Thursday, December 28, 2006

Abolition in French Constitution

On 3rd January President Jacques Chirac of France vowed to forbid the death penalty absolutely and in all circumstances. Now approaching the end of his presidency he is keeping his promise. A change in the French Constitution is being proposed to the Council of State in January, in the words: NO ONE CAN BE CONDEMNED TO DEATH

France already abolished the death penalty 25 years ago, now it does so irreversibly. In the words of a spokesperson of Amnesty International France; "In enacting a constitutional prohibition on the death penalty, France is sending a strong message to all governments maintaining this cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment".

However, France could make a further step by acceding to the Second Optional Protocol of the Covenant on Social and Political Rights which would confirm its commitment to the community of nations.

South Africa, Ireland, and Germany already prohibit the death penalty in their Constitutions AND have signed the Second Protocol.

Thailand is at present drafting a new Constitution . . . . . . . .

Monday, December 25, 2006

Black Day for Japan and for the World

On Christmas Day 2006 Japan hanged four men. While Christmas Day is considered world wide as a day of peace,Japan wished to show its people and the world that the death penalty remains in force in Japan. The last previous execution took place a few days before the appointment as Justice Minister of Seikei Sugiura in 2005 who, following his Buddhist beliefs, refused to sign death warrants for executions (see posting below). As a result Japan has not had an execution for a period of fifteen months.

When the term of prime minister Junichiro Koizumi ended, Seikei Sugiura also stood down to be replaced by a Minister in favour of the death penalty. Japan is the only major industrialised country besides the United States maintaining Capital Punishment. Executions are carried out without the knowledge of relatives of the condemned, and in unknown locations. The condemned prisoners themselves are informed at the last moment. These practices are against United Nations declared norms for the humane treatment of persons condemned to death.

The Christmas Day executions are particularly noxious as two of those executed are aged 77 and 75 years old. The other two are 64 and 44 years old.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Death Penalty Lesson for Thailand

In his autobiography “The Last Executioner” Chavoret Jaruboon describes steps leading to Thailand’s adoption of execution by lethal injection: “Some prisons in America started using lethal injection back in 1977. Bang Kwang wanted to move with the times. Our forward-thinking chief sent researchers over to America to study the process of injecting a criminal with chemicals”

The time has come when researchers should return to study the suspension of executions by lethal injection in the US as it is increasingly realised that lethal injection causes unacceptable suffering. The latest in a series of reactions came on Friday 15th December when Judge Jeremy Fogel in California ruled that executions by lethal injection as practiced in California do not conform to the US Constitution which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

Lethal injection involves the introduction of three chemicals into the veins of the condemned prisoner. The first is a sedative inducing unconsciousness, the second paralyses the muscles and the third causes the heart to stop. If the sedative does not act correctly the two following chemicals cause extreme pain. Several other US states are encountering the same difficulty. On Wednesday last a condemned person being executed in Florida took 34 minutes to die. The governor of Florida, Jeb Bush has ordered a suspension of executions and the creation of a commission of inquiry on the process.

Executions in California have been suspended since February last.

In fact there is no solution to the problems of execution. The proposal that a medical doctor participate in executions to confirm that the sedative has succeeded is rejected by the medical profession.

The medical profession in Thailand has long since issued a statement that doctors or nurses are unwilling to participate in executions (see posting below, Statement of Thai Medical Personnel).

The Union for Civil Liberties proposes that Thailand delay no longer in joining the majority of the world’s countries in abandoning forever the barbaric practice of the death penalty. The writing of a new constitution is an opportune time to take this momentous step in protecting the right to life in Thailand.