Monday, December 24, 2012

Taiwan continues to harvest the organs of executed prisoners

Taiwan has claimed to no longer harvest body parts of executed prisoners. However*:

Flesh-cooking convict's organs transplanted

A hospital in Taiwan harvested organs and other body parts from one of six executed death row inmates, in a controversial procedure that could help five patients, local media reported Sunday.
Inmates at Changhua jail in Taiwan's central Erlin township. A hospital in Taiwan harvested organs and other body parts from one of six executed death row inmates, in a controversial procedure that could help five patients, local media reported Sunday.
Taiwanese authorities executed six death row prisoners Friday, the largest number to be put to death in one day in recent years, amid an ongoing debate about the maintenance of capital punishment.
Three inmates had agreed to donate their organs but doctors only harvested material from one of them, the United Daily News said.
Chen Chin-huo, convicted of murdering a woman and cooking her flesh, had his liver, two kidneys, corneas and bone removed, the newspaper reported.
"The donation will benefit at least five patients waiting for transplanting of organs," it said, without identifying the hospital where the procedure took place.
The Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in the south refused to harvest organs from a second inmate.
Lin Hsin-yi, of the Taiwan Alliance to End Death Penalty, told AFP that death row inmates had to give consent for their organs to be removed but that some doctors refused to perform such operations.
"Unlike the people who die of illnesses or killed in accidents, the inmates have their lives taken by force," she said.
"As doctors need to race against time, the inmates are sent to the hospital as soon as possible after execution.
"Against that backdrop, some doctors may feel they are removing organs from people who are still (medically) alive."
The justice ministry did not reveal how the six inmates were executed Friday but usually death row convicts in Taiwan are put to death with a bullet to the head.
Taiwan is one of the few countries where organ harvesting from death row inmates is allowed.
Taiwan executed five prisoners in March 2011 and four in April 2010. The 2010 executions were the first after a hiatus that had lasted since 2005.
The death penalty debate reignited in Taiwan after the playground murder of a 10-year-old boy whose throat was slit.
Following reports suggesting the 29-year-old suspect was allegedly looking forward to free board and lodgings in jail, angry protesters gathered at the justice ministry demanding the island's death row inmates be executed.
The debate has also been fuelled by the 1997 execution of a soldier wrongly convicted in a child murder case.

Prisoners whose organs are harvested in Taiwan are executed as they lie in a plastic bath. Rather than the usual bullet in the heart, the prisoner is executed by a single bullet in the brain stem. The still breathing body is put on life support until doctors remove organs, hence the report that the donor is still medically alive. In previous practice, those condemned could donate organs but under criticism that the donation could not be freely made in the stress of impending execution, the harvesting of prisoner organs was said to be discontinued. Not quite, it seems from this report. The hesitations of "some doctors" are well founded.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Executions in Taiwan

Execution Chamber Taiwan* by Toshi Kazama

Zeng Si-ru, Hung Ming-tsung, Huang Hsien-cheng, Chen Chin-huo, Kuang Te-chiang and Tai Te-ying were executed on Friday 21st December at different locations across Taiwan.

The executions by shooting are the first in the country this year. Five people were executed in 2011 and 55 people are awaiting execution and have exhausted all appeals.

The sentences were carried out late Friday, a day after Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu signed the execution orders, a government statement said.
The six men who were executed had been convicted of "grave offenses" such as fatal kidnappings and multiple murders and were executed because of the brutality of their crimes, the statement said.
Their sentences were confirmed by court authorities at various levels, and the executions were carried out simultaneously in four prisons across the island, officials said.
The last executions in Taiwan were in March 2011, when five men were put to death.

The authorities have repeatedly declared their intention to move away from using the death penalty and lead a public debate on the issue.
Deputy Justice Minister Chen Shou-huang said on 19 December that the authorities would carry out death sentences on its own schedule and will not be influenced by foreign experts. On 20th December 111  countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly in favour of a Moratoriium on the death penalty, the day that the death sentences were signed. While Taiwan is not a member of the UN, it very much courts its approval and has set up its own monitoring functions on human rights to mimic UN procedures. The emptiness of its monitoring functions is displayed by its actions.

On 14th November the author of this blog discussed the death penalty with the Deputy Justice Minister during an interview arranged with an investigative team from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The Minister did not accept that Taiwan was bound to refrain from executions by Taiwan's promised adherence to the standards of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, now interpreted by experts in international law to necessarily involve abolition. He affirmed his belief that Capital Punishment is an effective deterrent to crime. Finally, he affirmed adherence to biblical authority for the slogan "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth", unaware, it seems, that the phrase is specifically rejected in the New Testament.We surmise that he is also totally unaware of the vote in the UN General Assembly.

*There are slightly different accounts of the execution procedure. The following is consistent with the image shown; to the right is the last meal provided to the condemned person. The condemned lies face down on a sheet on the floor, which is covered in black sand to reduce the contrast of fresh blood. A medical practitioner marks where his heart is. The prisoner is shot from behind three times at close range.Death at its most clinical and cruel.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Schabas on death penalty

During a roundtable discussion in the Bangkok Office of the UN Secretariat Professor William Schabas commented on current trends in abolition of the death penalty. Worldwide abolition of the death penalty is inevitable.
He pointed out that for several years the rate of approach to total abolition has been an average of 2.5 countries per year. However 2.5 from a current total of about 40 countries retaining the death penalty is a much higher that 2.5 countries out of the 80 retentionist countries of several years ago.
He noted the great reduction in the number of executions in the countries which retain the death penalty, saying that this amounts to a reduction in executions equivalent to total abolition in other countries.
The category of countries "abolitionist in practice" for countries which have not carried out executions for ten years or more, in fact shows a strong commitment to abolition which is only very rarely reversed.
Regarding the US, a seeming stronghold of the death penalty, change is likely to come through a vote by Supreme Court judges. It is likely that court appointments to be made by Obama in his second term of presidency will tip the scale and end US use of the death penalty.
Even in China, major executioner of the world, there is a notable reduction in the number of executions, and abolition is now accepted as a long term objective. Singapore, once identified as having the highest rate of executions compared to its population has retreated from this embarrassing position, and now executes perhaps one a year, or less.
Abolition can come with unexpected speed. He recalled a meeting in 1994 where he sat next to representatives of Russia and South Africa. They assured him that their two countries had no intention of changing their practice of execution. However, within one year both countries committed themselves to a moratorium on executions.
Professor Schabas spoe of his experience of raising the constitutionality of the death penalty, first in Canada, and later in Indonesia where three of nine judges voted that the death penalty is contrary to constitutional rights.

Addendum: On completing his visit to Bangkok, Professor Schabas posts on his blog:
 Until about 2003, Thailand was regularly executing 8 to 10 people a year, with a focus on drug offences. From 2004 until 2009 there were no executions, but that year two convicted drug criminals were put to death. Since then, nothing.
Pol. Col. Dr. Naras Savestanan, who is Director General of the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection of Thailand's Ministry of Justice.
On Tuesday, I met with Wanchai Rujjanawong, who is Director-General of the International Affairs Department of the Office of the Attorney General. He assured me that the last execution in Thailand had taken place. Although he did not expect any legislative reform, he said that by 2019 we would be able to count Thailand as de facto abolitionist under the principle that a state that has not actually conducted an execution for ten years is deemed to have abolished the death penalty in fact.

My conclusion is that Thailand is now in a quite determined and intentional moratorium, although it is not yet prepared to declare so officially.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Death Penalty Seminar 12/12/12

 Thailand is falling behind its neighbours when it comes to abolition of the death penalty, activists and experts said at a seminar yesterday.

THE NATION December 13, 2012 1:00 am

The event, organised by the Union for Civil Liberty with support from the European Union, the French Embassy and others, brought together participants from across Southeast Asia to Thammasat University in Bangkok. There was talk of progress made in the region and a call for Thailand to speed up the abolition of the death penalty.

"We sincerely urge Thailand to take the lead" in abolishing the death penalty in the region, said Debbie Stothard, deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Two countries in the region, the Philippines and Cambodia, no longer have the death penalty, she said.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand's death-row population is second to that of Malaysia, where about 900 prisoners are awaiting execution.

In Thailand, the number of inmates on death row is around 600 - about half of them drug-trafficking convicts, according to Amnesty International Thailand.

Singapore was named by Amnesty International in 2004 as the country with the highest per-capita ratio of death-row prisoners, but their numbers have since been markedly reduced with far fewer executions in recent years, said Mabasamy Ravi, a lawyer and death-penalty opponent from Singapore.

In Vietnam, which like Thailand still retains the death penalty, the right to life is increasingly viewed as important by Vietnamese authorities, said academic Ngo Ming Huong.

Thailand last executed two inmates in 2009, said Pol Colonel Aeknarat Sawettanand, director-general of the Department of Rights and Liberty Protection. He reported that department will engage in two phases of work in order to gain more knowledge from abroad and in Thailand and enable the public to better understand and be sensitised to the fact that death penalty doesn't help reduce severe crimes.

Aeknarat said many Thais are still in the mindset of revenge and retribution, which poses a hurdle in trying to convince them that it is against human rights standards to retain the death penalty. Back in the 1960s, said Aeknarat, prime minister Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat used Penal Code Article 17 to summarily execute arson suspects. Many Thais thought it was swift justice.

"I think times have changed," said Aeknarat. Besides growing opposition to the death penalty by some Thais and acceptance that death penalty is against human rights by the Justice Ministry, the Royal Thai Police have also increasingly recognised that forced disappearances and torture under interrogation are no longer acceptable, said Aeknarat.

However, the director-general admitted that Thai society is "addicted to violence" as reflected in the popularity of gruesome photos splashed on newspapers' front pages. "The mass media breed revenge and retribution," he said, adding that what Thailand needs is rehabilitation of people who commit crimes so they can become productive citizens.

Ultimately, it's up to Parliament to end the death penalty, Aeknarat said.

Thailand lags behind Asean in ending the death penalty

  • Published: 14/12/2012 at 12:00 AM
  • Bangkok Post 14/12/12
Human rights activists calling for the abolition of the death penalty say Thailand is lagging behind other countries in the region and the global community in bringing an end to capital punishment.
Antoine Madelin, a director at the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) told a seminar on the death penalty at Thammasat University on Wednesday that judges around the world have been limiting the scope of the death penalty.
Thailand is lagging behind its Asean neighbours, which are moving away from the death penalty in favour of clemency, judicial review, or abolition, Debbie Stothard, the FIDH deputy secretary-general, said.
She said Singapore in 2004 had the highest rate of capital punishment, but the island state has had zero executions in the eight years since then.
"[We] urge Thailand to take the lead in this important human rights issue."
Vietnam has also moved away from capital punishment, she said.
Though it still has the death penalty, it rarely uses it, she said, noting Vietnam increasingly has turned to rehabilitation as part of its drug enforcement policy.
Capital punishment has been used in Thailand since 1350.
Thailand held no executions from 2004-2008, or in 2010, or 2011. In 2009, there were two executions.
Danthong Breen, chairman of the Union Civil Liberty (UCL), said Thailand and Malaysia have the largest number of inmates in death row. As of October this year, Thailand had 649 prisoners on death row. According to a UCL report, Thailand executed 369 people between 1935 and 2003.
Mr Madelin suggested the public be asked whether they gain anything from maintaining capital punishment.
"Globally, research has shown that the death penalty does not deter crime," he said. "Crimes in many countries have in fact fallen off since the death penalty was abolished."
Pol Col Naras Savestanan, head of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, said the elimination of the death penalty would require public support and the involvement of politicians.
The Ministry of Justice is researching the death penalty and surveying stakeholders, Pol Col Naras said. In the next two years the government could decide to reduce death sentences to life in prison, but it is not clear how current inmates on death row would be affected.
Pol Col Naras said the decision to eliminate or amend the death penalty ultimately would be up to lawmakers.
Malaysia's Bar Council member Andrew Khoo said public opinion on capital punishment is still influenced by emotion.
"People might not see [abolition] as a national priority," he said. "If a referendum is needed, we need to raise people's awareness."

Monday, December 03, 2012

Progress to Abolition in Thailand

เรื่อง สถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตในประเทศไทยและอาเซียน ปี ๒๕๕๕
วันพุธที่ ๑๒ ธันวาคม ๒๕๕๕ เวลา ๑๒.๓๐ ๑๖.๓๐ น.
ณ ห้องประชุมบุญชูโรจนเสถียร ชั้น ๓ อาคารอเนกประสงค์ ๑  มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์
จัดโดย สมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน , มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์
                                   สนับสนุนโดย สหภาพยุโรป  FIDH    สถานฑูตฝรั่งเศส
๑๒.๓๐ ๑๓.๐๐ น.            ลงทะเบียน
๑๓.๐๐ ๑๓.๑๕ น.            เปิดการสัมมนา โดย Ms. Ana Beatriz Martins, Head of Political, Press
                                         and Information Section, Delegation of European Union
๑๓.๑๕ ๑๓.๓๕ น.          รายงานสถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตในประเทศไทย
                                                ดร.แดนทอง  บรีน  ประธานสมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน(สสส.)๑๓.๓๕ ๑๔.๑๐ น.           สถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตทั่วโลก: Mr. Antoine Madelin,
                                         Director  of Intergovernmental Organizations Activities, FIDH
๑๔.๑๐ ๑๕.๐๐ น.             สถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตในภูมิภาคอาเซียน
                                                ผู้แทนจากประเทศ เวียดนาม , มาเลเซีย , สิงคโปร์ , อินโดนีเซีย
                                                ดำเนินรายการโดย Ms. Debbie Stothard, Deputy Secretary-                                                                    General of FIDH and Coordinator of Altsean
๑๕.๐๐ ๑๖.๑๕ น.             แลไปข้างหน้า การเปลี่ยนโทษประหารชีวิตเป็นจำคุกตลอดชีวิตใน
                                                พันตำรวจเอกณรัชต์ เศวตนันทน์    อธิบดีกรมคุ้มครองสิทธิและเสรีภาพ
                                                นายไพโรจน์ วายุภาพ        ประธานศาลฎีกา
                                                นายมณเทียร บุญตัน           สมาชิกวุฒิสภา
                                                Mr. Antoine Madelin, FIDH
                                                ดำเนินรายการโดย              นายพิทักษ์  เกิดหอม
๑๖.๑๕ ๑๖.๓๐ น.            มุมมองของเหยื่อและอดีตนักโทษประหารชีวิต
๑๖.๓๐ น.                              ปิดการสัมมนา

“Progress to Abolition of the Death Penalty in Thailand and the Region, 2012”

Seminar on 12th December, 2012, 12.30 to 16.30
Bunchoorochanasathian Meeting Room, 3rd Floor, Aneekprasong Building 1 Thammasat University, Prachan Campus

Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Thammasat University
with support of the European Union, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Ambassade de France

12.30 – 13.00  Registration

13.00 – 13.15  Opening address by Ms. Ana Beatriz Martins, Head of Political, Press
                                    and Information Section, Delegation of the European Union

13.15 – 13.35  Current Situation on Abolition in Thailand
                        Dr. Danthong Breen, Chairman, UCL

13.35 – 14.10  Abolition on a World Scale
                        Mr. Antoine Madelin, Director of Intergovernmental                                          Organisations Activities, FIDH

14.10 – 15.00  Abolition in Thailand’s Neighbouring Countries
                        Representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam
                        Introduced by Ms Debbie Stothard, Deputy Secretary-General of FIDH                       and Coordinator of Altsean-Burma

15.00 – 16.15  Discussion on Replacing the Death Penalty with Life Imprisonment
                        Police General Narat Sewdanant, Director of Rights and Liberties
                        Protection Department, Ministry of Justice
                        Mr. Phairoj Wayuphab, President of Appeal Court
                        Mr. Monthian Bundan, Member of Senate
                        Representative of News Media
                        Mr. Antoine Madelin, FIDH  
                        Moderator Mr. Pithak Kedhom, Human Rights Lawyer

16.15 – 16.30  Testimony of ex-Death Penalty Prisoner, and Relative of Victim

16.30               Closure of Seminar