would have to hang 5 men in one day,” recalls Masih, adding that
he, personally, has over 200 executions to his credit. The hanging profession
is something of a family tradition for Masih: His grandfather hung Bhagat
Singh, a socialist freedom fighter who sought independence from British rule in
1931, while his grand-uncle hung former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in
1979. These days, he spends much of his time at his club reminiscing about the
“good days” with his friends.
Of those he executed, he says, “Most would beg forgiveness from Allah. Some
accepted their guilt. Once, I hung a pair of brothers, before dawn, who came to
the gallows singing a song ‘Hush stars, the day is coming and you won’t be
Death by a Christian?
Some protested at being executed by a Christian, though their complaints went
unheeded. Christians are the largest minority in Pakistan’s Punjab province
(their estimated is population is about 6 million), and often take jobs that
Muslims consider too lowly or vulgar, such as waste collection. All three of
Punjab’s executioners are Christian, says Masih.
According to Pakistan’s Sharia law, a murderer may be pardoned if blood money
is paid to the victim’s family. When a family fell short of the full-amount,
says Masih, prison staff would organize a collection among themselves in order
to avoid an execution if at all possible. Sometimes, they would still fall
short. “The system of justice is loaded against the poor, and that lack of
financial means puts those accused of death penalty offenses at a serious
disadvantage,” says Najim U Din, a researcher at HRCP.
Pakistan’s Sharia laws also make it difficult for the government to make the
moratorium permanent by changing the law, says Mr. Babar. At present, those
awaiting the death sentence have had their executions postponed indefinitely,
because, according to some interpretations of the law, the president may not
pardon a murderer if the victim’s family has decided he or she should be
awarded death. “We would need a cross-party consensus to change the
constitution. Many consider abolition un-Islamic,” he says.
Meanwhile, according to Mr. U Din, death penalty offenses remain on the statute
books and courts continue to award the death penalty on the pre-moratorium
rates. Should a new government find itself in power following elections in
2013, Masih may find he’s back in business.
(source: Alaska Dispatch)
Too young to face death sentence?
This week, a 16-year-old allegedly stabbed a 25-year-old in Geylang. In
Singapore, no one under 18 may be sentenced to death.
In law, a person under 14 is considered a 'child' and one between 14 and 16 is
a 'young person'. All those under 16 are held to be less culpable presumably
because they have less education, less experience and a less developed
character compared with adults.
Yet some aged 16 or 17 are capable of the most heinous crimes. Undeniably,
there are some 16- or 17-year-olds who may be as mature as and can be even more
vicious than the average adult.
In committing crimes, these 16- or 17-year-olds may show cold premeditation,
extreme cruelty and wanton depravity. If one of the two social purposes behind
the death penalty is retribution, then such criminals should be slapped with
the maximum penalty of death.
The other social objective of capital punishment is deterrence. Some like to
argue that those aged 16 or 17 may not weigh the costs and benefits of their
actions carefully enough. If so, a clear deterrent is all the more necessary.
Otherwise, criminally minded 16- or 17-year-olds (or crime syndicates and
terrorist cells with such young members) might exploit the fact that they
cannot be sentenced to death.
Of course, the death penalty will not deter every twisted 16- or 17-year-old
murderer-to-be. But some can be deterred. And while some may not be culpable
enough, there are those who are.
The scientific consensus is that the last stage of cognitive development -
problem-solving by applying theories and using pure thought - takes place
between the ages 11 and 15. So whatever scientific evidence that was used to
justify exempting 16- and 17-year-olds was likely flawed.
This was indeed the case when the United States also outlawed capital
punishment for criminals under 18. In Roper versus Simmons (2005), a 5-4
plurality of the judges on the Supreme Court ruled thus, based on flawed
science presented by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
In a brief it submitted voluntarily to the court in support of the 17-year-old
murderer involved, the APA twisted various studies of cognitive development in
childhood to conclude: 'The typical adolescent is... more vulnerable to peer
pressure than an adult (so that one) who spends time with risk-prone friends is
more likely to engage in risky behaviour.'
The APA used data about 11-year-olds as if it applied equally to all juveniles,
regardless of age. How likely is a 16- or 17-year-old's risk-taking behaviour
the same as that of an 11-year-old? Not likely.
There was also cherry-picking of studies. For example, a study the APA cited
for points other than risk-taking actually said "adolescents may care very much
what their peers think of them but that apparently does not necessarily mean
that their decisions about engaging in risky behaviour are heavily influenced
Overall, many of the studies the APA cited did not support its argument that
those who are 16 or 17 are not culpable enough to deserve the death penalty. In
fact, in many of these studies, the evidence offered was to the contrary.
Most of the studies cited merely concluded that many aspects of juvenile
cognitive development remained unstudied. So, at a minimum, the culpability of
16- and 17-year-olds needs further study.
In sum, the available science does not say that those who are 16 and 17 do not
have sufficient culpability and maturity to be sentenced to death. Curiously,
the APA position on this issue is diametrically opposed to that which it holds
regarding abortion rights for 14-year-olds.
In Hodgson versus Minnesota (1990), the APA had also voluntarily submitted a
brief to the court to argue that 14-year-olds were mature enough to decide on
an abortion without parental notification.
In that instance, the APA's review of studies concluded that "by middle
adolescence (age 14 to 15), young people develop abilities similar to adults in
reasoning about moral dilemmas (and) understanding social rules and laws". It
concluded: "By age 14, most adolescents have developed adult-like intellectual
and social capabilities including specific abilities outlined in the law as
necessary for... considering risks and benefits."
Had science since 1990 shown the reverse such that 14-year-olds are no longer
mature enough to decide on abortions? The APA might want to deny that. Indeed,
in the last 30 years, a doctrine has emerged in biomedical ethics such that it
is now considered right for minors who demonstrate sufficient maturity to be
permitted to make life-and-death therapeutic decisions for themselves.
This right has even been recognised in some US court cases. For example, a
17-year-old with leukaemia (in the legal case of E.G., Illinois, 1989) was
found mature enough to refuse treatment though it would lead to death within a
month. Conversely, another 17-year-old cancer patient (in the legal case of
Long Island Jewish Medical Centre, New York, 1990) who was judged to be not
mature enough was not permitted to do likewise.
If 16- and 17-year-olds can have such life-and-death rights, they should also
be held responsible for other moral decisions they make, including murder. In
law, as always, the key is to adjudicate everything case by case.
(source: Asia News Network)
China Executes Man For Running Over Mongol Herder
China has executed a truck driver for killing an ethnic Mongol herder in a case
that sparked Inner Mongolia's largest demonstrations in 20 years.
The official Xinhua News Agency said in a brief report that Li Lindong was
executed Aug. 18. The report, dated Aug. 19, was posted to a regional news
website and appeared to not be widely circulated.
The herder, Mergen, who like many Mongols uses just one name, was killed May 10
while he and others were blocking the road through their village to protest
noise and pollution produced by coal trucks transiting the grasslands. Police
said Li ran over Mergen and then dragged his body for 160 yards (145 meters)
before he died.
His death and that of another Mongol in a clash with Chinese coal miners
sparked protests across the sprawling northern pastureland by herders and
students demanding justice and greater protection for Mongol culture and the
nomadic herding lifestyle.
Li was sentenced in June after a 6-hour trial at the Intermediate People's
Court in the region's Xilingol League. Fellow driver Lu Xiangdong, who had been
sitting in the cab of Li's truck when he drove over the herder, was also
convicted of homicide and sentenced to life in prison, state media said
2 other people, Wu Xiaowei and Li Minggang, were convicted of obstructing
justice and given 3-year sentences for having blocked police who arrived at the
scene, allowing Li Lindong and Lu to escape.
Mass migration to the Inner Mongolia region by members of China's majority Han
ethnic group and a booming mining industry have placed traditional ways of life
under severe pressure.
China is the world's largest enforcer of the death penalty and is believed to
execute more people each year than the rest of the world combined, although the
actual figure is a state secret.
(source: Associated Press)
5 S. Koreans charged with spying for N. Korea
South Korean prosecutors said on Thursday they had charged 5 people with spying
for North Korea, one of whom had been ordered personally by the North's
founding father to organise revolution in the South.
The 5 were accused of leading an underground communist ring on instructions
from North Korea's ruling communist party, the prosecutors said in a statement.
In 1993 the head of the group, surnamed Kim, allegedly met the North's late
President Kim Il-Sung, known as the Great Leader, who told him to organise a
network for "a communist revolution in the South," according to the statement.
It did not specify where the meeting took place.
Kim, 48, and the four others collected information including military secrets
and passed it to the North, said the prosecutors.
"They obtained information from their acquaintances in the military and
political circles. One of the group members was an aide to a former National
Assembly speaker," Lee Jin-Han, a chief prosecutor on the case, told AFP.
The group ran a small technology firm in South Korea to finance their
operations after funding from the impoverished North dwindled, he said.
Espionage charges in South Korea can carry a maximum penalty of death.
Crackdowns on pro-Pyongyang activists and spies have been on the increase since
the conservative government of President Lee Myung-Bak took office in early
2008 and rolled back a policy of reconciliation towards the North. South
Korea's prosecutor general, Han Sang-Dae, who took office earlier this month,
vowed to crack down hard on pro-Pyongyang leftists.
Tensions have been high since the South accused the North of torpedoing a
warship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors.
Pyongyang denied the charge but went on to shell a border island last November,
killing 4 South Koreans including 2 civilians.
(source: Agence France-Presse)
IFPYB Calls for Referendum On Death Penalty
The Inkatha Freedom Party Youth Brigade (IFPYB) National Executive Committee
has noted with grave concern the rising statistics of police killings in South
Africa, and demanded that a referendum be held on the death penalty.
"We demand to have the death penalty reinstated for any person found guilty of
killing a police officer. The high numbers of police being murdered is totally
unacceptable," said Ntuthuko Majozi, IFPYB National Spokesperson.
"Policemen and women are tasked with the important duty of protecting our
nation. They need to be protected from being brutally murdered by these
heartless and heinous criminals. Beyond their call of duty, a police officer is
also a mother, father, brother or sister and just like any other person, they
deserve to live without fear. We contend that a referendum on the death
penalty, and ultimately the reinstatement of this, will be the only deterrent
to criminals," concluded Majozi.
(source: All Africa News)
Family opposes death for murderers
THE family of a missionary priest murdered in Kenya appealed yesterday for
death sentences imposed on his killers to be commuted.
Fr Gerry Roche, 68, originally from Athea, Co Limerick, was found battered to
death in December 2009 at his home in the northwestern town of Kericho after he
failed to turn up to say morning Mass.
This week, 3 men — Isaac Bett, Jackson Kosgey and Joshua Makori, all in their
20s — were sentenced to death for the murder.
9 men were originally charged over the killing. 2 were acquitted and 2 others,
John Mwangi and Pangreas Mgabta, were found guilty of handling Fr Roche’s
property and given maximum 14-year sentences.
His attackers made off with 2 mobile phones, a laptop, digital camera and CD
Fr Roche’s niece, Anne Cunningham, said Fr Gerry stood on the side of justice
and was a man of peace.
In a statement on behalf of the family, she said: "We understand the death
penalty has not been enforced in Kenya since 1987 and our wish would be that it
not be enforced in this instance either.
"We are not in favour of the death penalty or punishment by any violent means —
it will not bring Fr Gerry back."
Ms Cunningham said they are hopeful that by detaining those found guilty,
others may be protected from going through what Fr Gerry went through.
"It has been a difficult time for Fr Gerry’s family and friends. It has been
hard to understand why Fr Gerry was murdered and, for some of us, harder still
to find it in our hearts to ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’.
"We also believe Fr Gerry would take this opportunity of publicity to question
the world’s inequality. Though Ireland and much of the western world are
enduring tough economic times, we are not starving to death like some of Fr
Gerry’s former parishioners and many others in Kenya and Somalia."
Ms Cunningham said Fr Gerry’s message would be that one man’s death is a
tragedy but why are the millions of people dying of starvation just a
(source: Irish Examiner)
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