Thursday, November 05, 2015

Address to the One with Power to Save Kho Jabing

Dear President Tony Tan Keng Yam
Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 67353135

 I write this letter of appeal for Kho Jabing first sentenced to a mandatory death sentence in 2012, whose petition for clemency was rejected on 19 October.

After amendments to the Penal Code – which allows judges sentencing discretion for certain categories of murder – were enacted in 2013, Kho Jabing’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with 24 strokes of the cane. However, the Prosecution decided to appeal against the outcome of the re-sentencing. On 14 January 2015, Jabing’s death sentence was reinstated after a five-judge panel at the Court of Appeal decided he had exhibited a “blatant disregard for human life” in a 3-2 decision.

The background to this death penalty shows the influence of a word wide reaction against the death penalty, most clearly shown in the five times repeated vote of the UN General Assembly in favour of a universal moratorium on the death penalty. While violence and the most awful crimes continue worldwide, there is a growing realisation that the response to violence must be, not more violence, but a justice limited by mercy. All life is sacred and our refusal to kill as others do in the name of justice, provides the clearest affirmation of the value of life. Capital punishment achieves nothing other than some satisfaction of vengeance accepting the same values as those who kill.

It is the season to make a turn, to value the life of Kho Jabing and others whom we feel driven to kill. Treat him, not in the same coin as he treated another, but allow him to reflect and realise the horror of the act of killing. The day will surely come when he too will value human life above all, and give a lesson to those who linger in violence that there is another path, that of humanity and justice.

Danthong Breen, Senior Advisor and Head of Death Penalty Project                                                             Union for Civil Liberty, Thailand

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

URGENT ACTION: Mercy for Kho Jabing

November 3rd: It appears likely that Kho Jabing will be executed on Friday 6th November.
Execution delayed at lawyer's submission
Please sign petition on Care2 website, click below

Once more a case not beyond reasonable doubt, and a poorest of the poor family background. What possible justification for his killing, revenge, deterrance, maintenance of an outdated savage punishment?

Kho Jabing, a 31-year-old Sarawakian on death row in Singapore, had his clemency petition rejected by the President, on the advice of the Cabinet, on 19 October 2015. He has exhausted all legal avenues and is at risk of being executed soon.

Jabing and fellow Sarawakan Galing Anak Kujat were first sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2010, in a case of robbery with assault which led to the death of construction worker Cao Ruyin in 2008.
In 2011, the Court of Appeal decided to lower the Galing’s charges, and convicted him of robbery with hurt. Galing was then sentenced to 18 years and 6 months in jail, with 19 strokes of the cane. Kho Jabing’s sentence was affirmed, and he remained on death row.
After amendments to the Penal Code – which allows judges sentencing discretion for certain categories of murder – were enacted in 2013, Kho Jabing’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with 24 strokes of the cane. However, the Prosecution decided to appeal against the outcome of the re-sentencing.
On 14 January 2015, Jabing’s death sentence was reinstated after a five-judge panel at the Court of Appeal decided he had exhibited a “blatant disregard for human life” in a 3-2 decision. Both dissenting judges stated that there was “reasonable doubt whether Jabing’s blows were all afflicted when the deceased was laying on the ground”, which made it “unsafe to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he acted in a way which exhibited a blatant disregard for human life”.
The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty has written an open letter (see below) to the Cabinet, calling for mercy for Jabing. We encourage you to do the same. You can send your letter to the following:
President of Singapore
His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam
Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 67353135
Prime Minister of Singapore
Lee Hsien Loong Prime Minister’s Office
Istana Annexe, Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 63328983
Minister of Law and Home Affairs
Mr. K Shanmugam
100 High Street, #08-02 The Treasury, Singapore 179434
Fax: (65) 6332 8842

Dear distinguished Ministers,
We are writing this letter of appeal for Kho Jabing, whose petition for clemency was rejected on 19 October 2015. We urge the Cabinet to reconsider his clemency in light of the fact that there was no unanimous decision even at the highest court of the land, and our learned judges were split in their opinion of whether the death penalty was appropriate in his case.
We also seek the compassion of the Cabinet for the family of Jabing, who have gone through much suffering since his original sentencing. His father passed away while Jabing’s case was ongoing, and Jabing’s sister Jumai believes that her father’s illness prior to his death was due to Jabing’s incarceration, which came as a great blow for him. His mother, who has been unable to work due to health reasons, has lost both her sources of financial support and has been living on the goodwill of her neighbours and minimal state welfare ever since then.
On top of her ill-health, the thought of losing Jabing, her only son, is too much for his mother to bear. We cannot imagine the effect his death will have on her wellbeing.
We understand the grievousness of his offence but hope that he will be given a second chance and a more meaningful way to atone for his crime.
We hope that our Ministers will be compassionate and consider all factors related, especially the impact of capital punishment on Jabing’s family, and exercise mercy by commuting his death sentence to that of life imprisonment.
Yours sincerely,
Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Japanese Woman Condemned to Death in Malaysia

Malaysia’s highest court has endorsed the death sentence issued by a lower court for a 41-year-old Japanese woman over trafficking 3.5 kg of methamphetamine into the country, a source said.
The decision Thursday by the Federal Court of Malaysia in Putrajaya confirms the capital punishment ruling for Mariko Takeuchi, rejecting her appeal, according to the source.
Takeuchi had pleaded not guilty, saying she did not know what was inside a suitcase she brought in on a trip from the United Arab Emirates. She may seek a pardon from the king.
Takeuchi, a former nurse, had around 3.5 kg of methamphetamine hidden in the suitcase she brought in from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur in October 2009, according to a ruling by the Court of Appeal in March 2013.
Possession of a minimum of 50 grams of methamphetamine is considered to be trafficking in a dangerous drug and punishable by death in Malaysia.
Japan Times October 16

Death Penalty Thailand deplores the execution of women for reasons to be treated extensively on this site. In the whole modern history of Thailand three women have been executed and a Thai government official announced at a conference on the death penalty that "Thailand does not execute women".
The execution of women is repugnant and serves no purpose.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Abolition of the Death Penalty, Where Do We Go from Here?

With likely death sentences for perpetrators of the bombing at the Ratchaprasong shrine, Thailand will be forced to face the reality of imposing sentence of death. Given the current standing on sentence of death, what are the options for imposing such sentence?

Like all member countries of the United Nations, Thailand must report to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on its observance of commitments it has freely undertaken in solemnly ratifying International Treaties which codify in detail recognised human rights. The report, referred to as the Universal Peer Review is heard in the great hall of the Palace of Justice in the presence of representatives of other UN nations, who must, in their turn, justify their human rights record, and hear the recommendations of their peers.

In 2011 Thailand first reported to such an assembly. As is usual for countries still maintaining the death penalty, many recommendations refer to the right to life, the basis of all other human rights. Thailand received such recommendations from fifteen countries, eleven in Europe and five in South America. A spectrum of the views expressed is most clearly exemplified in the recommendation of Switzerland, “Ratify the ICCPR-OP2”, and that of Brazil, “Consider abolishing the death penalty”. Both of these brief suggestions are coded reference to one of the most contentious issues for the UN.

The affirmation of the right to life is in the third of thirty two articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the basis for life and freedom in the modern world. At the time that the Declaration was adopted the world was emerging from a half century of bitter war and division, when only six nations in the world had progressed to abolition of the death penalty, and capital punishment, as was shown in the post war Nuremberg trials, was considered a necessary means of retaliation against heinous crime. Given the starting point for establishing peace and order, the Universal Declaration could not be imposed as obligatory on UN member states. Stronger and more detailed codes were elaborated in the years that followed. One of these codes is the International Covenant on Social and Political Rights (ICCPR). But even then abolition of the death penalty remained a free contractual choice which was elaborated in what is known as the second optional protocol (ICCPR-OP2) referred to in the recommendation to Thailand by Switzerland and several of the other peer recommendations. ICCPR-OP2 if imposes on states ratifying it a formal obligation in international law.

The recommendation of Brazil takes a different tack, “Consider abolishing the death penalty” indicating a stand on the freedom of a country to adhere or not to the basic founding UN document, a choice made explicit in the elaborated right to life as expressed ICCPR. Countries which maintain the death penalty, ignore the intention of the authors of the Declaration and the subsequent Convention, and commonly justify their stand on this freedom of choice. The recommendation of Brazil takes account of this constraint.

When the UPR hearing process is complete, the country under review is given the opportunity to respond to the recommendations made. The response of Thailand to the recommendations is of great interest: the spokesman for the Royal Thai Government rejected recommendations to abolish the death penalty with the words:
Thailand is embarking on a process of studying the possibility of abolishing the death penalty, in consultation with the public and relevant stakeholders. However, pending the completion of this consultation process, Thailand is unable to accept recommendations to review or amend the law in regard to capital punishment, place a moratorium on or abolish the death penalty.

In brief, the recommendation of Brazil to consider abolition is accepted while the recommendation of Switzerland to actually renounce the death penalty is rejected.

In April 2016, Thailand approaches another UPR session. True to its word Thailand has indeed considered abolition as shown by two extensive documents. The first is a study carried out by academics on behalf of the Department for the Defense of Liberties and Freedoms of the Ministry of Justice. This is the Department entrusted with the task of preparing a submission to the Thai Parliament on the issue of the death penalty, it is titled “Project on the Possibility of Abolishing the Death Penalty according to the Second National Human Rights Plan”. It is dated xx and consists of yy pages. The second is a study made by the National Human Rights Commission, which, although theoretically a unit not under government control, in its current realisation faithfully reflects and serves government policy. It is titled “The Death Penalty in Thailand”. Dated xx it is yy pages in length. The promise to Brazil and other countries recommending a stage of consideration is well fulfilled.

 Results of consideration on possibility of abolishing the death penalty
The context of abolition of the death penalty in Thailand was established by locating Thailand among the minority of countries which still retain the death penalty, 58 countries as opposed to the 140 which are abolitionist.
Four major reasons for abolition are identified:                                                                                                                                  
·      The death penalty conflicts with the most basic human right, the right to life

·      The majority of those condemned to death are the poor, who lack the means to employ effective defense

·      The justice system applying the death penalty is defective

·      The death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime

To these may be added the possibility of execution of the innocent.

The study of the Department for the defence of Liberties and Freedoms, takes an academic stand, a study for its own sake, revealing its origin and the uncertainty of its mandate, in brief the lack of political enthusiasm and of a firm mandate from political masters.

By contrast, the study issued by the National Human Rights Commission is strongly oriented to achieving change rather than understanding. It makes an interesting identification of abolition of the death penalty as an expression of democratic power. It bases itself on a concept of penal practice which gives priority to the rehabilitation of condemned prisoners and their return to society. It bluntly accepts that capital punishment is not effective in controlling crime. If its message were accepted, the recommendation of Switzerland in 2011 would be fulfilled.

So there we are, well spiked on the horns of dilemma. We have considered so that a Thai delegation can no longer take refuge in the delaying tactic of pleading pause for reflection. But we are no closer to a decision to accept and ratify ICCPR –OP2. In the next UPR session we hope there will be even increased recommendation for the definitive step of acceptance. But the outcome is likely to be an appeal that Thailand must wait for the approval of popular opinion. As no effort has been made to launch an effective campaign to engage popular opinion, abolition will be further delayed for ever and a day.

To return to the question posed at the beginning of this article, what are the options? The first is to impose a lesser sentence than capital punishment. But for Thai courts which have imposed a sixty year sentence for an obscure charge of lèse majesté, what leeway is there for a heavy sentence for mass killing? And what of a sentence of death, for a country on its declared path to abolition? The only solution is acceptance and ratification of ICCPR-OP2 when Thailand may proceed with exactly the same measures of punishment as the International Criminal Court. So be it!

Newly Published Statistics on Death Penalty Sentencing in Thailand

Recently, new statistics on sentences passed by thai courts have been released "Annual Judicial Statistics of Thailand", " <> ".This document gives the numbers of sentences in all catagories for the years 2012 and 2013. Of particular interest are death penalties, which number 189 and 294 for the years 2012 aand 2013. These figures are a huge increase on earlier unofficial estimates.

UCL website: While we have long sought for an official statement on the number of death sentences, the figures were not available. We worked under the assumption that those condemned to death  would be refused bail and imprisoned. We were very familiar with the arguments for refusal of bail in cases of capital punishment. The incentive to flee the country would be very high and there was often repeated warnings that a person condemned to death would be very likely to intimidate witnesses in the hope that they would retract evidence. We met and interacted with prisoners condemned to death who were imprisoned; we had no means of knowing or meeting with a condemned person who might have been released on bail. On what appeared to be the rare occasion when a condemned person was granted bail, as in a case where the condemned person was a policeman, public outrage appeared to confirm the rarity of such release. The certain figures available to us were the numbers of prisoners in jails who had been condemned to death. For example, in the most recent figures available, 31 May 2015, there are 437 prisoners. A break down of these figures is available, into male and female, drug and non-drug cases, and the stage of trial, Appeal and Supreme Court. The missing statistic is the number of prioners per year. From the time of first sentence to a final Supreme Court judgement can take six to ten years and we have never known at what stage prisoners were involved. Certainly the number who have completed all stages are small; in the 2015 figures 29 out of 437 or 7%.

We had succeeded in getting some idea of the number of sentences each year from estimates provided unofficially by government officials. These numbers, obtained by examining court documents for prisoners, were in the range 50 to 53 per year, which seemed consistent with the overall number of prisoners.

The recently revealed figures for death sentences per year for 2012 and 2013, especially the 2013 figure of 294 appeared impossible. The office issueing the statistics helpfully provided a phone number for enquiries which we used to contact the official who had worked on the table of statistics. He pointed out that an apparent conflict with prison statistics was due to the majority of condemned prisoners being granted bail, and thus not appearing in prison statistics.

And here for the moment the matter rests. However, the major revelation is the virulence of the death penalty in the Thai judicial system. Rather than about one sentence per week, we are apporaching one sentence per day. Of course, executions are not being carried out, but a death sentence is a condemnation to the awful system of imprionment in appalling prison conditions for an indeterminate period, and always with the risk that active executions may be introduced at any time.

However statistical problems remain. The interpretation offered of prisoners being on bail, should mean that there would occur a surge in the number of prisoners who have completed the judicial process as the prisoners found guilty by the supreme court enter the stream of those imprisoned throughout the legal process. It may be that improved statistics revealing reversals of judgment, and of the status of prisoners on bail may help to explain the dichotomy in prison and court statistics. But at present we are still faced with an incompatibility in numbers which defies comprehension

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ponder these details on the execution of a woman

·         30th September 2015. The State of Georgia in the US has executed Kelly Renee Gissendaner with a fatal injection for the slaying of her husband, despite a plea for clemency from their children.

·         She was the first woman executed in Georgia for 70 years and the sixteenth across the US since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

·         Gregory Owen, her lover and accomplice, pleaded guilty and testified against Gissendaner, who did not take part in the stabbing. He is serving a life sentence and becomes eligible for parole in 2022.

·         Gissendaner’s three children, Dakota, Kayla and Brandon, had sought clemency for their mother and earlier this month released a video pleading for her life to be spared. They detailed their own journeys to forgiving her and said they would suffer terribly from having a second parent taken from them.

·         Gissendaner’s lawyers submitted a statement from former Georgia Supreme Court chief justice Norman Fletcher to the parole board. Fletcher argued Gissendaner’s death sentence was not proportionate to her role in the crime. He also noted that Georgia hadn’t executed a person who didn’t actually carry out a killing since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. She was the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years. Lena Baker, a black maid, was executed in 1945 after being convicted in a one-day trial of killing her white employer. Georgia officials issued her a pardon in 2005 after six decades of lobbying and arguments by her family that she likely killed the man because he was holding her against her will.

Extracts from the Guardian newspaper of 30th September

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Failure of UN Human Right Council to lead with integrity

The right to life is the most basic right of all. And the UN is the guardian and guarantor of these rights, demanding an annual report from its Secretary General on the death penalty, and in recent years sponsoring several votes on a Universal Moratorium.

Nevertheless, the UN has appointed Saudi Arabia as chair of a key UN Human Rights Council panel, with the power to select top officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide, said UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization based in Geneva. Saudi Arabia was chosen to head a 5-member group of ambassadors, known as the Consultative Group, which has the power to select applicants from around the world for more than 77 positions dealing with country-specific and thematic human rights mandates. Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights. “It's scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.” The appointment came in the wake of Saudi’s bid to become president of the entire 47-nation Human Rights Council. Neuer expressed concern that the Saudis may have been handed the position in a backroom deal, in exchange for dropping the regime’s controversial bid.
Saudi Arabia is listed as the country that ranks third, after China and Iran in numbers executed in recent years. Over the past few years, reported executions have been almost exclusively by beheading, despite the prevalence of media discussion of the possibility of death by stoning. There are reports that Saudis have exposed the body (with head sewn back on) of the condemned to public indignity, including crucifixion, after execution for the crime of highway robbery resulting in death (Cornell Law School, Death penalty database,
See <>

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Ratchaprasong bombing, a critical test of Thai death penalty legislation

  On 17 August 2015, a bombing took place inside the Erawan Shrine at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Pathum Wan District, Bangkok, Thailand, killing 20. The police investigation is torturous and complex, but appears to be succeeding beyond the usual standard of the Thai police force. However, one can foresee some outcome. Several suspects have already been arrested and the supposition is that the bombing is a reaction to the forced repatriation of Uighur refugees to China. There are inflammatory pictures of hooded men on a flight departing from Thailand to China. The search for the bombers is involving other national and international police agencies.
However, several persons have been arrested and some have already been subjected to the unacceptable Thai practice of crime reanactment. Certainly, a trial of some kind will follow. Even under martial law there is a limit to how long suspects can be held without involvement of the courts.
It is revealing and ominous that the head of the ruling junta has already indicated that the suspects will be brought before a civilian court rather than the military courts before which Thai dissadents are now commonly arraigned. This indicates that the outcome of the trials must be acceptable to foreign observers. It is surely likely that a penalty of death will be invoked, in line with recent additions to the Thai legal code which insist on the death penalty for crimes of corruption by foreigners and of crimes relating to air travel. And if the suspects are condemned to death, what then?
The result may be a serious extension of foreign terrorism in Thailand. Even if no extension occcurs, what objective is served? The death penalty is no deterrent. The trial is sure to be prolonged and problematic as real evidence is weak. Is the aim of deterrence served? Hardly. In fact the coming trial is certain to be a crucial test of Thailand's attitude to the death penalty and there will be much foreign representation such as Indonesia has recently experienced.
 What is the alternative? The best alternative is for Thailand to avoid the crisis by embracing abolition in the form of the second optional protocol to ICCPR and pursuing the case of the bombing with the same standards of punishment as the International Criminal Court, which excludes the death penalty.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dozens of Indonesian nationals on death row for drugs

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has said that there are currently 129 Indonesian nationals facing the death penalty for their role in drug smuggling.

“The majority of them are migrant workers who were tricked into becoming couriers by international drug syndicates and most of them are women,” BNN chief Anang Iskandar said as quoted by Antara news agency on Sunday.
The BNN has appealed to Indonesian citizens, especially migrant workers in Hong Kong and Macau, to remain alert over the danger of drug syndicates in the countries in which they work.
“They should not be easily duped. They should be careful when someone wants to entrust something to them. Also be very careful with strangers,” he said.
Anang earlier warned women in the country to be careful when dating foreigners, suggesting they could be tricked into becoming drug mules.
He said that many Indonesian women were languishing in prisons abroad because they were “easily tricked into drug-trafficking”.
On Sunday, Anang also called on Indonesian nationals who use drugs abroad to immediately stop and seek help from an Indonesian representative office. The office, he said, could recommend them to a rehab center.
“We are cooperating with a number of countries on a bilateral and multilateral basis to prevent and eradicate drug abuse, and to unravel international drug networks that use Indonesian citizens as mules or consider Indonesia a part of their smuggling route,” he said.
Anang also said that the demand for drugs in Indonesia remained very high, making the country one of the main destinations for drug smuggling.
The BNN estimates that there are more than 4.2 million active drug users in the country.
“If one of them consumes 0.2 grams a day, it means 80 kilograms of drugs is needed every day to satiate demand, or 2.4 tons per month and 29 tons per year,” he said.
Indonesian consul general in Hong Kong, Chalief Akbar Tjandraningrat, said there were 28 Indonesian citizens currently embroiled in drug cases in Hong Kong.
“Twelve of them are still in detention, while 16 others have been sentenced. In Macau the number is 10, and most of them are couriers and most are women,” he said.
Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, the government has implemented tougher measures on drug offenders.
Declaring a “drug emergency”, President Jokowi has called for the death penalty for drug dealers and has rejected clemency pleas from convicted traffickers. Despite protests from human rights campaigners and the international community, his administration executed 14 convicts — including foreigners of multiple nationalities — in January and May of this year. 
 Jakarta Post 24th August 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Death Penalty Statistics

                                                Death Penalty Statistics 31 May 2015

Trial stage
Drug case
M 387 F 50

                                                 Total prison population 23 July 2015
                                     Male 263,077       Female 44,417      Total 307,494
                            Thailand has the sixth highest prison population in the world
                          The rate of imprisonment of women is the highest in the world
                                                   Crime Distribution in Prisons
Data from Department of Corrections Website: