Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Thailand does not execute women"

The most recent statistics available on the gender composition of prisoners condemned to death is for 1st May 2013. Of 706 condemned prisoners 68 are women and 638 are men. Of the 68 women, 54 are condemned on drug charges and 14 for other crimes.
 The numbers of prisoners who have completed all legal process are 67 of whom 4 are women.  These prisoners await a decision on an application for royal pardon. The 4 women are all condemned on drug charges.
It is now considered  that international law allows the death penalty only in cases of premeditated homicide, and Thailand has been admonished by the United Nations Human Rights Commission for persisting attaching the death penalty to drug related cases:
“14. The Committee notes with concern that the death penalty is not restricted to the “most serious crimes” within the meaning of article 6, paragraph 2, and is applicable to drug trafficking”  Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee, on the occasion of Thailand’s report in Geneva  on its observance on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. CCPR/CO/84/THA, 8 July 2005.
Thailand’s obligations under an International Treaty take precedence over national law. It follows that the death penalty sentence applied to most women in Thailand is illegal by international law. On the occasion when the admonition was declared, no excuse or explanation was offered by the official delegation.
Thailand has shown a face of mercy in the matter of pregnant women who are condemned to death. By a Royal Decree on 30th August 2007, the death sentence in their case is commuted to life imprisonment. A comment to the law explains the motivation of clemency is “so that the child may experience the care of a mother and grow to be a good member of society”
The last sentence shows a fine sensitivity of the role of a mother. Logically such sensitivity should extend to all prisoners who are mothers, or women whose caring nature is an essential aspect of our society.
Only three women have been executed in modern Thai history. It is not a great step to extend commutation of the death sentence to all condemned women. 

Execution of Women 3 - Thailand

“Look for the woman”, is a famous phrase in French literature to indicate that when man commits a crime, there is always involvement of a woman. However, in crime committed by a woman, there is even greater     certainty that a man is involved.
In Thailand this is true, especially in death sentences for drug related crimes. In the storage and delivery of drugs it seems that the initiative must come from men. There was a well known case of two Cambodian sisters who were condemned to death for storing a large quantity of drugs foisted on them by one they claimed was a naval officer. They ran a market stall in the border area and had grown up in Cambodia where there is no death penalty; it is unlikely that the man who asked them to store the drugs told them that it was otherwise in Thailand. Once at a meeting on the death penalty, I raised the issue with the Minister of Justice who was a speaker. His reply was that Thailand does not execute women. Would that this were indeed so!
At least in recent times, Thailand has executed one woman. Her execution was a shocking event of which there are several partial accounts. An official who walked with her to the execution chamber attempted to flirt with her to count him as her last boyfriend, with the misplaced intention of distracting her from her awful fate. She was tied to the execution post and executed with a burst of machine gun fire. Then her body was carried to a small side room, while preparations were made to execute another prisoner. Moans were heard from the side room indicating that the woman was still alive. Officials rushed in; one tried to pump blood form her wounds to hasten death while another is said to have tried to smother her. The executioner insisted that she be brought back to the execution chamber, tied again to the post, and the execution repeated. Why did the accused survive heavy caliber machine gun fire? The executioner surmised that he had been nervous to execute a woman and aimed badly. Another commentator has suggested that the location of the woman’s heart indicated on a white cloth between the prisoner and the executioner had been indicated wrongly, due to the hesitation of a “doctor” to touch her breast in the execution chamber. Whatever, the case shows the inevitable errors that often accompany executions and reveal the truth behind the claim that executions are always clinically painless.
A final posting in this series on the execution of women will draw conclusions for Thailand.

Execution of Women 2 - France

France: In the past executions were carried out in public in the belief that seeing a criminal die would deter others from crime. At a time when executions throughout Europe were accompanied by vicious torture, women were burned to death on charges of witchcraft. The revolution of 1789 introduced the guillotine, a relatively humane instrument of death.

Georgette Thomas, accused of having burnt her mother was the last woman guillotined in public. It was a horrific event and the public executioner asked to be excused from this type of execution in the future. Later, Presidents systematically pardoned women who were sentenced to death. However during World War II, Marshal Pétain, Rresident of Vichy France who collaborated with German occupation, sent five women to the guillotine. One woman maddened by the prospect of the guillotine refused to dress and was guillotined naked.
With the restoration of democracy after the war it was expected that the execution of women would again cease. But under a lawyer President two more women were executed in 1947 and 1949. Then it ended From 1949 on, all women sentenced to death were pardoned. Men would continue to be executed until September 1977 . The death penalty was abolished in French law in 1981.
There is thus good precedent for treating the execution of women as a separate issue from that of men, where human compassion realizes more readily the unacceptability of capital punishment.
“Look for the woman”, is a famous phrase in French literature to indicate that when man commits a crime, there is somewhere involvement of a woman. However, in crime committed by a woman, there is even greater certainty that a man is involved, whether as the tormentor of a woman who finally reacts with violence, or as the one who incites the woman to the crime.

Execution of Women 1 - England

The execution of women is an atrocious affair. Most of us have experienced the protection from injury given us by a woman when we were children. An urge to protect women, the source of life, is deep in the human psyche. And yet women are executed, of course by a male executioner.
Consider examples;
Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in England, was hanged on 13th July 1955. She was 28 years old and night club entertainer. She had been abused and beaten by many men. Finally, after an abortion induced by a kick to her stomach by a ‘lover’, she took a gun and shot him dead. She confessed the crime, was condemned to death, and despite many appeals for her life from throughout the world, England’s most efficient hangman broke her neck only ten seconds after she entered the execution chamber;
Raymond Chandler, a famous American crime writer wrote:
“This thing haunts and, so far as I may say it, disgusts me as something obscene. I am not referring to the trial, of course, but to the medieval savagery of the law. I have been tormented for a week at the idea that a highly civilised people should put a rope round the neck of Ruth Ellis and drop her through a trap and break her neck. This was a crime of passion under considerable provocation. No other country in the world would hang this woman.”
Revulsion against the hanging of Ruth Ellis raised the question “Should a woman hang?”, and, logically, the further question “Should anybody be hanged?”. Ten years later the answer became a clear “No”. In 1965 the death penalty in England was suspended, and abolished for ever after another five years, when it was confirmed that the absence of the death penalty did not affect the murder rate.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Vietnam Begins Executions by Lethal Injection

The intention of Vietnam to carry our executions was blocked by the refusal of foreign countries to provide the poisons required. Similar refusal to supply the US has led to the use of one or two poisons rather than the three considered to cause a painless death. US States have also used chemicals intended to kill animals.
Meanwhile Vietnam has developed its own poisons with the result that death is "too slow".
The Vietnamese news item was translated by Google. This website has not cared to improve the translation

Politics - News Social news.Updated at 14:06 , 10/28/2013Have 3 cases of death by lethal injection( News news ) - Morning 28/10 , Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong said three cases were death by lethal injection while the remaining 684 death sentences .

Psychological processes of the first prisoners by lethal injection
The first prisoners by lethal injection is?
More than 170 prisoners from lethal injection on 27/6
Proposal backed by lethal injection for death row inmateReport to Congress morning 28/10 , the Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong said the country is still waiting for 684 prisoners sentenced to death . In the 682 it is the responsibility of the enforcement agency of the of Public Security , and 2 cases of agencies responsible for enforcement of the Army .Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong report to CongressJustice Minister Ha Hung Cuong report to CongressThe first case of death by lethal injection took place on 6/8 in Hanoi with Nguyen Anh Tuan prisoners ( 27 years old , born in Me Linh District, Hanoi - The number of detained : 2757A1 ) . This prisoner guilty of murder and robbery .After the executions are done , the Ministry of Public Security held a meeting to draw lessons for implementation. According to Minister Ha Hung Cuong , in the month 10/2013 , judgment enforcement agencies have conducted two case anymore death by lethal injection in the form of Son La and Hai Phong .In the report , the Minister Ha Hung Cuong stressed that death by lethal injection is still slow . Currently the number is rapidly increasing prison created enormous pressure for the detention , detention facilities are lacking . Currently reviewing proposals focus detained persons sentenced to death camps in southern and northern camp .
Earlier, on 1/7/2011 enforcement of criminal law has been in effect , Vietnam is no longer applicable to death by firing squad instead is lethal injection . To prepare for the implementation of this project , the Ministry of Public Security in collaboration with a number of agencies 5 base construction execution in these areas , including Hanoi .However, due to difficulties in the preparation of poisons, enforcement forces and facilities to the implementation of the death penalty by lethal injection was delayed .
After that , the Government issued Decree amending the implementation of the death penalty . Accordingly, the use of prescribed drugs for executions of 3 types : sensory loss drugs , drugs and drugs listed musculoskeletal system of the heart to stop functioning .
Each prisoner will be given a dose of the three drugs mentioned above . Injections will be transmitted directly into the veins of death and follow 3 -step process : Injection sensory loss , in the case of prisoners of consciousness is not lost until given further visual loss .Next, prisoners will be given medication lists musculoskeletal system and finally injections to stop the heart's activity .Thuy Van ( General Employees , DT )

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Declaration of Sharia in Brunei

Brunei is considered an abolitionist country. No known executions have occurred in Brunei since 1957. All that ends today with the declaration of implementation of Sharia law.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in a speech that a new Sharia Penal Code had been gazetted Tuesday and would "come into force six months hereafter and in phases".
Based on the details of particular cases, punishments can include stoning to death for adulterers, severing of limbs for theft and flogging for violations ranging from abortion to consumption of alcohol, according to a copy of the code.
"By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled," said the sultan, now 67 years old.
Where is AICHR, the supposed organ of human rights in ASEAN?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

บทนำ abolitionthai

วันต่อต้านโทษประหารชีวิตสากลในปี 2556 นี้ (World Day for Abolition of the Death Penalty) สมาคมสิทธิและเสรีภาพของประชาชน – สสส.(Union for Civil Liberty – UCL) ได้มีการจัดทำเว็บไซต์ภาษาไทยขึ้นเพื่อจุดประสงค์ในการเผยแพร่ความรู้เกี่ยว กับการยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตเพื่อการก้าวไปสู่การยกเลิกโทษดังกล่าวในประเทศ ไทย ซึ่งจะมีการเสนอเรื่องดังกล่าวต่อรัฐสภาในอนาคตอันใกล้รวมถึงให้ประเทศไทย

สิทธิในการมีชีวิต (Right to Life) เป็นสิทธิมนุษยชนขั้นพื้นฐานและเป็นต้นกำเนิดของสิทธิมนุษยชนด้านอื่นๆ สิทธิในการมีชีวิตนี้มักจะถูกกล่าวหาเป็นสิทธิที่ขัดขวางการลงโทษประหาร ชีวิตต่อผู้ซึ่งละเมิดสิทธิในการมีชีวิตของผู้อื่น ซึ่งถ้อยคำเหล่านี้อาจะเป็นสิ่งที่ถูกต้องในอดีตซึ่งเป็นช่วงเวลาที่สังคม ยังไม่ได้มีการพัฒนาระบบกระบวนการยุติธรรมเพื่อรับมือกับอาชญากรรมและปกป้อง ประชาชนในสังคม อย่างไรก็ตาม ในประเทศประชาธิปไตยที่พัฒนาแล้ว ซึ่งกระบวนการยุติธรรมมีประสิทธิภาพในการรับมือกับอาชญากรรมและเป็นเครื่อง มือในการปกป้องประชาชนในสังคม โทษประหารชีวิตกลายเป็นสิ่งที่รุนแรงและโหดร้ายซึ่งไม่ได้ช่วยป้องกันการ เกิดอาชญากรรมร้ายแรงแต่อย่างใด และยังจะเป็นการลดคุณค่าของชีวิตของมนุษย์คนหนึ่งลงด้วย
เรื่องการยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตนี้เป็น เรื่องที่ต้องใช้เวลาในการทำความเข้าใจ และการสำรวจความคิดเห็นของประชาชนโดยที่ไม่ได้ให้ข้อมูลความรู้เกี่ยวกับผล กระทบของโทษประหารชีวิตและเหตุผลว่าทำไมถึงควรยกเลิกโทษดังกล่าว ไม่สามารถนำมาใช้เป็นแนวทางในการทำให้เกิดสิ่งที่ถูกต้องในสังคมได้ เว็บไซต์นี้จะนำเสนอเกี่ยวกับเหตุผลของการต้อง ซึยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตในมุมมองของสิทธิมนุษยชนซึ่งได้รับการยอมรับใน ประชาคมโลกส่วนใหญ่

เรายินดีที่จะรับฟังความคิดเห็นของท่านและตอบคำถามเกี่ยวกับประเด็นการยก เลิกโทษประหารชีวิต หวังว่าการแลกเผลี่ยนทัศนคติในครั้งนี้สามารถทำให้ความกลัวและความสงสัย เกี่ยวกับการยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตนั้นหมดไป และทำให้การใช้โทษประหารชีวิตกลายเป็นสิ่งที่คงอยู่แต่เพียงในประวัติศาสตร์ เท่านั้น

Letter on Abolition to Miinister of Justice from World Coalition and FIDH

H.E. Chaikasem Nitisiri, Minister of Justice
22nd Floor Software Park Building
         Chaeng Wattana Road
         Pakkred, Nonthaburi 11120, Thailand

Paris, 8 October 2013
 Dear Minister of Justice,

On the eve of the 11th World Day Against the Death Penalty, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (World Coalition) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) write to you to urge the Government of Thailand to take immediate steps to abolish the death penalty, an irrevocable, inhuman, cruel and degrading punishment that does not make society safer.

The World Coalition and FIDH also welcome the organization of the expert seminar on moving away from the death penalty in South East Asia by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of Thailand which will take place in Bangkok on 22-23 October 2013.

Thailand is one of the 58 retentionist countries which still carry out the death penalty. The last execution took place in August 2009 when two convicted drug traffickers were executed by lethal injection.
In August 2012, Thailand abolished the death penalty for offenders under 18 years of age and reduced life imprisonment for minors to 50 years. On 16 August 2012, a royal pardon was announced whereby all prisoners who have been sentenced to death and whose cases have reached a final verdict would have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. In December 2010 and 2012, Thailand abstained during the UNGA vote on a resolution for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. It had previously voted against it in 2007 and 2008.

The World Coalition and FIDH hope that these positive steps indicate a growing political will on the part of the Government of Thailand to move progressively and expeditiously towards abolition.

We are concerned, however, that Thai courts continue to hand down new death sentences every year, including for drug-related offenses, in contravention to the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee in 2005. Thailand is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which requires States that still retain the death penalty to restrict its use to only the “most serious crimes”, which drug-related offenses are not.

We further regret that Thailand did not accept the ten recommendations on abolition or moratorium it received from UN Member States at the Universal Periodic Review in October 2011, and urge Thailand to reconsider its position on these important recommendations.

The global trend towards abolition is strong and unmistakable. Two of Thailand’s fellow ASEAN Member States, Cambodia and the Philippines, have abolished the death penalty while no executions have been reported in Burma and Laos in the last decade. According to the United Nations, approximately 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium, either in law or in practice. Many countries have abolished the death penalty when public opinion was still in favour of it, and this demonstrates that political courage is needed to steer societies towards a more compassionate and less violent future, and to ensure the full respect for the right to life, as guaranteed by the ICCPR.

Thailand’s second National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2013) includes the review of laws which permit capital punishment and the replacement of capital punishment with life imprisonment as indicators of success. The Human Rights Plan will be renewed this year and the World Coalition and FIDH encourage Thailand to make abolition of the death penalty one of the key recommendations for the third Human Rights Plan.

Thank you for your serious consideration of our recommendations and we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,
WCADP President

Karim Lahidji
FIDH President  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Introducing a Sister Site

Dear followers of deathpenaltythailand,
The original concept of this site was that it would contain posts in both Thai and English. However, the news sources are mostly in English and a bottleneck in translation has resulted in a patent ascendency of the English language. Which ill serves Thai followers. Meanwhile, the cause of abolition in Thailand has been advancing. from a dream perspective to quasi real plans to attain abolition.
The nub of the problem is a lack of political will to achieve abolition as explained in a recent post. However, the word in the street is that the will of the Thai people must be consulted on any movement for abolition. Well and good, but we know already what the response of uninformed opinion will be.
There is no programme of providing the Thai people with information on the arguments for abolition and why the trend to abolition has become so strong a worldwide current. 
UCL responds to this situation by dedicating a 100 per cent Thai language website to meet this need. Some of the material will be mined from deathpenaltythailand. Other parts will be inspired by the unique requirements of a Thai site.
We warmly invite Thai readers of deathpenaltythailand to patronise the new Thai site. Our English language followers may browse a little to see what the new site may offer. 
While the English language site is enabled by a wish and a prayer, more material support is needed to launch a Thai site. We gratefully acknowledge modest support by the European Union to ensure the first six months of this site. There is no doubting the sincerity and dedication of our European partners to the cause of abolition of the death penalty. An appreciation of the inalienable value of human life is Europe at its best. It was born with the Greek miracle, birthstone of humanism and democracy, nurtured in the renaissance and the rediscovery that man is the measure of all things, brought to maturity in the age of enlightenment, tested in the fire of fascism and Nazism, and proclaimed in the glorious Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when European thinkers discovered that their ideals had common ground with the ideals of history and development in all cultures of the world, as exemplified in the first article that all men are brothers, "and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". The site URL is

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

World Day Against the Death Penalty

10th October marked the 11th World Day against the death penalty. We mark the day by reactions
 World Day 1
"Justice that kills is not justice", 42 countries that have signed a joint call for the abolition of the death penalty believe.
According to the signatories, death penalty meant inherent inhumanity.  "The death penalty is not only an intolerable affront to human dignity, its use goes hand in hand with numerous violations of the human rights of the condemned and their families. Moreover, capital punishment has no positive impact on crime prevention or security and does not in any way repair the harm done to the victims and their families."
"The aim of our appeal is not to deliver a lecture, but to share our experience as well as our conviction. If the history of the abolition of the death penalty in our various countries has taught us anything, it is that the path is long and hard. Capital punishment was not repealed overnight. Its abolition became a reality only as a result of increasing awareness and constant collective effort. It was through perseverance and in gradual stages that the number of executions fell, the list of crimes punishable by death was narrowed, justice became more transparent, de facto moratoriums on executions were established and that - finally - the death penalty disappeared. It is this process that countries that still carry out executions in the name of justice must go through."
This joint call to abolish the death penalty is signed by the following ministers of foreign affairs:
Ditmir Bushati (Albania), Gilbert Saboya Sunyé (Andorra), Michael Spindelegger (Austria), Didier Reynders (Belgium), Zlatko Lagumd?ija (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Kristian Wigenin (Bulgaria), Vesna Pusić (Croatia), Ioannis Kasoulides (Cyprus), Jan Kohout (Czech Republic), Villy Søvndal (Denmark), Urmas Paet (Estonia), Erkki Tuomioja (Finland), Laurent Fabius (France), Nikola Poposki (FYR Macedonia), Guido Westerwelle (Germany), Evangelos Venizelos (Greece), János Martonyi (Hungary), Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson (Iceland), Eamon Gilmore (Ireland), Emma Bonino (Italy), Edgars Rinkēvičs (Latvia), Aurelia Frick (Liechtenstein), Linas Antanas Linkevičius (Lithuania), Jean Asselborn (Luxembourg), George Vella (Malta), Natalia Gherman (Moldova), José Badia (Monaco), Igor Lukšić (Montenegro), Frans Timmermans (Netherlands), Espen Barth Eide (Norway), Rui Machete (Portugal), Titus Corlățean (Romania), Pasquale Valentini (San Marino), Ivan Mrkić (Serbia), Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), Karl Erjavec (Slovenia), José Manuel García-Margallo (Spain), Carl Bildt (Sweden), Didier Burkhalter (Switzerland), Ahmet Davutoğlu (Turkey), Leonid Koschara (Ukraine) and William Hague (United Kingdom).

World Day 2
From a meeting held in the Faculty of Law of the University of Kabul:
The questions and remarks raised by the audience (mainly students from the faculty of law of Kabul and NGO activists invited) showed a deep and sincere inclination in favor of death penalty.
As Afghanistan is at war (and has been during the last 35 years), it is understandable ; Robert Badinter mentioned in his "famous" speech in 1981 : war time and abolition are not compatible.
The debate was calm and interesting but for the Afghan students, it's clear that the death penalty is needed
- to deter criminals
- to punish criminals
- in a country where the police is weak
- in a country where the justice system is weak
- in a country where terrorism is widespread
- in a country where sharia law is a source of law (and sharia law allows in some specific cases and under specific circumstances the death penalty)
- in a country that has no money to keep detainees in prison for their whole life
- in a country where the prisons are not well guarded and criminals can easily escape.

World  Day 3
          Statement by the African Commission on World Day against the Death Penalty
On 10 October 2013, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), joins the rest of the world in celebrating the 11th World Day against the Death Penalty. The theme for this year’s celebration is: ‘’Stop Crime, Not Lives’’.

Scientific research on the impact of the death penalty has shown that its dissuasive aspects are not more effective than those of other forms of punishment, such as life in prison. By executing murderers, child rapists and other perpetrators of barbaric acts in order to calm the grief of families of victims, we are moving closer to the notion of vengeance which brings to mind the ancient era of private justice when victims and their families took the law into their own hands. The death penalty, by its absolute and irreparable nature, is incompatible with any policy to reform offenders, is against any system based on respect for human beings, impedes the unity and reconciliation of people emerging from conflict or serious crimes, and jeopardises criminal justice by making it absolute whereas it has to remain attentive to possible errors.  
In Africa, 17 countries have abolished the death penalty in their laws and justice systems, while 20 other States have observed a de facto moratorium for more than ten years. African states that have legally abolished the death penalty are Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, SaoTome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, and Togo.
The African Commission is concerned by the wave of executions that have recently been carried out in some African countries, in particular in the Edo State of Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Botswana and The Gambia where nine people who had spent years on death row were secretly executed.  
The African Commission is further concerned at the increasing number of death sentences handed down by courts which increases the number of people on death row.
 Justice Minister of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has thrown his weight behind the anti-death penalty campaign and pledged to push for the abolition of capital punishment.
Mnangagwa, who is a death penalty survivor, was addressing activists after a march organized by Amnesty International Zimbabwe to mark the World’s Death Penalty Day in Harare.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Death Penalty in Thailand

Death Penalty Statistics - 30th September 2013

Condemned Prisoners
Legal Process Complete                         112
Before Appeal Court                              430
Before Supreme Court                           152
     Total                                                 694

Legal Process Complete - Details
  Crime                           Male         Female           Total
  Drug Cases                    41                8                  49
  Homicide Cases             62                1                  63
  Combined                    103                9                112

Source: Department of Corrections
As provided to Union for Civil Liberty: 7th October 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Where does Thailand stand?

Prospects for abolition in Thailand
One: prolongation of present status. Statements have been made by high ranking officials of the Ministry of Justice that further executions are unlikely. In 2019 ten years will have passed since the last executions and Thailand will be a considered ‘de facto’ abolitionist by the international community. However ‘de facto’ abolition may be abandoned at any time and is not a true abolition which consists of explicit legal declaration and acceptance of the requirements of international conventions.
Two: meanwhile Thailand is pursuing a plan for abolition first proposed in the second five year human
rights plan, 2009 to 20013, and reappearing in more detailed form in the draft of a third five year plan, 2014 – 2018.This latest proposal outlines a programme which will include research on required legal and constitutional changes, plans on consultation of public opinion in four regional meetings, and a subsequent debate in parliament on the death penalty. The programme is being organized by the Rights and Liberties Protection Department of the Ministry of Justice, supported by an academic team in charge of the research and presentation of the results.
The proposals of the 3rd Human Rights Plan are defective in several ways. Abolition of the death penalty in any country depends on political leadership and a strong will to achieve abolition. Such a will and leadership are absent in Thailand. This is reflected in an inadequate budget of two million baht available to the Department responsible for the planned activities, and the lack of any public statement of government intent or interest.
Besides, there is no mention of a campaign to inform the public of the issues involved in abolition or retention of the death penalty.
The policy outlined in option One may be seen as an avoidance of the issue by politicians not daring to favour an unpopular policy.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Politicians fail Thailand, judges can lead the way

The World Congress against the Death Penalty recently called upon Judges in countries whose books still retain the capital punishment to use their discretionary power to individualise sentences, to not sentence to death or to encourage juries to decide not to condemn to death.

Countries Retaining the Death Penalty, 30th June 2013

Retentionist: 40
Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Botswana, Chad, China, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine*, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan*, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Vietnam and Yemen.
Countries which are liberal democracies in bold type
*indicates countries not members of UN
Source: Hands Off Cain

Friday, June 28, 2013

Aftermath of the World Congress - back to Thailand

Thai Government spokesperson reveals Thai position on death penalty
In a discussion entitled Global Trend toward Abolition of the Death Penalty hosted on 27 June 2013 by Department of Rights and Liberty Protection Mr. Nitee Jitsawang, deputy director of the Thailand Institute of Justice spoke on the Thai position on the death penalty. He declared the Thai objective as de facto abolition, a status commonly ascribed to countries which have not executed for a ten year period. He indicated Thailand’s transition in the UN vote on a Moratorium from opposition to abstention as a major stepping stone on the way to abolition. He identified other major advances Thailand’s legislation passed in 2012 to withhold the death penalty for those under 18 years of age, and for pregnant woman. On the other hand he pointed to public opinion in favour of the death penalty as the great obstacle to abolition in Thailand. Nevertheless, the policy of waiting for the status of de facto abolition in 2019 would bring the day closer when Thailand would abandon the death penalty. He pointed out the huge task for government of constructing high security prisons in remote areas should the government decide to substitute permanent imprisonment without parole to replace the penalty of death.

This is sorry stuff indeed, when compared with the enthusiasm and convictions of the recent World Congress on Abolition. At the Congress the status of defacto abolitionist was declared ineffective. Such abolition is unstable and can be abandoned at will as in the cases of India and Pakistan. There is no substitute for a legal engagement to abolish the death penalty such as is contained in the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Cultural and Political Rights, or even formal response to the UN Moratorium call. Mr. Nitee is surely aware that Thailand’s halting advance to abstention from voting was due to pressure on the Ministry of Justice by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is more attuned to the winds of change in the UN. The other large steps claimed by Mr. Nitee are merely official formulation of decisions long made before to spare the lives of under 18s and pregnant women, although in the latter case execution may still follow the birth of the child. In fact we are aware of only one execution of a woman, pregnant or not, in recent Thai practice, and one case of an under 18 where the actual age was not fully clear. It is deceptive to claim these measures as large steps in Thailand’s path to abolition.
The indication that Thailand is considering replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole is the most worrying indication of Thailand’s intent. The speaker conceded that such a punishment could be worse than the death penalty, and by perverted logic appeared to suggest that this was an argument to retain the death penalty. Whatever, we will fight against such a policy with the same vigour as we oppose the death penalty itself. 
Finally, the contention of the speaker that public opposition to abolition is the reason for government hesitation is specious. Three years after declaring a policy of abolition in its 2nd human rights plan the government has made no attempt to inform or educate the public on the matter. Will public opinion change of its own accord by 2019? 
In a message to the World Congress 2013 the UN Secretary General identified a lack of political will on the part of authorities as the main cause of persistence of the death penalty. As in Thailand.

The time scheduled for the Global Trend discussion was three hours, two hours for invited speakers and one hour for questions and discussion. There were three brief reactions from civil society organizations. One was from a Prachathai journalist who attended the Madrid conference and who was told by the organizers that direct invitation had been issued to Thai officials and members of government, but that there had been no response. There were no further questions or discussion. The meeting closed one hour ahead of schedule, an indication of interest in the subject!

World Congress on Abolition 4 - Death Penalty as Torture

“Considering the death penalty as torture in international law would not be another step, it is the ultimate step to establish that the death penalty is illegal all the time, everywhere and under any circumstance,” Sylvie Bukhari-de Pontual, president of FIACAT (a World Coalition member organisation) told the 5th World Congress Against the Death Penalty.
International jurisprudence, including that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, considers the absolute prohibition of torture to apply at all times to all states, even those that have not ratified international conventions against torture.
Although United Nations reports have established close links between the death penalty and torture, Bukhari-de Pontual regretted that “human rights bodies are still avoiding this question and talk about ‘cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment’” instead.
Yet Vincent Warren, executive director of the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights (another World Coalition member), left no room for doubt. He said clinical studies of people sentenced to death had demonstrated the existence of a “death row syndrome” including four disorders: sense of helplessness and defeat, sense of diffuse danger, emotional emptiness and loneliness, and decline in mental and physical acuity.
“Each lays the foundation for torture. What else would it take to convince the states that it is effectively torture?” Warren asked.
(From  World Coalition site, see link)

Thailand appears satisfied to achieve a state of abolition in practice, by continuing with death sentences at a rate of one a week, but emptying the cells periodically by Royal commutation of sentence. However, this cycle leaves the condemned for eight to ten years in the state of uncertainty of prisoners condemned to death, in the awful conditions of Bang Kwang prison and with no programme of rehabilitation. For what purpose?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

World Congress on Abolition 3

The garrotte, instrument of execution made famous by the paintings of Goya 200 years ago was last used in Spain in 1974. It consists of an iron collar fitted around the neck of the convict. Turning the handle at the other end broke the neck and caused "instant" death. More often than not, inept use led to strangulation and half an hour of agony for the dying person. One of these instruments was exhibited in the Congress Hall during the Congress. As shown in the image, the person executed was provided a crucifix to find what comfort he might in the death of his Saviour. One might recall that for 200 years after the death of Christ Christians were opposed to the death penalty. On becoming citizens of  Rome they accepted the authority of the state to execute.
Few, if any, of those attending the Congress were seen observing this awful symbol of the death penalty.

World Congress on Abolition 2

In a recent survey of US death penalty practice CCR (Centre for Constitutional Rights) and FIDH (Federation Internationale des Droits Humains) report:
In California, the state with the largest death row population – 752 people – prisoners spend an average of two decades on an overcrowded death row as they wait for attorneys to be assigned and courts to rule on their post-conviction claims.  In Louisiana, death row prisoners face blistering heat over 100 degrees, scalding hot water and solitary confinement, and they receive little rehabilitation or recreation.  African Americans are overrepresented on death row in both states. While they make up only 32 percent of the general population in Louisiana, they represent 65 percent of the state’s death row. In California, African Americans make up 6.7 percent of the general population, but 36 percent of those on death row. Juries in death penalty cases are overwhelmingly white in both states.

World Congress on Abolition 1

5th World Congress for Abolition of the Death Penalty: Madrid 12th – 15th June, 2013
Since 2001, each three years a world congress for abolition of the death penalty is held. Until the present, the world meeting was located in a European city, with the exception of 2004, when it was held in Montreal, no doubt to bring the message of abolition closer to the US, one of the bastions of execution in a world making steady progress to total abolition.
Earlier congresses began on a note of celebration, welcoming new adherents to abolition. At the 2010 Congress in Geneva, there was an atmosphere of high hope with a prediction that the death penalty could be banished for ever by as early as the year 2015.
In Madrid, 2013, there was little expectation of such an early victory over the age old curse and aberration of human rights. The promise implied in the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 is still the mast head of the movement for abolition: Article 3 “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. In 1948 only 8 countries had abolished the death penalty. Currently, more than 150 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it. Last year, 174 United Nations Member States were "execution-free". The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, being entrusted by the UN with special responsibility for achieving the ideal of the Universal Declaration, keeps tally of the state of abolition.
He addressed a ringing invitation to the delegates of the 5th World Congress. In a statement read at the official opening, he implored political leaders in countries across the world that still have the death penalty in their justice systems to abolish it, saying that the campaign to eliminate the death penalty as a form of punishment has mainly faced resistance from political leaders. In Thailand, the attitude of our leaders is rather one of apathy and disinterest, but the outcome is the same, persistence of death sentences in legal process. The secretary General added: "The taking of life is too absolute and irreversible for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by a legal process. Too often, multiple layers of judicial oversight still fail to reverse wrongful death penalty convictions for years and even decades."
Shadows, alluded to by Ban Ki Moon, were cast on the 5th Congress by a persistence of the death penalty which appear to contrast with the steady advance to abolition celebrated in earlier congresses. It appears that the gains of the past which led to the elimination of the death penalty in the 47 nation block of the Council of Europe, in the European Union, in the majority of American states, in many members of the Organization of African States, have reached geographical and ideological limits. In these countries, abolition of the death penalty was favoured by a cultural unanimity, which made it possible to impose it as a condition of membership, or to declare it as a favoured objective. Outside these regions, the advance to abolition must be made one country at a time, even if membership of the United Nations implies acceptance of the Universal Declaration. But the Declaration is not a binding treaty, and clear though its stand may be on the inviolability of life, nation members can and do continue to claim exemption from compulsory adherence. Some nations, notably Singapore, go even further and submit a formal objection to the UN sponsored motion calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, first passed by majority vote of the UN General Assembly in 2007 and repeated with a stronger voice in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
The Programme of the 5th Congress revealed the serious concern of the world movement in the choice of topic of its plenary sessions. The first was devoted to what is now referred to as the MENA (Middle East and North African) region. The question asked was “Which arguments in favour of abolition from a sociological, religious and legal point of view? (sic)”. The crux of the matter is that the states of the MENA region are Muslim states where religion is paramount and Koranic injunctions of capital punishment are considered mandatory. In a huge plenary session it is not possible to have an open discussion. Exchange of viewpoint took place in parallel workshops which allowed participation of delegates. Specific subjects were, “Terrorism and abolition”, “Iran: What are the political instruments to try to stop execution waves”
The theme of terrorism was often heard throughout the Congress, referring to crimes for which some states were most insistent on retaining the death penalty. While states which retain the death penalty are increasingly prepared to restrict its use, they insist on its retention as a supposed remedy for the worst of the worst of crimes, namely terrorism. Those who oppose the death penalty for all crimes, respond that terrorists do not fear death and allowing the death penalty for terrorism is rewarding the terrorist with martyrdom!
The second day of the Congress, 14th June, began with a second plenary session on “Asia”. Asia, referred to as “The New Frontier” in a seminal work on the death penalty in Asia, is the area where most executions in the world occur. China alone executes more than all other countries combined. The exact number is considered a state secret and unknown.  A conservative estimate is 7280 per year but a speculative figure reaches 10,000. In Asia too there occurs another sombre development, the reappearance of the death penalty in countries such as India and Pakistan which had been considered as de facto abolitionist, a title give to countries which were recorded as execution free for a period of ten years. A return to executions is usually ascribed to the need to counter terrorism. So central is the Asian region to the total of world executions that there is a strong movement to locate the next Congress in three years time to an Asian country, facilitating greater Asian participation and tackling the death penalty on its most tenacious ground.
Spain, and Madrid’s majestic Palacio Municipal de Congresso, provided a congenial meeting place for the huge congress against the death penalty. In a central room of the congress was exhibited a garrotte, the grotesque instrument of execution in Spain, which had been used for hundreds of years to inflict death, last used in 1974. This instrument of horror is a stark reminder of the heritage of suffering we are now working to end, and to remind countries which have already abolished the death penalty that we speak from sad experience and not from any position of moral superiority.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Buddhist Lesson on Penalty of Death

The Silent Prince
In ‘The Silent Prince”, Somtow Sucharitkul presents in operatic form a Buddhist lesson on human accountability and the death penalty. The opera relates the pre-history of the Buddha in a previous incarnation. Such pre-incarnation stories are a technique of relating isolated instances of Buddhist teaching where the Buddha, not yet enlightened, is faced with a moral ambiguity, the solution of which is an essential step on the path to enlightenment.
In the tale of the Silent Prince the gods in heaven, who are also subject to the cycle of rebirth, hear the plea of an anguished queen, which echoes the sorrow of the human race.  She and her husband the king are without child or heir to the Kingdom of Kashi in Benares. A deva, to be the future Buddha, is sent to be born and is named Temiya.
A few years later the King decides that the time has come for Tamiya to move beyond childhood, and begin to assume responsibilities of kingship. On a day of judgement a criminal is brought before the King and the sovereign delegates to his son the powerr to order the execution. The dilemma is set. The most basic tenet of Buddhism is that all life is sacred, to order even the just death of a criminal would block the path to enlightenment of the future Buddha. As the boy raises his hand to obey his father, a moral obligation of his state in life, Temiya learns from the God of the Underworld that in a previous existence he was once King of Benares, and that the executions he had ordered, led to delays in his reincarnation for millions of pain filled years. The boy withdraws into silence, and the King himself executes the criminal before him.
Years pass and Temiya remains silent. The King tempts him with beautiful girls, and a day of full regality to receive the homage of the population. But neither one attraction nor the other lures Temiya to break his silence. In desperation, the King orders his closest servant to take Temiya to the forest, to kill and bury him. He promises the Queen other children who will fulfill their wishes of royal succession.
The servant leads Temiya to the forest and begins to dig the grave. However, he is overcome by a vision of the future Buddha, and at last Temiya speaks to explain why he has been silent and urges the servant not to interrupt his long journey to enlightenment which will take many more lifetimes to unblock the secret to human suffering.
But the order of a King cannot be unsaid. When the King and Queen hear the story of Temiya they abdicate their royalty, leave Benares, and live simply as disciples of their
son. The heavens open and the gods themselves rejoice that a further step to enlightenment has been made.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Kampong Boy - M Ravi

M. Ravi is a good lawyer. He is good at what he does, he does it for good reasons, and, above all, he is a good man. His autobiography ‘Kampong Boy’ begins the story in his village. Reminded of the African proverb, that “it takes a whole village to raise a single child”, we see Ravi make his first advances in human compassion in his own troubled family, and in the mixture of helpful support of some as well as disdain of others, that make up a village environment. He grew up in an Indian culture, with a feel for the Tamil language which he mastered well, and which fostered the eloquence that was to make him a great performer in courts. In Indian dance he was less proficient, unaware that enthusiasm and energy were not quite sufficient to master an art that requires the coaching of a mentor. But the dance has given him immense personal satisfaction, a philosophy of life, a means of creative expression, and a refuge in times of stress.
In the context of this page our interest is above all in his empathy for ‘les miserables’, those on the edge of life who are rejected by society and condemned to death. It is utterly moving to read of his interest in taking up the most hopeless cases, of those with barely days to live, to whom every avenue of escape from the death penalty appears closed by Singapore’s robotic system of justice. As he scans the impenetrable walls of Singapore’s justice, his legal and humane genius discovers barely discernable cracks which can be exploited. Tragedy in his own life has given him a sensitivity for the centres of pain in the lives of the victims of the monstrous injustice of the death penalty. He travels to meet the families of the condemned and, literally, becomes members of those families, returning with some token possession of the condemned, as a talisman to inspire their defense. Some cases he has lost, as when a judge refused a delay an execution to await the result of a procedural appeal but, callously granted time to take leave of his client.
His most notable success is the case of  Yong Vui Kong, the self confessed young drug mule, who by all the logic of Singapore’s inexorable mandatory death penalty should be long dead, but whose life has now been extended by a further three years due to Ravi’s exertions for another ‘kampong boy’. While the case continues, it is clear that Singapore’s judiciary has lost the stomach to send a technically guilty but ethically innocent child to the gallows. This change of heart has even extended to Malaysia where sympathy for Yong, a Malaysian citizen, has caused the Malaysian government to make unprecedented representation for cancellation of his death penalty
Here lies the ultimate contradiction of the death penalty and its executioners. You may dress the execution in all the paraphernalia of your trade, solemn courts and codes of law, black caps, last meals and cigarettes, rolls of drums, but who are you and what are you to abrogate the right of life and death over another human being?
“The death of any man diminishes me” wrote John Donne.”There but for the grace of God go I” said a saint as he watched a man being led to the gallows. Ravi, for his part gives example of a fight tooth and nail against all executions. Meanwhile he invites us to join while he dances Lasy, the gentle form of South Indian dance, and Tandava the violent and dangerous side of dance. Perhaps we too will catch a glimpse of chakras, the spiritual energy centre which inspires him
 Kampong Boy: M. Ravi, Ethos Books Singapore, 2013