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,
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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:



Indonesia also may extend the death penalty

Hard on the heels of Thailand which has resurrected legislation to impose the death penalty for corruption, muslim clerics in Indonesia, are joining the same chorus.
"Muslim clerics across the nation have urged law enforcement agencies and courts to be steadfast in dealing with corruption and money laundering, and to be bold enough to hand down death sentences to those found guilty of corruption.
Religious leaders from the country's largest Islamic organization NU, having 90,000,000 followers, said corruption and money laundering were extraordinary crimes against humanity because of their adverse impact on the nation, state and community: "We clerics are in favour of the death penalty if conditions are supportive and requirements are met" NU board chairman for legal affairs, Ahmed Ishomuddin told media in Yogyakarta. "Among the requirements are if corrupption and money laundering are committed at a time when the country is in peril during economic or social crises, or committed repeatedly" he added.
Meanwhile, Umar Faroeq, another leader said that clerics also studied about the death penalty handed down to corrupt people from the viewpoint of Muslim clerics long ago: "It exists in the Maliki and Hanafi Islamic teaching schools, and the condition is very clear, that is, when it is done repeatedly" said Umar. He added that an edict on the death penalty for corrupt people had not been issued by clerics from long ago becuase they were very careful and paid attention to aspects of human rights. "But now we are in a time of crisis and it's time to implement it" he added."
Jakarta Post, 30th July

The argument that the death penalty is part of Islamic teaching "long ago" is to appeal to a religion that ignores cultural and historic development, condemning us to a tribal morality of the past. All religions suffer the temptation to be locked in an imagined past, leading to the disaster of religious intoleraance, and, in particular, the survival of the death penalty. In fact there are traditions that the founders of the great religions, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim, personally eschewed penalty of death. Today, we reject the death penalty because it is inhuman, because a modern justice regime provides other sanctions to executions ineffective in deterring crime. It is disappointing that Indonesian Muslim organizations, professing to be progressive, are retrograde on the issue of Capital Punishment. 

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Government remains intransigent on the case of Mary Jane Veloso:
"The Attorney General's Office (AGO) announced on Wednesday that it was unlikely that legal proceedings in the Philippines would prevent the death seentence of convicted Filipino drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso. The government would not respond to requests to free Veloso who had been proven to have smuggled heroin into the country"
Jakarta Post, 30th July

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Executions not a priority: Attorney General of Indonesia

After executing over a dozen drug convicts amid international outrage since January, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) claims that it has yet to schedule a third round of executions, following the most recent one in April.

Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Friday that the AGO had yet to discuss the next executions, specifically those of Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Mary Jane Veloso of the Philippines.
“I have not even thought about it yet. We are focusing on other, more important tasks that need to be completed soon,” he told reporters at the AGO headquarters in South Jakarta.
“We hope that it was clear through the first and second round of executions that we will be firm and not tolerate any drug violations,” said the attorney general.

Both Atlaoui and Veloso were slated to be among a group of death row inmates who faced a firing squad on April 29 for drug trafficking charges.
The callousness of Attorney Prasetyo is horrifying; what is the reaction of the two condemned to death when they learn that the state has "more important tasks" to attend to than their execution?
Is this the same attitude that we witnessed in the awful film "The Act of Killing"; has the history of the slaughter of over a million persons in Indonesia left behind this lack of sensitivity to killing?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reprieve for Pakistani Woman Condemned to Death

This website is particularly troubled by the execution of women. The case of Bibi Asia is especially painful as the accusers of the condemned woman are also women.
Top Pakistani court stays execution of Asia Bibi, grants new hearing in blasphemy case
Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of insulting the Islamic Prophet Mohammed during a row over drinking water with Muslim women with whom she was working in a field. Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence, and acquittals in court are rare.

Bibi’s death sentence was confirmed in October 2014 by the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province where the incident took place. She denies the charges against her and in November appealed against the death sentence. A Supreme Court bench sitting in Lahore yesterday agreed to consider the appeal in detail — rejecting the option to dismiss it.

“The Supreme Court today accepted the petition of my client to appeal against the death sentence confirmation by the Lahore High Court,” Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook. The lawyer said the blasphemy allegation was concocted by Bibi’s enemies to target her and had no basis in fact.

The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a dispute broke out with some Muslim women with whom she was working. She was asked to fetch water but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. A few days later the women went to a local cleric and made the blasphemy allegations.

Under Pakistan’s stringent blasphemy laws, insulting the Prophet Mohammed carries the death penalty, though the country has never executed anyone for the crime. But anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

Bonded labourer Shehzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi were beaten by a mob of 1,500 people then thrown into a lit furnace last year in a crazed reaction to rumours they had thrown pages of the Koran into the garbage.

July 22, 2015   Pakistan’s Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Asia Bibi, and ordered a new hearing on her case. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five children, has been imprisoned for six years—including nearly five on death row—after being convicted of insulting Islam. Her lawyers have consistently argued that there is no evidence to support the conviction. Islamic militants, on the other hand, have insisted on enforcement of the sentence against her, and threatened lynching if she is freed. The Supreme Court announced that it would hear an appeal of the Bibi case; a date for the new hearing has not been set. Her lawyers, however, have said that they are confident a fair hearing will result in her acquittal and release.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Saga of Shackling in Thailand

A post on September 30, 2006 tells that all prisoners condemned to death are permanently shackled. A first victory by a prisoner who protested the inhumanity of such a practice was won in a decision of the Administrative Court. The brief of his case was written by Mr. Benny Moafi, a prisoner who had graduated in law during his imprisonment. The brief was a textbook example of an appeal to international law as enshrined in UN conventions ratified by the Kingdom of Thailand. The plea was accepted by the Administrative Court and the prisoner's shackles were removed. However, the Department of Corrections moved him to a different prison where he was re-shackled. At the same time the Department of Corrections appealed against the judgment.
Another post on February 5, 2013 reports the momentous decision to end permanent shackling in Thai prisons and the prisoner who fought the practice was also unshackled. Later his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
Yesterday, 10th July, the Supreme Administrative Court responded to the appeal of the Corrections Department. The Judgment ruled in favour of the Department of Corrections and justified shackling. The arguments based on international conventions were ignored, and shackling was justified on the basis of the administrative rules of the Corrections Department. These rules give details of the dimensions of shackles, and the reasoning for the use of shackles, such as the danger of escape, the danger of self harm or harm to others. The use of permanent shackling is now legally restored in Thailand, and the decision on use remains with the Corrections Department.

A Promise Fulfilled - But Indonesia Repeats, Execution Still Pending

Superstar Filipino boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao fulfilled on Friday his promise to meet death-row inmate Mary Jane Veloso in a Yogyakarta prison. During the visit he reiterated his plea to the Indonesian government to spare the life of his compatriot.
Pacquiao was accompanied by his wife Jinkee Jamora and Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen B Isleta in his morning visit to the Wirogunan Penitentiary, where Veloso has been detained since late April after the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) decided to postpone her execution.
Later on Friday, Pacquiao and his entourage flew to Jakarta to meet with the leadership of the Indonesian House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Attorney General M. Prasetyo insisted that Pacquiao’s meeting with the House leadership would not affect Veloso’s impending execution. “No, [the meeting] will not postpone her execution. Like I’ve said before, we are waiting for the legal process in the Philippines to conclude. We must respect it,” he said.
Indonesia appears impervious to all reason on a case where guilt is subject to reasonable doubt. However, the Philippine people, united in their support for Mary Jane, are a force to be reckoned with. On a previous occasion in 1995, their anger against Singapore for executing a young Philippine house maid, Flor Contemplacion, caused Singapore to avoid arresting another Philippine women suspected of carrying drugs. Instead they allowed her to board a plane and informed Manilla drug authorities of her arrival, thereby avoiding the anger that would follow a second execution. 
          (The story is told in "Once a Jolly Hangman" by Alan Sandrake.)