Monday, December 20, 2010

Bangkok Post Survey on Abolition of Death Penalty

The govt has declared an intention to abolish the death penalty, as announced in the human rights plan for the years 2009-2013. Do you endorse the govt’s plan?

* Start date:Dec 18, 2010
* End date:Dec 19, 2010
* Voters: 1,479 times

* yes
* no

Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights Day 2010

Parliament to debate dropping death penalty
• Bangkok Post Published: 10/12/2010 at 12:00 AM
As the World Day for Human Rights is celebrated once again today, Thailand has a new stance on the issue. For the first time, the government has declared an intention to abolish the death penalty, as announced in the human rights plan for the years 2009-2013.
On Oct 20 last year, the cabinet approved and proclaimed the Second National Human Rights Plan, which was circulated to all relevant government offices for adoption in a human rights programme to be implemented by ministries, departments and in the development planning of local authorities.
This second strategic plan promises a development of the legal system and its structure, including its enforcement for the protection of human rights according to human rights policy.
The most important measure relate to the death penalty. Parliament will discuss the abolition of the death penalty and its replacement with life imprisonment.
The parliamentary debate creates a different perspective to that of individual debate which is usually based only on moral arguments. From a political viewpoint, the death penalty is counter to the rule of law and respect for the human rights due in a democratic society.
There is great wisdom for a political perspective on the death penalty to be found in the experience of the Council of Europe, the vast association of 47 states that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific and embraces a wide spectrum of cultures.
"Capital punishment brutalises society by legitimising cold-blooded killing as justice. It is a fallacy that it prevents violent crime or that it can be considered as justice," said the director-general of the EC on Human Rights in Strasbourg in January 2007.All its member states are convinced that abolition of the death penalty is a mark of civilised living. In a response to the counter example that US adherence to the death penalty legitimises capital punishment, the European Court of Human Rights argued in July 1989 that even the conditions on death row in the United States went beyond the threshold set by the European Convention on Human Rights. This is an indictment of the US practice of capital punishment as "unfair, indiscriminate, and arbitrary".
Now there are 58 countries that still retain capital punishment, while 104 countries have abolished it and 35 have stopped executions in practice.
At least 714 people were executed in 2009, though this total does not include China, which did not provide a figure. The 18 countries known to have conducted executions last year were: Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, the US, Vietnam and Yemen.
In Thailand, 708 persons were condemned to death, 65 of them by the Supreme Court, according to figures of the Corrections Department as of August 2010.
It will be argued that the Thai population is massively in favour of the death penalty. As they will be, until the reasons for abolition are explained and laid out by an informed political leadership.
Already, the number of executions in Thailand has dropped to only two cases in the last six years. As in most other countries maintaining the death penalty, there is a dichotomy between legal procedure and actual practice.
While executions have virtually ceased, sentences of death are passed with the same frequency as in the past, leading to the misery of overcrowded jails and blocked legal procedure. Living conditions for prisoners condemned to death are inhuman, especially due to the permanent shackling once the death sentence is passed in the court of first instance - a practice prohibited in international law and ruled unacceptable by the Administrative Court.
Many members of the Thai administration are aware of the worldwide rejection of the death penalty and favour abolition. But the debate will not be easy. It is likely that there will be opposition to change from at least two important ministries. The Interior Ministry recently announced an initiative, relying on a mass signature campaign, to halve the quantity of drugs which would lead to a penalty of death, thereby almost doubling the numbers condemned.
The Justice Ministry has suggested proceeding with executions in cases where a royal pardon has not been granted within 60 days. Fortunately, the Corrections Department has refused to carry out executions where the process of royal pardon has not been explicitly completed.
As stated in the Second Human Rights Plan, the proposal is to replace the death sentence with life imprisonment. This needs careful consideration and expert advice. Life imprisonment can mean many things in many countries. Imprisonment without ever the possibility of release may even be more inhumane than the death penalty. In many countries a life sentence means a period of 15 to 30 years, with particular rules on when parole may be granted. It is unlikely that the Thai population, accustomed to sentences of inordinate length, would accept such a short period, suspecting that a corrupt system might allow inappropriate remission of sentence and release.
There is a genuine fear that violent persons would repeat their crime and many would prefer that all offenders be imprisoned for ever, rather than that some would be released and offend again.
An experienced representative of the Council of Europe has proposed that progress be made in stages, beginning with a moratorium on all executions. This allows a population to grow in acceptance and also gives time for an information campaign to promote a new appreciation of human rights where human life is inviolable.
There will be difficulties, sometimes after the occurrence of a particularly awful crime. There will probably be crowd-pleasing politicians who will call for restoration of the death penalty. Slavery, the mutilation of prisoners and, increasingly, torture have been banished from judicial systems. The death penalty too has had its day.
Danthong Breen is Chairman of the Union for Civil Liberty, a human rights organisation based in Bangkok.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Change in vote by Thailand regarding Moratorium

On 11 November the UN General Assembly's Third Committee adopted its third resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution, adopted by 107 votes in favour, 38 against with 36 abstentions of which there were 17 votes in favour, 11 against with 8 abstentions from the Asia Pacific region.

The following countries from Asia and the Pacific positively changed their vote compared to 2008: Afghanistan (from against to abstention); Bhutan (from abstention to in favour); Kiribati (from absent to in favour); Maldives (from against to in favour); Mongolia (from against to in favour); Solomon Islands (from against to abstention); Thailand (from against to abstention). This is a notable and positive swing from Asia and the Pacific confirming regional steps towards abolition and the worldwide trend. is particularly encouraging.

For Thailand which changes its stance on any legal position at the pace of an arthrithic snail, this is a thundering advance. It reflects the fact that the Thai government has declared its intention to achieve abolition over the next five years in its published human rights policy for 2009 to 2013. Signed, sealed, and acknowleged by every government ministry and department.

Six Weeks Jail for Shadrake

The Shadrake case has reached its predicted conclusion in Singapore. As reported by the BBC:A Singapore court has sentenced the UK author Alan Shadrake to six weeks in prison for insulting the judiciary in a book he wrote about the death penalty.
The 76-year-old was found guilty last week, and faces a further trial on defamation charges.
He was also ordered to pay a S$20,000 (£9,585; $15,400) fine.
In his book, Once a Jolly Hangman - Singapore Justice in the Dock, he criticised how the death penalty is used, alleging a lack of impartiality.
Prosecution lawyers had sought a prison term of 12 weeks.
Shadrake offered an apology, which High Court Judge Quentin Loh called "nothing more than a tactical ploy in court to obtain a reduced sentence".
Shadrake's lawyer, M Ravi, said an appeal was unlikely to succeed.
He said his client was in ill health and regretted that he had received no support from the British public.
Mr Ravi added that Shadrake did not have any money and the fine could not be paid.
Judge Loh said that Shadrake would have to serve an additional two weeks in prison if he failed to pay the fine.
Malaysia-based Shadrake was arrested in July when he visited Singapore to launch his book.
The book contains interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, as well as a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison.
It claims he executed around 1,000 men and women from 1959 until he retired in 2006.
"I think I've been given a fair hearing," Shadrake told the media after the verdict was issued last week.
US-based Human Rights Watch and other rights groups had urged Singapore to exonerate the author.
Separately, Shadrake is being investigated by the police for criminal defamation; his passport is being held by the police.

Is there no end to the legal shananigans of Singapore. They make a speciality of imprisoning the unimpeachable. If the offence were real the sentence would have been much greater! No doubt the aged owl in the background has been consulted. Another vindictive and senseless sentence which is a real cause of contempt for the Singapore legal system.
For a discussion of the true picture of Singapore's judicial system see:
"Beyond Suspicion?, The Singapore Judiciary", Francis T. Seow, Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 2006

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lobbying Thai Government on Abolition

The newly proposed Government five year plan (2009-2013) on human rights includes abolition of the death penalty, and promises a parliamentary debate on the issue. Members of parliament are little informed of the issues involved and it is certain that there will be strong opposition; both the Ministry of Justice and the Interior Ministry favour the Death Penalty.

This development poses a new task to those engaged in the movement for abolition, to make available to political parties and parliament, a summary of the arguments for abolition, from the point of view of political leaders. Following the recent participation in a seminar on the death penalty and drugs, of a notable Council of Europe spokesperson for abolition, Dr. Renate Wohlwende, we have become aware of the great achievement of the Council in abolishing the death penalty over the whole of Europe. We have translated into Thai and will make available to all members of parliament a small Council of Europe booklet which draws on the wide experience of the Council in answering questions and of pointing a way to abolition.
The following is a newly written forward introducing the booklet to the intended readers:
Soon, the death penalty will pass. Slavery too came to an end; today, it is inconceivable that individuals could own, buy and sell, other human beings. At present, we are striving to rid the world of torture. Slavery, torture, the death penalty were, each in turn, considered essential to uphold human society.
First, some enlightened persons realized that such practices were profoundly wrong. Then one country after another abolished them, while others fought a rearguard action, insisting on their ‘right’ to have slaves, to torture, and now to execute criminals.

The Council of Europe, its 47 nations being the largest regional association on earth, has been overseeing the passing of the death penalty which is now rejected by all its members. Throughout the years it has accumulated wisdom and experience in answering the worries of those who fear the transition to abolition from a practice as old as history. In this short booklet answers are proposed to all the questions and objections which have been raised. It offers arguments for leaders to ponder themselves and to propose to their citizens. The task is great, and is often aggravated by concealment in the past of facts and numbers relating to executions. Besides, the time is short. During the 2010 World Assembly for Abolition of the Death Penalty, held in Geneva, it was predicted that, based on the current rate of change in world opinion, the death penalty could end by the year 2015. The time coincides with that of the Second National Human Rights Plan for the promotion of human rights announced by the Royal Thai Government and which proposes abolition of the death penalty. It is time to explain to Thai people why the step to abolition is a step owed to human dignity. This modest booklet provides the essentials of that lesson.

Union for Civil Liberty

Singapore and the Death Penalty

Singapore is the most vociferous promoter of the death penalty in Asia. A British author has dared to question the justice system which is merciless in imposing the death sentence. He has been arrested and is presently on trial in Singapore.

The government goes after the author of a book questioning the fairness of the courts; Jakarta Globe, October 18, 2010

This week the Singapore government is taking on a 75 year old British author for publishing a book arguing that the country's secretive but mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking is unevenly applied against poor and marginalized defendants while the wealty or well connected are spared.

If the past is any precedent, Alan Shadrake, who wrote 'Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock' and had the bad judgment to go to Singapore to publicize the book, can expect to be jailed for "scandalizing the judiciary".

The opening argument was made by a deputy attorney general, Hema Subramania. The Civil Division lawyer focused on 14 passages from Shadrake's book, arguing that "insinuations and imputations contained in these 14 statements constitute an attack to

on the entire judicial system in Singapore". She argued that the very title of the book contained an "underlying insinuation" that "Singapore judges have been guilty of misconduct and deserve to be judged".

In response, the defence lawyer, Ravi, argued that the "serious minded and compassionate" book had to be considered as a whole. "Only by reading the book by its entirety can one properly determine how a reader would understand and interpret the selected quotations", he said, adding that analysis of the judiciary was "a public duty to civil society"
The prosecution raised the issue of whether the content of Shadrake's book was true, an intriguing tactic since truth is not a defense to a contempt charge, but a judge can allow a defendant to argue issues voluntarily injected by the prosecution.

In discussing whether Shadrake had engaged in fair criticism, Subramaniam alleged that there was not "an iota of truth in any of the statements or allegations in the respondent's book". Ravi characterized the Singaporean government's response to his client's book as "somewhat hypersensitive".

Singapore, whose justice system has been heavily criticized for its political bias, has never lost a case like this, and unless something totally unexpected happens, it won't lose this one. In that regard, Shadrake's trial highlights not just the controversy over Singapore's use of the death penalty against traffickers in minute amounts of drugs, but the broader issue of freedom in speech in a city state where sticking your head up is an invitation to get it shot off.
A wide range of human rights groups say the Singapore courts are used as a tool to silence critics. Any political or press criticism of the government results automatically in defamation suits that have been unanimously won by the prosecution and fines and charges that have bankrupted the opposition and sent major news organizations scrambling for cover.

In July 2008, the International Bar Association issued a 72-page report concluding that “Singapore cannot continue to claim that civil and political rights must take a back seat to economic rights, as its economic development is now of the highest
order. In the modern era of globalization, isolationist policies and attitudes are no longer tenable.”

For his part, Shadrake remains defiant. For his first hearing in the High Court, he entered the building holding up his fingers in a V for Victory salute and shouting “Freedom and Democracy for Singapore.” The government has since backed away from the criminal defamation charge, although it hangs in the air as a threat, and Shadrake was charged with a species of contempt of court called “scandalizing the judiciary,” in other words, writing something that could make the court system look bad.

In the months since his arrest – his passport was confiscated, marooning him on the island – he has been granting interviews, basking in his demi-celebrity, repeatedly reiterating his intent to fight the charge and undergoing an angioplasty for a blocked aorta. While the Singaporean government has offered Shadrake leniency if he would purge himself of the alleged contempt by apologizing, he has so far refused to do so.

He is being defended by perhaps Singapore’s most prominent defense lawyer, M Ravi. Sometimes, it seems that the defendant in every high-profile death penalty or free expression case in the city-state is represented by M Ravi. That is close to the truth. For a nation with a population of more than five million, Singapore has a tiny number of lawyers, about 3500. Critics argue that young Singaporeans don’t enter the law because they see the profession as a closed shop in which a handful of loyalist firms land the lucrative government contracts and litigation work; others, including Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew, bemoan a general lack of local legal talent. Many Singaporean lawyers seem reluctant to represent clients in politically sensitive cases. It is not advisable, lawyers say, to practice any kind of law that brings lawyers into conflict with the government.

That can’t be said about Ravi. In the last decade, he has represented death row inmates Vignes Mourthi and Shanmugam Murugesu, whose appeals were unsuccessful, and Yong Vui Kong, whose appeal is pending. It was Mourthi’s case that formed a major part of Shadrake’s book. Shadrake charged that Mourthi, a 23-year-old Malaysian, was convicted on the basis of a handwritten transcript of a conversation with an undercover officer. However, the officer faced allegations of rape, sodomy and bribery at the time he testified against Mourthi, and subsequently was jailed for 15
months on bribery charges. Those charges were kept from the court.

Ravi has an aggressive and somewhat discursive courtroom style that can yield dividends. In the Yong case, Ravi backed the government into a corner, forcing it to admit that the President of Singapore does not make an independent judgment on clemency petitions but merely executes the will of the Cabinet.

David Chong Gek Sian, the prosecutor, is not the usual hard-bitten career prosecutor from Central Casting. Rather, he looks and acts like the mild-mannered law professor he was. The man who will be leading the charge to imprison and fine Shadrake is not a criminal law lifer. After obtaining his law degree from the National University of Singapore and a master’s from University College London, Chong worked in a private civil practice for about five years before accepting a post at NUS. His academic
publications focus on maritime and arbitration law. During his years in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, he has worked in various policy positions as well as the Internal Affairs Division.

Chong is currently posted to the Civil Division, and contempt cases are,technically, civil rather than criminal actions. He has won before, in recent years successfully pursuing the Wall Street Journal Asia on a similar charge, resulting in yet another judgment against the paper and its editors as usual.

Justice Quentin Loh Sze On is hearing the case. Alan Dershowitz, the outspoken criminal defense attorney and Harvard Law School professor, has stated that he would rather defend a client before an old judge than before a new judge. In Dershowitz’s opinion, an old judge is more likely to rule fairly while a new judge is too concerned with promotion and the potentially career-debilitating impact of freeing an unpopular defendant.

Quentin Loh is a very new judge. He was appointed a judicial commissioner in September 2009, and was promoted to Judge of the High Court less than six months ago. The Shadrake trial is his first high-profile case with political implications, and it will be absorbing to see how Justice Loh handles the myriad evidentiary and procedural issues which Ravi will raise.

Justice Loh’s background is similar to the prosecutor’s. After obtaining a degree from NUS, Justice Loh spent much of his career in private practice specializing in construction, insurance and arbitration. Prior to his elevation to the bench, Loh was a managing partner of Rajah & Tann, the establishment law firm which has represented many of Singapore’s most important government-linked corporations, including SingTel and the real estate unit of GIC, the sovereign wealth fund chaired by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Under Singaporean law, there is no right to a jury. Loh will make the ultimate decision of guilt or innocence and, if he finds Shadrake to be in contempt, will determine the sentence. Consequently, despite the fact that the courtroom this week will be packed with lawyers, clerks, security and reporters, it could be said that Shadrake and his defense team will be performing for an audience of one.

That is not quite true. Justice Loh will be performing for his own audience, headed by Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong, and a cast of cadres hanging about the Istana.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

History Lesson: The Guillotine in Vietnam

Rusting in a war museum in Ho Chi Minh City's humid, tropical air, the guillotine was imported to Vietnam by French colonialists in the early 20th century.
GRUESOME: Prisoners had to lay face down, with their head slid through a wooden neck clamp, which can be seen on the guillotine displayed at The War Remnants Museum.
Another guillotine, also abandoned by the defeated French, is in Vietnam's northern capital, Hanoi. With hands tied behind their back, each victim was forced to stand, facing a wooden plank, and was then strapped against it. The plank would then be turned horizontally to form a bench, thrusting the person face down so their head could be slid through the guillotine's wooden, two-part, vertical lunette neck clamp.
If not blindfolded, they could stare into a wooden "zinc head tub" bucket, or wicker basket, into which their head would soon drop. The bucket was shielded by a wooden screen to contain any splashing blood.
The guillotine's looming 4.5-metre-tall frame consists of two upright beams, about 38 centimetres apart. To perform a beheading, an executioner stands next to the frame and releases a metal lever allowing a spring-pincer, at the top of the guillotine, to release the heavily weighted, slanted blade.
In the blink of an eye, the 50-kilogramme, razor sharp diagonal steel blade descends, with the speed of gravity, inside a two-metre-long greased track. The detached head falls forward. The blade simultaneously hits two shock-absorbing metal springs, embedded in each side at the base of the vertical frame, to protect the guillotine from the force of the impact, resulting in a few post-chop bounces of the blade.
The executioner could then choose to hold up the head by its hair, and show it to onlookers. The decapitated body would be rolled off the bench and into a long, rectangular, wicker or cane body basket situated alongside the guillotine.
The basket was usually lined with flattened zinc, sprinkled with blood-absorbing sawdust and capable of holding four bodies.
A dangling rope, permanently looped over a brass pulley at the top of the guillotine's frame _ and attached to the top of the blade _ was then pulled, slowly hoisting the blade for the next kill. The guillotine is portable, designed to be disassembled.
Bangkok Post, "America and the Guillotine", 19th September 2010

And Now...
Executions: Condemned criminals are taken before dawn to a desolate site, read the court’s verdict, offered a bowl of noodle soup and a cigarette, and allowed to write a last letter home.
Then they are tied to a wooden pole, gagged with a lemon and blindfolded, and shot by five policemen. The commander then fires a last “humane shot” into the convict’s ear. According to reports in the official press, many policemen suffer trauma after completing their duty as “executioners”.
Statistics on the number of death sentences and executions are not made public. Indeed, following criticisms by international human rights organisations, in January 2004, Vietnam adopted a decree classifying death penalty statistics as “state secrets”. According to the Vietnamese and international press, at least 100 people are executed each year in Vietnam. In 2007, 104 death sentences were pronounced, including 14 women. In 2010, the official legal magazine Phap Luat (Law) reported 11 death sentences for the month of January alone.
"Vietnam: from 'Vision' to Facts", FIDH/VCHR September, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

13 Young Thai Women Condemned to Death in China

In the latest data from the Department of Corrections listed below, there are 68 women condemned to death on drug charges in Thai jails. The figure is sharply increased if we include Thai women condemned to death abroad. At the same time as we were debating in Bangkok the linkage of Drugs and the Death Penalty also reported below, 13 young Thai women were condemned to death in China on drug charges.
All of the women are under 40 years of age, the youngest is 20, and several others are in their twenties. The little that is known of their predicament is reported by an article in the Thai women’s magazine “Koosang Koosom“ by a reporter who accompanied relatives of the girls who were allowed to visit them in a Guangzhou jail in Guangdong province. A Thai monk accompanied the group and was allowed to address the young women for 4 minutes. Two newspaper reporters were present at the meeting but were prohibited to speak to the prisoners.
Some of the women are from Isaan. One 22 year old from Samut Prakhan had opened a beauty parlour in Pattaya where a young black man made friendly overtures to her. A woman in Aranyapradhet was also courted by a young black who invited her to accompany him abroad on the understanding that they would marry on their return to Thailand. A 33 three year old in Bangkok who graduated in accountancy often spent time on the Internet. She told her mother that she had a black foreign friend who was inviting her to help in carrying some documents in a cloth bag relating to trading in the South of Thailand. Her mother asked to meet this friend but her daughter left home. She phoned from Chumphon, then from the South of Thailand, and finally from Mumbai. In answering her mother’s question she said that she did not know the nature of the work she was doing. A final telephone call was from China, saying that she would return home in a few days. Ten days later a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed her that her daughter had been arrested and sentenced to death on drug charges in Guangzhou.
A 35 year old from Ubon Ratchathani was invited to Malaysia to go here and there. All of them ended their journeys in the Women’s Prison of Guangzhou and were sentenced to death.
On further enquiry the news reporter learned that the heroin is produced in Afghanistan. It is transported through Pakistan to India. The Thai women were the ‘mules’ who transported the heroin on the final stage to Guangzhou, a densely populated area which was the one of the new China’s rapidly developed prosperous centres, where the drug market also flourished. The 13 Thai women were seduced by promises of independence and freedom, to participate in the international drug trade, schooled by false lovers who made it all seem easy and without risk. Most, or all, are first time offenders who began by being duped to become minor players in a world wide trade where the profits go to the organizers and the pain is borne by the foolish carriers.

Details of their trial are unknown other than that their offence is drug related. China’s courts pass a death sentence for possession of a quantity of drugs exceeding 50 grams. (The writer of the article appears shocked by this limited amount, unaware that in Thailand the death penalty may be imposed for a quantity of only 20 grams). More persons are executed in China than in the rest of the world, but in recent years it appears that authorities are learning that the death penalty does not solve crime, least of all drug crime. They are aware too that abolition of the death penalty has become a criterion of civilized life throughout the world and that the barbaric, and often public, executions in China are presenting a revolting picture of an inhumane Chinese justice system. Already, a ruling has been made that all death sentences throughout the country must be reviewed by a central court, a measure reducing the number of executions handed down by incompetent and arbitrary courts throughout the country. In addition there is in place a policy of suspension of death sentences for one year to observe and assess the potentiality of the prisoner for reform. If after one year the prognosis is positive, the sentence of death is changed to one of imprisonment. In the most favourable of cases where the prisoner shows genuine regret and a will to reform, imprisonment may be reduced to ten years. This is the hope of the 13 young Thai women. One may be confident that the resilience of these women, and certainly their regret at having fallen into this awful trap, will lead to their emergence from the prison of Guangzhou. They will need the help of their families of which there is no doubt, and also of the support of the consular services of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embodied in a programme called “Last Hope Project”.

Chinese imprisonment is extremely strict but also punctilious. The health and wellbeing of prisoners is guaranteed. Nothing can be taken for granted, there is no relaxation of security and nothing resembling a ‘human face’ to the prison system.
But when one compares it with the appalling conditions of imprisonment in the Thai corrections system, the arbitrariness of judgment, the death penalties imposed on the word of police witnesses, and what can only be called, the vindictiveness of the treatment of drug related convicted prisoners, the condition of the 13 Thai women in Guangzhou is not the worst fate of all. Would that a “Last Hope Project” could be extended to Thai prisoners in Thai jails. It is important that the fate of the 13 young women be known to Thai people. Popular opinion is likely to be sympathetic to their case and wish them well to return to their homeland. And, hopefully, this sympathy may extend to the unfortunates who suffer even worse conditions and less hope of a positive outcome, in our own jails on Thai soil.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

18 Countries that Killed in 2009 Include Thailand

Around the world
* There are 58 countries that still retain capital punishment, while 104 countries have abolished it and 35 have stopped executions in practice.

* At least 714 people were executed in 2009, though the total does not include China, which did not provide a figure.

* The 18 countries known to have conducted executions in 2009 were: Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, the United States, Vietnam and Yemen.

* Hanging, shooting, beheading, stoning, electrocution and lethal injection are common methods of executing people.

* The countries that executed the most people include Iran with at least 388, Iraq at least 120, Saudi Arabia at least 69, and the United States with 52. But China has likely conducted more executions than the rest of the world combined.

* There are 35 countries that in practice have a moratorium on executions. These are Algeria, Benin, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar, Nauru, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tonga, Tunisia and Zambia.

* In the United States, death sentences and executions have been falling due to heated debate about innocent people being put to death, as well as the high costs of the process, including facilities and trial costs. There was a de-facto moratorium on executions from late 2007 to early 2008 as the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the lethal injection method, which it rejected in April 2008.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Latest Statistics for Prisoners Condemned to Death in Thailand

Death Penalty Statistics after Judgment in Court of First Instance Thailand,
16th August 2010

For all crimes
Sex... Appeal Court... Supreme Court... Juridical Process Complete.... .Total

For drug related crimes
Sex....Appeal Court....Supreme Court....Juridical Process Complete....Total

For crimes of homicide and others
Sex....Appeal Court....Supreme Court....Juridical Process Complete....Total

Source: Department of Corrections, Bangkok

Stop Execution in Iran

Sakinseh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43 years, was condemned to death for adultery.
Sakineh M Ashtiani, has two children, and has been imprisoned in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz since 2005. She was already lashed 99 times in 2006. She was sentenced to death by stoning but due to international outcry the sentence to death by stoning was cancelled. It was reported that it was still possible that she would be hanged. However, in a new development she was put on a state-run TV programme where she confessed to adultery and involvement in the murder of her husband. Speaking shakily in her native Azeri language, which could be heard through a voiceover, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani told an interviewer that she was an accomplice to the murder of her husband and that she had an extramarital relationship with her husband's cousin. Her lawyer claimed that his client, a 43-year-old mother of two, was tortured for two days before the interview was recorded in Tabriz prison, where she has been held for the past four years. "She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera. Her 22-year-old son, Sajad and her 17-year-old daughter Saeedeh who had strongly defended the innocence of their mother, are completely traumatised by watching this programme". She is now in danger of execution either by hanging, or by stoning, the possibility of the latter punishment being reintroduced by the new charge of murder.
Whatever the complexities of the case, her execution clearly lacks all legitimate legal procedure. It is unspeakable that she should be stoned to death on any count.
Iran is reckoned to be an Asian country so that we have a particular interest in the case. We recommend that our readers address their dismay and rejection of the awful punishments unjustly menacing this woman. We may do so on arguments of justice, but we can also appeal to the motivation of an Islam whose primary attribution of Allah is that he is All Merciful.
The name and address of the representative of Iran in Thailand are:
H.E. Mr. Majid BIZMARK
106&106/1 Soi Charoen Mitt,
(Ekamai Soi 10) Sukhumvit 63,
Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana,
Bangkok 10110
whose duty is to convey the communications of Thai people to his superiors.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Confession without proof not acceptable

In Thailand as in Japan too much reliance is placed on confession
In the mind of the Courts, the police, and the general public the confession of an accused person is the ultimate proof of guilt. Police in Thailand, work hard to get a confession of guilt, which shortcuts the need to have credible evidence. The prisoner is offered a reduced sentence, prison rather than execution, if they will sign a confession. But experience world wide shows that a confession of guilt is not necessarily a proof of guilt. Recently I attended a trial where the judge offered leniency for such a confession. Conviction should not rest on a confession alone, and this awful trading of a reduced sentence for a confession is not justice.

A recent case in Japan illustrates the issue.
In December 1991 Mr. Sugaya, then a 45-year-old divorced school bus driver with no friends, was arrested by Japanese police in connection with the grisly murder in 1990 of a 4-year-old girl. After 13 hours of interrogation, during which Mr. Sugaya says the police kicked his shins and shouted at him, he tearfully admitted to that murder and to killing two other girls. He was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But last year, after prosecutors admitted that his confession was a fabrication made under duress and that a DNA test used as evidence had been wrong, Mr. Sugaya was released. A court later acquitted him.
The disclosure that Mr. Sugaya had been wrongfully imprisoned for more than 17 years shocked Japan even more than his conviction as a serial killer had.
Mr. Sugaya said the question he is now asked the most is why he confessed so quickly to crimes he did not commit. Describing himself as insecure and “excessively spineless,” he said his willpower just seemed to collapse after what he said were hours of police officers screaming at him so loudly that his ears still ring 19 years later. He said he finally confessed to all three killings just so the ordeal would end.
During his years of imprisonment, he said, he met other convicts who told him they too had been convicted because of false confessions. Now at the age of 63 he tours Japan to relate his experience in order to save others from sharing his fate.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Drugs and the Death Penalty

Seminar in Bangkok on 29th July 2010
In countries where enforcement of the death penalty is still considered compatible with the observance of human rights covenants, the accepted reading of international law is that it must be limited to the punishment of “most serious crimes”. It is further interpreted that “most serious crimes”, should intend only intentional homicide.
The enforcement of the death penalty for drug crimes is an area of serious dispute. There is no doubt that drugs are a major source of crime in the present day world, but that the problem can be solved by inflicting the death penalty on the agents of the drug trade is an altogether different proposition.UCL is against the death penalty in any form and for any crime, but there are special arguments against its imposition on drug charges. Such arguments are the subject matter of this seminar.

Council of Europe and Keynote Speaker
The Council of Europe is the largest grouping of countries in the world, in an area stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and including countries of the most varied cultures, histories, and religious beliefs. It has accumulated a vast experience in statehood and the promotion of civilized living. The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg (France), now covers virtually the entire European continent, with 47 member countries. Founded on 5 May 1949 by 10 countries, the Council seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.
From its foundation in 1949 the Council has emphasized that abolition of the death penalty is an essential element of Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law. Since 1985 abolition is a condition of membership of the Council.
Keynote Speaker
The keynote speaker of the seminar on drugs and the death penalty is Mrs. Renate Wohlwend, member of parliament of Lichtenstein and delegate to the Council of Europe, former Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Rapporteur on the death penalty for the Assembly. Dr. Wohlwend, has been speaking and writing on abolition of the death penalty for over a decade. She can draw on the experience of member states of the Council to illustrate the essential contribution of abolition to civilized living, and to respond to problems which still beleaguer states hesitating to abandon capital punishment.
"In Europe no governing party has lost an election due to abolition. The prior introduction of a moratorium on executions has helped to reassure the general public that stopping executions does not mean rising crime," Renate Wohlwend
“Capital punishment, like torture is simply wrong”
“The death penalty only brutalizes society by further legitimizing cold-blooded killing as justice. It is a fallacy that it prevents violent crime”. Death is not justice, Council of Europe publication.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Criticise Singapore

Author critical of Singapore is arrested

Singapore police arrested a British author on Sunday, a day after he launched a book alleging double standards in the city-state's use of the death penalty.

Alan Shadrake, who wrote the book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice on the Dock,'' was detained on charges including criminal defamation and contempt of court, police said in a statement.

Shadrake's arrest came a day after the launch of his book, which contained an interview with Darshan Singh, the long-time chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison, who has since retired.

The book also features interviews with local human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers on various cases involving capital punishment in the city-state, which carries out the death penalty by hanging.

In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for murder, treason and drug trafficking, among other crimes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Once a Jolly Hangman

Singapore Justice in the Dock: Alan Shadrake, SIRD, Petaling Jaya, 2010
In November 2007 the United Nations General Assembly approved a world wide moratorium on the death penalty by a two to one majority. Singapore put itself at the head of the minority who voted against the moratorium, declaring its right to execute and that the death penalty was necessary to maintain law and order in the tiny state. It fiercely rejected the experience of most countries in the world and repeated again old arguments which have been rejected, not only on moral grounds, but also from the experience of criminology which demonstrates that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent. Quite apart from its opposition vote, Singapore spoke with a voice of righteousness and even moral superiority. However, there is always a weak point in the Singapore position. If, as it claims, the death penalty is maintained as a deterrent, why must it be so secretive about it. Everything to do with the death penalty in Singapore, the number of those executed, the process itself, is kept secret; one would expect that deterrence would require publicity.
At last the veil has been lifted. In his book "Once a Jolly Hangman", Alan Shadrake reveals more than has ever been known about Singapore's death practice. His main source is an interview with the 'Jolly Hangman', Darshan Singh who was executor of about 1000 men and women in the grim Changi Jail.
Shadrake further researches the cases of several notable victims of the hangman and of some who escaped Singapore's vaunted judicial system. The truth emerges that Singapore executions do not follow a just judicial system. Especially where foreigners are involved, those with power and wealth can escape the gallows, the poor and ignorant are hanged until they die.
It is not a well written book. There is a lot of extraneous material. There are too many printing errors as if it was never proofread. But it performs a unique service in letting us see the horrible reality of hanging, typified in the assurance given by the hangman to each of his victims, the last words they ever heard,"I am sending you to better place than this". But it is the hypocrisy of the Government of Singapore which arouses the greater horror which effectively says to each victim "Singapore will be a better place without you", unless there are reasons of state to let you go your way.
"Once a Jolly Hangman" is banned in Singapore

Champion against Shackles

Shackled before Government House
On the morning of Tuesday 13th there appeared before Government House in Bangkok a 40 year old man in prison clothes, wearing shackles. His name is Benny Moafi, an Iranian and Swedish citizen; his legal campaign for prisoners on death row has already been recorded on this website. Benny has submitted the legal briefs against the permanent shackling of prisoners condemned to death. His case is a brilliant indictment of this practice and his arguments are based on Conventions of International Law ratified by Thailand, as well as on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the first time in Thailand that a legal case has taken this dramatic approach, and Benny's arguments were studied as a test case in a recent legal workshop organized by the International Commission of Jurists in Bangkok. The Administrative Court on 15th September 2009 gave a favourable decision in the case. Unfortunately, implementation of the Court Order has been blocked by an appeal against the decision by the Department of Corrections. During the long delay for the appeal decision, the prisoner, whose case is subject of the exemplary trial, remains shackled. Benny is following the course of the appeal. However, international interest in the case is growing, and in a recent meeting with ngo representatives the Minister of Foreign Affairs has promised redress.

Benny Moafi graduated in law while himself a prisoner. He has just been released on parole after ten years of imprisonment. He has fought innumerable legal cases and complaints on behalf of other prisoners, most of whom are too poor to pay for any legal representation. One prisoner remarked that the day when Benny was himself released from prison, a statue to him should be raised before each of the prisons in Bangkok where he has served. At present he is pursuing over 200 cases in the courts.

And now he has turned to his own case, to claim that he has been wrongly imprisoned for ten years on falsified evidence. The case is a maze of Minos and the wheels of justice turn ever so slowly. At last the patience of Benny is reaching exhaustion, ten years of his life have gone by and he has ambitious legal plans to implement, if he can be truly free again. He has addressed a letter to the Prime Minister calling attention to the injustices he has suffered, as is the right of any inhabitant of the Kingdom when all else fails.
This site wishes to honour this great campaigner for justice and to support the call for justice he is now making on his own befalf.

For further details on the protest of Benny Moafi see the link on the right.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sufficient Evidence

On July 2nd I attended the trial of a drug case which could carry the death penalty. The drugs found as evidence were 'discovered' by police in a car which had been parked outside the hotel room of the accused. He claimed that the car had been parked there by a friend who had promised to return to collect it within the hour. Plain clothes police arrested him in his hotel room in the account of the accused, but outside a 7/11 store according to police. He was brought to a police station where after an hour or so he was brought out to witness the search of the car in the presence of many police men standing around. All the car doors were open. A police man climbed onto the back seat, felt underneath with his hand, and produced a plastic bag of a crystalline substance, to the cheers and laughter of the onlookers. The defendant claimed that he had never entered the car, nor driven it. A receipt showed that the car had indeed been rented by the 'friend'.
Fingerprinting is a relatively simple technology which has been in use for over a hundred years. Surely it would have been easy to check the interior of the car for fingerprints of the accused, and the plastic bag found there. Nor was there a forensic examination of the hands or clothes of the accused for traces of drugs.
He may be condemned to death. On what evidence?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Revenge in Thailand

Calls for Revenge in a Buddhist Country

The recent riots and killings in Bangkok are giving rise for calls for revenge, the execution of those responsible, as expressed in the previous posting on this site.

Albert Pierrepoint, the British executioner during the years 1933 to 1955, hanged 608 people. He summed up his experience in the words:

"The fruit of my experience has this bitter aftertaste .....
Capital Punishment, in my view, achieved nothing except revenge."

Are the Buddhists of Thailand deaf to this bitter realisation?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Death Penalty Warning

"The government's Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) has warned that people who are guilty of terrorism charges could face a possible death penalty."
19th May 2010

Response:The threat by the DSI that people convicted of terrorist charges in the current situation in Thailand could face a possible death penalty is ill-advised and ill-timed. It reveals the mentality of government agencies within hours of the largest massacre of Thai civilians in recent Thai history, that they are ready to threaten further death.
It is ill-advised to invoke a penalty which is against the most fundamental of human rights and which is rejected by the large majority of the nations on earth. Moreover, there is strong evidence that a threat of capital punishment is not an effective deterrent against any crime. It is ill-timed to invoke the charge of terrorism which the government has used as justification throughout the present crisis, before such a charge has been explained or proved by evidence, at a time when government responsibility for the deaths of unarmed civilians is been questioned. It can only add fuel to the fire of resentment widespread in the country. There most urgent need now is for understanding, reconciliation, and mediation. While justice is required for acts which are illegal, this justice must not be burdened with the threat of a punishment which is no longer acceptable in international law, and which would prolong the contempt of the right to life we have witnessed in recent days.
Finally, one may recall to the DSI that the second human rights five year plan on human rights, passed by the government in 2009 and acknowledged by all government ministries, includes the proposal to abolish the death penalty.

Monday, March 08, 2010

An End to the Dance of Death

ประกาศใช้แผนสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ ฉบับที่ ๒
มติคณะรัฐมนตรีเมื่อวันที่ ๒๐ ตุลาคม ๒๕๕๒ เห็นชอบและให้ประกาศใช้แผนสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ ฉบับที่ ๒ (๒๕๕๒ – ๒๕๕๖) โดยให้หน่วยงานที่เกี่ยวข้องนำแผนไปสู่การปฎิบัติด้วยการแปลงแผนสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติไปสู่แผนบริหารราชการแผ่นดิน แผนปฎิบัติราชการกระทรวง กรม แผนพัฒนาขององค์กรปกครองส่วนท้องถิ่น
แผนดังกล่าวนี้ในยุทธศาสตร์ที่ ๓ พัฒนากฎหมายและกลไกทางกฎหมายรวมทั้งการบังคับใช้กฎหมาย เพื่อส่งเสริมและคุ้มครองสิทธิมนุษยชน โดยมีกลยุทธ์คือการปรับปรุงกฎหมายและกลไกทางกฎหมาย รวมทั้งการบังคับใช้กฎหมายเพื่อคุ้มครองสิทธิมนุษยชนให้สอดคล้องกับหลักสิทธิมนุษยชน ซึ่งมีตัวชี้วัดระดับกลยุทธิ์ ที่สำคัญคือ กฎหมายที่มีอัตราโทษประหารชีวิตได้เข้าสู่การพิจารณาของรัฐสภาให้มีการยกเลิกให้เป็นโดยจำคุกตลอดชีวิต

On 20th October 2009 the Thai Cabinet approved and proclaimed a Second National Human Rights Plan for the years 2009 to 2013. It was circulated to all relevant offices of Government for adaptation in a Human Rights Programme for implementation by ministries, departments, and in the development planning of local authorities.
This second strategic plan entails a development of the legal system and its structure, including its enforcement for the protection of human rights according to human rights policy.

The most important measure relates to the death penalty. The Parliament will discuss the abolition of the death penalty and its replacement by life imprisonment.

At the time of its proclamation the Human Rights Programme received little media attention. The Programme will be introduced to all Government Agencies by the Prime Minister in an April meeting

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Issues raised in the Geneva Assembly for Abolition

"If you want to keep the death penalty, you have to pay for it. This stark message came from a consideration of the inadequacies of the legal process leading to death sentences. Prosecutors are funded to a level three to four times more than the defence, and the facilities available to the prosecution are far beyond those available to defenders. Even in the wealthiest country of all there is no legal aid for appeal, the condemned are buried in their cells and forgotten as they await their fate. The scales of justice do not stand on a level base. The death rows of the world feature the worst aspects of the prison system where the crowds destined for execution are detained in conditions that fall far short of human dignity."

In Thailand all prisoners on death row are shackled permanently; the Corrections Department claims that this measure is necessary as it cannot afford adequate staff to ensure control of death row prisoners. The Administrative Court has ruled that this is the problem of the Corrections Department, and that prisoners should not be ill-treated as a consequence. The Corrections Department refuses to accept the ruling and appeals.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Increasing Scope of Death Penalty

Press Conference to Announce Campaign Extending Death Penalty for Drug Offenses
“On 13th January 2010, in the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Chuawat Chanwarakun, the Minister of Interior, signed a petition to modify three regulations for the control of drugs, the Drug Control Act of 1976, the Drug Punishment Act of 1979, and the Effective Punishment of Drug Offenders Act of 2002. The Minister announced that his action was in support of the Interior Ministry 'Cleansing Campaign', aimed at putting an end to drug offenses, for the good of the country.
Mr. Chuawat indicated that the punishment indicated article 65, namely life imprisonment, and a fine of 1 to 5 million baht, should be increased to life imprisonment, and a fine of 1 to 5 million baht, or, the death penalty. In article 66, the punishment for possession of addictive substances of more than 20 gms from four years to life imprisonment, should be increased to life imprisonment, a fine of 1 to 5 million baht, or the death penalty for a quantity exceeding 10 gms.
For article 93 which deals with inducing others to be addicted; if the drug involved is heroin the punishment should be doubled. In addition if the person induced is a woman or a juvenile, the punishment should be death. Amphetamines should also be included.”

The Campaign aimed to collect 10,000 signatures to support submission of the bill to Parliament. Another spokesman of the Ministry expressed the opinion that “more than 10 million people all over the country would sign”

Increased Penalties: Comment

The initiative of the Ministry of Interior to increase punishments for drug offenses, with a consequent increase in grounds for sentence of death is against Thailand’s commitments to international treaties. The reasons given for the increase are not supported by any evidence. Finally, the method of submitting the plea for legal change by mounting a campaign for public signature, is wholly inappropriate and ill advised.

Increased Penalties contravene international commitments
The increasing rejection of the death penalty throughout the world finds its inspiration in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to life”, which expressed a growing realization of the wrongness of the death penalty. The words of the Universal Declaration were expanded in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCP), “Every human being has the inherent right to life”. Provision is made for countries “which have not abolished the death penalty”, the negative expression itself indicating that abolition should be the norm. “Sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes”. The intention of the Covenant that abolition is the norm is added in the final sentence of Article 6, “Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant”, ICCP Art. 6.6
Thailand ratified this Covenant on 29th October 1996, but, contrary to the final injunction just quoted, has since justified its continued use of the death penalty by alluding to the acceptance in Article 6 that some countries have not abolished the death penalty, and need not do so.

The meaning of the words of the Universal Declaration, and of the International Convention, have been further clarified throughout the years, especially regarding the phrase ‘most serious crimes’. The strongest such clarification was issued by the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on the occasion of the Report submitted in July 2005 to the Human Rights Committee regarding Thailand’s fulfillment of its obligations to the Covenant. In the final observations delivered by the Human Rights Committee is the admonition, “The State Party should review the imposition of the death penalty for offences related to drug trafficking, to reduce the categories of crime punishable by death”, CCPR/CO/84/THA par.14. In short, the Committee points out that drug-trafficking charges are not the ‘most serious crimes’ for which the death penalty is tolerated as a temporary expedient on the way to total abolition, referred to in Article 6.6.

Thailand ratified ICCP and submitted its first report referred to above in July 2005. It is unfortunate that despite the very wide representation of Government Departments on the occasion of the report, the Ministry of Interior was not represented. Nevertheless, they must be aware of the content of ICCP itself and of the comments made by the UN Human Rights Committee, of which the text was to be published and disseminated throughout the country. CCPR/CO/84/THA par.25. How then can the Ministry not only assent to the continued application of the death penalty for drug related crimes, but even attempt by its present action to increase the categories of crime punishable by death?

Increased Penalties not effective
At present the number of countries which have effectively abandoned the death penalty amounts to 149 countries, while only 25 countries persist in actual executions. The rapid increase in countries opting for abolition over the last twenty years follows the conviction that the death penalty is ‘useless and ineffective’. This is not the place to go into the details of this evidence, which has been well reported in the successive editions of ‘The Death Penalty’ by Roger Hood. The relevance to Asian countries is exhaustively treated in ‘The Next Frontier’ by David T. Johnson and Franklin E. Zimring . In a press conference to reveal the campaign of the Ministry of Interior to increase Penalties for drug trafficking, Mr. Saksiam Chidchop claimed that the policy was an adoption of the successful policy of Malaysia and Singapore. The evidence for such a claim is simply not available. Singapore does not reveal the total number of executions; less still does it differentiate executions on drug charges from those for other crimes. One would expect that such statistics would be openly displayed if the intention of the executions is deterrence. There are indications that the policy is not working, on the basis of such evidence as the relatively low street cost of drugs in Singapore, which would be unlikely if the trade was strongly deterred. In the case of Malaysia the reduced availability of drugs has been ascribed to the small number of international flights through it airports rather than to drug suppression punishment. The present consensus is that capital punishment does not succeed as a deterrent for either drug related or any other crimes: “ far as some crimes threatened by capital punishment in several countries are concerned, such as importing or trading in illegal drugs, economic crimes, or politically motivated violence, there simply is no reliable evidence of any kind relating to the deterrent effects of executions” Hood, p.320, op.cit.. So much for calling on the examples of Singapore and Malaysia to persuade people to sign a petition to extend the death penalty for drug crimes!

Inappropriate Campaign for Public Signature
While it is true that public opinion concerning the death penalty has relevance, democratic government is not government by public opinion. The question has been examined by William Schabas , who writing in a chapter entitled “Public Opinion and the Death Penalty” identifies the opinion of ‘an informed citizenry’ as the motive force in evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of maturing society, and lead to acceptance of abolition. Nothing can be more wrong than to present an abstract poll that has elicited generalized emotional responses. It is certain that the signature campaign of the Ministry of Interior is not based on an educational campaign to explain the issues at stake; the option is to sign the petition or not, based on obedience to the immense forces for influence of the ministry, and an abhorrence of the evils of drug trade. Just as the drug trade was not solved by the criminal extrajudicial killings of 2003 to 2004, so, an extension of the death penalty will be equally ineffective. Drugs are an evil in society, and must be fought by cutting off the sources of supply, by social remedies to the distress that influences people to turn in despair to the mirage of drug induced relief. The task is the whole reform of society depending on education, the growth of a meaningful prosperity and culture, including a retreat from the use of violence, in which abolition of the death penalty will set a standard.
The submission of a government act by signature of 10,000 citizens was intended in the constitution to allow a way for the population to whom other avenues were closed to have their voice heard. The Ministry of Interior is already an organ of government and has the way available to submit its suggestions for democratic debate. The attempt to force the issue by a mass signature campaign headed by its officials, employees, and dependents is not an appropriate approach. It would be useful indeed if the Ministry initiated an informed debate on the issues of Capital Punishment as recommended in the UN General Assembly majority votes of 1997 and 1998 to be accompanied by a Moratorium on all executions for whatever crime.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Close of 4th World Congress on Abolition

Say No to the Death Penalty

The 4th World Congress for Abolition of the Death Penalty opened in the UN Palais the Nations in Geneva on 24th February and ended on 26th February.
1,700 men, women, and children gathered from all over the world. Those from countries which retain the death penalty told their stories which were sad to tears, but also full of hope for the end of this ancient curse which is recorded from the beginning of our history. Others, from countries where the death penalty has been abolished, came to give their support. Sometimes, they recalled with regret that the death penalty was a legacy of colonialist times, which somehow persisted when other liberties were achieved. Or, they came to acknowledge that the death penalty was an inheritance of the past which affects us all; as expressed so movingly in the words of John Donne, “The death of any man diminishes me”. All are united in the movement for abolition, which has become a worldwide tide of hope. The number of abolitionist countries continues to rise, now reaching 140. On the other hand, not only do the countries retaining the death penalty decrease in number, but in many of the others, even in the most brash in claiming the right to execute, the number being put to death is decreasing each year. A growing optimism pervades the movement for abolition. From the timeline of executions worldwide, one scholar predicted that it will all be over by the year 2025. It is even possible that rejection of the death penalty may reach a flood and achieve total abolition by 2015. What country would dare to be the last place on earth to exercise the awful trade of judicial execution, or to be identified as the homeland of the last person ever to be executed, whose name will surely be remembered for ever to the shame of humankind?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Corrections Department Appeals that Shackles are Necessary

Thailand Not Bound by International Treaties
Document to Appeal Court
12th October 2009
Judgement on the case of Malcolm Denis Lim, Plaintiff,
and Corrections Department, Defendant.
Concerning the judgement of the Administrative Court that the use of shackles in Klong Prem prison is an illegal abuse of the Plaintiff and the order to remove the shackles within 30 days, the Corrections Department does not agree and submits the following appeal document:
1. The document quotes the Corrections Department Act of 1936, listing the five exceptions when shackles may be used. See p.3 above:
The document refers to the discernment of the prison in deciding that the use of shackles is necessary to prevent escape. The facts relating to the prisoner should be considered, but also the conditions of the prison, the level of security, the number of prisoners, and the number of prison officials. From such considerations the defendant considers that the free circulation of the prisoner would entail the danger of escape, and that therefore shackles are necessary.
2. The document recalls the disciplinary offense of the defendant while in custody in Bambat prison, of being in possession of a type 2 drug, showing the propensity to re-offend and possibly unite with others to escape.
3. While Building 2 of Klong Prem prison is specially dedicated to the confinement of those imprisoned on account of serious crimes, there are problems with the level of security. The number of persons detained there is 787, including 40 persons condemned to death, 438 to life imprisonment, and another 309 persons. Many quarrels occur in this group and they use telephones which are frequently smuggled into the prison, so that there is a possibility that prisoners may conspire to break out and escape. Regarding the number of warders; during working hours there is one warder to 41 prisoners. Due to possible absences or special tasks requiring warders to accompany prisoners, the ratio is further reduced. At night time there is one warder for 196 prisoners. By UN standards the ratio of warders should be 1 to only 5 prisoners. In these circumstances there is reason for the exceptional use of shackles allowed in Section 14(1) and 14(3) of the Corrections Department Act, 1936. If the order to remove shackles from one person is made, others will make the same plea as the plaintiff. When they too are released from shackles, the prisoners can join together in causing trouble, join in protest, attack warders, and cause damage to prison property, as is regularly reported.
4. Regarding the argument of the Court that even if the prisoners held in Building 2 were to escape, they would still be within the confines of Klong Prem prison, the defendant responds that if the prisoners held in Building 2 escape, prisoners in other buildings will follow their lead and chaos will spread throughout the whole prison, leading to possible casualties among both prisoners and staff of the prison. Similar revolts can spread to other prisons. This outcome always follows within days as news media spread accounts of such events, resulting not only in escapes but in violent clashes and increased violence when prisoners can move about freely. Prison officials who warn the prisoners may also be attacked, as prisoners already condemned to death cannot be subject to a higher punishment for their criminal acts. Officials who supervise Building 2 are very aware of the danger which would ensue if shackles are removed, and fear for their lives in the service of their country.
5. Regarding the judgement of the Administrative Court that the Corrections Department must act according to the UN Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, may we point out that these documents refer to international agreements and are only legally binding in so far as member countries draft them into their own legal systems, which is not yet the case in Thailand. Hence the Corrections Department is not bound by these agreements
6. Regarding the judgement of the Administrative Court that the fact that the Corrections Department claim that it is not yet ready on account of the buildings involved, the security system in place, and the strength of the workforce in the prisons, is injurious to the plaintiff, we point out that the Corrections Department aims and is determined to conduct the prisons in the most natural manner possible, but in a way that maintains conditions of penal detention and the corrective treatment of those imprisoned. But the available budget, the size of the workforce, the state of the buildings, the technology of controlling inmates, and the system to protect security are all limited. At the same time, the number of prisoners is increasing as well as there being an increase in the number and novelty of ways of evading laws and regulations. The Corrections Department continually strives to overcome such problems. However, as not all the problems can be solved, some difficult compromises must be made between the facilities which the prisoners should enjoy (such as freedom of bodily movement) and secure public order, the safety of personnel and property. The use of shackles must be considered. However, if prisoners wearing shackles are injured or show symptoms of injury, medical opinion may order the immediate removal of the restraints.
7. Regarding the judgement of the Administrative Court that the use of shackles is against the document of the Corrections Department of 10th June 2005, section 3, which forbids the use of shackles as a disciplinary punishment, may we point out that Klong Prem Prison did not use shackles as a disciplinary punishment. The truth of the matter is that the Plaintiff was in possession of a type 2 narcotic while detained in Bambat Central Prison showing that the behaviour of the Plaintiff was not according to civil law or prison regulations, and revealed a tendency to re-offend and possibly harm others or make an escape.
8. The Corrections Department wishes to assert that if the Plaintiff holds that the Corrections Department has illegally abused his rights on account of the order by Klong Prem Prison to shackle him according to Article 14 of the Corrections Department Act, he should have appealed against the order, according to Article 44 of Corrections Department Administrative Procedures of 1996. If he has not made such an appeal, he does not have the right to bring the present case, according to the Supreme Administrative Court ruling 186/1966.

In addition, the Corrections Department wishes to submit a further document for the consideration of the Administrative Court. The Corrections Department asserts that its treatment of the Plaintiff has been just and legal, and requests that the Court of Appeal repeal the decision of the Administrative Court.

(Additional document referred to at the end of the appeal, is a summary of five prison revolts which occurred in various prisons within the previous year, which led to 3 deaths, many injuries, and damage to prison property}

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Dignity of Mongolia

Mongolia announces moratorium on Death Penalty

"Mongolia is a dignified country ... and our citizens are dignified people," President Tsakhia Elbegdorj said in a speech to Mongolia's parliament. "Therefore, I ask Mongolia to put behind us this death penalty which degrades our dignity to death."

The BBC reported that one person was executed in Mongolia in 2008 and nine people are believed to be on the country's death row. Although abolishing the death penalty outright seems to be an uphill political battle for Elbegdorj, he has the power to commute sentences to life and to prevent any executions from taking place on his watch.

Mongolia has a population of 2.9 million and 9 people on death row. Thailand has 65 millions and 857 people on death row. Mongolia by its announcement of a moratorium will spare those 9 people from a degradation of dignity. Like Thailand, Mongolia had voted against the UN General Assembly vote in favour of a world wide moratorium on the death penalty, in 2007, and again in 2008.