[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sun Oct 16 12:02:33 CDT 2011
Commission head backs death penalty verdict
The death penalty for deliberately crushing to death a Bahraini policeman by
repeatedly running him over is a fair ruling, the head of the independent
inquiry commission has said.
It was a deliberate and premeditated murder, said Bahrain Independent
Commission of Inquiry chairman Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni.
The killer first ran over the policeman, then reversed the vehicle and mowed
him down again, he told American radio station WBEZ91.5 in a wide-ranging
The brutal killing is a well-documented fact and there are video recordings of
it, he said.
Ali Yousif Abdulwahab Al Taweel, 21, was convicted of mowing down Ahmed Rashid
Ahmed Al Muraisi by the National Safety Court on September 29.
Prof Bassiouni said medics, who have been jailed for their roles in the illegal
siege of Bahrain's main hospital during unrest, did in fact blockade it.
Records show that some doctors occupied Salmaniya Medical Complex to support
the protesters, and prevented Sunnis from being treated there, he said.
"They are not angels," the professor said.
The doctors have their political rights but whether to use them as they did was
acceptable is another question, he pointed out.
"Some doctors treated those who were at the (GCC) roundabout, and it is true
that some of them were injured. But if you have a look at the medical reports
you notice that the hospital has the capacity to provide health care for such
cases, but the medical team was not qualified for it, therefore, this group of
doctors took matters in their hands," Dr Bassiouni said.
Bahrain has since ordered a retrial of the medics and transferred their cases
to civilian courts.
Prof Bassiouni, a pre-eminent international law expert, is heading a
prestigious independent commission appointed by His Majesty King Hamad in June
to study and report on what happened in Bahrain since February and March this
He praised His Majesty as a reformist and said it is the first time that such
an independent inquiry has been set up in the world to objectively study what
happened with the aim of directing future course of action.
The King has also made sure that he is offered all facilities needed to
complete his task, Prof Bassouini said.
The commission is really a pioneering enterprise, he said.
He spoke at length with the radio station's Worldview host Jerome McDonnell to
discuss the commission's findings and the controversies that have ensued.
Prof Bassiouni said the commission has received 5,200 complaints and
interviewed 2,400 people between July 20 and September 20. It is an
unprecedented effort unparalleled in the United Nations or any other
organisation's history, he said. The commission visited every jail and every
prisoner and took into account all the claims, Prof Bassiouni said.
"We brought in four forensic experts, three from the US and one from Egypt.
They checked people who alleged they were tortured in prison, or abused, and we
have made great efforts in this respect."
Prof Bassiouni praised his panel members, all prestigious human rights
personalities and legal experts, for their efforts.
The commission is expected to submit its finding to His Majesty by the
month-end. "Frankly, I am proud of the work done by the team," he said.
(source: Gulf News)
Death sentence is judicial murder, says judge in Rajiv killing
Death sentence is judicial murder, says former Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas,
who headed the bench that pronounced death punishment to 3 conspirators in
Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.
"Death sentence is no punishment," Thomas, 74, said. "It is a judicial murder
committed with the protection of the society."
According to Thomas, world opinion is turning against the death penalty with
more and more countries abolishing it.
"In India too the debate is active among rights activists, judicial circles and
civil society," Thomas said. "But ultimately, it is a political decision."
If he was against the death sentence, why did he agree to awarding death
penalty to the three Rajiv killers -- Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan?
"Because I took oath to discharge my duties as per the Constitution and the
prevailing laws," replied the former judge. "Whatever extreme may be my
individual views, as a judge, I had to function as per the existing laws."
He said punishment had a three-fold objective: reformation, deterrence and
retribution. The rule of retribution -- a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye
-- is increasingly considered uncivilised.
"Then is the case of reformation. If a person is eliminated where is the
opportunity for reformation?" he said.
Experience and studies have proved that death punishment have not worked for
deterrence too, Thomas said.
He recalled the experience of erstwhile princely states of Cochin and
Travancore where death penalty was abolished in 1940 but restored when they
became part of the Indian republic in 1950.
Records show that there were a higher number of murders in the 1950s than in
the 1940s when there was no capital punishment. "So the theory of deterrence is
not valid in many places and periods", he said.
He said the simple test for death sentence was visualising our own children in
the situation. "Our children commit mistakes and we want to reform them through
punishments. But do we want to kill them?"
In 1999, the 3-member supreme court bench comprising Thomas, Justice D.P.
Wadwah and Justice S.S.M .Quadri had awarded death punishment to Murugan,
Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan's wife Nalini in the Rajiv Gandhi
Thomas had dissented on death punishment to Nalini while the other 2 judges
were for capital punishment for all 4.
Nalini's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment as President Pratibha Patil
accepted her mercy petition. The petition was recommended by Rajiv's widow and
Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
"I found Nalini was acting like a robot and did not know till the last hour
that she was to kill Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on 21st May,
1991." Thomas said.
If both Murugan and Nalini were to be killed their child would have been an
"orphan made by law", he added.
With the President rejecting the mercy petition of the trio, they were to be
hanged September 8 this year. However, the Madras High Court September 1 stayed
their execution for 8 weeks. The Supreme Court will hear a plea to transfer the
petition on October 19 .
"It was my misfortune to have presided over the bench which gave the death
penalty to the 4 accused. But I had to discharge my duties," Thomas said about
the 1999 verdict.
"The debate over the suitability and ethics of the death sentence is picking up
in India," he said. The Supreme Court had deliberated the issue during the
Bachan Singh case in 1983 and directed that death penalty should be awarded
only in the 'rarest of the rare cases', he recalled.
Thomas, a practising Christian, had courted controversy recently when he said
at a function in Kochi that the "smear campaign" that Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was
"baseless". RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was also present at the function.
An alumnus of the C.M.S. College, Kottayam, he has often criticized Christian
educational institutions "indulging in commercial practises" and has suggested
that minorities should give up the special rights given by the Constitution.
(source: India Today)
America Can't Help Iranian Pastor Facing Execution, Lawyer Says
Many influential politicians and officials in America are calling on Iran to
stop the execution of Iranian Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for apostasy,
but that has not helped his case even a bit, the pastor’s lawyer said.
“They (the courts) work on the evidence and Iranian law,” CNN quoted
Nadarkhani’s lawyer Mohammad Dadkah as saying Friday. “I don’t think the
statements from the United States has had any impact either on this case as
this is all going through the Iranian justice system, which is based on the law
The evangelical pastor, from the Church of Iran denomination, was convicted of
apostasy last year and was sentenced to death by hanging.
The lawyer said the lower court in the city of Rasht in northern Gilan Province
has asked for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to rule on whether
the pastor should be put to death. “I expect an opinion for Khamenei in about a
week or so when he returns to work,” Dadkah said, adding that Khamenei was
Khamenei, the highest ranking political and religious authority in
Shi’a-majority Iran, has more powers than even the president.
Lawyer Dadkah said Nadarkhani was doing well “both physically and spiritually
and was strong” when he last met him about a week ago.
The 32-year-old pastor was arrested two years ago from Rasht for allegedly
protesting Islamic instruction in schools. Authorities, however, later changed
the charges to apostasy. The Rasht court convicted him of forsaking Islam in
2010 and sentenced him to death although apostasy is not a crime as per Iran’s
The pastor appealed against the ruling at the Supreme Court in July. The court,
however, held that apostasy was still punishable under Sharia while asking the
lower court to reexamine whether Nadarkhani was a believer in Islam when he
adopted Christianity at the age of 19.
Last month, Pastor Nadarkhani was told by authorities that he would be given
three opportunities to embrace Islam and renounce his faith in Christianity to
have the charges removed. But he refused to do so.
Last week, several Republicans released statements calling for the release of
“There is no shade of gray or room for equivocation here,” said Texas Gov. Rick
Perry in his statement. “Freedom to worship is a basic human right, and the
charges against Pastor Nadarkhani are an affront to the essential principles of
the civilized world.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “While Iran’s government
claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people
because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental
respect for human dignity.”
Many other senators and congressmen have also urged Iran to free the pastor.
However, Iranian authorities seem to be trying hard to prove the pastor guilty,
even if it means adding new, apparently fabricated charges. On Sept. 30,
Gholomali Rezvani, deputy governor of Gilan province, told the local Fars news
agency that Nadarkhani’s crime was not, “as some claim, converting others to
Christianity.” He is guilty of “security-related crimes … He is a Zionist.”
Rezvani alleged that the pastor was a “rapist” and “extortionist.”
“The fabrication of charges against Pastor Nadarkhani is to justify his
sentence and is therefore acknowledgement that death for apostasy is not
justifiable,” said Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and Secretary General of the World
Evangelical Alliance which represents over 600 million evangelical Christians
around the world. “The authorities’ attempt to maintain the pastor’s capital
punishment by adding false charges shows that Iran is going against its own
(source: The Christian Post)
3 Prisoners Executed in Semnan Prison
According to the Public Affairs Unit of the Semnan Court, the following
individuals were executed after the necessary legal steps were taken and the
sentence was confirmed by the head of the judiciary.
1. A.S., 43, from Neishabour, for transportation and possession of 31 kilograms
2. A.J,44, from Mashhad, for transportation and possession of over 800.1
kilograms of crack
3. R.Gh., 43, from Torbat Heidariyeh,for transportation and possession of
650.13 kilograms of crack
Their requetss for pardon were denied.
According to the Anti-Death Penalty Committee of the Human Rights House of
Iran, 142 executions have taken place since the beginning of this year and 39
of them were carried out in public.
UN Report Documents Iran’s Human Rights Crisis
The Iranian government should immediately allow access to the UN appointed
Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed to address Iran’s ongoing human rights crisis,
the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today, following the
release of Shaheed’s interim report.
The interim report by the Special Rapporteur documents the multi-faceted human
rights crisis gripping Iran. It provides details of the persecution and
prosecution of civil society actors, including political activists,
journalists, students, artists, lawyers, and environmental activists; as well
as the routine denial of freedom of assembly, women’s rights, the rights of
religious and ethnic minorities, and the skyrocketing rates of executions.
The Iranian government has so far rejected any cooperation with Shaheed’s
mandate. The report is based on first-hand testimonies of victims as well as
interviews with Iranian human rights and civil society actors conducted outside
“This report demonstrates that the Iranian government can run from the truth
but cannot hide from it. The depth and details of the human rights crisis in
the country, documented in this report, obligate UN member states to demand
full compliance from Iran regarding its international commitments,” said Hadi
Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.
In his report, Shaheed notes several requests to engage with the Iranian
government, all of which have been unanswered. On 19 October, Shaheed will make
a formal presentation of his findings to the UN General Assembly in New York.
Shaheed’s report is released on the heels of an annual report by the Secretary
General, Ban Ki-Moon, which also confirmed the continuing and deteriorating
human rights situation in Iran.
The Campaign called on UN member states to take a strong and unified stance in
support of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and use all diplomatic means to
urge Iran to cooperate with it.
The Special Rapporteur’s report highlights the house arrest of opposition
leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi who have been under an
extra-judicial confinement since 14 February 2011.
The interim report notes “certain practices that amount to torture, cruel, or
degrading treatment of the detained, the imposition of the death penalty in
absence of proper judicial safeguards, the status of women, the persecution of
religious and ethnic minorities, the erosion of civil and political rights — in
particular the harassment, intimidation of human rights defenders and civil
The extensive application of the death penalty, particularly the use of secret
mass executions carried out in Vakilabad prison in the city of Mashad in
absence of due process, is also highlighted in the Special Rapporteur’s interim
report. It notes that in 2010, at least 300 secret executions were reported, as
well as at least 146 such executions in 2011 carried out at Vakilabad. The
Iranian authorities have been silent on these secret executions.
Despite time limitations on creating the report, it covers dozens of cases of
individuals persecuted and prosecuted for their political beliefs and civil
society and human rights activism.
The interim report also takes note of several letters written by prisoners
detailing their torture and ill-treatment, as well as inhumane prison
conditions, including letters by prisoners of conscience Abdollah Momeni, Ahmad
Ghabel, and Omid Kokabee.
“We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report which documents some of the most
urgent issues facing the Iranian human rights community,” Ghaemi said.
The Campaign notes that Iran’s complete lack of cooperation with the Special
Rapporteur’s mandate and the government’s continued refusal to allow him access
to the country is an indication that it has no intention of taking meaningful
steps to improve the human rights situation.
(source: Iran Human Rights)
Death Sentence - Inmates to Get Free Legal Services
Human rights activists have launched a project expected to provide free legal
assistance to inmates on death row. The development will also see the
mitigation of the inmates' sentences in the High Court. The project is part of
an ongoing advocacy to scrap the death penalty in the country.
Under the project, planned initially to benefit at least 15 death row inmates,
human rights activists will also lobby for law reforms and conduct public
education for various stakeholders as well as dissemination of sentencing
Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives (FHRI) with support from Foreign and
Commonwealth office of the United Kingdom through the British High Commission
in Kampala, is implementing the project at Shs15 million.
Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of FHRI, said the project
seeks to support the vulnerable people with poor background to have their death
sentences reduced to life. "We are looking at Uganda ratifying the 2nd optional
protocol for International Covenant Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) that
provides for the abolition of death penalty," said Mr Sewanyana during the
commemoration of the World Day Against Death Penalty in Kampala.
In 2009, the Supreme Court held that death penalty is unconstitutional and
identified the concept of Death Row Syndrome as a key determinant in the lawful
application of capital punishment.
In the judgment of Susan Kigula & 417 others, court held that inordinate delay
in death-row conditions constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
prohibited by Articles 24 and 44(a) of the Constitution of Uganda.
Mr Sewanyana explained that the event has provided a platform for far reaching
declarations since 2010 in which at least 181 prisoners on death row had their
sentences commuted to life; five on death row were released and 57 cases have
been sent back to the High Court for mitigation hearing.
The British High Commissioner to Uganda, Martin Shearman, described death
penalty as cruel and degrading to a person. He said it does not leave room for
reconciliation and neither does it ensure respect for human dignity.
(source: All Africa News)
Delegates Differ On Punishment for Capital Offences
The conference on the abolition or moratorium on the execution of the death
penalty ended, yesterday, in Kigali with participants differing on which
punishments to mete out to those who commit capital offences.
Though the majority of participants including Rwandans were in favour of the
abolition of capital punishment, some were opposed to the move, alluding to
verses from the Bible and Quran that advance the reciprocation of the same
level of pain from sufferer to tormenter.
"According to the book of Leviticus, Chapter 24:21 of the Old Testament,
'whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be
put to death. In the same book and Chapter, Verse 19 says that if anyone
injures his neighbour, whatever he has done must be done to him'."
In the ensuing debate, Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, observed that
death should be perceived as a natural concept, adding that there are many
other alternatives other than the application of a death penalty.
"Death is an enemy of mankind. Why should we let it to be closer to us? Why
don't we leave it to come as a thief instead of us bringing it ourselves? If
you kill someone, you have not punished him or her. In fact you have assisted
him to go innocently. It's the family he leaves behind that will suffer," the
Karugarama told the participants that after Rwandans realised the negative
impact of the employment of the death punishment, the government decided to
abolish it in 2007, a move welcomed by the public.
Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, the chairperson of South African Law Reform Commission
in an exclusive interview with The New Times challenged the participants to
base their discussions solely on scrapping of the penalty without veering
towards the effects the act would bear on the families of a wrong-doer.
"We must balance and put into consideration the side B of the story. If someone
killed your brother, how would you need that perpetrator to be treated?
Therefore, however much we are defending the killer, we need to have the common
and balanced solution," she noted.
Mokgoro noted that South Africa eliminated the death punishment in 1995 after
realisation that it was an inhuman act that cannot be applied in civilised
Somali minister Hussein Ahmed Aideed, in an interview, opposed the death
penalty saying if someone kills his/her colleague, they must face the same pain
as quoted in the Bible and Quran
. "I don't agree with what my colleagues are saying. Imagine if somebody kills
your son. How would feel? It would be better if he or she gets the same
punishment which even the holy books stipulate," he opined.
As the conference drew to a close, participants were urged to progressively
restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for
which it may be imposed.
Participants also agreed that African countries should subscribe to human
rights instruments that prohibit the death penalty like second optional
protocol to the International Covenant to Civil and Political Rights and align
national legislation accordingly.
Countries were further urged to establish a moratorium on executions with a
view to abolishing the death penalty as well as aspiring to principles of
(source: All Africa News)
Hudud and the Death Penalty
It is truly admirable that Malaysians oppose the inoperable hudud laws for
their dehumanizing forms of punishment but I am surprised that these same
people do not likewise vehemently oppose the death penalty that has existed in
our system for so long.
On 20 July 1986, I presented a paper entitled ‘The Quality and Equality of
Mercy’ a Bar Council Seminar (subsequently published in INSAF) soon after the
hangings of Sim Kie Chon, followed by that of Barlow and Chambers.
The Malaysian government’s response to foreign criticism was to point to their
double standards and Dr Mahathir’s characteristic response was: “I don’t accept
all this accusation of being barbaric-We learnt all this from them
The Deputy Home Minister at the time was even quoted in Time Magazine on 5
August 1985 as saying: “The problem with the hanging process is that we’ve got
to go through the ritual of appeal. That can take 2 years. I wish the Pardons
Board would make faster decisions so that we can start hanging them…We plan to
hang a person every week.” The Attorney-General’s Chamber even urged the mass
media to “play up executions” as a deterrent. (Malay Mail, 18.8.83)
No Civilisation has a monopoly of Barbarism
Every feudal and pre-feudal social system – Chinese, Malay, Indian, Arab or
European – has had penal systems involving the grossest cruelty imaginable.
Punishment is an ancient response to wrongdoing. Throughout history, both the
forms of punishment and the rationale for using it have changed markedly.
Sociological studies have shown that penal systems everywhere are largely based
on tradition, untested assumptions and inferences based on inadequate data.
The English penal system is usually cited for obvious reasons. During 18th
century England, death was decreed for several hundred specific offences,
particularly for those against property, including shooting a rabbit, stealing
a handkerchief, damaging a public building. From the outset therefore, the law
incorporated class and political considerations.
Comparative studies have shown that historically, the penalty as a judicial
punishment has been seen to bear unequally and unjustly on the poor, on
minorities and on oppressed groups in society.
The Triumph of Humanism
Progressively, the impetus for change was provided by the humanitarian and
working class movements. The 18th century Enlightenment thinkers like
Montesquieu and Voltaire provided the philosophical basis for reforms. There
soon developed a more humanitarian outlook on crime and punishment and the
emergence of humanist values.
A more humanitarian approach led to a concern for rehabilitation of “deviants”
based on the personal worth of each human being. Thus, in the modern state and
under international human rights standards, the judicial system is intended to
protect the individual against the state. The 1948 Universal Declaration of
Human Rights prohibits all forms of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
Consequently, in 1908 hanging was abolished in Britain for children less than
16 years of age. Today, most countries forbid its use on offenders under the
age of 18. Capital punishment for murder offences has been abolished in Britain
since 1965. Although the issue has been brought up periodically in the House of
Commons, it has always been defeated. Today, most of Europe has abolished the
In the US, the death penalty was stopped by the Supreme Court in 1972 but was
reintroduced in 1977. By the 1970s, capital punishment had been abolished as a
statutory punishment in about one quarter of the world’s nations.
The judicial taking of life has been described as “the most pre-meditated and
most diabolical of murders.” It is basically a relic of the primitive drive for
revenge and it merely passes the responsibility to the judge or jury who are
supposed to be acting on our behalf. It is indicative of the primordial psyche
that we are not content that criminals be safely put away in prison, we demand
Executions dehumanize society and undermine the common values upon which the
full and free development of human society is based in all cultures. The value
of human life is lessened once a state, in avowing the defence of its citizens,
resorts to inhuman and degrading forms of punishment.
No Evidence that Capital Punishment Deters Crime
Perhaps the most popular misconception is that capital punishment acts as
deterrence to crime for there is little evidence to show this. According to the
British Home Office Research Unit study undertaken in the eighties, over the
previous decade the increase in murders in the various categories had been
insignificant. This was despite the fact there was a war in Northern Ireland.
Another strong argument against capital punishment is that it entails
irrevocable miscarriages of justice. In Britain, if the law on hanging had not
changed in 1964, at least six men would have been hanged for offences they did
not commit. ASTRO watchers would have seen the film “Hurricane” about the
former US boxer who spent more than 20 years in jail for a murder he did not
commit. If he had been hanged soon after his conviction, his death would have
been on the nation’s conscience forever!
This was accounted for by the fact that no legal system is infallible.
Moreover, as in the case of Hurricane and also in the British cases,
miscarriages of justice usually take time to surface. Repeated appeals had
failed to establish their innocence.
The vulnerability of all criminal justice systems to discrimination and error
must also be taken into account. There are also human factors involved,
particularly, political expediency, discretion and public opinion especially in
the granting of clemency. The decision to disallow the former CPM leader Chin
Peng from visiting his ancestors’ graves is a clear example of these factors in
The world-wide comparative studies undertaken by Amnesty International have
further shown that the wealthy, the politically well-connected and members of
the dominant racial and religious groups are far less likely to be sentenced to
death than the poor, supporters of the Opposition and members of minority
groups. The Altantuya murder case demonstrates this tendency very well.
The Quality and Equality of Mercy
The Pardons Board is meant to be the last resort for the condemned when the
judiciary has decided their fate. Under Article 42(5) of the Federal
Constitution, it comprises the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister or Chief
Minister, and three other members appointed by the Ruler or the Yang Di-Pertua
Negeri. It tenders advice to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agung who acts on the advice
to commute or not to commute the death sentence.
Thus, the Pardons Board is supposed to be capable of showing that human
capacity for mercy or clemency. In the past, a former minister of culture,
Mokhtar Hashim was pardoned after he had been convicted for murder. In the case
of Sim Kie Chon, Barlows and Chambers during the eighties, the Pardons Board
exercised its prerogative to refuse clemency on the grounds that it was “not
justiciable”. The undue haste to execute them was absolutely unnecessary
especially when there were complaints that all legal avenues to save their
lives had not been fully exhausted.
The incongruity of the fate of Mokhtar Hashim and that of Sim Kie Chon led to
demands by the public for the criteria by which the Attorney-General recommends
commutation of the death sentence or otherwise. The desirability of the AG’s
presence in the Pardons Board was also questioned since it was the AG who had
instituted the prosecution and sought the death sentence in the first place.
It would be fairer and preferable for the Pardons Board to be made up of
members who are seen to be independent and impartial, made up of the widest
possible cross-section of society and representative of all classes and ethnic
communities. A sizeable majority should be needed if the death sentence is to
The case against the death penalty was best summed up by Lord Morris of
Borth-Gest, a British High Court judge in the sixties:
“Can we be sure that the utter and irrevocable finality of the death sentence
can always be matched by positive certainty of guilt? In no country, with the
fairest system of law, with the most humane and conscientious judiciary do I
feel that we can be satisfied of that.”
(source: Guest Columnist, Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM; Malaysia Today)
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