"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." Oscar Wilde

Friday, May 6, 2016

India: Why The Use Of The Death Penalty Needs To End

It is strange that we are currently governed by a system that directly relies on the use of vastly differentiated standards of what makes the "rarest of rare". The definition of the "rarest" is left to judges governed by personal viewpoints on what constitutes extreme rarity.

Capital punishment has shown itself to be ineffective in having any deterrence to criminals. Capital punishment is used by the State to placate its citizens by sending the message that it is getting rid of the criminal, completely. The citizenry don't seem to have thought far enough to understand - or perhaps have ruminated over and accepted - that the responsibility of execution belongs to them individually.

The taxpayer pays for the execution of criminals governed by a system that did not have any deterrence on them in the first place.

The taxpayer has failed to consider even the inhumane method of execution: death by hanging. The focus in jurisdictions that practice capital punishment has been on finding less painful, or painless, methods of administration of death. Justice Bhagwati, the lone dissenter in Bachan Singh's case, described in detail the method of execution of the death penalty which makes for harrowing reading.

The situation in India as it exists today is reliant upon the judiciary giving out the death penalty only in the rarest situations. The crime has to be of such repugnance that it can be classified as being beyond comprehension. The criminal, having committed such a crime, has lost all value to society and is beyond redemption.

It has, however, proved itself a highly contentious area of litigation. The biggest issue by far is the impossibility of standardisation of what constitutes a crime repugnant enough. It is left to the wisdom of the adjudicating authority to decide what crimes can be considered the rarest of the rare. The logical conclusion then is this: death must be awarded by courts in all cases that exceed the case that is the most probable in the "rarest of rare" category.

This has led to the discrepancies in the application of capital punishment. Crimes are looked at through subjective degrees of scrutiny. What may constitute an offence punishable by death in one case would not apply to the next.

Therefore, the focus in recent years has been on the lack of uniform application of the death penalty and the procedural aspects of death penalty litigation across the higher and lower judiciary. The focus has been augmented by calls for the development of standards and guidelines to govern the use of the death penalty.

Further, civil society has called for better treatment of convicts awarded the death penalty and on death row. This has shown itself in judgments passed by the Supreme Court in 2015 where it has focused not on the question of the constitutionality of the death penalty itself, but the question of the treatment given to such convicts awarded the death penalty in terms of mental and physical agony. The case of Shabnam v. Union of India focused on the right of condemned prisoners to die with dignity, and that the execution could not take could not take place in an arbitrary, hurried and secret manner.

In recent years, 3 executions have taken place. All three executions have been on convictions on terror and terror-related offences. It certainly appears that Supreme Court judges are fighting the mandatory imposition of capital punishment for the "rarest of the rare" cases. In most cases, the conviction made by the lower courts is upheld but the sentence of death commuted to life imprisonment. There is, therefore, a tendency among judges of the Supreme Court to impose a virtual moratorium on the death penalty, except in cases involving terrorism.

It is interesting to note the case of Anders Breivik. Breivik carried out the deadliest attack on Norwegian soil since the Second World War. In 2011, Breivik killed 77 people, most of them children.

Norway did not execute Breivik. Norway and Western Europe do not have capital punishment. It showed the maturity of the legal system, and of the progress of development of humanistic thought to a continent which had caused itself great injury over ferocious wars.

The issue of the use of the death penalty is one that has only one answer: we have to get rid of it, in its entirety. Beyond the problems in the correct execution of the doctrine of "rarest of the rare", capital punishment itself has been the subject of criticism historically as well as contemporaneously on very basic grounds: that the State does not have the right to take away life.

Modern philosophical thought finds it repugnant to be party to the execution of individuals, whatever their crime. The viewpoint has been to try and reform the convict into a contributing member of society. Even if reform has been found to be impossible, modern philosophers such as Mohandas Gandhi, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Bertrand Russell have balked at the simple fact that capital punishment is a euphemism for legalized death.

For thinkers such as these, the focus has been on the influence of social psychology vis-a-vis the individual perspective. Capital punishment, in their view, would put the responsibility of execution of convicts on each citizen of their nation, making it a personal responsibility. Social psychology, on the other hand, tends to dilute the responsibility of the execution itself on the basis of the "greater good".

One of the threads connecting thinkers such as the ones noted above are their dedicated tendencies towards pacifism, non-violence and forgiveness. It is these principles that India as a nation needs to practice. To the architect of the constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, capital punishment went against the principles of non-violence and the spirit of welfare on which the nation was formed.

In a global society witnessing the emergence of increasingly insular and repressive governments, India needs to show the path to non-violence and forgiveness. India has the resources, history and legal and philosophical thought to be able to move beyond what is an outdated method of punishment. All that is required today is political will and general consensus.

Source: The Citizen, May 5, 2016

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Former San Quentin warden reveals how he killed prisoners in the jail's 'coughing box' without any training -- or remorse

San Quentin's gas chamber
San Quentin's gas chamber
Dan Vasquez performed 2 executions while warden at San Quentin

Without any experience or medical training, Dan Vasquez was employed by the government to kill other human beings.

As warden of San Quentin, one of the most notorious prisons in the world, put inmates to death in the gas chamber - known by his staff and those on death row as the 'coughing box'.

The day before an execution he would bring in a psychologist to help his team prepare to watch a condemned criminal die, in a bid to avoid post-traumatic stress.

Then, just hours later, he would ask the prisoner for his last words as he was strapped into a chair inside a tiny metal green room.

Then he would start the chemical reaction that has been deemed the most dangerous and expensive way to kill an inmate.

Vasquez insists he was never fazed by putting an inmate to death, as it was his job.

In his 1st interview since stepping down as California's state executioner, Vasquez has told Daily Mail Online his role as California's state executioner has never haunted him.

For more than 30 years he has been involved in the death penalty, either carrying it out or testifying as consultant at capital murder trials.

The grandfather-of-2 also believes in an 'eye-for-an-eye' when it comes to the death penalty - that condemned inmates should be killed in the same manner they killed their victims.

A controversial policy like that, he believes, would send a strong message to would-be criminals and act as a deterrent,

'In my opinion, if you want to stop human beings killing other human beings, when you execute the 1st person in the manner that they killed their victim.

'I think it would get rid of the need for the death penalty.

'For example, if I rape a woman and strangle her, then they would rape and strangle me.'

'If that happened, maybe other people would get the message of murder under special circumstances.

'I shoot you to death, then maybe I should be executed by being shot.

'It should be an eye-for-an-eye. If it's done that way, I guarantee you that you are going to go a long way to stopping the criminal offense of killing another person.

'If I stab you to death and cut you into pieces, maybe I should be stabbed and cut into pieces.'

Vasquez is a father-of-2 who has been married for 51 years to wife Juanita.

As warden at San Quentin, Vasquez was the state executioner between 1983 and 1993.

For the first 9 years, he didn't put any inmates to death, as the 1976 US Supreme Court decision of Gregg v. Georgia had put a moratorium on the death penalty.

But when it was lifted, he carried out the 1st execution in San Quentin for almost 25 years.

'I knew it was part of the job.

'I prepared for it by preparing the procedure and putting it all together.

'I made sure the gas chamber was working, made sure maintenance was done on it. I prepared in that manner.

'I also practiced in running the lethal gas. We had a chemical engineer from Indiana who would come in and measure the toxicity of the lethal gas inside the chamber.'

The 1st person he put to death was Robert Alton Harris, who killed 2 teenage boys in San Diego in 1978. He was originally scheduled at 12.01am on April 21, 1992, but stays meant his death was delayed for 6 hours

'I didn't receive any training, but I prepared myself. I didn't need the department to help me with anything.'

He killed 2 inmates by lethal gas - Robert Alton Harris and David Edwin Mason.

The gas chamber was never as popular as the electric chair in the United States but was used widely in Arizona, Wyoming, Missouri, Mississippi and California.

Still, it was considered the most expensive and most dangerous way to kill an inmate.

Inside San Quentin's gas chamber
Inside San Quentin's gas chamber
The prisoner, strapped into a metal chair inside a tiny chamber, waits as potassium cyanide pellets are dropped into a bath of sulfuric acid below. The chemical reaction would generate fumes of lethal hydrogen cyanide.

As a result, the inmate would then suffer terribly before dying of hypoxia, a form of oxygen starvation

Harris, who killed 2 teenage boys in San Diego in 1978, was originally scheduled at 12.01am on April 21, 1992.

He finished his last meal - a 21-piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, 2 large Domino's pizzas, a bag of jelly beans, a 6-pack of Pepsi, and a pack of Camel cigarettes - before he was led into the death chamber.

But a series of 4 stays of execution issued by 9th circuit appeal court delayed the execution until just after 6am.

At one point he was strapped into his seat in the gas chamber when the phone rang. According to witnesses, he urged the prison guards to get over and done with, but they couldn't.

Moments later, the guards opened the doors and Alton Harris became the 1st prisoner to leave the gas chamber at San Quentin alive - even if it was for just a short time.

Aside from the delays execution was however remembered for his bizarre choice of last words:

He said: 'You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the grim reaper,' a misquotation of a line from the 1991 film Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.

Vasquez said he was frustrated by the constant delays, but when it came to it, the prisoner was killed without an issue.

David Edwin Mason, who murdered four elderly people in 1980 and his cellmate in 1982, would be the last person in California to be put to death by lethal gas.

His execution was far smoother, as he kept his vow not to go through any final appeals.

Instead of having a traditional last meal, he instead opted to dine with his family on sandwiches provided by the prison.

When Mason was in the chamber, Vasquez asked if he wanted to proceed, knowing that his attorney could stop the execution at any time.

But Mason refused.

He died on August 24, 1993, 12 months before a federal judge said the execution method constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

It would be the last execution Vasquez carried out, but a year later he was invited to watch the lethal injection procedure in Texas.

As a witness, he returned and offered his advice to the then California Attorney General Dan Lungren, on the new method that has been used to kill inmates ever since.

Despite his involvement in the controversial system, Vasquez insists capital punishment hasn't had a damaging impact on his life.

'They don't haunt me. I didn't put the inmates on the row, they put themselves on their with their actions.

'I have never received any complaints from my execution team nor from the department of corrections in California.

'I have never received any kind of disability initiation for participating in the executions.

'It hasn't affected my life at all.'

Capital punishment in the United States is still frequently part of political debates. Recently, Virginia's legislature said they were bringing back the electric chair as a back-up way to kill inmates.

Vasquez says it will never happen because of the courts, but insists he is still for capital punishment.

'I'm for the executions. I would be a hypocrite if I wasn't'.

But he does believe that a sentence of life without parole is more punishment than an execution.

'In California there hasn't been an execution in 10 years. It is held up in the courts right now.

'The policy of the state of California is the death penalty.

'The citizens of the state of California have been asked on 3 different occasions on a ballot if they wanted to do away with capital punishment in California.

'3 times they have voted for the death penalty. I don't have any problems with the death penalty. But I don't have any problems with life without the possibility of parole either.'

There hasn't been an execution in California since 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was put to death by lethal injection.

Legal cases and problems with the lethal injection procedure led to a moratorium being signed in California. As capital punishment was brought to a halt, the death row population swelled.

A quarter of condemned inmates in the United States currently sit on death row in California.

Now, it has been lifted, and some of the 764 rapists, murderers and kidnappers on death row are facing their sentence.

7 have been there since the 1970s.

It could be at least a year until California puts another inmate to death, but Vasquez thinks the questions surrounding the death penalty will prevail, and will never be answered.

'Attorneys are always raising issues. It's like the question a philosopher once posed: 'How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

'It is a question that can never be answered, but is a question that will always exist.

'Does it hurt when they execute you? How many angels dance on the head of a pin?'

Now, Vasquez is a consultant, and still has a role in the whole execution process.

He said: 'When your watch is over at San Quentin then you don't do anymore executions.

'Now the closest I get to any issue of executions is when I testify in the penalty phase of capital trial in California.

'What that requires is for me to educate the jury that is going to make the decision on an inmate who has been charged with a capital crime.

'Whether to sentence them to death or sentence them to life without the possibility of parole.'

He explains to the jury what prisons in the California state system are like, and how life without parole will impact a prisoner.

'The defense usually hire me,' he added. 'It does not involve pros or cons. It only involves educating the jury on all the policies involved in incarcerating a prisoner'.

Vasquez also does a variety of consulting on prisons. He has testified on death in custody, either by suicide or at the hands of the prison guards.

He has also been involved in informing prisons on how to avoid escapes.

In January, 4 inmates managed to flee the Orange County Central Jail through the roof.

They went on the run for almost a week before they were spotted and captured.

Vasquez slammed the prison, claiming their regime, the decision to lock the criminals together and the fact they left so long between headcounts, was the cause of their escape.

Source: Daily Mail, May 4, 2016

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Bangladesh court rejects Islamist leader's final death sentence appeal

Motiur Rahman Nizami
Motiur Rahman Nizami
Motiur Rahman Nizami, leader of Jamaat-e-Islami party, could face hanging at any time

Bangladesh's supreme court has rejected a final appeal by the leader of the top Islamist party against a death sentence for atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence, lawyers say, meaning he could be hanged at any time.

The supreme court in January upheld the death penalty for Motiur Rahman Nizami, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, for genocide, rape and orchestrating the massacre of top intellectuals during the 1971 war.

Nizami, 73, a former legislator and minister under Khaleda Zia when she was prime minister, has been in jail since 2010, when he was charged with war crimes by a tribunal set up by the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, that year.

The war crimes tribunal has sparked violence and drawn criticism from opposition politicians, including leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, that it is victimising Hasina's political opponents.

"All the legal battles are over," Nizami's lawyer, Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, told reporters on Thursday. "Now it is up to him whether he will seek clemency from the president or not."

Hundreds of people flooded the streets of the capital, Dhaka, to cheer the verdict, but there has been no report of violence, although Jamaat called a nationwide strike for Sunday in protest.

Authorities have deployed additional security forces in Dhaka and elsewhere as similar previous judgments triggered violence that killed around 200, mainly Jamaat activists and police.

No Peace Without Justice, a non-profit body based in Italy, has called the tribunal's proceedings "a weapon of politically influenced revenge whose real aim is to target the political opposition".

The government denies the accusations.

The verdict comes as the Muslim-majority nation suffers a surge in militant violence in which atheist bloggers, academics, religious minorities and foreign aid workers have been killed.

In the last month alone, 5 people, including a university teacher, two gay activists and a Hindu have been hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.

The government has blamed the increase in Islamist violence on Jamaat-e-Islami, but the group denies any link to the attacks.

4 opposition politicians, including three Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, have been convicted by the war crimes tribunal and executed since late 2013.

About 3 million people were killed, official figures show, and thousands of women were raped, during the 9-month war, in which some factions, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, opposed the break from what was then called West Pakistan. But the party denies that its leaders committed any atrocities.

Source: The Guardian, May 5, 2016


Noose tightens on Nizami for war crimes as Bangladesh Jamaat chief loses last legal battle

Bangladesh's highest court of appeals has thrown out top war criminal Motiur Rahman Nizami's last-ditch appeal to review his death penalty for atrocities during the 1971 War of Independence.

The Supreme Court's decision clears the final legal hurdle for the government to hang the Jamaat-e-Islami chief for directing rapes, mass murders, and massacre of intellectuals to stop Bangladesh emerge out of Pakistan as an independent nation.

But the former Al-Badr militia chief can beg President Md Abdul Hamid to save his neck, but he will have to repent of his crimes.

In the event he decides that he will not seek mercy, or if the president turns down a clemency petition from him, the government will execute the death sentence.

The 4-strong Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha pronounced single-word judgment on Thursday.

The top judge took his seat in a tense court room and only uttered, "Dismissed".

The other members of the bench were justices Nazmun Ara Sultana, Syed AB Mahmud Husain and Hasan Foez Siddique.

On Mar 16, the death warrant issued by the International Crimes Tribunal was read out to Nizami after the Supreme Court published the full copy of his verdict the day before.

He moved the chief justice-led court on Mar 29 to review his death penalty, well before the 15-day time limit for the last legal recourse. The court heard arguments for some 2 1/2 hours on Tuesday.

Assisted by SM Shahjahan, Khandker Mahbub Hossain argued for Nizami at the court hearings on his review appeal filed.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam represented the State and he was aided by Additional Attorney General Md Momtaz Uddin Fakir and Assistant Attorney General Bashir Ahmed.

An official of the Supreme Court Registrar's Office said a certified copy of the full verdict on the review petition will soon be sent via the tribunal to Dhaka Central jail.

Nizami, a close confidante of Jamaat ideologue and another war criminal Ghulam Azam, who had died in prison, is now lodged in Kashimpur prison in Gazipur.

His counsels said that Nizami and his family will decide whether to go for presidential clemency.

"All the legal battles are over," said lawyer SM Shajahan, who assisted chief defence counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain at the court hearings on the review plea.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said that the whole nation was relieved over the verdict.

"It finally secured justice for the killings of intellectuals. Nizami inspired the Al-Badr and was responsible for the massacre of the intellectuals."

The highest appeals court's decision was greeted with celebrations and handshakes outside the courtroom and enlivened by full-throated slogans in the streets.

It elicited jubilation and relief among war veterans and supporters of war crimes trial who had pushed for maximum penalty, including the Ganajagaran Mancha.

Mancha activists and supporters brought at a procession at Dhaka's Shahbagh intersection as soon as the verdict was pronounced.

"The scrapping of review plea concludes all the legal proceedings. This is a major victory for the people of Bangladesh.

"The nation has waited long for the notorious war criminal's punishment," said Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker.

The Jamaat supremo is the fifth war criminal to carry a verdict for maximum punishment that is at the final stages of execution. He is the second politician after his deputy Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid to have served as minister and going to be hanged for war-time atrocities.

On Jan 6 this year, this appellate court rejected a plea to overturn his conviction and the death sentence given by a special war tribunal's verdict.

In its verdict on Nizami's appeal, the apex court had said nothing short of a death sentence can be the apt punishment given the gravity of the horrific crimes he had committed.

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), in Oct 29, 2014 verdict, found the former influential minister in BNP chief Khaleda Zia's government guilty of 8 out of the 16 charges.

The 72-year old divisive figure from Pabna was the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha, then the student wing of Jamaat. He commanded the Al-Badr militia created by the Pakistan Army that was notorious for its ruthlessness.

He was also instrumental in the formation and running of the Razakar and Peace Committee, forces to help the Pakistan generals.

The Al-Badr brigade had gone on a genocidal rampage to cleanse the Bengali nation-in-the-making. Its loyalists killed some of the best brains who formed the spine of secular nationalism that undermined Pakistan's race-based founding principles.

Most of them were killed just a few days before the final victory on Dec 16.

The Jamaat linchpin already carries death penalty handed down in 2014 for his role in arms trafficking related to Chittagong 10-truck arms haul case.

The 5 appeals verdicts of war crimes cases handed down so far are of Jamaat assistant secretaries general Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, secretary general Mujahid, the party's Nayeb-e-Amir Delwar Hossain Sayedee, and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

Sayedee's death sentence was commuted to prison term until death.

The 4 others' death sentences were upheld and they have been executed.

Ghulam Azam, who led the party during the war, and former BNP minister Abdul Alim died while waiting for the hearing of their appeals.

From killing grounds to the Cabinet

Born on Mar 31, 1943 in Monmothpur village of Pabna's Santhia Upazila, Nizami succeeded his guru at the helm in 2000.

He was chosen for the top job after he led the party's Dhaka City unit for 4 years until 1982.

A year later, he was made assistant secretary general before being promoted to secretary general in 1988.

He got his Kamil degree in Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from Dhaka's Madrasa-e-Alia in 1963.

Nizami later graduated from the Dhaka University in 1967.

Inspired by the political preaching of Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi, who founded Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in Lahore in 1941, Nizami joined its student wing Chhatra Sangha.

He swiftly rose through the ranks of the political outfit, operating in the then West and East Pakistan, and became Chhatra Sangha president in 1966.

Nizami retained the post for the following 5 years and throughout Bangladesh's struggle for independence from Pakistan.

After the war, Nizami fled with Ghulam Azam to the UK.

In 1978, Bangladesh's 1st military dictator Gen Ziaur Rahman repatriated them and brought Jamaat back into politics.

Nizami was elected to Parliament in 1991 and again in 2001 on a BNP-led coalition ticket.

He served as the agriculture minister until 2003 and thereafter as industries minister until 2006.

Source: bdnews24.xom, May 5, 2016

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Five Hanged in Northern Iran, One in Public, Four at Ghezel Hesar on Drug Charges

Public hanging in Iran (file photo)
Public hanging in Iran (file photo)
Five prisoners hanged in northern Iran in the span of two days: one in public on murder charges and four at Ghezel Hesar Prison on drug charges.

Iran Human Rights (May 5 2016): A prisoner with murder charges was reportedly hanged in public in the city of Nur (located in the northern province of Mazandaran) on the morning of Monday May 2. State-run agency, Iran News, has identified the prisoner who was hanged in public as "Avaz". 

On Tuesday May 3, four prisoners with drug related charges were hanged at Ghezel Hesar Prison (located in the northern city of Karaj). 

According to close sources, these four prisoners have been identified as: Reza Hosseini, Majid Imani, Abdolhamid Bameri, and Ahmad Altafi. Reza Hosseini was reportedly transferred to Ghezel Hesar from Tehran Central Prison (also known as Fashafouye) for his execution. 

Iranian official sources, include state media and the Judiciary, have been silent about these four executions.

Iran Human Rights (May 3 2016): On Sunday May 1, one prisoner was reportedly hanged at Nahavand Prison (in the western province of Hamadan) and two prisoners were reportedly hanged at Mashhad Central Prison (in the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan).

According to a report by the Judiciary in Hamadan, the prisoner hanged at Nahavand was executed on murder charges. The report identifies the prisoner only by the initials, M.R.

The state-run news site, Rokna, reported on the executions of the two unrelated prisoners in Mashhad, but did not publish their names or initials. According to the report, one of the prisoners was hanged on murder charges while the other was a 25-year-old hanged on rape charges.

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 5, 2016

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Judge rules that Alabama death row inmate is competent to be executed May 12

An Alabama circuit court judge has denied a request to suspend the May 12 execution date of Vernon Madison, who has been on the state's death row for 31 years.

Madison was convicted in September 1985 and sentenced to death in Mobile County in the April 18, 1985, slaying of police Officer Julius Schulte, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call. Madison was on parole at the time.

At a competency hearing April 14, testimony was offered by Dr. Karl Kirkland, a court-appointed clinical and forensic psychologist; Dr. John Goff, a psychologist hired by Madison's attorneys; and Carter Davenport, the warden at W.C. Holman Correctional Facility.

Madison's attorneys argued that several strokes had caused such significant mental decline that he no longer understood why the state intended to execute him. His attorneys from the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative are seeking a stay of execution.

Julius SchulteCorporal Julius Schulte was a 22-year veteran of the Mobile Police Department when he was shot and killed April 18, 1985, while responding to a domestic violence call.

Madison had a stroke in May 2015 and another in January of this year, causing memory loss and slurred speech, making it difficult for him to move and rendering him legally blind.

Goff testified that, consequently, he has retrograde amnesia and dementia, and his IQ has declined significantly to 72 from previous scores.

The state attorney general's office argues that, based on the testimony of both Goff and Kirkland, Madison does understand why the state is moving to execute him. They say the testimony shows that Madison does not suffer from psychosis or delusions, and no mental illness or defect would cause him to lack an understanding of reality.

Mobile County Circuit Judge Robert Smith issued a ruling Friday saying that, based on the testimony and arguments, Madison and his attorneys have not proven that he is not competent to be executed.

Smith wrote in the order that Madison has a rational understanding that "he is going to be executed because of the murder he committed and... that the state is seeking retribution and that he will die when he is executed."

The judge noted that, during the competency hearing, Madison did not testify, and it was "difficult to tell" if he was following the testimony. Smith wrote that he appeared physically ill, confined to a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace.

Madison, who has been on death row since Nov. 12, 1985, is one of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates.

He had 3 trials, the last one in 1994. State appellate courts twice had sent the case back to Mobile County, once for a violation based on race-based jury selection and once based on improper testimony for an expert witness for the prosecution.

Over the years since, he has filed numerous state and federal appeals that have been denied, including denials by the Alabama Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

The Alabama Supreme Court in January issued an order setting May 12 as the date for execution. Madison was one of three death row inmates for which the Alabama Attorney General's Office had requested the court in February to set execution dates.

The inmates are being held on death row at Holman Correctional Facility at Atmore where the executions take place.

Source: al.com, May 4, 2006

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pakistan: No Justice for Juveniles

On 10th June 2015, Aftab Bahadur was executed after spending 22 years on death row in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail. Bahadur, a Christian man, entered the formidable walls of his death row cell at the age of 15 and left only when he walked to the gallows at the age of 39.

He was working as an assistant to a plumber when he was arrested and tortured by the police into giving a confession for murdering a woman and her 2 sons.

Aftab relayed that the police had asked him for a bribe of PKR 50,000 in exchange for his freedom which he was unable to afford. Thereafter he was convicted and sentenced to death under a law that provided for expedited trials for 'terrorists'.

The only eye-witness to the crime recanted his statement claiming that he had been tortured by the police into implicating Aftab for the murder and that he had never even been present at the time the crime took place.

Writing from his cell a few days before his execution he stated," For many years - since I was just 15 years old - I have been stranded between life and death. It has been a complete limbo, total uncertainty about the future."

As we approach the 1 year anniversary of Aftab Bahadur's execution, the Government of Pakistan has executed over 387 prisoners since the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014.

At least 5 of those executed - including Aftab Bahadur - were juveniles at the time of committing their alleged offences. In a study conducted by the Justice Project Pakistan titled "Juveniles on Death Row" it was discovered that at least 10% of Pakistan's 8000 death row prisoners were juvenile offenders. This puts the number of juveniles facing execution at a startling figure of 800.

Executions of persons who were juveniles at the time of committing the alleged crimes is strictly prohibited under international law through the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), that Pakistan became a party to in 2010.

Domestically, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), a law enacted to provide protections for juvenile offenders in 2000, also bars executions for juvenile and provides for separate courts, jails and trials for juveniles.

A 2001 Presidential Commutation Order extended the benefit of the law to juvenile offender convicted prior to the enactment of the law on the condition of an inquiry into their juvenility.

Despite these protections in place, how is it that juveniles continue to be executed?

Pakistan has one of the lowest birth registrations rates in world. Only 27 % of births in the country are registered with figures going much lower in rural areas. Upon arrest these children are left with no proof of age to prove their juvenility.

Exacerbating the problem, police in Pakistan often record a person's age at the time of their arrest based upon a visual assessment of their physical appearance without any verification. Often times, police record the age of juvenile offenders as above 18 in order to avoid application of protective safeguards provided under the JJSO.

During the course of the trial and appeals, Courts inevitably rely upon the arbitrary assessment provided by the police, despite, production of government-issued documents, including NADRA ID cards by the accused party.

Ansar Iqbal was executed on 29th September 2015 despite the existence of a NADRA issued ID card that showed him to be 15 at the time of committing the offence. The Trial Court chose to rely upon the police assessment of his age of "22/23" years - a decision that was upheld by the High Court and the Supreme Court.

The Courts' failure to rely upon NADRA issued ID cards impairs the integrity of the very national registration system that has been the subject of monumental reform projects and foreign funding in recent years.

A purview of case-law on the determination of juvenility in court proceedings shows that there is virtually no consistent pattern that Courts in Pakistan follow. The courts are free to rely upon birth certificates or school leaving records over medical assessments in one case or medical assessment over any documentary evidence in another.

At the end of the day the Court's decision comes down to the discretion of the individual judge presiding and often times such discretion is inclined towards deeming the accused to be an adult. Not only is such arbitrary practice harmful to the integrity of the criminal justice system, it also violates the fundamental principle of benefit of doubt being granted to the person claiming juvenility.

Additionally, juvenile offenders often fail to raise the plea of juvenility at the stage of investigation and trial as a result of inadequate legal representation - which is usually the case. When such plea is raised at the stage of the appeal there are instances of superior courts failing to consider the supporting evidence by deeming it as not being raised at the 'correct time'.

Such a lack of consistent practice and jurisprudence, leads to severe human rights violations in the investigation and prosecution of juvenile defendants and eventually to executions that are in blatant violation of domestic and international law.

In the state reports submitted under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) the government of Pakistan has unequivocally stated that no juvenile offenders have been executed in Pakistan.

However, what these reports fail to mention is that the criminal justice is severely lacking in reliable mechanisms to identify juveniles and thereby bring them within the protections that are due to them under law.

There is a dire need to develop consistent age-determination protocols in order to ensure that determination of juvenility by the police and by the courts is conducted in a manner that is fair, just and transparent.

The National Commission on Human Rights, established under the National Commission on Human Rights Act, 2012, is the body with the requisite powers to formulate and implement such protocols. It is essential that the Government of Pakistan provides the necessary cooperation and assistance to the NCHR to undertake such an essential endeavour.

It has been a year since the world lost Aftab Bahadur, and over 23 since he lost his freedom at the age of 15 - an innocent victim of a defunct juvenile justice system. How many more children will meet the same fate?

Source: The Nation, May 4, 2016

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Pakistan convict executed, another gets a lifeline

A murder convict was hanged at the district jail on Tuesday morning. The execution of another convict was put off on Tuesday after his family reached a settlement with the petitioners.

Jail authorities said Asghar Ali, a resident of Khushab, had murdered his brother, his brother's wife, and their 4 children over property in Noshera, Khushab, in 2007. 

They said a trial court had sentenced him to death. Later, Sargodha Sessions Judge Abdul Nasir had issued black warrants for Ali. 

The jail authorities handed over the body to Ali's family.

Separately, the execution of a murder convict was put off after the petitioner settled with the defendant. 

A Prisons spokesperson said a trial court had sentenced Haq Nawaz, son of Bakhsh, to death for murdering his mother-in-law Ejaz Bibi in a Kotwali City police precinct, Jhang, in March 2001.

Black warrants had been issued for Haq Nawaz's execution to be carried out on May 3 at Jhang District Jail. It was put off after the petitioner said they had settled with the defendant

Source: The Express Tribune, May 4, 2016

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Taiwan: Cheng Hsing-tse freed from death row

5,231 Days in Jail: Cheng was happy to be reunited with his mother in time for Mother's Day after 14 years in prison. He is to be retried after new evidence surfaced

The Taichung Branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday ruled that death-row inmate Cheng Hsing-tse should be released on bail pending a retrial on the charges that have seen him imprisoned for 14 years, including 10 on death row.

The 49-year-old Cheng, who has always maintained his innocence, walked out of the Taichung Prison in the afternoon and was met by family members and supporters, including representatives of the Taiwan Association for Innocence and the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty.

After 5,231 days of incarceration, Cheng said: "This taste of freedom is a really great feeling."

"I have been imprisoned for the past 14 years, but now I am so happy that I can spend this Mother's Day with my family," he said as he embraced his mother.

Some supporters came with sunflowers and handed one to Cheng, as they hailed his release as a victory for human rights and shouted: "Cheng is innocent of the crime" and "We don't want to have any more wrongful convictions."

Cheng's attorney Law Bing-cheng said the day has been late in coming because his client is innocent and has been jailed for too long.

"Today he is set free, and for this we have to thank the prosecutors and the judges. This case has also set milestones in Taiwan's judiciary, because it is the 1st time that a man whose death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court is going to receive a retrial. I am certain Cheng has the courage to face the retrial so that he can clear his name," Law said.

Yesterday's decision barred Cheng from leaving the country or going out to sea.

Cheng's case has gone through 7 trials and 7 retrials, including the Supreme Court upholding his death sentence in 2006.

A retrial was ordered after Cheng's defense team presented new evidence raising doubts about his conviction for the death of police officer Su Hsien-pi during an exchange of gunfire at a KTV parlor in Taichung in 2002 and prosecutors concurred.

The prosecutors' application in March for a retrial was the 1st time in the nation's history that a retrial has been sought in a case where the Supreme Court's final ruling upheld the original death sentence.

Cheng is the 5th death row inmate to be released from prison for a retrial, including the Hsichih Trio case of Su Chien-ho, Liu Bin-lang and Chuang Lin-hsun, who were found not guilty in 2012.

Human rights groups have long highlighted what they said were defects in the original investigation and questionable evidence used by prosecutors, including a confession that Cheng had been tortured and coerced into making.

After re-examining the forensic evidence and findings from a new investigative report, Taichung prosecutor Wu Tsui-fang decided a retrial was needed because the evidence indicated that another suspect had fired the fatal gunshot that killed Su, not Cheng.

Source: Taipei Times, May 4, 2016

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Third round of executions a matter of choosing a day: Indonesia's AG

It is now only a matter of choosing the day on which the third round of executions of drug convicts will be carried out, Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said on Tuesday.

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) has begun preparations for the executions, set to take place on the notorious prison island of Nusakambangan in Cilacap, Central Java.

"There is only the choosing of the specific date. That's what I haven't been able to decide," Prasetyo said on Tuesday as quoted by newsportal Kompas.com.

He refused to disclose any details about what was delaying his decision. He also refrained from answering questions from reporters regarding the number of convicts who are to be executed.

The Attorney General has confirmed that Filipino Mary Jane Veloso and Indonesian drug kingpin Freddy Budiman are not on the list.

Veloso exclusion is due to an ongoing legal process in a separate but related case in her country.

Meanwhile, Freddy, who was found guilty of smuggling 1.4 million ecstasy pills from China to Indonesia in 2012, has filed for a case review, Prasetyo said.

The prosecutors will execute convicts whose verdicts are final, he added.

Prasteyo said he hoped the third round of executions would be carried out without any public uproar, such as that which has previously arisen after the executions of death row convicts.

"We do not want any racket. I have said many times, this is not something that is fun, but we have to do it nonetheless. Because no matter what, it concerns the well-being of the nation," he said.

Central Java Police chief Insp. Gen Condro Kirono said he had prepared the firing squad, doctors as well as clerics and priests for the executions. He said a firing squad of 14 personnel was deployed to execute one convict.

However, he did not know the exact date either, as coordination between the AGO and police had been made prior to the execution.

There were 65 drug convicts on death row as of 2015, according to AGO data.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has executed two groups of death-row convicts, both of which were carried out last year and comprise a total of 14 people.

The first round was conducted on January 18 with six drug convicts executed.

The second round shortly after, on April 29, especially dominated media headlines, since several of the eight people who were executed were foreigners whose deaths caused tensions between Indonesian and the respective home countries of the convicts.

Source: The Jakarta Post, May 4, 2016


Indonesia is preparing to execute prisoners, police official confirms

Spokesman says firing squad has been in training, risking backlash from foreign governments with citizens on death row

Indonesia is preparing to execute several prisoners, a police official has said, confirming reports that a year-long pause in the death penalty could be nearing an end.

Authorities have not said how many prisoners will face the firing squad or if foreigners will be among them. 2 Britons, Lindsay Sandiford and Gareth Cashmore, are on death row in the south-east Asian nation, which has a notoriously hardline attitude towards drug offences.

"We have had a warning since last month to prepare the place," said the Central Java provincial police spokesman Aloysius Lilik Darmanto.

"We carried out some rehabilitation of the location, like painting and repairs, because there will probably be more people who will be executed," he said, adding that the firing squad had been training and receiving counselling.

He declined to say how many prisoners would be executed, or when, or if there would be foreigners among them.

After 14 prisoners were executed in January and April 2015, drawing widespread international condemnation, scheduled executions were postponed, with officials saying the government preferred to focus on reviving the economy.

But President Joko Widodo's administration has pledged to resume executions by firing squad at an island prison on Nusa Kambangan, claiming they are a necessary response to the country's "drug emergency".

The most recent round of executions, in which eight men, including seven foreigners, were shot dead in April last year, sparked condemnation from Australia and Brazil, which had pleaded for their nationals to be spared. 2 Australian men, the Bali 9 pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed, prompting the temporary withdrawal from Jakarta of Canberra's ambassador.

Authorities have not given a breakdown of the numbers of people sentenced to death, but according to Amnesty International, there were at least 165 people on death row at the end of 2015, and more than 40% of those were sentenced for drug-related crimes.

Many of them are foreigners, and citizens of France, Britain and the Philippines are known to be among them.

Sandiford, from the UK, was sentenced to death after being convicted in 2013 of trying to smuggle almost 4kg of cocaine into Bali.

Cashmore was sentenced to life imprisonment - later raised to death by firing squad - after he was caught with 6.5kg of crystal meth in his luggage at Jakarta airport in 2011.

A Philippine maid, Mary Jane Veloso, got a last-minute reprieve in April last year in response to a request from Manila after a woman whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage gave herself up to police in the Philippines.

Her lawyer said he hoped she would not be in the next batch of prisoners to be executed. "The execution of Mary Jane should be delayed because we are waiting for the legal process in the Philippines," said the lawyer, Agus Salim.

A lawyer for Serge Atlaoui, a French national, said authorities had not contacted the French embassy on whether his client would be executed in the next batch. Atlaoui, who denies being the "chemist" for an ecstasy factory outside Jakarta, exhausted all legal appeals in mid-2015.

The government typically informs the embassies of foreign convicts only days before their executions.

Indonesia imposed a moratorium on executions for 5 years before resuming them in 2013. It has executed 14 people, most of them foreigners, under Widodo.

Indonesia's representative at a UN narcotics conference was jeered last month when he defended the use of capital punishment for drug offences, a penalty that is contrary to international law.

Source: The Guardian, May 4, 2016

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"Quiet fury" will fuel artist Matthew Sleeth's film on Bali Nine execution

Matthew Sleeth hosted an exhibition by Myuran Sukumaran in 2014
Matthew Sleeth hosted an exhibition by Myuran Sukumaran in 2014
An artist who ran prison workshops with Myuran Sukumaran plans a film about the last weeks of the Bali Nine member leading up to his execution.

Matthew Sleeth has been funded to shoot Guilty, a one-hour film that will feature "a very detailed and near real-time look at the execution."

One of three projects announced for the Adelaide Film Festival's Hive Fund, which brings together artists and filmmakers, it will screen at the festival next year and then on the ABC.

Sleeth, whose A Drone Opera was performed in Melbourne last year, became an activist against the death penalty with fellow artist Ben Quilty after they ran art workshops with Sukumaran in Kerobokan Prison. Two years ago he hosted an exhibition of what he called "Myuran's wonderful paintings" at his studio.

A year after the execution of Sukumaran and fellow Bali Nine prisoner Andrew Chan, Sleeth remains very angry.

"There's a quiet fury behind this film," he says. "While Myu and Andrew were still alive, there was a restrained and necessarily disciplined campaign [for clemency] that was very effective.

"I now think there's a lot of anger to be channelled and also a lot of questions to be asked about how it came to this.

"Not so much hating Indonesia – that's too easy to do and too obvious. It's as a country, how did we let this happen?"

Sleeth believes there was insufficient understanding about what calls for the duo's execution really meant.

"I spent a lot of time in Indonesia and no one ever called for Myuran and Andrew to be killed to me – everyday Indonesians – but many, many Australians did," he says.

"So that made me ask, 'why?' It also made me ask, 'do people really know what it means to call for an execution?' So I want the film to be a very detailed and near real-time look at the execution."

Sleeth concedes this will be confronting for viewers.

"If anything should be obscene, it should be an execution," he says. "When I was talking to Myu about it, the horror was in the detail.

"What does the actual experience mean? Does the guy who's tying you to the post talk to you? What's it like to literally have your chest torn apart?

"They're the things we need to think about when we're actually calling for an execution and thinking about the rights and obligations of a state to its citizens.

"I don't think there was any country that ever had a moral obligation to stop an execution like Australia did in this case given the [Australian Federal Police, who tipped off the Indonesian police about the Bali Nine] is the reason why they were exposed to the death penalty in the first place.

"None of that will actually be in the film as such, but I hope they're the questions we're left asking at the end of it."


Source: The Canberra Times, Garry Maddox, May 4, 2016 (local time)

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

4 Bangladesh war crimes convicts get death sentences

Bangladesh
A special tribunal in Bangladesh today handed down death penalty to 4 men for committing war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War by siding with Pakistani troops as the court directed authorities to seek help from Interpol in nabbing 3 of them who are on the run.

Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-BD) in the capital also awarded "imprisonment until death" to a fifth war criminal for carrying out atrocities in northern Kishorganj.

The 5 were found responsible for abductions, torture and killings to help Pakistan to abort Bangladesh's birth in 1971.

All the convicts were former members of Razakar Bahini, a Bengali-manned auxiliary force of the Pakistan army in 1971.

7 charges were brought against them including mass killing, murder, confinement, torture, arson and looting committed in their locality in 1971. Gazi Abdul Mannan, 88, said to be a commander of Razakar camp, Nasiruddin Ahmed, 62, his brother Shamsuddin Ahmed, 60, and Hafiz Uddin, 66, have been given death, while Azharul Islam, 60, has been given imprisonment until death.

Only one of them, Shamsuddin, faced the trial in person while the rest, including a former Bengali captain of the Pakistani force, were tried in absentia.

Witnesses said the 3-member special tribunal led by Justice Anwarul Haque sentenced one of the fugitives the imprisonment until death.

The court, in its 330-page verdict summary, ordered their immediate arrest and directed authorities to seek help from Interpol if necessary.

The verdict came as Bangladesh Supreme Court said it will pronounce the final verdict on May 5 on the death sentence it handed down to chief of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, Motiur Rahman Nizami, deciding his fate over crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

Bangladesh has so far executed 4 war crimes convicts since the process began to try the top Bengali perpetrators of 1971 atrocities in line with the electoral commitment of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2008.

2 others have earlier been handed down "imprisonment until death" penalty instead of capital punishment on grounds of their old age as they exceeded 80.

They subsequently died in the prison cells of a specialised state-run hospital due to old age ailments.

Source: Press Trust of India, May 3, 2016

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Indonesia sets up firing squads for new executions that could include Lindsay Sandiford

Lindsay Sandiford (center) in Bali's Kerobokan prison
Lindsay Sandiford (center) in Bali's Kerobokan prison
Indonesian police have set up "several" firing squads ready for deployment to a notorious prison island as the country finalises preparations for a fresh wave of executions of drug smugglers.

2 British death row inmates, including grandmother Lindsay Sandiford, could be among the next batch of prisoners tied to a stake and executed.

Commander Aloys Darmanto, the Central Java police spokesman, said on Tuesday that the provincial mobile brigade unit has established several firing squads to be sent when needed to Nusakambangan prison island.

A larger execution ground is also reported to have been prepared as Indonesia is expected to press ahead "within weeks" with putting drug traffickers to death, after a 1-year hiatus.

"Everyone is ready, including prison officials," he told the Jakarta Globe.

It was on Nusakambangan last April that 14 convicts were executed, including 2 Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were leaders of the Bali 9 drug trafficking ring.

"All firing squads from the mobile brigade unit are preparing themselves for the execution," Cdr Aloys said. "We are just waiting for further instructions from the Attorney General."

He refused to reveal how many firing squad members have been trained as that might indicate how many inmates will be executed.

"1 team will consist of 7 to 8 shooters," the officer said. "The number will be adjusted later."

Muhammad Prasetyo, the attorney general, said in April that the next round of executions would be carried out "soon" and that the inmates would include some foreigners currently on death row. Executions could be implemented any time from June, diplomats believe.

David Cameron and Joko Widodo in London
David Cameron and Joko Widodo in London
Sandiford, a grandmother from Cheltenham caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Bali in 2013, is the most high profile foreigner on death row.

A fellow Briton, Gareth Cashmore, 36, was sentenced to death in 2012, a year after he was initially given a punishment of life imprisonment when crystal meth was found in his luggage.

Joko Widodo, the president, ordered the re-implementation of the death penalty after he was elected in 2014, saying that the "war on drugs" was a national priority.

Mr Widodo recently toured Europe, including a two-day stop in London for meetings with David Cameron focused on lucrative trade deals. Mr Cameron raised Sandiford's fate when he visited Jakarta last year, but it was not clear whether he mentioned the cases of the Britons at their latest meeting.

The Indonesian leader seems certain not be influenced by public international condemnation after forging ahead with last year's executions despite outrage in Australia.

On the German leg of his European tour, he described drug trafficking as "national emergency" after Chancellor Angela Merkel talked of her country's opposition to capital punishment.

The Diplomat, a regional news website, reported that Luhut Pandjaitan, the country's security chief, wants to ensure the next round of executions are completed with less "commotion" than last year.

Source: telegraph.co.uk, May 3, 2016

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Family of Sarawakian Jabing Kho, on death row in Singapore, to make last-gasp bid for clemency

Kho Jabing
Kho Jabing
KUCHING (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A petition urging for clemency for Jabing Kho, who is awaiting a death sentence in Singapore for murder, could buy the Sarawakian three more months of life.

An organisation called We Believe in Second Chances is making a last-gasp move to get as many signatures as possible for a petition to be submitted to Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

"Usually from the day the petition is submitted, there is around three months before the President's decision is announced," said Ms Kirsteen Han, a founding member of the group, which is also working with the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign group.

Ms Han, who held a press conference with Jabing's family members in Sarawak's capital Kuching on Sunday (May 2), urged for more support from Sarawakian politicians.

"We understand it (hanging) can be any time. We wish to have Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem's help. Help us appeal to Singapore. Ask for a lesser penalty. Don't have him hanged," said Jabing's sister Jumai Kho.

Their mother Lenduk told reporters she was sorry for her son's actions.

"I only have one son. I'm asking for help not to have him hanged," she said.

Mr Leonard Shim, president of the Sarawak Advocates' Association, lent his support. He said no one was questioning Singapore's legal system, but said "everyone deserves a second chance".

Mr Shim also took the opportunity to highlight the fact that Malaysia also had the death penalty, which he believed should be done away with.

Kho was convicted in May, 2011, for causing the death of Chinese citizen Cao Ruyin in 2007.

In 2012, the Singapore Parliament amended the Penal Code to give judges discretion to sentence offenders convicted under Section 300(c) to life imprisonment with caning.

This change was applied retrospectively and Kho was afforded an opportunity to have his death sentence reconsidered.

On Nov 18, 2013, Justice Tay Yong Kwang resentenced Kho to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane.

But on Jan 14, 2015, the Court of Appeal, by a majority decision (with two out of the five judges dissenting) overturned Justice Tay's decision and sentenced Kho to death.

On April 5 this year, the Court of Appeal upheld Kho's death sentence, lifting the stay of execution that they had issued in November 2015, after Kho's lawyer filed a criminal motion at the eleventh hour.

Kho has now exhausted all legal avenues, leaving clemency as the only option. His defence has always insisted that Kho did not posses the intention to kill, nor was the murder premeditated.

Source: StraitsTimes, May 2, 2016


Singapore's 'Jolly Hangman' About to Strike

Changing laws send murderer on torturous trip through justice system

On Feb. 17, 2008, a 24-year-old Sarawakian migrant working in a rag and bone company in Singapore was drinking an apparently potent substance called "Narcissus Ginseng Wine Tonic" with 4 friends when they got the idea to rob someone. After they split up and 3 of them went their separate way, Jabing and his friend, Galing Anak Kujat, also from Sarawak, went after 2 Chinese workers whom they assaulted for the cellphone of one, named Cao Ruyin.

Jabing sneaked up in back of Cao and brained him with a tree branch. The victim sustained 14 skull fractures and a brain injury and died 6 days later. Jabing sold the cellphone for S$300 and the 5 split the money, with the extra S$50 going for wine.

The celebration didn't last long. Jabing and Galing were arrested 6 days after the crime. In 2010, a high court sentenced the pair to death by hanging under what was then Singapore's mandatory statute. But the intervening 6 years illustrate the changing nature of Singapore's death penalty laws, in the meantime subjecting Jabing to a distressing trip through the justice system, which now is likely to kill him despite having previously vacated and otherwise delayed his death sentence.

24 Hours from Death

Jabing was 24 hours from being hanged in November last year when his lawyers saved him with a stay of execution, if temporarily. He and his allies, including many of the world's human rights organizations, are now hoping against hope that a clemency petition to President Tony Tam will save him. Tam, however, has already rejected clemency despite widespread appeals attempting to get him to reverse his decision. Sources in Singapore say that is probably unlikely.

The case has attracted the attention of a wide range of representatives of other countries and human rights organizations including the United Nations Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia, which issued a statement in April after Jabing's sentence was most recently upheld by the Court of Appeal.

"We are gravely concerned that Mr. Kho is at imminent risk of hanging as the court has lifted the stay of execution," said Laurent Meillan, OHCHR's acting regional representative in Bangkok, in a prepared statement. "We are also concerned that he has been forced to endure years of immense suffering as his sentence has been changed on a number of occasions."

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, called Singapore's decision to defend the death penalty "a further indication of complete disregard for international human rights standards."

Death Penalty Stance Changes

Whatever happens to Jabing, over the past 2 decades Singapore's approach to capital murder has changed markedly. In the mid-1990s, the country had the world's second-highest execution rate, estimated by the United Nations at 12.83 executions per million people. The highest was Turkmenistan, which has since abolished the death penalty.

Singapore has undergone a revolution of sorts. With an unofficial ban in place, it didn't execute anyone between 2011 and 2013 although executions resumed in 2014 with 2 and in 2015 with 4. Jabing is the 1st to face the gallows in 2016 although there are believed to be about 30 individuals on death row. Singapore doesn't print figures and its executions are not publicized. Normally the family receives a letter a week before the execution, scheduled quietly and with only the letter for advance notice.

The justice system received a good deal of unwelcome notice in 2010, when a British author named Alan Shadrake wrote a book, Once a Jolly Hangman, that charged the Singapore judiciary system with an appetite for hangings of the poor and the young for murder, drug trafficking and firearms offences, but allowing high-ranking criminals, wealthy foreigners and well-connected drug lords to escape.

Shadrake made the mistake of flying back into Singapore for the book launch and was promptly arrested and charged with 14 counts of contempt of court. He ended up spending 6 weeks in a Singapore prison.

Bell Tolls for Murderers

Jabing and Galing were sentenced in July of 2010. At that time, conviction for murder earned a mandatory death sentence. Both appealed, with Galing's lawyers arguing that Jabing had led the way against Galing's wishes, but that he had gone along with the crime. His conviction was downgraded to "robbery with hurt," as the statutes call it, in May of 2011. Galing ended up receiving 18.6 years in prison and 19 strokes of the cane.

In 2012, as Singaporean attitudes began to change - although 95 % of the general public approve of the death penalty - with the parliament amending the penal code to allow for limited discretion in capital cases, permitting judges to hand down life sentences with caning should circumstances warrant. All death row inmates were allowed to have their death sentences reviewed by a High Court Judge.

In November 2013, Jabing's lawyers appeared before Justice Tay Yong Kwang to argue that the Narcissus Ginseng Wine Tonic, which had been classified by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore as containing excessive levels of methanol in 2009 could have poisoned him to the point where it affected his mental state.

Although Tay rejected the submission since it hadn't been raised at either the trial or the 2011 appeal, the judge downgraded Jabing's sentence to life imprisonment and partly because of his age and partly because the branch he picked up to brain Cao was lying on the pavement nearby and that the attack was "opportunistic and improvisational and not part of a prearranged plan.

Jabing's celebration of deliverance - although 24 strokes of the cane is itself a barbaric form of punishment - didn't last long. The prosecution appealed. On Jan. 14, 2015, 3 of 5 judges in the Court of Appeal again sentenced Jabing to death. 2 of the 5 dissented, saying the condemned man had been on death row for 6 years and that he had earlier been given a life sentence with caning.

"We urge Your Excellency to be merciful and to commute the death sentence of Kho Jabing to one of life," said a letter requesting clemency signed by 14 Singaporean citizens. "Our judicial system is the best in the world. We cannot and should not allow this case to tarnish this image. To us, it is a clear case of bias because the judgement of the majority reveals this when the majority judges refused to review findings of fact made in the CA (Conviction) decision."

There are no more legal avenues open. "Jabing's only hope is for the Singapore cabinet to advise the President to grant him clemency," the 14 Singaporeans wrote in their appeal for clemency. "It is a long shot, but Jabing's family are ready to try. And as long as they are willing to keep fighting, we will continue to support and help them however we can."

Source: asiasentinel.com, May 2, 2016

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