Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Four condemned to death in Vietnam, three of them women one of whom is Thai

A court in Hanoi sentenced three Vietnamese and a Thai woman to death on Monday for drug trafficking.

Investigation found Nguyen Thi Thuy Trang, 53, from Ho Chi Minh City, learned about the illegal trade in late 2011 and started hiring several people to help her transport drugs across regional borders. 

Police in Hanoi, Quang Ninh Province and HCMC busted the ring in October 2012, seizing 24 kilograms of heroin and more than two kilograms of methamphetamine.

They arrested Trang and three of her smugglers Le Xuan Phu, Phan Thi Lien, and Pornpirom Upapong from Thailand, local media reported.

The members told police Trang was the mastermind and hired them to transport drugs across regional countries including China, Cambodia, Nigeria, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Police said the gang also hired some Africans who used money to lure poor Vietnamese women, who had little knowledge about drug laws, into the illegal business. They are still looking for these suspects.
Thanh Niem News

Note: As reported in an earlier item; under a revision, which takes effect July 1, 2016, Vietnam has announced abolition of the death penalty for seven crimes: surrendering to the enemy, opposing order, destruction of projects of national security importance, robbery, drug possession, drug appropriation and the production and trade of fake food.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Death Penalty in year 2015

Death Penalty executions have increased by over 50 per cent worldwide in 2015, the highest level since 1989. In its annual report on the death penalty Amnesty International attests to at least 1634 executions carried out in 25 countries. 89 per cent of these executions took place in three countries: Iran (977), Pakistan (326) and in Saudi Arabia (158). Next comes the United States with 28 executions. While countries exercising the wrath of Allah are beyond comment, a French commentator remarks that the US appears to be a country without respect for the most elementary humanist values.

The figures quoted ignore China where such statistics are classified as state secrets. But there is no doubt that China executes thousands each year and surpasses every other country in practice of the death penalty

By contrast, last year, the Congo Republic, Fiji, Madagascar and Surinam abolished the death penalty bringing to 102 the number of abolitionist countries.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Secrative and Meaningless Executions in Japan

Tokyo - Japan executed two death row prisoners on Friday, 25th March, the justice ministry said, dismissing calls from rights groups to end capital punishment.

Convicted murderers Yasutoshi Kamata and Junko Yoshida were executed by hanging, bringing the total number of people put to death since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in 2012 to 16.
Yoshida, 56, killed two men in the late 1990s as part of a plot to obtain insurance money, the justice ministry said. She is the fifth woman to be executed in more than 60 years.
Kamata, 75, was convicted of murdering four women between 1985 and 1994 -- and a nine-year-old girl who started screaming as he tried to sexually abuse her.

Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki, who authorised the executions, said they had committed "extremely heinous" crimes that "took the precious lives of the victims for very selfish reasons".

1.       The death penalty is subject to a UN General Assembly vote in favour of a worldwide moratorium
2.       One of those executed is a woman; the execution of women is particularly repellant
3.       The other was 75 years old, exempt from execution even in countries that retain the death penalty
4.       Those condemned to death in Japan are held in solitary confinement for decades and then executed without advance notice.
5.       Two executions in Malaysia, two in Japan, …….

Friday, March 25, 2016

Secretive and Mandatory Executions in Malaysia

From the Guardian, 25th March, 2016
“The execution was done between 4:30 and 5:30 this morning,” lawyer Palaya Rengaiah told the Guardian. “They were hanged to death.
Rengaiah said the families received a letter two days before the execution, advising them to make a last visit to the men and funeral arrangements. He said the men were told on Thursday that they would be hanged on Friday.
Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, 35, Ramesh Jayakumar, 34, and his brother Sasivarnam Jayakumar, 37, were sentenced to the gallows after they were found guilty by the high court of murdering a 25-year-old man in a playground in 2005. The trio claimed during court sessions that they were acting in self-defence after being attacked by a group that included the victim.
The Malaysian prison’s department said there were currently more than 1,000 inmates awaiting execution, although none had been killed since 2013.
Amnesty International has condemned what it called a “last-minute” execution of the men accused of murder, an offence that carries a mandatory death sentence.
In Malaysia, information on scheduled hangings are not made public before, or sometimes after, they are carried out. Several high-level officials have spoken against mandatory death sentences in Malaysia, a decades-old law that is also imposed on serious drug, treason and firearms offences.
Days after, government minister Nancy Shukri, said she hoped to amend the penal code to abolish the death sentence. “It is not easy to amend, but we are working on it. I hope to table it next year in March,” Shukri told reporters, adding that the punishment had done little to reduce the number of crimes committed. The motion has not been put to parliament.
Executions in one ASEAN country affect the attitude of the others. Ultimately, they will move together to retention or abolition. Against a de facto reduction of executions in the region, the savage executions in Malaysia are a setback for abolition in the whole region. A setback in one country is a setback for all. 

Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Matter of RE-ENACTMENT by Royal Thai Police

Bangkok Post reports a reenactment scenario

“KHON KAEN — A 42-year-old woman caught in Waeng Yai district for repeatedly stabbing and burying alive her newborn son confessed she had done it because she did not want him.

Suda Thongdee of Waeng Yai district was taken on Saturday for a crime re-enactment in a paddy field in Non Sawan village in the district, where her newborn child was found buried alive with multiple stab wounds.

She was escorted under tight security as angry people cursed and yelled at her.”

The news account published on the Bangkok Post website of 27th February reports an event which is standard practice in police investigation procedures of crime action, and Thai media compliance with the practice. The account illustrates succinctly the practice and its reporting. In the first sentence guilt is established. The second sentence presents to us visual proof of the veracity of the guilt. The final sentence reports on the acceptance of the sentence by an angry people. Why is this parody of the justice system allowed to continue?

Among the most basic rights of modern justice is “to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”[1] while in custody. Secondly, is the “right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”[2]. Finally is right to fair trial “by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law”[3]

The practice of public reenactment is abhorrent to the rights outlined above, rights guaranteed by Thailand’s ratification of the International Convention cited. When challenged for its non-conformity to obligations imposed by a ratified International Convention, Thailand frequently responds that it is not obliged by requirements not yet codified in Thai law. This is a fallacious response as the obligations to make adaptations of Thai law to align it with treaty obligations is itself a binding obligation which cannot be postponed. Even in the interim the obligations have binding power and cannot be ignored.

It is clear that the practice of “reenactment” takes place under some form of compulsion and in the absence of legal counsel to the accused. Guilt is presumed, and the public conditioned to prejudge court decision. On occasion the participant in the charade has suffered violent attack by enraged onlookers.

Publication of the article cited above led to the following comments:

“ There's no excuse for this regardless of the lack of safe havens. A death sentence is appropriate here.”

“May be she should also be stabbed and buried alive as no one want her”

" The woman wasn't some hapless teenage girl, but a middle-aged woman who callously assaulted her baby. I hope she and whoever else is involved feel the full weight of the law."
A subsequent article probed and asserted motivations for the murder. In true Bangkok Post tradition the sources of the later revelations were not revealed, but one can surely identify them as the woman still appears to lack the protection of legal counsel. This website protested in a comment to the Post, but the comment was ignored.
We have received other complaints and accounts of the practice of reenactment and wonder at the immunity granted court decisions when this prejudicial practice continues.  

[1] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,  Article 10.1

[2] Idem, Article 14.2

[3] Idem, Article 14.1

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Death Penalty Congress

"We would like to focus on Asia, since it’s one of the “pockets of resistance” of the abolition."
Message from the press officer of the 2016 Congress.

Any press out there interested to participate please contact:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Saudi Arabia Executes 47 on 2nd January

One of the world's top executioners, Saudi Arabia, carried out the largest mass execution in the country since 1980, putting 47 men to death on January 2, 2016. According to the Saudi state news agency, all of the men were convicted on terrorism charges, and most were members of Al Qaeda. The mass execution to begin 2016 follows a 20-year high of 158 executions in 2015.
Among those executed were at least four Saudi Shia men, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric sentenced to death in 2014 after a Saudi court convicted him on a host of vague charges apparently based largely on his peaceful criticism of Saudi officials.  The charges against al-Nimr included “breaking allegiance with the ruler,” “inciting sectarian strife,” and supporting rioting and destruction of public property during 2011-2012 protests in Shia-majority towns and cities. The proceedings of Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court, which conducted his trial in 13 sessions over a year and a half, raised serious fair trial concerns, including vague charges that do not resemble recognizable crimes and trial sessions held without informing al-Nimr’s legal advocate.
The 47 executions were carried out inside prisons across 12 different provinces in Saudi Arabia. In each prison, the men were beheaded except for four that used firing squads, according to Reuters news agency.

The execution of Sheikh Nimr has exacerbated Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Muslim world, with a stand off between Saudi Arabia and Iran that threatens peace in the area.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mary Jane Veloso, we remember you

                                                          Mary Jane, a happy birthday
"Mary Jane Veloso was reunited with her parents and two children at a prison in Yogyakarta two days after her birthday, where they presented her with gifts and letters from her supporters in the Philippines.
The 31-year-old was granted a temporary reprieve in April just moments before she was due to be executed alongside eight other convicted drug traffickers, including seven foreigners."

The care of a women for her children and parents is one of the treasures of humanity. It must not be wasted by a meaningless and legally dubious sentence of death.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Where is Somchai? Where has he disappeared to?

On 12th March 2004, human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelapaijit was abducted in full daylight on one of the busiest streets in Bangkok. The irony is that the answers to the questions posed by his daughter Pratubjit are well known. But the evidence for his abduction, a record of telephone conversations between his abductors has been formally rejected by the Supreme Court on 29th December and the police charged with his abduction declared innocent.
The original computer records of the mobile telephone calls no longer exist, and the print out of the record was unsigned.
I was present in the Court at the original trial and saw the judge call a Court intermission while he consulted on the meaning of a type of evidence new to Thailand. The omission of a signature was surely negligent but why was it not remedied at the time of submission or before the Appeal hearing?

Water under the bridge: Justice failed and abductions continue. Government officials enjoy immunity and impunity to the extent that the very notion of justice is corrupted.

English version (abridged) of Koh Tao Court ruling.

                                        Koh Samui Provincial Court Newsletter (3 pages)
Dated 24 December 2015
Koh Samui Provincial Public Prosecutor, the Plaintiff, brought case against the two Defendants, namely Mr. Zaw Lin (aka Zoren) no surname, and Mr. Wai Phyu (aka Win) no surname in Criminal Case (Black Case No. 2040/2557) at Koh Samui Provincial Court. Today, the Court has rendered the judgment and read the verdict to the Plaintiff and the two Defendants as follows;

The Plaintiff accused the Defendants of committing the offences of illegal entry and illegal residing in the Kingdom of Thailand; jointly murdering Mr. David William Miller, the first victim; jointly gang raping Ms. Hannah Victoria Witheridge, the second victim; and jointly murdering the second victim for the purpose of concealing other offences committed by the Defendants; and the second Defendant wrongfully stealing the first victim’s mobile phone and sunglasses. The offences were committed at Koh Tao sub-district, Koh Phangan district, Surat Thaini province. The Plaintiff therefore requests that the Court render punishment to the Defendants in accordance with sections 83, 91, 276, 288, 289, 334 and 335 of the Penal Code and sections 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 38, 58, 62 and 83 of the Immigration Act B.E. 2522, and that the Court order the second Defendant to return or reimburse 15,000 Baht to the descendants of the first victim and to return the exhibits i.e. the mobile phone and the hoe
The first Defendant pleaded not guilty.
The second Defendant pleaded guilty only to the charges of illegal entry and illegal residing in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The Court considered evidence submitted by both the Plaintiff and the Defendants and resolved that the location where the Defendants were sitting was not far from the crime scene, and from such location it was not far away and was within eyesight to notice both victims walking to the crime scene. The medical examiner who conducted autopsy on the bodies of both victims has found the DNAs of more than one offender in the vagina and rectum of the second victim. This forensic method of evidence collection is commonly accepted under international standards as an effective proof of a person’s identity, as the DNAs having existed and having been collected lawfully before the arrest of both Defendants. Therefore the DNA testing result can be linked to and is admissible to the identity of offenders.
By comparing the evidence DNAs with the DNAs of both Defendants, it is found that the DNA collected from the semen sample in the second victim’s vagina matches the second Defendant’s DNA, while the DNAs collected from the semen samples in the second victim’s rectum match the DNAs of both Defendants. According to the DNA testing result, the Evidence Document marked as Jor.12, the offenders’ DNAs match the DNAs of both Defendants in all 16 matching categories, which clearly prove identities of the persons under internationally accepted standards. The DNA testing result is therefore persuasive evidence and is credible of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
The Plaintiff’s Expert Witness who collected and tested the tissue specimen of both Defendants testified that the specimen were collected and sent to the lab without delay. Therefore, there were no opportunities where police officers, medical examiners or forensic scientists who test the offenders’ DNAs could possibly bring the semen or seminal fluids, from the Defendants’ bodies, at such time, into the vagina and the rectum of the second victim.
Moreover, the Plaintiff also presented a witness who testified that the second Defendant gave the mobile phone of the first victim to the witness not long after the crime occurred. This evidence, thus, establishes the fact leading to the second Defendant’s involvement in this case. The Plaintiff’s submitted evidence, being the DNA testing result whereby the offenders’ DNAs match the Defendants’, the material evidence at crime scene, as well as the circumstantial evidence both before and after the incident prove beyond reasonable doubt …
… that both Defendants are the offenders who raped the second victim. These evidence are sufficiently reliable without prejudice to the facts, circumstances of the confessions made by both Defendants under and during the arrest or interrogation stages.
Even the Plaintiff was unable to identify, during cross examination, which of the Defendants had raped the second victim before or after, nonetheless the Expert Witness Pol. Col. Dr. Pawat, M.D. testified that the tear wound at the lower part of the second victim’s vulva was bleeding, which indicates that the second victim was still alive while being raped, and that this wound must have occurred before the severe wound on her head which caused immediate death. The forensic evidences clearly establish that both Defendants raped the second victim until ejaculation. Moreover, the circumstances infer that both have conspired in committing the offences by way of taking turn to rape the second victim. Thus, their acts amount to jointly committing rape of woman who is not wife in the form of gang rape. In consideration of the wounds at the head and the face of the second victim, it is found that all wounds are severe and the pattern matched with the blade and the edge of the exhibited hoe. The bloodstain of the second victim is also found on the exhibited hoe, which removes all questionable doubts that the hoe might not be as the weapon to harm the second victim. The serious wounds on the face which occurred after the tear wound at the vulva while the second victim being raped reasonably imply that after the second victim was raped at the crime scene, she was then beaten to death by the exhibited hoe. These circumstances determine the cause and contribution undeniably leading to the fact that both two Defendants used the exhibited hoe to beat and slash the second victim at the crime scene.
The circumstances of the case indicate that after both Defendants raped the second victim, both men used the exhibited hoe, being a big sharp solid object, to hit and slash the second victim numerous times. This caused tear wounds so deep that the base of the brain was visible, and caused the forehead bone at the left eye socket to deform.  This indicates that both Defendants have jointly used the exhibited hoe to strike the second victim at their full force until death with the intention to murder the victim. The acts of both Defendants amount to the offence of jointly committing murder for the purpose of concealing other offences. The facts and circumstances from the Prosecutor’s examinations appear that the first victim was harmed at the crime scene almost at the same time as the offences committed to the second victim, and caused the first victim to die subsequently. The characteristics of the wounds on the first victim’s body match the shape of the exhibited hoe. These circumstances infer that both Defendants used the exhibited hoe as the weapon to harm the first victim, in order to commit rape to the second victim, which amounts to the offence to jointly committing murder as submitted in the Plaint.
On the charges of illegally entering and residing in the Kingdom of Thailand against the first Defendant, Clause 1.1 and 1.2 in the Plaint, the Prosecutor was unable to produce any evidence during examinations that the first Defendant was not permitted to enter and reside in the Kingdom at the time of Plaint, and the first Defendant was able to present his passport in court. In this regards, the prior interrogation of the first Defendant, therefore, cannot self-incriminate himself for both alledged immigration offences.
On the charge of theft at night time against the second Defendant, the Prosecutor presented a witness who confirmed that the second Defendant gave him the exhibited mobile phone after the incident, claiming that the phone belongs to a foreigner who had forgotten his phone at the shop. In addition, a witness testified that the second Defendant confessed during interrogation that he had taken the mobile phone and the sunglasses of the first victim after he had harmed and raped the second victim. Where the circumstances infer that the second Defendant was one of the offenders who jointly harm the first victim at the scene, likewise the second Defendant could have a chance to steal the first victim’s mobile phone from the crime scene without difficulty. However, the Prosecutor was unable to seize the sunglasses of the first victim as the exhibit evidence for this case. Also, the Prosecutor lacks witnesses to confirm the second Defendant’s involvement in the possession of the sunglasses after the incident. Thus the Court admits only that the second Defendant wrongfully stole the exhibited mobile phone.
The arguments of both Defendants on the DNA testing result, the Burmese interpreter, the provision of lawyer during interrogation, or the claim that both Defendants had been physically harmed and tortured to confess following their arrest were lacking in evidence to prove as claimed. They are unsubstantiated claims, and immaterial for the purpose of rebutting the Prosecutor’s DNA testing evidence, and unable to affect the Court’s consideration. The evidence submitted by both Defendants could not dismiss the evidence presented by the Prosecutor. Whereas the second Defendant had wrongfully stole the first victim’s mobile phone, the act of the second Defendant amounts to torts, and the second Defendant is obliged to return or to reimburse the value of stolen property to the descendants of the first victim by virtue of Section 438 Paragraph Two of the Civil and Commercial Code.
The Court rules that both Defendants are guilty of sections 288, 289 (7), 276 Paragraph Three in conjunction with section 83 of the Penal Code. The second Defendant is also guilty of section 335 (1) Paragraph One of the Penal Code and sections 12 (1), 18 Paragraph Two and 62 Paragraph One of the Immigration Act B.E. 2522. The acts of the two Defendants were found guilty under several offences. Section 91 of the Penal Code provides that the Court shall determine punishment for each and every offence. For the offence of murdering the first victim, the sentence for both Defendants is death penalty. For the offence of murdering the second victim for the purpose of concealing other offences committed by the Defendants, the sentence for both Defendants is death penalty. For the offence of raping a woman who is not wife in form of gang rape, the sentence for both Defendants is 20-year imprisonment. For the offence of theft at night time, the sentence for the second Defendant is 2-year imprisonment. For the offence of entering the Kingdom not via legally-specified channel and time, the offence of entering the Kingdom without a valid passport and without permission by law, the offence of entering the Kingdom not via immigration channel and not completing the forms prescribed by law, all alledged offence are based on the similar wrongdoing and intention. The Court considered that these are the same conduct which gave rise to multiple offence. Since each offence carries the same scale of punishment, under Section 90 of the Penal Code, the charge of illegal entering into the Kingdom, shall be applied to the second Defendant having the sentence of 6-month imprisonment. For the offence of residing in the Kingdom without permission, the punishment for the second Defendant is 6-month imprisonment. The second Defendant’s confession on this charge of illegal entering and residing in the Kingdom without permission, established mitigating factor during the trial, the Court thereby reduces the sentence for each offence by half. 
Regarding the confession of the second Defendant under the interrogation stage for the offence of theft at night time, which facilitated interrogations and led to the seizure of the exhibited mobile phone, the Court reduces the sentence by one-fourth for the offence of theft at night time, Section 78 of the Penal Code, the sentence for the second Defendant thus being 1-year and 6-month imprisonment.  For the offence of illegally entering the Kingdom without permission, the sentence for the second Defendant is 3-month imprisonment. For the offence of illegally residing in the Kingdom without permission, the sentence for the second Defendant is 3-month imprisonment. 
Whereas both Defendants are sentenced with death penalty, the sentence of imprisonments for other offences cannot be included. As a result, only death penalty is imposed on both Defendants. The Court hereby orders that the exhibited hoe be returned to the original owner, and that the second Defendant reimburse 15,000 Baht being the value of the exhibited mobile phone to the descendants of the first victim. Other charges and requests are dismissed.
A full translation is in process.