Sunday, December 10, 2017

President Duterte and Senator Leila de Lima

As President Duterte twists and turns to restore his policy of extra-judicial killings, the death penalty by another name, his former opponent, in detention since February of this year on an unfounded charge of "aiding" drug lords, again proclaims opposition to his policies in a statement issued on
International Human Rights Day, 10th December 2017

Here in the Philippines, acting on instructions, instigations and incitements from no less than the President, the police and vigilantes have killed more than ten thousands of alleged drug offenders in a spate of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under the so-called war on drugs, which is actually a war against our people, especially the poor.

            In the face of these mass atrocities, governments and inter-government bodies appear to be either ineffective, inadequate or simply passive. In the Philippine situation, the International Criminal Court (ICC), through its prosecutor, has yet to decide whether there is basis to proceed to a preliminary examination of the cases. At the UN, we have yet to see concrete measures coming from the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, or the General Assembly, beyond what happened last September during the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippine human rights record with the joint statement of concern from 40 states led by Iceland, and similar language spoken by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Domestically, the President and his Foreign Affairs Secretary have been consistently blocking the proposal to invite the UN Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial killings to do a country visit. Worse, there are no serious investigations and prosecutions being done on the killings.

 Meanwhile, with the return of the police to the drug war, Duterte is boasting that there will be an increase in the body count.
            The killings must stop. But, how? We call on governments all over the world to make good their commitments to actualize the promise under Section 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms …can be fully realized”

            In the Philippine situation, in particular, we urge that:

a.    The General Assembly to pass a resolution condemning the extrajudicial killings, urging its immediate stoppage, and recommending the prompt and effective investigation and prosecution of perpetrators and masterminds;

b.    The Human Rights Council to establish an independent international commission of inquiry or an investigative commission to ferret out the truth and identify accountabilities for the mass murders;

c.    The International Criminal Court, through the Prosecutor, to commence the preliminary examination of the cases of EJKs; and

d.    The Philippine government to finally extend the invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on summary and extralegal executions.

More than the government actions, however, and in light also of the growing absence of human rights leadership in this highly troubled world, there is an urgency now for international solidarity and mobilization of public support to uphold, defend and protect human rights. We cannot remain silent and depend passively on governments. We the people ourselves have to act – act with urgency and in solidarity with each other. With political leaders themselves demonizing their own people, and even instigating the widespread attacks against them, the need for all of us to stand up for the basic values of human dignity and equality of everyone everywhere has now become extremely urgent. “

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thailand Death Penalty Statistics

            Thailand Death Penalty Statistics October 2017

Drug Crimes Other Crimes Total
Men 184 214 398
Women 74 10 84
Total 215 224 482

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Young of Europe Favour the Death Penalty

Green: Opposed to death penalty
Red: In favour of death penalty

The above image shows the percentages of those opposed and those in favour of the death penalty in 26 countries of the European Union, in three age groups and combined. While we in Thailand who  campaign for abolition of the death penalty in our country, often refer to what we thought of as the glorious example of Europe, the reality is rather different, especially in the younger age group. We forgot that the roots of the death penalty, like virulent weeds, live on. A continued attention to education is needed to stop the hidden growth of a return of this ancient curse, so easily accepted as a solution for crime, and so satisfying to the appeal of vengeance.
While the percentage of Europeans favouring the death penalty is 42%, the percentage in Belgium, one of the founding states of the Union, is 52%. Surprisingly, France, arena of the famous abolitionist Robert Badinter, with 49% of the population supporting the death penalty, is not far behind.
Further statistics and comparative data will be added later to this posting. Full results of the surveys published under the heading, "What Next for Democracy" are available on the website

                                EU Countries having a majority in favour of death penalty

% in favour of death penalty
Belgium 52
Croatia 54
Estonia 54
Slovakia 56
Poland 57
Latvia 59
Hungary 66
Lithuania 67
Bulgaria 68
Czech Republic 71

                          For all EU countries combined, those in favour of death penalty are 42%

 Belgium is an EU foundation member, the other countries were formerly members of the Soviet bloc

                                       Contrasting figures for France and Germany

In France percentages of 18 to 34 years old in favour and opposed to the death penalty are 50:50

In Germany for the same age range the percentages are 33:67

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Death Penalty Thailand Report

A summary of progress in “Advocacy against Death Penalty”

1. Academic information from international community about death penalty

(1) World Day Against the Death Penalty was first launched in 2013 by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) and since then 10 October has been marked as World Day Against the Death Penalty.

(2) Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries in the World According to the 2016 report on executions and death penalty worldwide, more than two thirds of the countries in the world are abolitionist countries which have either abolish death penalty in law or in practice. As of 31 December 2016, (1) 104 countries have abolished death penalty for all crimes, (2) seven countries have abolished death penalty for ordinary crimes, and (3) 30 countries have been abolitionist in practice, altogether (1) to (3) 141 countries, save for 57 retentionists.

(3) Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries in ASEAN As to the number of ASEAN countries that are abolitionist and retentionist, it can be described as follows (1) countries that have abolished death penalty for all crimes including Cambodia and the Philippines, (2) countries that have abolished death penalty in practice including Brunei, Burma and Laos, and (3) countries that retain death penalty including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

(4) The use of death penalty and the number of death row inmates

Execution has been carried out through various means at times. During 1935-2003, the death penalty was implemented by shooting. The number of death row prisoners executed by shooting is altogether 319 including 316 males and three females.

On 18 September 2003, Thailand has changed execution method from firing squad to lethal Injection, the first of which was carried out on 18 September 2003 against four prisoners convicted on drug-related offences. The last execution in Thailand took place on 24 August 2009 against two prisoners convicted on drug-related offences. There are, therefore, six prisoners altogether who have been executed this way. From 1935 until present, 325 prisoners have been executed.

As to the current number of death row inmates, there are 447 of them, of which only 157 have been handed with the final verdicts already (68 on drug-related offences and 89 on ordinary crimes) as per the table below (source: Department of Corrections, April 2017)

Drug-related offences
Ordinary crimes
Appeals Court
Supreme Court
Final verdict prisoners
Appeals Court
Supreme Court
Final verdict prisoners
Male 105 12 55 110 6 85
Female 51 0 13 6 0 4
Total 156 12 68 116 6 89

It should be noted that the last execution in Thailand took place in August 2009 and since then there has been no other executions. And if Thailand can refrain from implementing the capital punishment in the next two years, it would make a decade free of execution as a result of which Thailand would be counted among the abolitionist countries in practice according to the Moratorium.

2. Previous implementation for the abolition of death penalty by the Ministry of Justice’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department can be summarized as follows;

2.1 Feasibility study on the abolition of death penalty according to the Second National Human Rights Action Plan with the following detail;

(1) Review information from within and outside the country: Domestically, there has been a review of all laws that inflict death penalty including the nature of the crime or gravity of the offences, statistics of cases that have reached final verdicts for death penalty and accumulative statistics of mandatory death penalty sentencing in Thailand ten years until now. Internationally, an attempt was made to explore information concerning countries that have made change to their capital punishment and the retentionist countries and measures and methods that countries have been using to replace death penalty as well as their consequences.

(2) Awareness raising and public consultation through workshops on “Is Death Penalty Still Necessary in Thailand?” covering all the four regions and Bangkok with 1,073 representatives from all sectors. It aims to raise the awareness on the advocacy to abolish death penalty and to gather inputs as to measures and methods that could be use in lieu of the capital punishment.

(3) Interview with knowledgeable persons/experts on human rights, laws and justice process / victims of crimes / persons who used to be sentenced to death and general public, 27 of them.

(4) Online public consultation through website of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department on “Public Consultation on Measures and Methods that Can be Used In lieu of Death Penalty” including 1,301 persons.

Table: “Should Thailand Abolish or Retain Death Penalty?”

Scale of opinion People receiving information People not receiving information
Before education
After education
Strongly agree with death penalty 46.9% 72.6% 41.1% 68.7% 73.1%
Relatively agree with death penalty 25.7% 27.3% 15%
Note sure 9.1% 9.1% 9.2% 9.2% 3%
Inclined to have death penalty abolished 10.2% 18.3% 14.3% 22.1% 5.1%
Strongly inclined to have death penalty abolished 9.1% 7.8% 4%

2.2 The inclusion of death penalty advocacy in the Third National Human Rights Action Plan (2014-2018) It aims to make existing domestic laws compatible with international human rights standards. The advocacy for change of death penalty was thus includes in the human rights action plan on justice process stipulating that “change shall be advocated to have the National Legislative Assembly to convert death penalty to life sentence” and the activities have been spelled out including;

(1) Raising the awareness on human rights laws among personnel in the justice process and general public, particularly on human dignity and the right to life, which is a fundamental right.

(2) Making an effort to achieve a moratorium on death penalty immediately and voicing support for the resolution on moratorium on the death penalty at the UN General Assembly with intent to eventually abolish death penalty in its law.

(3) Recommending the reduction of offences punishable by death penalty including offences that are not “most serious crimes” per Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) including arson and terrorism, within 2017.

(4) Acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty within 2018.

(5) Building maximum security prison to accommodate inmates committing most serious crimes.

To ensure effective implementation of the Third National Human Rights Action Plan on justice process, the Ministry of Justice’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department shall act as the following;

2.2.1 Brainstorm among resource persons and experts on human rights and laws aiming to review laws that provide for the use of death penalty on 55 offences (of 63 offences at present) in the Penal Code and other laws and recommend the offences for which the use of death penalty can be abolished. A public seminar on “For Which Criminal Offences, Death Penalty Should be Abolished” was thus organized on 8 August 2014 at Ebina House Hotel, Vibhavadi Rangsit, Bangkok with 53 participants. The results can be summarized as follows;

(1) As to the most serious crimes, death penalty should still be retained, but rather than keeping mandatory death penalty, it should be changed to allow judges to use own discretion in the use of capital punishment.

(2) For certain offences concerning thief or narcotic drug, death penalty can be abolished.

(3) The Rights and Liberties Protection Department should make further effort to explore general social values and if life has been less valued or not as well as to clarify why certain overlapping offences carry different punishments.

(4) There is still a relatively little understanding about crime in society and punishment. The fact should be reviewed again when Thailand is about to move toward changing the death penalty.

(5) There have been positive international and regional/ASEAN trends toward the abolition of death penalty and this should be useful for the advocacy for the abolition of death penalty in Thailand, particularly, the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

2.2.2 A public seminar on “The National Human Rights Action Plan and the Direction of Thailand’s Justice Process” was organized with an aim to garner more understanding and raise the awareness about the Third National Human Rights Action Plan among agencies in the justice process and to gather inputs from target groups on the issue concerning the abolition of death penalty. It took place at the Rama Gardens Hotel, Vibhavadi Rangsit, Bangkok with 131 participants. Most of the participants still disagree with the abolition of death penalty, though they supported the implementation of the Action Plan and to allow judges to use their discretion in sentencing and to reduce the number of offences punishable by death.

2.2.3 Dissemination of briefing on “Campaign to change Death Penalty based on International Human Rights Principles” with an aim to raise the awareness and garner understanding about the abolition of death penalty. The briefing has been circulated among agencies in the justice process, libraries of higher education institutions, and public libraries throughout the country, about 1,000 venues.

2.3 Review readiness for Thailand to become a party to the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, which can be summarized as follows;

(1) Thailand should first ensure full obligation of Article 6 of ICCPR, particularly on the exclusive use of death penalty on the most serious crimes since the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) recommended that Thailand’s use of death penalty for drug-related offences is a breach to ICCPR as drug-related offences are not considered most serious crimes. Therefore, whether Thailand should accede to the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR or not is not more important than Thailand’s compliance with ICCPR on the exclusive use of death penalty on most serious crimes.

(2) If Thailand is determined to abolish death penalty, it should set out a strategic plan, clear operational framework and timeline including

Phase One: Review and identify criminal offences that are not considered the most serious crimes according to international law.

Phase Two: Review the possibility to apply paroling which should be treated as a government policy and to have it reviewed regularly as well as to modernize the country’s penitentiary system.

Phase Three: An amendment should be made to the Penal Code to change maximum punishment from death to life sentence and there shall be constant monitoring of its impacts in terms of the number of criminal incidences, the gravity of the crime and public perception on safety and security.

Phase Four: When Thailand is ready, there should be a recommendation for it to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

2.4 Campaign and seminar and awareness raising among campaign alliances for the abolition of death penalty including among state sector, people sector and international organizations including the delegation of the European Union in Thailand, the Office of National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, etc.

3. Ministry of Justice’s Action Plan

3.1 In pursuance to the recommendation by the National Human Rights Commission to the Prime Minister to make change to laws concerning death penalty: As a result, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Wissanu Krea-ngam, on behalf of the PM, has instructed the Ministry of Justice to promptly convene a meeting among concerned agencies and to produce a report of the review and implementation per the recommendation which shall then be submitted to the Secretariat of the Cabinet which shall then submit it to the cabinet.

The MoJ has then instructed the Office of the Justice Affairs to review information about the possible change of death penalty. The Office of the Justice Affairs then coordinated with the Rights and Liberties Protection Department regarding the results of the review and implementation. The issue has then been raised at the meeting of the Subcommittee for the Development and Enforcement of Law Equally and Fairly no. 2/2559 on 1 March 2016 and the meeting of the Committee for the Development of National Justice Affairs no. 2/2559 on 7 April 2016. At both meetings, it was agreed that change to the death penalty shall be made as follows;

Phase 1 Change from mandatory death penalty to allow judges to make their discretion as to sentencing without having to always impose death penalty.

Phase 2 Abolish death penalty for certain offences, particularly non-fatal offences or offences that cause no fatality to other persons

Phase 3 Abolish death penalty for all crimes

The Office of the Justice Affairs’ Committee for the Development of National Justice Affairs has then proposed a recommendation regarding the reform of laws concerning death penalty and human rights principles to the cabinet1 and the cabinet made a resolution on 26 July 2016 acknowledging and endorsing the MoJ’s recommendation already2. Then, the MoJ’s Permanent Secretary has instructed the Rights and Liberties Protection Department to accept the recommendation and put into practice3.

3.2 The Rights and Liberties Protection Department has convened a meeting between the Rights and Liberties Protection Department; and the Office of the Justice Affairs on 25 May 2017 at Sawang Kamol meeting room, 3rd floor, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department aiming to set out directions and framework of cooperation and to consult on the possibility to set up a joint-committee to campaign and advocate change in death penalty. The recommendations accepted for implementation during the meeting included;

(1) The Rights and Liberties Protection Department; shall independently proceed to campaign for change of death penalty based on human rights principles without having to seek endorsement from the Committee for the Development of National Justice Affairs before any implementation.

(2) A taskforce to enable change of death penalty shall be set up per the cabinet resolution dated 26 July 2016 and the Office of the Justice Affairs shall be willing to take part in the taskforce.

(3) An action plan to advocate change in death penalty shall be drawn and include activities including meetings among agencies responsible for various laws which can be invoked to impose death penalty to make them realize the importance of this campaign and to consult with them over the possibility to make change to certain laws in order to advocate the in-charge agencies to make legal amendments according to the guidelines for change of death penalty aforementioned.

(4) Raising the awareness and engender proper understanding about the campaign for change of death penalty among public officials and general public along with an effort to implement an action plan to advocate change of death penalty per (7).

At present, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department is forming the taskforce to enable change of death penalty and developing an action plan for its implementation as well as is preparing for a review of the possibility to allow judges to use own discretion regarding sentencing in offences punishable by mandatory death penalty. Results of the review shall be submitted to the cabinet later.

4. Positive and negative developments of the movement for change of death penalty in Thailand at present

The movement for change of death penalty in Thailand has elicit both positive impacts that are favorable to the implementation and negative impacts that need to be monitored and prompts a need to raise more social awareness. Concrete examples can be cited as follows;

4.1 Positive developments (1) Recently, Thailand has made change to the Narcotic Act (Vol. 6) 2017, which came into force on 16 January 2017. The amendment has engendered various benefits to the drug-related justice process. For one thing, it enables judges to use own discretion in sentencing. Previously for offences related to import and export of narcotic substances type 1 and its sale shall be liable to mandatory death penalty. But in the newly amended Act, the punishment shall include life imprisonment, a fine from one to five million baht or death and the judges shall be allowed to use own discretion with regard to sentencing. (2) If Thailand can refrain from implementing the capital punishment in the next two years (until 2019), it would make a decade free of execution and we shall be counted as an abolitionist country (the last execution in Thailand took place in 2009). (3) Death penalty shall be included as a long-term policy in the Fourth National Human Rights Action Plan (2019-2023). To raise the awareness and to reduce offences punishable by death. The Draft Plan is now open for inputs.

4.2 Negative developments Previously, the number of offences punishable by death was 55, but after the promulgation of three new laws in 2015 which imposed death penalty on eight offences, the number of such offences has increased to 63 with detail as per the annex. An increase of offences punishable by death has drawn much criticism from international community since the death penalty was imposed on offences concerning economics/property. Such a move was also in breach of the state policy as indicated in the National Human Rights Action Plan. The new offences punishable by death have been added by the three following laws;

(1) The Organic Act on Counter Corruption B.E 2558 (Vol. 2)

(2) The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act BE 2558 (Vol.2)

(3) The Act on Certain Offences Against Air Navigation BE 2558
1Letter from the Committee for the Development of National Justice Affairs, the Office of the Justice Affairs no, YT 0902/808 dated 27 April 2016 concerning ‘Recommendations for the Reform of Laws concerning Death Penalty and Human Rights Principles’ from the Deputy Prime Minister (Wissanu Krea-ngam) to the Secretary General of the Cabinet and a letter from the Ministry of Justice no. YT 0904/710 dated 1 February 2016 on ‘Policy Recommendations and other Recommendations for the Reform of Laws concerning Death Penalty and Human Rights Principles’ from the Minister of Justice to the Secretary General of the Cabinet

2Letter from the Office of Minister, Ministry of Justice ‘Most Urgent’ no. YT 0101/ W843 dated 26 July 2016 on ‘A Meeting Minutes from the cabinet meeting no. 29/2559’

3Letter from the Office of the Justice Affairs no. YT 0904/1932 dated 26 October 2016 on ‘Policy Recommendations and other Recommendations for the Reform of Laws concerning Death Penalty and Human Rights Principles’

2017 World Abolition Day and Thailand

                                                            World Trends in Abolition                     
On 16th and 17th October the Ministry of Justice held meetings to mark the occasion of World Abolition of the Death Penalty Day. For the occasion Professor William Schabas, a prominent international legal expert, was invited as the main speaker to comment on progress to abolition, both in the world and in Thailand. On 16th there were separate morning and afternoon sessions, one with the participation of Thai government officials, and the other for representatives of civil society. During the two sessions, participants were asked to note a response to a single simple question,  on whether the death penalty is still needed in Thailand. The response of the government officials was 90% of the opinion that the death penalty was still needed, while the civil society representatives were 100% certain that it is no longer needed. The result could be labelled "The Thai Dilemma".
The figure presented at his talk by Professor Schabas, reproduced above, presents one of the key points of his thinking, namely, that the advance to abolition, and the decline of the death penalty, as shown in the top two curves is inexorable and a matter of time

In a report on the meeting "Nation" newspaper referred to the main speaker as "a foreigner", as if he had just wandered in off the street.
To provide detailed information on the meeting a full document prepared by the Ministry of Justice will be provided.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tribute and protest relating to murder of blogger

All those in the world who engage in blog posting, must grieve at the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese blogger assassinated in a bomb attack in Malta. The right to freedom of expression is as important as the right to life itself.
She protested the subversion of civil society and the justice system. In a country where the democratic system is abrogated, we express our regret, at the same  time as admiration for her heroic life.

"In her last blogpost, published the day she died, Daphne Caruana Galizia signed off with a sentence that seems particularly chilling now."

“There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate.”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Beginning of the end of Duterte


The following action of retreat from his infamous killings labelled as counter drug action, may indicate the beginning of the fall of Duterte. There are strong parallels with the efforts by Marcos to correct excesses that preceded his flight from the Philippines.

"President Duterte has taken his war on drugs away from the Philippine National Police and designated instead the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the “sole agency” that will carry out operations against the narcotics trade.

Mr. Duterte’s move is seen as intended to eliminate deadly police raids that have marred his campaign against illegal drugs, which a survivor and two people whose relatives have been killed by police have asked the Supreme Court to stop for being “patently illegal and grossly unconstitutional.”

Police say they have killed more than 3,800 people during drug operations since the launch of the campaign last year.

They insist the victims put up resistance and the officers involved just defended themselves.

Killing for rewards
More than 2,000 others have been killed by unknown assailants, in what police say could be fights between drug gangs but rights groups believe are attacks by hired guns working for the police or by policemen themselves working for rewards that come with the campaign."
 Philippine Daily Enquirer, 12th October

Friday, October 06, 2017

Phillipine killings: a turning point

 Philippine Enquirer
A news item which spread throughout the world press on the killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos is leading to popular rejection against the Duterte killings. The testimony of the two children is confirmed by observation camera images of police holding and dragging the victim into a laneway. Dressed only in shorts, he could not have hidden the bulky gun from police/ Autopsy of the boy's body showed he had been killed by three shots, one from above while he squatted in a foetal position. Questioned whether they had checked that the victim was indeed involved in the drug trade, police confirmed that after the killing, an informant had provided confirmation.
"It was just one death, among the thousands killed in the Filipino war of drugs. But this particular killing - and the story behind it - have lingered in the mainstream news media and online, in a way that others have not.
It wasn't the Filipino media's reporting, their constant documenting of the killings or their raising of human rights issues that ended up putting police under investigation and the Duterte government on the defensive.
It was pure happenstance, the existence of a single CCTV camera, and the emergence of about two seconds of real-time video that put the lie to the official version of one teenager's brutal killing, that changed the story." Aljazeera, 27th August

"Over 5,000 mourners, many wearing white shirts with the words “Justice for Kian”,  joined the funeral march from De los Santos’ home in Caloocan city, north of the capital Manila.
Thousands more lined the roads that led to a cemetery about 10km away. They waited along sidewalks, and on roofs, staircases, bridgeways and overpasses to catch a glimpse of De los Santos’ flower-draped coffin on a flatbed truck flanked with tarpaulins bearing the words “Run, Kian, Run” and “Stop the killings”." Straits Times, 26th August

Thursday, September 07, 2017

"Let Slip the Dogs of War"

We become inured so quickly to violence; acts that revolt us become everyday events. The unspeakable becomes the norm. It is happening in present day Philippines, as President Duterte has “let slip the dogs of war”, in his so called war on drugs, which gives no quarter, no excuse. Nor can he. Once the dogs of war are let slip, they cannot be reined in until the sheer weariness and glut of killings makes the authors themselves vulnerable to other forces of restraint.,

I have been following the macabre count of Duterte's killings, and listed details of the most horrific on these blog pages. But recently I had the experience of waking to front page news of killings which had taken place the night before in Quezon City where I was staying. The news told of a wave of killings in the very vicinity of the hotel I stayed in. Although I had heard nothing, another guest who was attending the same meeting as I, told me of hearing gunshots in the night, on streets I had walked a few hours before. The front page of my newspaper carried an appeal from the Vice-President of the Philippines, Leni Robredo, that people express outrage: “We are not like that. We have been disgraced by this culture of impunity a long time should not happen” she said. I respond to her call in this blog. Of course there was no sequel to the news, no investigation. Nor could there be; the dogs of war do not respond to outrage or protest.

In 1946 the world made an attempt to restrain the dogs of war, and spent two years composing a standard of justice and restraint, in response to the awful war which had engulfed the whole world from 1939 – 1945. In an epic human document “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” the fundamental principles of human behaviour were enunciated in plain and simple language which any human being with basic literacy could understand. “All human beings … should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. One of the shortest principles announces: Article 3 “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Our representatives who composed the short Declaration were well aware of the facile justifications which would be offered by the Dutertes of the world and countered: Article 11 “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence”

When the text of the Declaration was presented at a UN General Assembly, it was accepted by the overwhelming majority, and has become the living standard of civilisation. There were abstentions by a small number of states who protested that the Declaration should be obligatory on all nations, an impossibility then as now.

But we are in a world where ideals are no longer accepted. In Asia alone there are unaccountable slaughters of many to this day. One Asian country is even brandishing a weapon ten times more fearsome than that which obliterated Hiroshima, when the world glimplsed the outcome of unfettered war. Yes, Vice-President Leni Robredo, we accept your invitation to express outrage. But we must also strive to rid ourselves of those who themselves release and cannot control the “dogs of war”.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Poverty & Justice: A Deadly Mix


While Thailand has not carried out judicial executions since 2009, all the consequences of poverty which accompany the death penalty are fully in force.

1. Unequal access to education and information In many criminal justice systems, the judge and/or jury may have explicit or implicit biases against people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, making those defendants more likely to face a guilty verdict and to be sentenced to death.

All over the world, justice systems are very complex and people facing the death penalty need expertise to assist in their defense.
en lack access to education and are often deprived of necessary and elementary social and financial support and legal knowledge to understand and participate fully in legal proceedings initiated against them in death penalty cases.

They are less likely to assert rights and benefits provided by the law, and they may not know how to get support.

2. Bail and pretrial release

A person from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background will be less likely to afford bail and obtain release before trial.

The defendant will therefore be less able to assist in preparing a defense.

3. Unequal access to justice

No justice system is completely free of charge. The expenses related to access to justice are a major obstacle for people living in poverty, as they simply can’t cover the costs.

These obstacles are amplified in capital cases, where each stage of the legal process involves an additional cost, such as hiring a lawyer competent to handle legal and evidentiary matters specific to capital proceedings. These accumulated expenses are one of the main reasons people living in poverty have trouble making use of the remedies available to them in the criminal justice system.

4. The importance of the effectiveness of the legal assistance

The legal representation for defendants from vulnerable backgrounds is often of lesser efficacy; appointed attorneys are often underpaid, lack adequate means to lead their own investigations, and lack the trial experience required for death penalty cases.
The inferior quality of legal representation places defendants living in poverty at a serious disadvantage, thereby increasing their likelihood of being sentenced to death.

5. Building a strong defense

Building a strong defense in a capital case can require a lot of financial resources.

People from a disadvantaged economic background do not have the means to pay experts or to obtain a more in-depth investigation of facts and evidence.

Such defendants may also not have the resources to effectively assess whether they are receiving adequate representation.

6. The specific case of foreign nationals

Some countries host foreign nationals to perform underpaid or menial work, such as housekeeping or hard physical labor.

Those migrant workers often take such jobs because they come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds in their home countries.

If these people interact with the criminal justice system, they may face additional discrimination because of their status as foreign nationals, because they don’t speak the language and don’t have the network of people and social influences to support their cases, in addition to the barriers they face as persons living in poverty.

7. Biases and discrimination against people living in poverty

In many criminal justice systems, the judge and/or jury may have explicit or implicit biases against people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, making those defendants more likely to face a guilty verdict and to be sentenced to death.

8. Corruption

Corruption is endemic in many countries, including in the police force, the judicial system, and even judges themselves.

Those who have financial means or who have a strong social network may be able to access much more efficient justice and even ensure a favorable trial outcome.

Those who don’t have the financial means to pay for these justice-sector services - which are supposed to be free of charge - see their petitions and requests delayed, rejected, or dropped. Corruption is often coupled with dreadful prison conditions.

9. Death row living conditions

The conditions of detention may largely depend on the financial resources of the convicted person.

For example, people from poor socioeconomic backgrounds will have more difficulty accessing certain prison services such as medical care or food, and will not be able to receive financial assistance from family members to remedy the situation.Poverty can also limit the opportunities a death row prisoner has to stay in contact with family members and friends.

10. Impact on relatives

The economic and social consequences of a death sentence can be dramatic for people living in poverty.

Deprived of liberty, they are also deprived of income, employment, and social benefits. The family is also directly affected, especially if the convicted person was the family’s main breadwinner.

The financial burdens on family members throughout the legal proceedings can also lead to poverty.

For further information please view

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Singapore again Executes: Mandatory execution a legal abomination

"A Malaysian drug trafficker was hanged by Singapore yesterday despite a plea for clemency from the United Nations and concerns expressed by rights groups over alleged flaws in his trial.
Prabagaran Srivijayan was arrested in 2012 after 22.24g of heroin was found in the car he was driving when it was stopped at a checkpoint going to Singapore.
He was sentenced to death two years later after being convicted of drug-trafficking. Trafficking certain volumes of illegal drugs into Singapore carries a mandatory death penalty unless certain conditions are met for the sentence to be commuted."

The opening sentence of this news item expresses two of three flagrant injustices in Singapore behavior. The first injustice is the refusal to accept UN norms regarding the death  penalty. Singapore still quibbles with the accepted interpretation of Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to life".
Singapore has consistently maintained that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime and has rejected calls to abolish capital punishment.  In particular, the only possible justification for the death penalty is in response to deliberate homicide, not crimes relating to drugs. A mandatory death penalty is a legal abomination.

The second injustice relates to alleged flaws in the trial of the accused:
Amnesty International had raised concerns about the fairness of the trial, including the alleged failure of the authorities “to follow up leads and call on key witnesses that would corroborate his version of events”.
But following the execution, the narcotics bureau said Srivijayan was “accorded full due process under the law, and he was represented by legal counsel throughout the process”.
The veracity of the narcotics bureau is questioned by FIDH: "
"Singaporean authorities have never allowed Prabagaran’s attorneys, N Surendran and Latheefa Koya, who were hired by Prabagaran’s mother in January 2017, to visit him in Changi Prison. Authorities did not provide any reason for this denial. The denial of Prabagaran to meet with his legal representatives falls short of international fair trial standards. According to General Comment No. 32 concerning Article 14(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), “in cases involving capital punishment, it is axiomatic that the accused must be effectively assisted by a lawyer at all stages of the proceedings.”
A third injustice is to precede with execution while legal process was continuing:
"His lawyers contended that he still had an appeal pending in Malaysian courts, where lawyers had filed an application to compel the Malaysian government to take his case to the International Court of Justice amid concerns he did not get a fair trail." FIDH

Death Penalty Thailand has frequently submitted protests to executions. However, on this occasion, we were aware that nothing can deflect the microstate of Singapore from pursuing its bloody way, ignoring world opinion and counter argument. But this makes it all the more necessary to protest this unjust and pointless execution. There must be other ways to bring sanity to this blind system of injustice. A recent film "The Apprentice" gave voice to another form of protest; it represents the moral collapse of a Singapore hangman, the final link in an unjust and inhuman practice. I hope that we can all contribute to this chorus of disapproval.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Thailand, death penalty prison statistics, April 2017

                                     Men:             373     drug cases  172    Other   201 
                                     Women:         74     drug cases    64    Other      10

                                     Total            447     drug cases  236   Other   211

Friday, May 12, 2017

"Drug 'reform' madness"

"The oft repeated quotation of the phrase attributed to Albert Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, comes to mind immediately on reading the leading article of 10th May “Drug reform still pending”. It is my experience that those in the front line of the struggle against drug addiction in Thailand have long been aware of the road block in drug reform. I recall participating several years ago in a seminar held in the Bangkok ONCB office where realistic assessment of Thailand's drug problems were presented, an admission of past failures to control drug traffic in the Kingdom, and, finally, a clear and hopeful proposal of change which would be based in large on a policy of decriminalisation of drugs. Several foreign participants were present, and one of them came to ask me whether the message we had just heard implied a serious move on the part of Thai authorities. My answer was, no, it did not. The forces of insanity were not participants in the seminar, and would continue on their blind path.
There is no doubting the gravity of the problem.  72% of our critically overcrowded prisons are crammed with men and women condemned with utmost severity on drug related crimes, while a few token and showpiece drug treatment centres are half empty. The director of one such centre told me that he did not understand why so few drug cases were referred to him. At the same time in Geneva a government representative assured the Human Rights Committee, that Thailand had reform centres which were undertaking rehabilitation of drug addicts.
Unfortunately, Thailand is not alone in its drug problem insanity; the Philippines has become an arena of bloody murder in the streets in the name of drug suppression, and won support in the recent ASEAN meeting in Manila. Insanity thus becomes a regional norm.
Of course, the always asked question is, if not the path of suppression, what other path is there? Yes, there are other ways, and there are countries who are bravely taking the path of decriminalisation and rehabilitation, most notably the policy of Portugal, which introduced a new programme on drugs in the year 2000. The new law does not deny that drugs are dangerous, but admits that repression does not give better results and endangers people's health
The problem of drugs is one of the most serious human problems ever encountered in human history, and its solution cannot be quick or facile. Success is counted in complex statistics which monitor a stop in growth of the drug epidemic, and then a slow but certain turn around. The problem involves human perceptions and behaviour and one of the great successes of Portugal is in changing the perception of a whole nation to accept that the person addicted to drugs is a patient in need of treatment, rather than a criminal to be persecuted.
In 2003 when Thailand changed the method of execution to lethal injection rather than death by machine gun, a team from the Department of Corrections was sent to the US to learn the new technique of killing. Surely it is opportune to send a similar team to Portugal to learn the technique of restoring life to those trapped in the way of death."
Danthong Breen, Union for Civil Liberty

PostBag, Bangkok Post, 12 May 2017

Speech on Drug Policy Relevant to Whole World

United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, on May 5th, delivered a speech at drug policy convention at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to thank the organizers of the policy forum – FLAG anti-death penalty job power – for organizing this Forum and alluring me to take part in it – I’m each grateful and honored!
This is a crucial initiative – a well timed initiative – one which I help wholeheartedly.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimate that worldwide some 29 million individuals who use medicine endure from drug use problems whereas drug trafficking by trans-national prison cartels is a serious source of violence and insecurity the world over, affecting each society. Drug trafficking can be a serious source of corruption, undermining each the rule of regulation and good governance and eroding public belief.
Another, drug trafficking, drug abuse and their penalties represent main threats to the lives, well being, dignity and hopes of hundreds of thousands of individuals and their family members. In response, nearly a yr in the past to this very day, Heads of State and Government assembled at the United Nations Headquarters to think about a world plan of motion known as: Our joint dedication to successfully addressing and countering the world drug downside. I encourage you to seek the advice of it.
The doc is troublesome to summarize given its breadth however enable me to spotlight a couple of of its key features for you:
The particular session of the UN General Assembly drafted a complete strategy that takes into consideration a variety of human and different components that drive the drug downside together with social improvement, public well being, justice and human rights. It requires simpler approaches than the punishment/punitive mannequin that some governments have adopted.
It urges governments to uphold the inherent dignity of all people, to respect, defend and promote all human rights, elementary freedoms and the rule of regulation and in the improvement and implementation of drug insurance policies.
The joint Commitment additionally acknowledges that dependence is a posh well being dysfunction of a power and relapsing nature, whose social causes and penalties could be prevented and handled by, inter alia, efficient scientific evidence-based drug remedy, care and rehabilitation packages, together with community-based packages.
The world’s leaders acknowledged the essential function performed by civil society organizations and people entities concerned in drug-related remedy providers and dedicated to accentuate their function and cooperation with them.
They denounced repeatedly, drug-related corruption; decrying its function in the obstruction of justice, together with by intimidation of justice officers.
They promised to elaborate efficient scientific evidence-based prevention methods which are centered on and tailor-made to the wants of people, households and communities and so they dedicated to advertise proportionate national sentencing insurance policies, practices and tips too for drug-related offenses.
Throughout the joint dedication doc, governments affirm the significance of systematic information assortment, proof gathering, scientific analysis and the sharing of knowledge together with the alternate of greatest practices associated to stopping and countering drug-related crime.
What governments didn’t decide to final yr was “the war on drugs” strategy.
Quite to the opposite. They known as for what quantities to a balanced, multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary strategy, and so they positioned nice emphasis on well being, rights, and justice.
They didn’t recommend that death penalty was an applicable or efficient response to medicine trafficking, not to mention drug use; Instead, they spoke about proportionate sentencing and various punishments.
Their doc will not be good. The joint Commitment to Effectively Addressing and Countering the World Drug Problem is criticized, by activists and quite a few politicians from round the world, for not contemplating extra explicitly the function of hurt discount methods, as an example, comparable to needle and syringe packages and prescription of substitute medicines.
But in April 2016, the basic meeting of the world’s authorities acknowledged explicitly that the “war on drugs” – be it group based mostly, national or world – doesn’t work. And additional, that many harms related to medicine are usually not attributable to medicine, however by the adverse impacts of badly thought out drug insurance policies.
The joint dedication to successfully addressing and countering the world drug downside is a name for motion, however to not any motion: based on the world’s leaders there are different methods, higher methods; evidenced-based, scientific methods, of combating drug abuse and trafficking – methods that don’t make issues worse.
Badly thought out, ill-conceived drug insurance policies not solely fail to deal with substantively drug dependency, drug-related criminality, and the drug commerce, they add extra issues, as has been properly documented, round the world, together with by United Nations our bodies and Special Rapporteurs.
They add, escalate and/or compound issues comparable to:
  • Killings, extra-judicial or by prison gangs; the break-down of the rule of regulation;
  • vigilante crimes,
  • Torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence;
  • Prolonged pre-trial detention, necessary sentencing and disproportionately lengthy sentences for drug possession, and many others.
  • Detention in drug and rehabilitation centres with out trial or a correct analysis of drug dependency;
  • Non-consensual experimental remedy;
And additional, badly thought out, ill-conceived drug insurance policies can foster a regime of impunity infecting the complete justice sector and reaching into complete societies, invigorating the rule of violence relatively than of regulation; eroding public belief in public establishments; breeding concern and main individuals to despair.
These are the findings from analysis undertaken round the world. Let me be clear. In none of the nations the place the perverse penalties of ill-thought out drug insurance policies have been reported, in none of those nations did the drug downside disappear. In truth, the reverse occurred.
And so we’re right here in the present day and tomorrow – to take inventory – to study from consultants right here and from overseas, those that have lengthy thought-about, studied and analyzed drug insurance policies, their influence and effectiveness. And we’re right here, collectively, to contribute ourselves to the implementation of the joint dedication by:
  • Providing proof and information to help evidence-based insurance policies and techniques;
  • Collaborating and cooperating throughout totally different nations and various areas of experience – highlighted as being so essential by governments final yr;
  • Listening to 1 one other, respectfully, politely however participating too in sturdy alternate;
  • Developing proposals with and for the Government of the Philippines, different stakeholders, and the individuals of the Philippines – proposals on drug insurance policies and responses which are efficient, and sustainable, bearing in mind the nation’s particular scenario, historical past and contect, in addition to its a number of property and alternatives.
To take par in these exchanges is really a privilege and I thanks for it.
Let me finish by sharing a couple of extra private reflections.
Those of us who’re concerned in human rights works know solely too properly that we live in a world filled with intense disruption. Its signs and its foot print is there for all to see; obvious all over the place. Climate, individuals motion, globalized financial system and globalized crime…however it is usually the case that there’s too is a disruption of norms and values.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’advert Al Hussein, has typically lamented the caustic penalties of those disruptions: It will not be merely that human rights are abused – they continuously have been.
What is phenomenal is the indisputable fact that the very concept of human rights is being questioned and in lots of locations rejected. And that constitutes a marked alteration of the environment globally and domestically, probably the most vital human rights improvement since the institution of the trendy world and common human rights system at the finish of world conflict two.
The assaults we’re witnessing on common, indivisible rights; the undermining of equality, dignity, and accountability – share similarities wherever they happen:
  • There is an in depth software – even advocacy – of a doctrine of world conflict
  • A sure conception of safety, narrowly outlined and in opposition to real human safety, is taking maintain,
  • A blurring if distinctions between combatants and non-combatants; and an ever broadening understanding if the “enemy,” together with the enemy inside.
More crucially nonetheless this rejection of human rights is based on a rejection of our frequent humanity.
The rejects – those who do not slot in, are usually not welcome, are to be rejected, criminalized, punished could differ from nation to nation, group to group, chief to chief – however res assured they’re all human.
  • They could also be migrants or refugees
  • They could also be the poor or the very poor, the homeless.
  • They are avenue kids
  • Indigenous individuals;
  • Political opponents or critics;
  • They are the different…and
  • They could also be drug customers or drug pushers.
Any considered one of these and so many others who, are for one motive or one other, denied their humanity and their human standing – their rights – to justice, to freedom or motion, to safety from power, to freedom of expression. Denied as proper holders, as residents.
These profoundly disturbing developments are occurring at the fingers of authorities that ought to and might know higher. Their demonization – and the unaccountable, empowerment of authority that accompanies it – pushes open a door onto an abyss – a void into which humanity has thrown itself earlier than with terrible penalties – as a result of, after all, one can not deny the humanity if some individuals with out shedding humanity for all individuals.
And so we’re right here in the present day.
I’m immensely grateful for this invitation, for giving me the unbelievable alternative to spend a while with you.
Over the final eight months since I’ve been appointed UN Special Rapporteur I’ve watched from afar, however by no means from too far. I’ve adopted testimonies of the kinfolk of victims, I’ve seen the courageous work of civil society actors, legal professionals, human rights defenders, teachers, senators, I’ve heard debates between politicians, explanations by authorities officers, and certainly I’ve watched footage too of police and army males – and all saying there are different methods; higher methods; different choices, and higher choices.
This forum, with the dedication and the good will of all events, from the authorities to civil society, from the police to the well being sector – is a crucial benchmark to shine the mild of scrutiny, of truth discovering, of data, of proof – neutral and true – in order that we could search extra clearly our strategy to stopping, responding, supporting.
This mild of proof will assist establish and implement the very best drug/anti drug insurance policies, and interventions. That mild will lead – to proper upheld, fulfilled and loved for and by all.
An American vp Hubert Humphrey as soon as noticed “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life”.
People dwelling in life’s shadows are to not be deserted there.
We are to not be deserted there.
I’m deeply honored to have been concerned on this journey with you and deeply dedicated to proceed on that journey with you, starting with these two days convention.