Oct. 13


Congo warlord surrenders 5 years after escape from prison

A wanted warlord in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo has surrendered, 5 years after he escaped from prison following his conviction for crimes against humanity, the provincial governor said on Wednesday.

Gedeon Kyungu, leader of regional separatist group Bakata Katanga, turned himself in with a bout 100 of his fighters at a ceremony in the village of Malambwe on Tuesday, Haut Katanga governor Jean Claude Kazembe said.

It was not immediately clear why Kyungu had surrendered, what would happen to him now or whether the staged nature of his return suggested some sort of deal had been agreed.

Authorities have struggled for decades to end violence in the east, where militia groups have attacked civilians and plundered vast mineral resources.

Kazembe said he thought Kyungu wanted to take part in the government's rebel demobilization program, a scheme that rights activists have criticized for integrating violent insurgent groups into the national army.

The region where Kyungu operated before his arrest became known as "the triangle of death" because of the suffering inflicted on civilians there.

News of the ceremony organized to mark his surrender angered some campaigners. "The welcome that was reserved for Gedeon was a great disappointment and an insult to all of his victims... Gedeon's place is in prison," the president of the African Association for Human Rights, Jean Claude Katende, told Reuters.

A Congolese military court sentenced Kyungu to death in 2009 for his role in killings in the copper-rich Katanga region. Congolese courts can impose the death penalty but no executions have been conducted since 2003 when a moratorium was imposed.

He escaped from prison in the provincial capital of Lubumbashi in 2011. U.N. experts said in a 2014 report that he had close ties to high-ranking politicians.

The name of his separatist group, Bakata Katanga, means "cut off Katanga" in Swahili.

(source: Reuters)


Govt snubs UN advice on death penalty

The Botswana government is yet to implement recommendations from the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to hold a public debate on the death penalty and ensure that the executed persons' bodies are handed over to families for burial.

This despite the fact that the country is expected to report back on progress made since the last Universal Peer Review in the UNHCR in 2018.

The said recommendations passed during an interactive dialogue and sponsored by the Republic of Uruguay were examined and supported by Botswana under the representation of the then Minister of Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Dikgakgamatso Seretse.

The recommendation read: "Hold a public debate on the death penalty, in which all the aspects of the issue should be highlighted in a holistic manner, in order to repeal it from the domestic legal order and to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Uruguay)".

It was further recommended that, "Meanwhile, Provide information to concerned families, so that they can know in advance the date of execution of their relatives and ensure that the executed persons' bodies are handed over for private burial (Uruguay)".

Despite promises, Botswana has not yet held any debate and indications are that there will not be any soon.

At the commemoration of World Day Against Death Penalty on Tuesday, the director of Ditshwanelo, Alice Mogwe called on President Ian Khama to impose a moratorium on capital sentence, as a 1st step towards abolition.

The issue of death penalty will be put to vote at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in December 2016.

The European Union, which co-hosted the event with Ditshwanelo reaffirmed their strong and unequivocal opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and for all cases, further adding that death penalty is incompatible with human dignity.

"It is inhuman and degrading treatment, does not have any proven significant deterrent effect, and allows judicial errors to become irreversible and fatal. Abolition of the death penalty is a distinctive achievement in Europe. It is a prerequisite for membership in the Council of Europe, and the absolute ban of the death penalty under all circumstances is inscribed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union," Alexander Baum, EU Ambassador to Botswana and SADC, said.

(source: mmegi.bw)


House eyeing death penalty for drug lord convicts

How do you punish convicts already serving life sentences who continue operating a multi-billion-peso drug trade inside the national jail?

Revive the death penalty, said a congressman on Thursday.

"They fear nothing except death," said Representative Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice. "For the meantime that the needed reforms in the criminal justice system [have] not been addressed, we need something that will strike fear in the hearts of criminals," he said.

The Committee on Justice wrapped up on Thursday its hearing on the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison. It heard 47 hours of testimonies of 22 witnesses, including 14 convicts.

Inmates may have been granted immunity from what they testified on, but cases against them can still be filed if other witnesses present evidence against them, Umali said.

Next steps

It was imperative that inmates already serving out life sentences be held accountable for the illegal drug trade inside Bilibid, Umali said.

The next logical step would be to schedule hearings on bills filed to bring back the death penalty, he added.

The death penalty was imposed for heinous crimes in 1993, but was abolished in 2006. In July, at the resumption of the 17th Congress, House Speaker Bebot Alvarez filed a bill to bring back the death penalty.

Four subcommittees-investigation and enforcement, prosecution, judicial reforms, correctional reforms - in the Lower House have been set up to draft bills to stop the illegal drug trade inside Bilibid.

Umali added that there was a need to amend the bank secrecy and anti-wiretapping law.

Enacting the prison modernization law of 2013

Prison officials expressed wariness on the next steps to be taken by lawmakers.

They noted that there is already an existing law, Republic Act 10575, or the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Modernization Law.

"The BuCor modernization law is the permanent solution to all problems we are facing right now," said Insp. Eusebio Del Rosario Jr., head of the Public Information Office of the Bureau of Corrections.

Officials are rushing work on requirements set by the Department of Budget and Management to finalize the implementing rules and regulations of the law, said Del Rosario.

The law, signed in 2013 by then President Benigno Aquino III, mandates a complete overhaul of the country's flawed penal system, which for one, allowed criminals to continue with illegal activities inside the jail.

The first phase of the penal overhaul is estimated to cost P2.3 billion, according to the Department of Justice, which oversees the BUCOR.

Meanwhile, Budget Undersecretary Luz Cantor said the implementing rules and regulations were being throughly studied.

She hoped these rules and regulations could be signed before the year ends so that BuCor personnel can be entitled to salary increases in 2017. The money to cover this will be sourced fom the P96-billion Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund, Cantor added.

BuCor modernization law provisions

At present, Philippine jails are 158 % congested, and there is 1 security personnel for every 68 prisoners.

The 2013 law is long overdue and will address the problem of decongestion, since more facilities will be constructed. It will bring the guard to prisoners ratio down to 1 for every 7 prisoners, once salaries are doubled.

The law will place the BuCor at par with international jail management standards, and give ranks of Undersecretary and Assistant Secretary to the prisons' director-general and his deputies.

(source: cnnphilippines.com)


Supreme Court acquits man in controversial death penalty case

The Supreme Court upheld Thursday a High Court decision that Hsu Tzi-chiang, who has repeatedly appealed convictions for kidnapping, extortion and murder of a real estate businessman in 1995, was not guilty of all the charges.

Hsu was declared innocent by the High Court last year in the ninth retrial of his case, in which he was accused of playing a role in the September 1995 kidnap and murder of Huang Chun-shu, a real estate broker, whose kidnappers originally demanded a ransom of NT$70 million (US$2.2 million).

The High Court overturned the conviction last year, as the ruling in his 9th retrial found that there were major flaws and inconsistencies in the evidence and testimonies.

Hsu is 1 of 3 men sentenced to death in 2000 for the murder.

The 2 other suspects -- Huang Chun-chi and Chen Yi-lung -- were found guilty of being the main perpetrators, and were each given the death penalty.

During their trials, the 2 men said Hsu also participated in the kidnapping.

The High Court upheld District Court rulings on Huang and Chen, and the Supreme Court rejected their appeals in 2000, making their death sentences final. Extraordinary appeals were filed on the behalf of the pair and Hsu in the following years.

Activists and Hsu's lawyers criticized Hsu's conviction, on the grounds that it was based on the confessions of his co-defendants.

Hsu was found guilty and given the death penalty in his first 6 trials until 2009. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in the 7th and 8th appeals.

He was released in 2012 under a new rule that requires the release of suspects who have been detained for 8 years without a final resolution of their cases.

(source: Focus Taiwan News Channel)


Pakistan delays Asia Bibi blasphemy appeal----Top court adjourns final appeal in case of Asia Bibi, on death row since 2010, after a judge recuses from bench.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has delayed an appeal into the country's most notorious blasphemy case against a Christian mother on death row since 2010, after one of the judges stepped down.

Thousands of security troops had been deployed in the capital, Islamabad, as the court prepared to hear a final appeal in the case of Asia Bibi on Thursday.

The court did not immediately set a new date for the appeal.

But the threat of violence was largely abated when one of the 3-judge bench, Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman, told the court he had to recuse himself from the case.

"I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salmaan Taseer, and this case is related to that," he told the court.

Taseer, a liberal provincial governor, was shot dead in Islamabad in 2011 after speaking out for Bibi.

His assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged earlier in 2016 in a step welcomed by liberals in the country, but which brought hardliners into the streets calling for Bibi's death.

A senior police official said that up to 3,000 forces were deployed in the capital on Thursday.

"Security is very tight in Islamabad all around today. Additional troops have been deployed on checkpoints and city junctions in general. There is also deployment of paramilitary force Rangers and FC [Frontier Corps] on some additional points," a police source told AFP news agency.

Up to 100 officers, many in riot gear, were stationed outside the Supreme Court as Bibi's lawyer and husband arrived for the hearing, with more throughout the city.

"I have made my preparation, we are very hopeful," Bibi's lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told AFP earlier.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan.

Rights groups complain that the controversial legislation is often abused to carry out personal vendettas, mainly against minority Christians.

Bibi was convicted and sentenced to hang in 2010 after an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. Her supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute.

But successive appeals have been rejected, and if the Supreme Court bench upholds Bibi's conviction, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the president for clemency.

She would become the 1st person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy.

The repercussions for minorities, human rights and the blasphemy laws will be "tremendous" if that happens, said Shahzad Akbar, a human rights lawyer.

Observers have warned of possible violence if the conviction is overturned, with some calling the case a battle for Pakistan's soul as the state walks a line between upholding human rights and appeasing hardliners.

(source: aljazeera.com)


Facing the Death Penalty for Blasphemy in Pakistan----Supreme Court to Hear Appeal of Aasia Bibi

In June 2009, Aasia Bibi, a low-paid farmhand, responded angrily when her co-workers refused to drink water that she offered them, claiming it was "unclean" because she was a Christian. More than 7 years later, Aasia Bibi remains in prison and on death row for doing what many people would have done in a similar situation - protest bigotry. In Pakistan, it's all too easy for people objecting to insult and discrimination to end up facing the gallows.

In November 2010, Aasia Bibi became the 1st woman in Pakistan's history to be sentenced to death under the country's "Blasphemy Law," which carries a mandatory death penalty. No one has yet been executed for a blasphemy law conviction, but since the 1980s, at least 53 people have been killed in violent incidents around accusations of blasphemy - which are largely used to target members of religious minorities. Yet in what appears to be state appeasement, successive Pakistani governments have rarely brought charges against people who violently attack those accused of blasphemy.

Aasia Bibi's case is just one example of the law's toxicity, but she is not alone. Junaid Hafeez, a university professor, remains imprisoned on charges of blasphemy for sharing an allegedly "blasphemous" post on Facebook. Religious extremists killed Rashid Rehman, the lawyer representing Hafeez, in May 2014. And just last month, Nabeel Masih, a 16-year-old Christian boy, was charged with blasphemy and arrested for allegedly "liking" a photograph of the Kaaba on social media.

The government's indifference to the blasphemy law, and the violence it provokes, is both discriminatory and violates rights to freedom of religion and belief. Soon the matter will be before the courts: The Supreme Court of Pakistan is scheduled to hear Aasia Bibi's appeal on October 13. The case presents the court not only an opportunity to address the injustices of her arrest and conviction, but to rule more broadly on the blasphemy law and those many adversely and unfairly affected by it.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Ghana marks World Day against Death Penalty

Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, says government had accepted the report of the Constitutional Review Commission to abolish the death penalty from the country's laws.

She said on June 15, 2012 government published a white paper accepting the report and turned death punishment to life imprisonment and a bill to that effect is awaiting gazetting after which a referendum would be conducted on the issue.

Speaking at the 14th World Day Against Death Penalty in Accra, she said although Ghana has made a defacto moratorium on death penalty since 1993, after the firing squad execution, it is yet to abolish it from its laws.

The day was organised by the French Embassy in collaboration with Amnesty International, Ghana.

Mrs Appiah-Oppong explained that the law on death penalty as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution is entrenched and could only be amended through referendum.

"That Chapter by itself is entrenched and to amend it you need a referendum. The Drafters of the Constitution did it so to make it impossible for people to temper with it." she added.

Mr Francois Pujolas, French Ambassador, said the day also coincided with the 25th anniversary of abolishing of death penalty in France.

He said annually his country organises the session to discuss abolishing in Ghana and that universal elimination is a great concern for France.

Mr Pujolas said so far 123 countries have abolished the death penalty from their books; 58 countries and territories are retentionist; 30 countries are abolitionist in practice, 65 countries and territories retain the death penalty for terrorism.

He said despite the victory and hopes they must continue to advocate until they achieve total abolishing and urged civil society organisations, governments and the development partners to collaborate to achieve the necessary result.

Mr William Hanna, Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Ghana, also reiterated the need for the intensification of efforts to achieve the goal.

He commended Ghana for moving forward in other areas of human rights and pledged the EU's commitment to continue to discuss with the country to see where it could collaborate.

Professor Emmanuel Victor Dankwah, Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission, said referendum processes are expensive and if care is not taken and the people are not well informed they would vote against the motion.

He, therefore, called on all partners to intensify their public education and advocacy to inform the public well in advance to achieve success.

The five top executioners in 2015 were United States, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

In the last 10 years, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Tunisia and others have adopted laws that expanded the scope of the death penalty, adding certain terrorist acts to the list of crimes punishable by death.

More recently, Pakistan and Chad resumed executions in the name of the fight against terrorism, putting an end to moratoriums that had lasted for years.

(ource: GNA)


UN Chief Says Death Penalty for Terrorism Often Unfair

Death sentences for terrorism are often handed down after unfair trials by special courts that disrespect human rights and the rule of law, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday in remarks commemorating World Day Against the Death Penalty.

While 65 countries retain the death penalty for terrorism-related offenses, experience shows that executing "terrorists" mostly fuels propaganda for their movements by creating perceived martyrs, Ban said.

"The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane practice. It has no place in the 21st Century," Ban said. "To be legitimate and effective, counter-terror measures, like all security operations, must be anchored in respect for human rights and the rule of law."

He also warned against states that criminalize free expression through vague anti-terror measures.

"Let us be clear: participation in peaceful protests and criticism of a government - whether in private, on the Internet or in the media - are neither crimes nor terrorist acts. The threat or use of the death penalty in such cases is an egregious violation of human rights," Ban said.

The U.N. General Assembly has repeatedly called on countries to restrict the use of the death penalty. However, according to U.N. experts, some countries have instead introduced or expanded the scope of the death penalty for terrorism-related offences - with 15 nations having carried out executions in terror cases over the last 10 years.

In 2015, capital punishment was imposed for terrorism offences in at least 7 countries, mostly in the Middle East and North Africa.

"Maintaining the rule of law and respect for human rights - even in the face of terrorism and violent extremism - is an obligation that will boost society's ability to address terrorist threats," Ban said.

(source: Associated Press)


Tunisia sentences 76 over soldier killings

A Tunisian court Wednesday handed jail and death sentences to 76 people for killing 8 soldiers in a jihadist hideout near the Algerian border in 2013, the prosecution said.

Only 7 accused, all Tunisian, appeared in court during the trial that started in late 2014 over the killings in the mountainous area of Chaambi, prosecution spokesman Sofiene Sliti said.

4 received 7 years in jail, 1 was handed a 13-year term and another was condemned to death, while the 7th was cleared of all charges.

The remaining 69 accused, all on the run and mostly Algerian, were given sentences ranging from 40 years to the death penalty, Sliti said, but did not give a total number of death sentences.

They were found guilty of charges including "terrorist crimes", he said.

Tunisia has faced a rise in jihadist attacks since the 2011 uprising that led to the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The army has been tracking jihadists in the Chaambi area since 2012.

Jihadist attacks in Tunisia have cost dozens of lives among security forces as well as civilians, and 59 foreign tourists were also killed in 2015.

Tunisia has executed more than 100 people since independence from France in 1956, but has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 1991.

(source: The Daily Mail)

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