Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Statement by Leila de Lima


Sen. Leila M. de Lima

15 Jan. 2018

Extrajudicial killings and Death Penalty: Most Deadly Combination
The death penalty violates the right to life and has often been abused by authoritarian governments and despots to subjugate and terrorize their constituents. Studies have also revealed that state-sanctioned killings mostly victimize the poor and powerless, and thus can never serve genuine justice, not anywhere in the world.
In the Philippines, the Duterte administration is still bent on re-imposing the death penalty, more than a decade after advocates succeeded in lobbying Congress to abolish this law. It’s as if extrajudicial killings resulting from the war on drugs, itself a form of, and even worse than, death penalty, are not enough.

Extrajudicial killings combined with the resurrection of the death penalty will further cheapen life in the Philippines with the poor and marginalized as the major casualties. The previous imposition of the death penalty in the country has shown that most of those meted death sentences were those who could not afford quality legal representation. Same with this administration’s war on drugs where most victims are lowly users and small-time pushers slaughtered in slum communities.
As if the more than 13,000 drug-related deaths are not enough, this regime wants to kill more, still from the lowest rungs of Philippine society through our defective judicial system that favors the rich and powerful such as Enrile, Arroyo, Napoles, Estrada, the Marcoses and, most recently, former Governor Joel Reyes of Palawan. And while this regime has been targeting the poor, it has abetted the exoneration of these influential suspects charged with extraordinary and heinous crimes.
What this aspiring dictator is doing has trampled on people’s basic rights amid a state of impunity, discrimination and senseless violence. The EJKs and the threat of the death penalty are obviously meant to intimidate and sow fear among Filipinos while those in power plunder the nation. But we will not be silenced, the fight will continue!
Death Penalty Thailand is grateful to Senator Leila de Lima for providing us this statement on one of Asia's major abuses of the right to life. Leila de Lima has now been imprisoned in solitary confinement for one year. A protest has been made by FIDH, the International Federation for Human Rights:
 “Senator de Lima’s arbitrary detention is aimed at silencing her and intimidating other lawmakers and government critics from speaking out against the brutal killings that have been carried out as part of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs.’ She should be immediately released and all charges against her dropped,” said FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Philippnes again takes up restoration of death penalty

We have here a strange announcement, only in an oblique manner, that hearings on restoration of the death penalty in the Philippines are again on the agenda. It is strange too that the hearings are under the direction of Senator Manny Pacquiao, retired boxer, who famously visited Mary Jane Veloso, the Philippina condemned to death in Indonesia, to give her support and comfort. Now it appears that the Senator supports the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is celebrating its most popular annual religious festival, reenacting the execution of Jesus, an event that traumatized early Christians to the extent that the death penalty was an abomination for them, as many of their coreligionists died in state persecutions. However, modern day Filipinos appear unaware of the contradiction in supporting executions while recalling the execution of their Founder.
Forgotten too it seems is the trauma of seeing the poor and disadvantaged shot down in the street in so called non-judicial killings, again abhorrent to the religion they profess.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Summary Execution and Assassination Constitute a De Facto Death Penalty

Death Penalty Thailand responds to an appeal of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) to protest summary executions and assassinations. We have experienced such killings in Thailand and in our neighbour states.

Extra-Judicial  Executions Never Stopped: New Attempts Before Israeli Knesset to Legitimize Killing of Palestinians

The Israeli Knesset intends to vote on Wednesday, 03 January 2018, to amend the Penal Code in order to legalize the use of death penalty against those involved in murders while carrying out "terrorist operations”. The bill was presented before the Knesset on 30 October 2017 by three Israeli extremist parliamentarians: Robert Eltov, Oded Forer and Yuli Leminovsky.

The bill stipulates that "the Minister of Defense orders the commander of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the division to give orders to: 1- the Military Court in the division to have the power to sentence death penalty without requiring the consensus of the Military Court, but only the ordinary majority; 2- No other court in the division has the right to commute a final death sentence issued by the military court in the division.” 

The explanation for the amendment says, “Releasing terrorists following a period of their imprisonment (in reference to prisoner exchange deals with the Palestinian armed groups) due to carrying out terrible operations sends a reverse message that does not contribute to fighting terrorism and strengthening the Israeli deterrence capability. The bill aims at creating a meaningful deterrence and showing Israel is tightening up its policies and no longer tolerates such crimes.”

PCHR emphasizes that such repeated bills are an attempt to legitimize a current status, which is the policy of assassinations and extra-judicial executions carried out according to direct orders directly from  the highest decision makers in the Israeli forces against the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). PCHR has followed many statements which stressed use of assassinations and lethal force when dealing with any danger threats the Israeli soldiers. PCHR and media also documented scenes of extra-judicial executions and assassinations, which undoubtedly confirm the existence of an extra-judicial executions policy practiced by the Israeli forces.

While following up the bill which legitimizes the Israeli killing, the Palestinian memory recalls the killing scene of young man Ibrahim Abu Thurayah, who was killed twice by the Israeli forces. The first time when the Israeli bombing caused the amputation of his legs during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2008 while the second was when he was shot dead by the Israeli snipers to the head during his participation in a protest near the border fence in December 2017.

The cruel scenes of dozens of cold-blooded killings by Israeli soldiers continue to haunt the Palestinian memory, such as the scene of the Israeli soldier Eleazar Azariah, who in cold blood killed the Palestinian civilian Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif in March 2016. Abed al-Fattah was directly hit with a live bullet to the head while lying on the ground motionless.

It should be noted that the policy of assassinations and extra-judicial executions are adopted by the Israeli forces as PCHR has monitored the implementation of hundreds of assassinations that claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinian civilians. Moreover, PCHR monitored dozens of extra-judicial executions since 2014, most of them were killed without posing any real threat to the Israeli soldiers, and some were killed on mere suspicion.

It is noteworthy that tabling the bill was one of the election promises by the Israeli War Minister, Knesset Member and Leader of the extremist “Yisrael Beiteinu” Party, Avigdor Lieberman. According to the Israeli media, this racist law is supported by a number of extremist ministers in the Israeli government: Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Agriculture Uri Yehuda Ariel, Minister of Culture Miri Regev, Minister of Science Danny Danon and Minister of Immigration Ze'ev Elkin.The above-mentioned facts reveal two things; First, Israel never stopped using death penalty but extra-judicially through summary executions and what Israel is now trying to do is to legitimize such crime. It should be noted that the idea of codifying crimes is an Israeli systematic policy.  This idea is used by Israel legitimize the settlement activities, house demolitions, and confiscation of civilians’ properties.  All of these practices are war crimes but legalized by Israel against Palestinians according to applicable laws and upheld by Judicial rulings. Second, this attempt confirms that Israel is an apartheid state ruled by racists. Moreover, the submitted bill, which is supported by the government ministers, has worked on applying death penalty on Palestinians only and not Israelis, even if this was not mentioned in text, it is seen on the ground as this amendment shall be applied within the military courts in the oPt. This scene recalls the laws of the apartheid state in South Africa.

A similar bill was previously rejected by the Israeli Knesset in 2015. At that time, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who recommended his Party Members in the Knesset not to vote for the bill, which only received 6 votes, commented that the bill needed an amendment and prolonged discussions.  He added then that he and his extremist (Likud) party accepted the bill in principle and the disagreement was only about details.

It should be noted that the death penalty is codified in the Israeli military laws and decisions, but is optional and not mandatory for the judge. Following  the occupation of the oPt in 1967, the Israeli authorities issued 2 decisions (268 and 159) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 and 1968 respectively. According to the decisions, the death penalty becomes optional and not mandatory for the judge. Therefore, death penalty can be replaced  by life imprisonment or hard labor for life.

The Israeli judiciary has applied life imprisonment instead of death penalty, constituting a stable precedent over the past decades. Those who presented this bill are attempting to cancel this precedent, bring the death penalty to life, and facilitate sentencing it without requiring the consensus of the judicial body to issue the death sentence.

It should be noted that the death penalty was officially applied once upon a decision by an Israeli court in 1962 against Adolf Eichmann, a senior officer in the Nazi German Army during World War II.

PCHR raises the alarm about the legitimization of the Israeli killing because it paves the way towards committing more murders and  will be used as a display justified in the name of strengthening  “deterrence” as called by the bill. PCHR confirms that the suggested amendment violates Israel’s obligations under Article (6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which sets conditions to apply the death penalty not available in the Israeli military courts such as: the fair trial conditions, to be presented before natural judge and the endorsement of the death penalty by the consensus of the judicial body and not only by majority (as suggested by the amendment submitted to the Knesset.)

Thus, PCHR calls upon the UN and High Contracting Parties  and Signatory Parties to the human rights conventions, particularly the ICCPR, to ensure that Israel respects human rights in the oPt and ends its interference and racist actions against Palestinians.

PCHR also calls upon the European Union (EU) to take serious steps to prevent enacting such law based on Israel’s obligations under the  Israel-EU Association Agreement.

Moreover, PCHR calls upon all anti-death penalty groups and organizations to work to prevent enacting such law and emerge summary execution and assassination crimes into its focus circle for constituting a de facto acknowledgment of death penalty that is way dangerous than the legal acknowledgment as it grants an  absolute power to the soldiers to issue and apply the death sentence.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2018: Salute to Philippine's Leila De Lima

While aware that there are those who believe that the campaign for abolition of the death penalty should be confined to the strict category of those condemned to judicial killing, it is the belief of Death Penalty Thailand that extrajudicial killings are to be considered as an extreme form of judicial killing. In the Philippines, President Duterte would certainly welcome a restored death penalty, and has already spoken of ten executions a day. Blocked by opposition to a restoration of the death penalty, illegal by international treaty law, he has resorted to extra judicial killings. It is our hope that in the new year he will enjoy all the benefits of legal defence when impeached for his crimes.

We salute Leila De Lima in her brave struggle and carry this report on her continued action;
From her detention quarters in Camp Crame, De Lima said 2017 was an extraordinary year, claiming she was detained on “trumped-up” illegal drug charges by the Duterte administration but at the same time gained international recognition for her fight for human rights.

“This year, I learned that being deprived of your physical liberty is never a hindrance to fight for what is right and just, but a reminder to continue living a life of purpose by promoting freedom and seeking justice, especially for the thousands killed in the war on drugs,” De Lima said.