Thursday, March 29, 2012

Executions in Japan

  Today, 29th March 2012 three men were hanged at prisons in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. As is usual in Japanese death penalty practice, the men were hanged without notice to their relatives or lawyers. 2011 had passed without executions, the first time in 19 years that executions had not taken place. There are suggestions that the executions have been offered to appease a public who massively support the death penalty, to distract criticism  of a controversial consumption tax rise. Is human life so cheap in Japan that it can be sacrificed for political objectives?
A week ago we met with senior diplomats of the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok to hear an account of the commutation of sentence of a Japanese prisoner sentenced to death in Thailand. There were reports of flagrant human rights abuse in the passing of sentence and we were pleased to learn of Japanese concern relating to the case. Why are the same concerns not active in respect for the norms of humane procedure in Japan itself? And why does the concern for the value of human life not extend to outright rejection of capital punishment in a country where education and cultural humanism are the most advanced in Asia?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mongolia Chooses Life over Death

During its universal peer review (UPR) Mongolia received 129 recommendations of which it accepted 126. Among those accepted were ratification of the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which rejects the death penalty in all cases. The decision was approved by a very large majority of Mongolian Parliament with total support of the Mongolian People’s Party Group.
The task of removing the death penalty from the legal system will follow.
We welcome this courageous confirmation of human value by the Mongolian Parliament. The action is of great significance and shows the way forward for countries in the Asian region which refuse to accept the advice of peer countries and attempt to avert criticism by minor concessions, while retaining the cruel reality of capital punishment.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Twists and Turns of Singapore Justice

 The farcial saga of Singapore death penalty legislation continues.

 Judgement reserved at Yong Vui Kong's hearing
secondchances, March 14, 2012

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgement in the case of Yong Vui Kong 
once again after he filed a criminal motion alleging unequal treatment.

Yong's lawyer Mr M Ravi, submitted in court this morning that his client 
has been a victim of unfair treatment, as Yong had been charged and 
convicted of a capital offence, while the prosecution withdrew charges 
against his boss Chia Choon Leng.

The prosecution had initially filed 26 charges against Chia. Five of the 26 
charges were directly related to Yong, stating that Chia had instigated 
Yong to carry drugs into Singapore. The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) 
later withdrew all 26 charges.

Chia recieved a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, and is currently 
held under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. It is likely that 
he may be released in one to two years' time. Yong, on the other hand, 
faces the gallows.

Mr Ravi argued that this differentiated treatment was in breach of Article 
12 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, pointing 
out that a less culpable offender has been sentenced to death while the 
mastermind has not been prosecuted at all.

Mr Ravi also submitted that the AGC had exercised their discretion based on 
irrelevant considerations while ignoring relevant considerations in their 
decision to proceed with a capital charge against Yong. He stated that the 
prosecution had not given enough weight to the fact that Yong was young and 
in a vulnerable position when the crime was committed, while giving undue 
weight to the fact that Yong did not want to identify Chia in court, 
although his refusal was due to fear for the safety of his family.

He thus asked that Yong's conviction be quashed and his case be sent back 
to the AGC for review in light of the new circumstances.

Mr Ravi also pointed out that in the exercise of the law, one should also 
keep in mind the intention of Singapore's policy. He reminded the court 
that when the Misuse of Drugs Act was first amended to include the 
mandatory death penalty in 1975, its aim was to target the masterminds of 
drug syndicates, and not mere couriers. The then Law Minister, Mr Chua Sian 
Chin, highlighted this in his speech to Parliament:

It (the Mandatory Death Sentence) is not intended to sentence petty 
morphine and heroin peddlers to death.

However, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong and Justices of Appeal Andrew Phang 
and V K Rajah asked if Chia could be charged under Singapore law for his 
alleged abetting and instigation, pointing to the fact that the act was 
committed in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

After hearing from both sides, the court reserved judgement, asking that 
both the applicant and prosecution file additional written submissions on 
whether Chia's alleged offences can or should be tried under Singapore law. 
The submissions will be filed on Monday.

After the court delivers its verdict on this new appeal, Yong will have 
another three months to file a new petition for clemency to the President.

Hang Filipino Jewel Thieves

Filipino jewel thieves caught
  • Published: 8/03/2012 : Bangkok Post on line
Police on Thursday arrested a team of six Filipinos accused of stealing jewellery worth more than 6.39 million baht from a store in Bangkok's Siam Paragon shopping mall.
Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Winai Thongsong said police received a telephone call from the owner of Gems Pavilion who reported the jewellery was found to be missing immediately after the six Filipinos left the store.

Pol Lt Gen Winai said police followed the suspects to Centre Point hotel where they had checked-in. They found the stolen jewellery - gold and diamond rings and diamond necklaces. The retail value of one of the stolen necklaces was about two million baht.

He said their actions had been recorded by security cameras in the shopping mall.

Reader responses:
Discussion 4 : 08/03/2012 at 08:11 PM4
hang them if you have to. they are a disgrace to the Filipino community.

Discussion 9 : 10/03/2012 at 10:56 PM9
People like this are a shame, When Filipinos steal they for sure go for the gold, I feel bad that now everyone will have this impression because these 6 came here from the Philippines just to steal. the best way to treat them, send them back in body bags, we dont need trash like this in thai land. give them 100years or death by hanging. When I told my Filipino friend about this, they said that these people should be HUNG, maybe even strokes of the rotan. harsher punishments so future people will think twice.

Discussion 10 : 15/03/2012 at 09:51 AM10
Ah yes! Hang them, the 'crime and punishment' answer to every difficulty. Dear Filipinos, it has taken hundreds of years to rid your country of the barbaric practice of the death penalty, and you would now have other countries do it for you. Please be wiser, it is as ineffective in Thailand as it was in the Philippines. Besides, robbery without lethal violence is not subject to the death penalty in Thailand.

Comment from ex-Senator Pimentel of Philippines:
 With due respect to the  understandable outbursts from our compatriots, I believe those are but the product of hurt emotions.

Primarily induced by outrage -occasioned by shame - such an act embarrasses all of us, Filipinos!

It does but it also does not mean that we should 'crucify them'.

Punish them, imprison them, make them bear the pain of enforced separation from family and country.

But putting them to death is certainly not commensurate with the robbery they are said to have committed.

The value of the stolen jewelry put together is certainly not worth putting out the life of a single human being, whether Filipino or of another race.

Nene Pimentel

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Aquilino Pimentel Confronts Death Penalty in Thailand

Senator Aquilino Pimentel was leader of the successful movement for abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines. This week, 7th to 10th March he came to Bangkok to share his experience at a time when Thailand too is approaching abolition. The promise is made in the 2nd National Human Rights Plan, 2009 - 2014, but there are strong forces holding to the death penalty in Thailand.
Ex-Senator Pimentel spent over two days meeting with Thai senators, with officials of the Ministry of Justice charged with preparing the way for abolition, and with members of the press. The following two accounts in Bangkok Post and The Nation report on his activities.
Thailand to tell UN why courts hand down death
Bangkok Post: 10/03/2012
Thailand is to explain to the United Nations Human Rights Council next week why it has not yet abolished capital punishment.

Pimentel: Little deterrence
The session will be held in Geneva on March 15. The Thai position is that it has to wait for the result of a Justice Ministry study on the the country's second national human rights plan which includes an examination on the appropriateness of maintaining the death penalty.
Activists, however, urged the country to abolish capital punishment.
Danthong Breen, of the Union for Civil Liberty, said 140 of 192 UN member states have either signed a moratorium or have no death penalty. In the Asia Pacific region, 17 countries have abolished the death penalty for all offences but 14 countries, including Thailand, still have it.
As of February this year, 622 people are condemned to death in Thailand, he told a panel discussion this week at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT).
Of that number, 88 are on death row, all are men and half of them were drug offenders, Mr Breen said.
The last time an execution was carried out in Thailand was in August 2009 when two convicted drug traffickers were given lethal injections.
The Bangkok-based anti-capital punishment campaigner said he was concerned about an on-going effort to reduce the amount of drugs needed for a mandatory death sentence to just 10 grammes.
He said experience in other countries showed the death penalty is unlikely to be abolished by popular vote but through the efforts and moral convictions of opinion leaders.
Another campaigner at the FCCT discussion said studies show that capital punishment has little deterrence value.
Aquilino Pimentel, a former Philippine's senator, said the death penalty was also biased against the poor, the uneducated and the marginalised, at least in the Philippines' case.
Mr Pimentel, 79, spearheaded a three-year-campaign against the death penalty which resulted in its abolition in June 2006. "The death penalty existed for 485 years under Spain, then 110 years under the American occupation, and another 60 years under our own republic. [The campaign] was not easy, but with a determined social media, there should be a shining light," Mr Pimentel said.
Backed by the Bangkok-based Union for Civil Liberty and Amnesty International, the former senator has held discussions with the Justice Ministry, the Senate committee on justice and human rights, and the media on just how little deterrence capital punishment offers.
Another panelist Phongthep Thepkanjana, a former justice minister during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, said abolishing the death penalty should not be a controversial issue for the government if it is replaced by a stiff sentence without parole.
The former justice minister and a former judge said Thailand has conducted very few executions in past decades even though several hundred have been sentenced to death. The courts often commute sentences, they said.
Former Philippine senator urges Thais to scrap ‘uncivilised’ death penalty
Pravit Rojanaphruk
The Nation on Sunday
Civilised society should abolish capital punishment because it is inhumane, essentially based on a medieval concept of retribution, and risks innocent people being put to death, according to Aquilino Pimentel, a former Philippine senator who played an key role in ending the death penalty in his country in 2006.
Visiting Bangkok at the invitation of Amnesty International Thailand and the Union for Civil Liberty, 79yearold Pimentel urged Thais opposed to capital punishment to keep their “passion” burning, despite hearing that many Thais, including senior Buddhist monks, still support executions.
“A majority of Thais still do not support [abolition of the death penalty],” human rights lawyer Sarawut Prathumraj said. Sarawut told Pimentel that many Thais look back fondly to the 1960s and the era of dictator Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who was known for summarily executing people accused of committing arson in public areas.
Thailand’s Human Rights Master Plan for 2009 to 2013 states that the Kingdom aims to abolish capital punishment by the end of the period, but the goal seems far removed from reality, as there is no visible movement towards that end at present.
Pimentel met and addressed the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by appointed Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn. Members of the committee exchanged differing views with Pimentel, with one member defending execution by lethal injection – the method practised in Thailand today – as “humane”, and another saying that the death penalty was needed to rid society of its scourges. Another member told Pimentel that it was not uncommon for some convicts who are sentenced to death to have their sentences commuted and to eventually walk free after a decade or so in prison.
Pimentel argued that the death penalty doesn’t give condemned criminals the opportunity to reform themselves, while the risk of even one person being wrongly executed was too high for a civilised society to bear.
Pimentel said the notion of “an eye for an eye”, also known as the Lex Talionis principle of Roman law, was medieval and not suited for modern society.
“If Lex Talionis were to be used to justify the imposition of the death penalty as an act of retribution, then in those cases of murder or rape, before the criminals are executed, they should first be subjected to the indignities or outright tortures that had been inflicted on the victims so that the criminals undergo the same level of pain as that suffered by the victims,” he said.
The former Philippine senator also cited various works showing that the death penalty had no deterrent effect on criminality.
Somchai said after the meeting with Pimentel that the committee was interested in continuing to debate capital punishment, but added that “some people see the need for the death penalty to deal with those who are beyond [redemption].” He added that a compromise could eventually be struck, such as replacing the death penalty with long prison terms without parole, as is practised in the Philippines today.
Pimentel said that since the death penalty was abolished in his country, heinous crimes that would once have drawn a sentence of death were now punished by imprisonment for 20 to 40 years without parole. Some argue that long jail terms are an even worse punishment than death, he said.
One member of the Senate panel argued that it was better to kill a bird than keep it in a cage without letting it see the Sun, which was cruel and inhumane, like a long prison sentence. Pimentel said he couldn’t answer on behalf of the bird, however.