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.