Thursday, December 31, 2015

Where is Somchai? Where has he disappeared to?

On 12th March 2004, human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelapaijit was abducted in full daylight on one of the busiest streets in Bangkok. The irony is that the answers to the questions posed by his daughter Pratubjit are well known. But the evidence for his abduction, a record of telephone conversations between his abductors has been formally rejected by the Supreme Court on 29th December and the police charged with his abduction declared innocent.
The original computer records of the mobile telephone calls no longer exist, and the print out of the record was unsigned.
I was present in the Court at the original trial and saw the judge call a Court intermission while he consulted on the meaning of a type of evidence new to Thailand. The omission of a signature was surely negligent but why was it not remedied at the time of submission or before the Appeal hearing?

Water under the bridge: Justice failed and abductions continue. Government officials enjoy immunity and impunity to the extent that the very notion of justice is corrupted.

English version (abridged) of Koh Tao Court ruling.

                                        Koh Samui Provincial Court Newsletter (3 pages)
Dated 24 December 2015
Koh Samui Provincial Public Prosecutor, the Plaintiff, brought case against the two Defendants, namely Mr. Zaw Lin (aka Zoren) no surname, and Mr. Wai Phyu (aka Win) no surname in Criminal Case (Black Case No. 2040/2557) at Koh Samui Provincial Court. Today, the Court has rendered the judgment and read the verdict to the Plaintiff and the two Defendants as follows;

The Plaintiff accused the Defendants of committing the offences of illegal entry and illegal residing in the Kingdom of Thailand; jointly murdering Mr. David William Miller, the first victim; jointly gang raping Ms. Hannah Victoria Witheridge, the second victim; and jointly murdering the second victim for the purpose of concealing other offences committed by the Defendants; and the second Defendant wrongfully stealing the first victim’s mobile phone and sunglasses. The offences were committed at Koh Tao sub-district, Koh Phangan district, Surat Thaini province. The Plaintiff therefore requests that the Court render punishment to the Defendants in accordance with sections 83, 91, 276, 288, 289, 334 and 335 of the Penal Code and sections 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 38, 58, 62 and 83 of the Immigration Act B.E. 2522, and that the Court order the second Defendant to return or reimburse 15,000 Baht to the descendants of the first victim and to return the exhibits i.e. the mobile phone and the hoe
The first Defendant pleaded not guilty.
The second Defendant pleaded guilty only to the charges of illegal entry and illegal residing in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The Court considered evidence submitted by both the Plaintiff and the Defendants and resolved that the location where the Defendants were sitting was not far from the crime scene, and from such location it was not far away and was within eyesight to notice both victims walking to the crime scene. The medical examiner who conducted autopsy on the bodies of both victims has found the DNAs of more than one offender in the vagina and rectum of the second victim. This forensic method of evidence collection is commonly accepted under international standards as an effective proof of a person’s identity, as the DNAs having existed and having been collected lawfully before the arrest of both Defendants. Therefore the DNA testing result can be linked to and is admissible to the identity of offenders.
By comparing the evidence DNAs with the DNAs of both Defendants, it is found that the DNA collected from the semen sample in the second victim’s vagina matches the second Defendant’s DNA, while the DNAs collected from the semen samples in the second victim’s rectum match the DNAs of both Defendants. According to the DNA testing result, the Evidence Document marked as Jor.12, the offenders’ DNAs match the DNAs of both Defendants in all 16 matching categories, which clearly prove identities of the persons under internationally accepted standards. The DNA testing result is therefore persuasive evidence and is credible of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
The Plaintiff’s Expert Witness who collected and tested the tissue specimen of both Defendants testified that the specimen were collected and sent to the lab without delay. Therefore, there were no opportunities where police officers, medical examiners or forensic scientists who test the offenders’ DNAs could possibly bring the semen or seminal fluids, from the Defendants’ bodies, at such time, into the vagina and the rectum of the second victim.
Moreover, the Plaintiff also presented a witness who testified that the second Defendant gave the mobile phone of the first victim to the witness not long after the crime occurred. This evidence, thus, establishes the fact leading to the second Defendant’s involvement in this case. The Plaintiff’s submitted evidence, being the DNA testing result whereby the offenders’ DNAs match the Defendants’, the material evidence at crime scene, as well as the circumstantial evidence both before and after the incident prove beyond reasonable doubt …
… that both Defendants are the offenders who raped the second victim. These evidence are sufficiently reliable without prejudice to the facts, circumstances of the confessions made by both Defendants under and during the arrest or interrogation stages.
Even the Plaintiff was unable to identify, during cross examination, which of the Defendants had raped the second victim before or after, nonetheless the Expert Witness Pol. Col. Dr. Pawat, M.D. testified that the tear wound at the lower part of the second victim’s vulva was bleeding, which indicates that the second victim was still alive while being raped, and that this wound must have occurred before the severe wound on her head which caused immediate death. The forensic evidences clearly establish that both Defendants raped the second victim until ejaculation. Moreover, the circumstances infer that both have conspired in committing the offences by way of taking turn to rape the second victim. Thus, their acts amount to jointly committing rape of woman who is not wife in the form of gang rape. In consideration of the wounds at the head and the face of the second victim, it is found that all wounds are severe and the pattern matched with the blade and the edge of the exhibited hoe. The bloodstain of the second victim is also found on the exhibited hoe, which removes all questionable doubts that the hoe might not be as the weapon to harm the second victim. The serious wounds on the face which occurred after the tear wound at the vulva while the second victim being raped reasonably imply that after the second victim was raped at the crime scene, she was then beaten to death by the exhibited hoe. These circumstances determine the cause and contribution undeniably leading to the fact that both two Defendants used the exhibited hoe to beat and slash the second victim at the crime scene.
The circumstances of the case indicate that after both Defendants raped the second victim, both men used the exhibited hoe, being a big sharp solid object, to hit and slash the second victim numerous times. This caused tear wounds so deep that the base of the brain was visible, and caused the forehead bone at the left eye socket to deform.  This indicates that both Defendants have jointly used the exhibited hoe to strike the second victim at their full force until death with the intention to murder the victim. The acts of both Defendants amount to the offence of jointly committing murder for the purpose of concealing other offences. The facts and circumstances from the Prosecutor’s examinations appear that the first victim was harmed at the crime scene almost at the same time as the offences committed to the second victim, and caused the first victim to die subsequently. The characteristics of the wounds on the first victim’s body match the shape of the exhibited hoe. These circumstances infer that both Defendants used the exhibited hoe as the weapon to harm the first victim, in order to commit rape to the second victim, which amounts to the offence to jointly committing murder as submitted in the Plaint.
On the charges of illegally entering and residing in the Kingdom of Thailand against the first Defendant, Clause 1.1 and 1.2 in the Plaint, the Prosecutor was unable to produce any evidence during examinations that the first Defendant was not permitted to enter and reside in the Kingdom at the time of Plaint, and the first Defendant was able to present his passport in court. In this regards, the prior interrogation of the first Defendant, therefore, cannot self-incriminate himself for both alledged immigration offences.
On the charge of theft at night time against the second Defendant, the Prosecutor presented a witness who confirmed that the second Defendant gave him the exhibited mobile phone after the incident, claiming that the phone belongs to a foreigner who had forgotten his phone at the shop. In addition, a witness testified that the second Defendant confessed during interrogation that he had taken the mobile phone and the sunglasses of the first victim after he had harmed and raped the second victim. Where the circumstances infer that the second Defendant was one of the offenders who jointly harm the first victim at the scene, likewise the second Defendant could have a chance to steal the first victim’s mobile phone from the crime scene without difficulty. However, the Prosecutor was unable to seize the sunglasses of the first victim as the exhibit evidence for this case. Also, the Prosecutor lacks witnesses to confirm the second Defendant’s involvement in the possession of the sunglasses after the incident. Thus the Court admits only that the second Defendant wrongfully stole the exhibited mobile phone.
The arguments of both Defendants on the DNA testing result, the Burmese interpreter, the provision of lawyer during interrogation, or the claim that both Defendants had been physically harmed and tortured to confess following their arrest were lacking in evidence to prove as claimed. They are unsubstantiated claims, and immaterial for the purpose of rebutting the Prosecutor’s DNA testing evidence, and unable to affect the Court’s consideration. The evidence submitted by both Defendants could not dismiss the evidence presented by the Prosecutor. Whereas the second Defendant had wrongfully stole the first victim’s mobile phone, the act of the second Defendant amounts to torts, and the second Defendant is obliged to return or to reimburse the value of stolen property to the descendants of the first victim by virtue of Section 438 Paragraph Two of the Civil and Commercial Code.
The Court rules that both Defendants are guilty of sections 288, 289 (7), 276 Paragraph Three in conjunction with section 83 of the Penal Code. The second Defendant is also guilty of section 335 (1) Paragraph One of the Penal Code and sections 12 (1), 18 Paragraph Two and 62 Paragraph One of the Immigration Act B.E. 2522. The acts of the two Defendants were found guilty under several offences. Section 91 of the Penal Code provides that the Court shall determine punishment for each and every offence. For the offence of murdering the first victim, the sentence for both Defendants is death penalty. For the offence of murdering the second victim for the purpose of concealing other offences committed by the Defendants, the sentence for both Defendants is death penalty. For the offence of raping a woman who is not wife in form of gang rape, the sentence for both Defendants is 20-year imprisonment. For the offence of theft at night time, the sentence for the second Defendant is 2-year imprisonment. For the offence of entering the Kingdom not via legally-specified channel and time, the offence of entering the Kingdom without a valid passport and without permission by law, the offence of entering the Kingdom not via immigration channel and not completing the forms prescribed by law, all alledged offence are based on the similar wrongdoing and intention. The Court considered that these are the same conduct which gave rise to multiple offence. Since each offence carries the same scale of punishment, under Section 90 of the Penal Code, the charge of illegal entering into the Kingdom, shall be applied to the second Defendant having the sentence of 6-month imprisonment. For the offence of residing in the Kingdom without permission, the punishment for the second Defendant is 6-month imprisonment. The second Defendant’s confession on this charge of illegal entering and residing in the Kingdom without permission, established mitigating factor during the trial, the Court thereby reduces the sentence for each offence by half. 
Regarding the confession of the second Defendant under the interrogation stage for the offence of theft at night time, which facilitated interrogations and led to the seizure of the exhibited mobile phone, the Court reduces the sentence by one-fourth for the offence of theft at night time, Section 78 of the Penal Code, the sentence for the second Defendant thus being 1-year and 6-month imprisonment.  For the offence of illegally entering the Kingdom without permission, the sentence for the second Defendant is 3-month imprisonment. For the offence of illegally residing in the Kingdom without permission, the sentence for the second Defendant is 3-month imprisonment. 
Whereas both Defendants are sentenced with death penalty, the sentence of imprisonments for other offences cannot be included. As a result, only death penalty is imposed on both Defendants. The Court hereby orders that the exhibited hoe be returned to the original owner, and that the second Defendant reimburse 15,000 Baht being the value of the exhibited mobile phone to the descendants of the first victim. Other charges and requests are dismissed.
A full translation is in process.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Koh Tao murders: "A flawed and muddled investigation"

This morning, 24th December, sentence of death was passed on two Myanmar workers,  Zaw Lin and Win Saw, for the murder last year of two young Britons, David Miller and Hannah Witheridge. The headline of the related news item on the BBC website, is a trenchant appraisal of the whole affair, “A flawed and muddled investigation”. The investigation was certainly flawed, the police proved incapable of protecting the site of the murder by using the usual cordoning, allowing crowds to trample the site and disturb who knows what relevant evidence. It became muddled by the early accusations, with little or no evidence, by the police of suspects who quickly proved their innocence. In brief, the two young Burmese admitted guilt, but later claimed their confessions were coerced under torture. Certainly, their rights to legal advice and qualified translators were denied in the time leading up to their confession. The evidence which led to the sentence was DNA samples found on the body of the raped victim, but not on the alleged murder weapon.

The evidence and the sequence of events is detailed and complex. The full BBC account may be read on the website, But this we can say at this stage, there are serious difficulties and questions to be asked, and must be presented to the Court of Appeal for a more reasoned treatment. Meanwhile doubt is justified and the judgement is hardly “beyond reasonable doubt”, the criterion of a valid judgement that involves the death penalty.

Finally, the trial leads to a reflection on the death penalty itself. The trial has raised immense interest and strong feelings regarding guilt or innocence. In such cases the truth often outs only long after the event. Many who have been imprisoned for long years are released. But for those who have been executed there is little impetus to continue the search for truth; a posthumous declaration is cold justice indeed. The death penalty serves no purpose in our judicial system and may cause great injustice.  

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Vietnam Abolishes Death Penalty for Drug Crimes

Thai woman sentenced to death on drug charge in Vietnam
News of a significant advance in abolition of the death penalty relates to penal code reformation in Vietnam. In South East Asia the majority of death sentences relate to drug related crimes. It is thus of great interest that Vietnam has abolished the death penalty for drug related crimes. However, the full implications of the change are still unclear. We reproduce the following news item from Aljazeera, but await more complete information on the change.
There are at least two Thai women condemned to death in Vietnam as drug couriers. Presumeably their lives will be saved by the new legislation. Meanwhile Indonesia has executed a Vietnamese woman on drug charges despite appeal by the Vietnamese government that she be spared.
The report of the penal code reform will certainly have influence on the execution on drug charge policies of other South East Asian countries.
A revision to the penal code eliminates the death penalty for crimes such as drug possession, fraud and corruption
November 27, 2015 8:11AM ET

Death sentences imposed on corrupt Vietnamese officials will now be commuted to life in prison if they pay back at least 75 percent of the illegal money they made. The change is part of a revised Penal Code that an overwhelming majority passed in the National Assembly on Friday, online newspaper VnExpress reported.
Under the revision, which takes effect July 1, 2016, the country also will abolish the death penalty for seven crimes: surrendering to the enemy, opposing order, destruction of projects of national security importance, robbery, drug possession, drug appropriation and the production and trade of fake food.

The revised law will also spare the lives of those who are 75 years old or older.
The ruling Communist Party has made fighting corruption one of its top priorities. However, some lawmakers had voiced opposition to the changes when they were debated in the assembly in June, arguing that they would weaken the fight against corruption. "This would create a loophole for corrupt officials to use money to trade for their life," state media quoted deputy Do Ngoc Nien as saying at the time.

International human rights groups and some international governments have been urging Vietnam to abolish its death penalty. Local media reports estimate that there are 500 people on death row in the country
Aljazeera Report

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Address to the One with Power to Save Kho Jabing

Dear President Tony Tan Keng Yam
Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 67353135

 I write this letter of appeal for Kho Jabing first sentenced to a mandatory death sentence in 2012, whose petition for clemency was rejected on 19 October.

After amendments to the Penal Code – which allows judges sentencing discretion for certain categories of murder – were enacted in 2013, Kho Jabing’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with 24 strokes of the cane. However, the Prosecution decided to appeal against the outcome of the re-sentencing. On 14 January 2015, Jabing’s death sentence was reinstated after a five-judge panel at the Court of Appeal decided he had exhibited a “blatant disregard for human life” in a 3-2 decision.

The background to this death penalty shows the influence of a word wide reaction against the death penalty, most clearly shown in the five times repeated vote of the UN General Assembly in favour of a universal moratorium on the death penalty. While violence and the most awful crimes continue worldwide, there is a growing realisation that the response to violence must be, not more violence, but a justice limited by mercy. All life is sacred and our refusal to kill as others do in the name of justice, provides the clearest affirmation of the value of life. Capital punishment achieves nothing other than some satisfaction of vengeance accepting the same values as those who kill.

It is the season to make a turn, to value the life of Kho Jabing and others whom we feel driven to kill. Treat him, not in the same coin as he treated another, but allow him to reflect and realise the horror of the act of killing. The day will surely come when he too will value human life above all, and give a lesson to those who linger in violence that there is another path, that of humanity and justice.

Danthong Breen, Senior Advisor and Head of Death Penalty Project                                                             Union for Civil Liberty, Thailand

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

URGENT ACTION: Mercy for Kho Jabing

November 3rd: It appears likely that Kho Jabing will be executed on Friday 6th November.
Execution delayed at lawyer's submission
Please sign petition on Care2 website, click below

Once more a case not beyond reasonable doubt, and a poorest of the poor family background. What possible justification for his killing, revenge, deterrance, maintenance of an outdated savage punishment?

Kho Jabing, a 31-year-old Sarawakian on death row in Singapore, had his clemency petition rejected by the President, on the advice of the Cabinet, on 19 October 2015. He has exhausted all legal avenues and is at risk of being executed soon.

Jabing and fellow Sarawakan Galing Anak Kujat were first sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2010, in a case of robbery with assault which led to the death of construction worker Cao Ruyin in 2008.
In 2011, the Court of Appeal decided to lower the Galing’s charges, and convicted him of robbery with hurt. Galing was then sentenced to 18 years and 6 months in jail, with 19 strokes of the cane. Kho Jabing’s sentence was affirmed, and he remained on death row.
After amendments to the Penal Code – which allows judges sentencing discretion for certain categories of murder – were enacted in 2013, Kho Jabing’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with 24 strokes of the cane. However, the Prosecution decided to appeal against the outcome of the re-sentencing.
On 14 January 2015, Jabing’s death sentence was reinstated after a five-judge panel at the Court of Appeal decided he had exhibited a “blatant disregard for human life” in a 3-2 decision. Both dissenting judges stated that there was “reasonable doubt whether Jabing’s blows were all afflicted when the deceased was laying on the ground”, which made it “unsafe to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he acted in a way which exhibited a blatant disregard for human life”.
The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty has written an open letter (see below) to the Cabinet, calling for mercy for Jabing. We encourage you to do the same. You can send your letter to the following:
President of Singapore
His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam
Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 67353135
Prime Minister of Singapore
Lee Hsien Loong Prime Minister’s Office
Istana Annexe, Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 63328983
Minister of Law and Home Affairs
Mr. K Shanmugam
100 High Street, #08-02 The Treasury, Singapore 179434
Fax: (65) 6332 8842

Dear distinguished Ministers,
We are writing this letter of appeal for Kho Jabing, whose petition for clemency was rejected on 19 October 2015. We urge the Cabinet to reconsider his clemency in light of the fact that there was no unanimous decision even at the highest court of the land, and our learned judges were split in their opinion of whether the death penalty was appropriate in his case.
We also seek the compassion of the Cabinet for the family of Jabing, who have gone through much suffering since his original sentencing. His father passed away while Jabing’s case was ongoing, and Jabing’s sister Jumai believes that her father’s illness prior to his death was due to Jabing’s incarceration, which came as a great blow for him. His mother, who has been unable to work due to health reasons, has lost both her sources of financial support and has been living on the goodwill of her neighbours and minimal state welfare ever since then.
On top of her ill-health, the thought of losing Jabing, her only son, is too much for his mother to bear. We cannot imagine the effect his death will have on her wellbeing.
We understand the grievousness of his offence but hope that he will be given a second chance and a more meaningful way to atone for his crime.
We hope that our Ministers will be compassionate and consider all factors related, especially the impact of capital punishment on Jabing’s family, and exercise mercy by commuting his death sentence to that of life imprisonment.
Yours sincerely,
Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Japanese Woman Condemned to Death in Malaysia

Malaysia’s highest court has endorsed the death sentence issued by a lower court for a 41-year-old Japanese woman over trafficking 3.5 kg of methamphetamine into the country, a source said.
The decision Thursday by the Federal Court of Malaysia in Putrajaya confirms the capital punishment ruling for Mariko Takeuchi, rejecting her appeal, according to the source.
Takeuchi had pleaded not guilty, saying she did not know what was inside a suitcase she brought in on a trip from the United Arab Emirates. She may seek a pardon from the king.
Takeuchi, a former nurse, had around 3.5 kg of methamphetamine hidden in the suitcase she brought in from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur in October 2009, according to a ruling by the Court of Appeal in March 2013.
Possession of a minimum of 50 grams of methamphetamine is considered to be trafficking in a dangerous drug and punishable by death in Malaysia.
Japan Times October 16

Death Penalty Thailand deplores the execution of women for reasons to be treated extensively on this site. In the whole modern history of Thailand three women have been executed and a Thai government official announced at a conference on the death penalty that "Thailand does not execute women".
The execution of women is repugnant and serves no purpose.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Abolition of the Death Penalty, Where Do We Go from Here?

With likely death sentences for perpetrators of the bombing at the Ratchaprasong shrine, Thailand will be forced to face the reality of imposing sentence of death. Given the current standing on sentence of death, what are the options for imposing such sentence?

Like all member countries of the United Nations, Thailand must report to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on its observance of commitments it has freely undertaken in solemnly ratifying International Treaties which codify in detail recognised human rights. The report, referred to as the Universal Peer Review is heard in the great hall of the Palace of Justice in the presence of representatives of other UN nations, who must, in their turn, justify their human rights record, and hear the recommendations of their peers.

In 2011 Thailand first reported to such an assembly. As is usual for countries still maintaining the death penalty, many recommendations refer to the right to life, the basis of all other human rights. Thailand received such recommendations from fifteen countries, eleven in Europe and five in South America. A spectrum of the views expressed is most clearly exemplified in the recommendation of Switzerland, “Ratify the ICCPR-OP2”, and that of Brazil, “Consider abolishing the death penalty”. Both of these brief suggestions are coded reference to one of the most contentious issues for the UN.

The affirmation of the right to life is in the third of thirty two articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the basis for life and freedom in the modern world. At the time that the Declaration was adopted the world was emerging from a half century of bitter war and division, when only six nations in the world had progressed to abolition of the death penalty, and capital punishment, as was shown in the post war Nuremberg trials, was considered a necessary means of retaliation against heinous crime. Given the starting point for establishing peace and order, the Universal Declaration could not be imposed as obligatory on UN member states. Stronger and more detailed codes were elaborated in the years that followed. One of these codes is the International Covenant on Social and Political Rights (ICCPR). But even then abolition of the death penalty remained a free contractual choice which was elaborated in what is known as the second optional protocol (ICCPR-OP2) referred to in the recommendation to Thailand by Switzerland and several of the other peer recommendations. ICCPR-OP2 if imposes on states ratifying it a formal obligation in international law.

The recommendation of Brazil takes a different tack, “Consider abolishing the death penalty” indicating a stand on the freedom of a country to adhere or not to the basic founding UN document, a choice made explicit in the elaborated right to life as expressed ICCPR. Countries which maintain the death penalty, ignore the intention of the authors of the Declaration and the subsequent Convention, and commonly justify their stand on this freedom of choice. The recommendation of Brazil takes account of this constraint.

When the UPR hearing process is complete, the country under review is given the opportunity to respond to the recommendations made. The response of Thailand to the recommendations is of great interest: the spokesman for the Royal Thai Government rejected recommendations to abolish the death penalty with the words:
Thailand is embarking on a process of studying the possibility of abolishing the death penalty, in consultation with the public and relevant stakeholders. However, pending the completion of this consultation process, Thailand is unable to accept recommendations to review or amend the law in regard to capital punishment, place a moratorium on or abolish the death penalty.

In brief, the recommendation of Brazil to consider abolition is accepted while the recommendation of Switzerland to actually renounce the death penalty is rejected.

In April 2016, Thailand approaches another UPR session. True to its word Thailand has indeed considered abolition as shown by two extensive documents. The first is a study carried out by academics on behalf of the Department for the Defense of Liberties and Freedoms of the Ministry of Justice. This is the Department entrusted with the task of preparing a submission to the Thai Parliament on the issue of the death penalty, it is titled “Project on the Possibility of Abolishing the Death Penalty according to the Second National Human Rights Plan”. It is dated xx and consists of yy pages. The second is a study made by the National Human Rights Commission, which, although theoretically a unit not under government control, in its current realisation faithfully reflects and serves government policy. It is titled “The Death Penalty in Thailand”. Dated xx it is yy pages in length. The promise to Brazil and other countries recommending a stage of consideration is well fulfilled.

 Results of consideration on possibility of abolishing the death penalty
The context of abolition of the death penalty in Thailand was established by locating Thailand among the minority of countries which still retain the death penalty, 58 countries as opposed to the 140 which are abolitionist.
Four major reasons for abolition are identified:                                                                                                                                  
·      The death penalty conflicts with the most basic human right, the right to life

·      The majority of those condemned to death are the poor, who lack the means to employ effective defense

·      The justice system applying the death penalty is defective

·      The death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime

To these may be added the possibility of execution of the innocent.

The study of the Department for the defence of Liberties and Freedoms, takes an academic stand, a study for its own sake, revealing its origin and the uncertainty of its mandate, in brief the lack of political enthusiasm and of a firm mandate from political masters.

By contrast, the study issued by the National Human Rights Commission is strongly oriented to achieving change rather than understanding. It makes an interesting identification of abolition of the death penalty as an expression of democratic power. It bases itself on a concept of penal practice which gives priority to the rehabilitation of condemned prisoners and their return to society. It bluntly accepts that capital punishment is not effective in controlling crime. If its message were accepted, the recommendation of Switzerland in 2011 would be fulfilled.

So there we are, well spiked on the horns of dilemma. We have considered so that a Thai delegation can no longer take refuge in the delaying tactic of pleading pause for reflection. But we are no closer to a decision to accept and ratify ICCPR –OP2. In the next UPR session we hope there will be even increased recommendation for the definitive step of acceptance. But the outcome is likely to be an appeal that Thailand must wait for the approval of popular opinion. As no effort has been made to launch an effective campaign to engage popular opinion, abolition will be further delayed for ever and a day.

To return to the question posed at the beginning of this article, what are the options? The first is to impose a lesser sentence than capital punishment. But for Thai courts which have imposed a sixty year sentence for an obscure charge of lèse majesté, what leeway is there for a heavy sentence for mass killing? And what of a sentence of death, for a country on its declared path to abolition? The only solution is acceptance and ratification of ICCPR-OP2 when Thailand may proceed with exactly the same measures of punishment as the International Criminal Court. So be it!

Newly Published Statistics on Death Penalty Sentencing in Thailand

Recently, new statistics on sentences passed by thai courts have been released "Annual Judicial Statistics of Thailand", " <> ".This document gives the numbers of sentences in all catagories for the years 2012 and 2013. Of particular interest are death penalties, which number 189 and 294 for the years 2012 aand 2013. These figures are a huge increase on earlier unofficial estimates.

UCL website: While we have long sought for an official statement on the number of death sentences, the figures were not available. We worked under the assumption that those condemned to death  would be refused bail and imprisoned. We were very familiar with the arguments for refusal of bail in cases of capital punishment. The incentive to flee the country would be very high and there was often repeated warnings that a person condemned to death would be very likely to intimidate witnesses in the hope that they would retract evidence. We met and interacted with prisoners condemned to death who were imprisoned; we had no means of knowing or meeting with a condemned person who might have been released on bail. On what appeared to be the rare occasion when a condemned person was granted bail, as in a case where the condemned person was a policeman, public outrage appeared to confirm the rarity of such release. The certain figures available to us were the numbers of prisoners in jails who had been condemned to death. For example, in the most recent figures available, 31 May 2015, there are 437 prisoners. A break down of these figures is available, into male and female, drug and non-drug cases, and the stage of trial, Appeal and Supreme Court. The missing statistic is the number of prioners per year. From the time of first sentence to a final Supreme Court judgement can take six to ten years and we have never known at what stage prisoners were involved. Certainly the number who have completed all stages are small; in the 2015 figures 29 out of 437 or 7%.

We had succeeded in getting some idea of the number of sentences each year from estimates provided unofficially by government officials. These numbers, obtained by examining court documents for prisoners, were in the range 50 to 53 per year, which seemed consistent with the overall number of prisoners.

The recently revealed figures for death sentences per year for 2012 and 2013, especially the 2013 figure of 294 appeared impossible. The office issueing the statistics helpfully provided a phone number for enquiries which we used to contact the official who had worked on the table of statistics. He pointed out that an apparent conflict with prison statistics was due to the majority of condemned prisoners being granted bail, and thus not appearing in prison statistics.

And here for the moment the matter rests. However, the major revelation is the virulence of the death penalty in the Thai judicial system. Rather than about one sentence per week, we are apporaching one sentence per day. Of course, executions are not being carried out, but a death sentence is a condemnation to the awful system of imprionment in appalling prison conditions for an indeterminate period, and always with the risk that active executions may be introduced at any time.

However statistical problems remain. The interpretation offered of prisoners being on bail, should mean that there would occur a surge in the number of prisoners who have completed the judicial process as the prisoners found guilty by the supreme court enter the stream of those imprisoned throughout the legal process. It may be that improved statistics revealing reversals of judgment, and of the status of prisoners on bail may help to explain the dichotomy in prison and court statistics. But at present we are still faced with an incompatibility in numbers which defies comprehension

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ponder these details on the execution of a woman

·         30th September 2015. The State of Georgia in the US has executed Kelly Renee Gissendaner with a fatal injection for the slaying of her husband, despite a plea for clemency from their children.

·         She was the first woman executed in Georgia for 70 years and the sixteenth across the US since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

·         Gregory Owen, her lover and accomplice, pleaded guilty and testified against Gissendaner, who did not take part in the stabbing. He is serving a life sentence and becomes eligible for parole in 2022.

·         Gissendaner’s three children, Dakota, Kayla and Brandon, had sought clemency for their mother and earlier this month released a video pleading for her life to be spared. They detailed their own journeys to forgiving her and said they would suffer terribly from having a second parent taken from them.

·         Gissendaner’s lawyers submitted a statement from former Georgia Supreme Court chief justice Norman Fletcher to the parole board. Fletcher argued Gissendaner’s death sentence was not proportionate to her role in the crime. He also noted that Georgia hadn’t executed a person who didn’t actually carry out a killing since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. She was the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years. Lena Baker, a black maid, was executed in 1945 after being convicted in a one-day trial of killing her white employer. Georgia officials issued her a pardon in 2005 after six decades of lobbying and arguments by her family that she likely killed the man because he was holding her against her will.

Extracts from the Guardian newspaper of 30th September

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Failure of UN Human Right Council to lead with integrity

The right to life is the most basic right of all. And the UN is the guardian and guarantor of these rights, demanding an annual report from its Secretary General on the death penalty, and in recent years sponsoring several votes on a Universal Moratorium.

Nevertheless, the UN has appointed Saudi Arabia as chair of a key UN Human Rights Council panel, with the power to select top officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide, said UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization based in Geneva. Saudi Arabia was chosen to head a 5-member group of ambassadors, known as the Consultative Group, which has the power to select applicants from around the world for more than 77 positions dealing with country-specific and thematic human rights mandates. Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights. “It's scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.” The appointment came in the wake of Saudi’s bid to become president of the entire 47-nation Human Rights Council. Neuer expressed concern that the Saudis may have been handed the position in a backroom deal, in exchange for dropping the regime’s controversial bid.
Saudi Arabia is listed as the country that ranks third, after China and Iran in numbers executed in recent years. Over the past few years, reported executions have been almost exclusively by beheading, despite the prevalence of media discussion of the possibility of death by stoning. There are reports that Saudis have exposed the body (with head sewn back on) of the condemned to public indignity, including crucifixion, after execution for the crime of highway robbery resulting in death (Cornell Law School, Death penalty database,
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Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Ratchaprasong bombing, a critical test of Thai death penalty legislation

  On 17 August 2015, a bombing took place inside the Erawan Shrine at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Pathum Wan District, Bangkok, Thailand, killing 20. The police investigation is torturous and complex, but appears to be succeeding beyond the usual standard of the Thai police force. However, one can foresee some outcome. Several suspects have already been arrested and the supposition is that the bombing is a reaction to the forced repatriation of Uighur refugees to China. There are inflammatory pictures of hooded men on a flight departing from Thailand to China. The search for the bombers is involving other national and international police agencies.
However, several persons have been arrested and some have already been subjected to the unacceptable Thai practice of crime reanactment. Certainly, a trial of some kind will follow. Even under martial law there is a limit to how long suspects can be held without involvement of the courts.
It is revealing and ominous that the head of the ruling junta has already indicated that the suspects will be brought before a civilian court rather than the military courts before which Thai dissadents are now commonly arraigned. This indicates that the outcome of the trials must be acceptable to foreign observers. It is surely likely that a penalty of death will be invoked, in line with recent additions to the Thai legal code which insist on the death penalty for crimes of corruption by foreigners and of crimes relating to air travel. And if the suspects are condemned to death, what then?
The result may be a serious extension of foreign terrorism in Thailand. Even if no extension occcurs, what objective is served? The death penalty is no deterrent. The trial is sure to be prolonged and problematic as real evidence is weak. Is the aim of deterrence served? Hardly. In fact the coming trial is certain to be a crucial test of Thailand's attitude to the death penalty and there will be much foreign representation such as Indonesia has recently experienced.
 What is the alternative? The best alternative is for Thailand to avoid the crisis by embracing abolition in the form of the second optional protocol to ICCPR and pursuing the case of the bombing with the same standards of punishment as the International Criminal Court, which excludes the death penalty.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dozens of Indonesian nationals on death row for drugs

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has said that there are currently 129 Indonesian nationals facing the death penalty for their role in drug smuggling.

“The majority of them are migrant workers who were tricked into becoming couriers by international drug syndicates and most of them are women,” BNN chief Anang Iskandar said as quoted by Antara news agency on Sunday.
The BNN has appealed to Indonesian citizens, especially migrant workers in Hong Kong and Macau, to remain alert over the danger of drug syndicates in the countries in which they work.
“They should not be easily duped. They should be careful when someone wants to entrust something to them. Also be very careful with strangers,” he said.
Anang earlier warned women in the country to be careful when dating foreigners, suggesting they could be tricked into becoming drug mules.
He said that many Indonesian women were languishing in prisons abroad because they were “easily tricked into drug-trafficking”.
On Sunday, Anang also called on Indonesian nationals who use drugs abroad to immediately stop and seek help from an Indonesian representative office. The office, he said, could recommend them to a rehab center.
“We are cooperating with a number of countries on a bilateral and multilateral basis to prevent and eradicate drug abuse, and to unravel international drug networks that use Indonesian citizens as mules or consider Indonesia a part of their smuggling route,” he said.
Anang also said that the demand for drugs in Indonesia remained very high, making the country one of the main destinations for drug smuggling.
The BNN estimates that there are more than 4.2 million active drug users in the country.
“If one of them consumes 0.2 grams a day, it means 80 kilograms of drugs is needed every day to satiate demand, or 2.4 tons per month and 29 tons per year,” he said.
Indonesian consul general in Hong Kong, Chalief Akbar Tjandraningrat, said there were 28 Indonesian citizens currently embroiled in drug cases in Hong Kong.
“Twelve of them are still in detention, while 16 others have been sentenced. In Macau the number is 10, and most of them are couriers and most are women,” he said.
Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, the government has implemented tougher measures on drug offenders.
Declaring a “drug emergency”, President Jokowi has called for the death penalty for drug dealers and has rejected clemency pleas from convicted traffickers. Despite protests from human rights campaigners and the international community, his administration executed 14 convicts — including foreigners of multiple nationalities — in January and May of this year. 
 Jakarta Post 24th August 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Death Penalty Statistics

                                                Death Penalty Statistics 31 May 2015

Trial stage
Drug case
M 387 F 50

                                                 Total prison population 23 July 2015
                                     Male 263,077       Female 44,417      Total 307,494
                            Thailand has the sixth highest prison population in the world
                          The rate of imprisonment of women is the highest in the world
                                                   Crime Distribution in Prisons
Data from Department of Corrections Website: