Europe's last dictatorship brings back the death penalty----Belarus has resumed
sentencing people to death, just 8 months after the EU dropped sanctions, a
study has found.
The last European country to retain capital punishment has resumed sentencing
people to death since EU sanctions against its president were dropped this
year, according to a landmark investigation.
In recent months Belarus has executed 1 person and condemned 4 more to death,
with more cases pending in which capital punishment is likely, according to
investigators with the Paris-based human rights organisation FIDH, and the
Viasna human rights centre in Minsk.
Described by investigators as a "scandal at the heart of Europe", about 400
people have been executed in Belarus since independence in 1991 - more than 1 a
The human rights report documents the physical and psychological abuse used to
extract confessions and the shocking conditions in which death row inmates are
kept and later executed.
Interviews with local journalists and lawyers reveal a practice shrouded in
secrecy, with statistics on the numbers killed by the state closely guarded by
The time and locations of the executions, as well as the places of burial, are
also kept classified, with the bodies of prisoners never released to families.
Sacha Koulaeva, head of the FIDH's eastern Europe and central Asia desk, said
the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus was an achievable goal if the
European Union put pressure on the government. "We would like to mobilise the
international community to call for Europe to be a death penalty-free zone,"
Koulaeva said evidence suggested international intervention had already proved
effective: while the EU was negotiating lifting sanctions between 2013 and
2015, executions almost stopped.
Sanctions were imposed on Belarus by the EU and US after the 2010 presidential
election, during which protests were violently put down and opposition figures
jailed by the intelligence services. The sanctions affected 170 people,
including President Lukashenko himself. Brussels suspended them for four months
in October 2015 after Mr. Lukashenko was re-elected peacefully (though in
distinctly dubious circumstances). It agreed to drop them altogether in
February this year, citing "improving EU-Belarus relations". There is evidence
that as Mr. Lukashenko warmed to the West he has cooled towards Russia,
hitherto his close ally, though it remains a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian
Economic Union. In particular, Minsk has hosted Ukraine peace talks and
remained neutral over the conflict.
Maya Foa, a director at the UK human rights group Reprieve, said the report
showed the EU needed to do more to end the practice.
"The EU and member states are regularly vocal about their opposition to the
death penalty, and this is now more important than ever," she said. "Executions
are on the rise around the world and it is critical that the EU not only stands
by its 'strong and principled opposition to the death penalty', but actively
advances this principle in its diplomatic and trading relationships with
In response to the report's finding, members of the EU mission to Belarus,
including the deputy head, Jim Couzens, called for an immediate moratorium on
The death penalty was introduced in Belarus during Soviet rule as a punishment
for murder, "economic crimes" (such as producing counterfeit money, bribery and
speculation), as well as "counter-revolutionary acts" including treason and
espionage. Since 1991, the government has continued to apply several clauses of
the Soviet-era criminal code, the last of the former USSR countries to do so.
Alexander Lukashenko, who assumed office in 1994, has broadened the powers of
the president over his 22 years in office, earning Belarus the nickname of
Europe's "last dictatorship".
The authorities and state media outlets enthusiastically defend the use of the
death penalty by claiming its use reduces crime. However, new analysis by the
FIDH and Viasna shows this justification to be false: in 2015, the internal
affairs ministry reported 4,018 counts of serious crime, an increase of 17% on
Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the campaign against the death penalty led by
Viasna, told researchers the conditions in which inmates are held had
deteriorated. He spoke to witnesses who have worked in Belarus's death row
facilities, who described cells just 3 metres large, fitted with video cameras
to watch inmates at all times.
A former staff member of Pretrial Detention Centre no 1 in the centre of
Minsk,told Viasna: "From the very beginning, they face maximum security
restrictions ... The rules prohibit them from lying or sitting on the plank
beds from 6am to 10pm. They usually walk around the cell all day long."
Another former staff member said death row inmates were kept in complete
isolation and treated as if they are no longer "among the living". Those
condemned to death are kept without any information about their execution date,
a practice Koulaeva described as "cynical" and one that distresses the
The report also reveals the trauma inflicted on the families of those sentenced
Though the Belarusian criminal code stipulates that one family member must be
notified in the event of an execution, it does not specify how. In most cases,
families learn that an execution has been carried out only upon the delivery of
personal belongings after death.
Tamara Sialiun, whose 27-year-old son Pavel was convicted of 2 counts of murder
and mutilating a dead body in 2012, told investigators that the first she knew
of her son's execution was when a package arrived containing his prison
uniform. He had been shot in the head.
"After everything that happened, I received a notification from the post office
to pick up a parcel from Minsk. It was the robe and boots of my son. When I got
home, I just didn't know what to do," said Sialiun, 1 of 3 women interviewed.
She has since filed a complaint to the UN human rights committee over the
treatment she and her son received.
Koulaeva said the report painted a vivid portrait of the process by which men
were being convicted and killed, a process she described as deeply flawed and
carried out with "total disregard to international obligations".
"The conditions in which this action takes place are terrible," she said. "[It
is] a terrible ritual, and a terrible thing to witness."
(source: The World Weekly)
58% of Serbs Vote to Bring Back the Death Penalty - Poll
If a referendum on the need to bring back the death penalty was held today a
record 58 % of Serbs would say "yes," according to the latest poll conducted by
the public advocacy group Serbia Against the Death Penalty.
The rash of shocking crimes recently committed in Serbia, like the rape and
murder of a 3-year-old girl, would certainly make anyone see red. In an
interview with Sputnik, sociologist Sandra Radenovic said, however, that the
public wrath was in large part excited by the local media's sensationalist
coverage of such incidents which he described as a new tactic all too eagerly
embraced by Serbian media.
"They are breaking the most elementary norms of journalistic ethics by
constantly bombarding people with all sorts of grisly details. We emotionally
react to this of course and immediately think about what we would do to this
bastard. The problem is, however, that in our thoughts, we become just like him
or even worse," Sandra Radenovic told Sputnik. Virtually every 3rd citizen of
Serbia voted for capital punishment with only 11 % saying a flat "no."
The death penalty was abolished in Serbia in 2001 but it remains very much
alive in the minds of the people who fear criminals feel no compassion for
murderers, child molesters and drug dealers. They simply want them dead,
criminologist Zlatko Nikolic said.
Compassion is something that comes to us as we become socialized. It doesn't
"turn off" our innate instinct of self-protection though and we are ready to
fight for our kids, to stay alive, for our home and our sources of food and
water. The mere fact that while answering the pollsters' questions, people do
not consider compassion means that the basic instincts they are endowed with at
birth prevail," Nikolic added. Sandra Radenovic still sees this as a sign of
the demoralization of Serbian society.
"The issue of the death penalty is an ethical or, rather, bioethical issue.
It's about the value of human life, whether some people's lives have less value
than others," she said. Zlatko Nikolic pointed to the selective and very slow
judicial process as a reason why so many people voted for the return of capital
"The Anglo-Saxon judicial system we have today with all these endless
negotiations with criminals is a sign of a weak state, that's why people want
to take the law into their own hands. Uncertainty is killing your heart and
soul. If you see someone who caused you harm being tried forever you start
asking questions. In Serbia and just about anywhere else people don't
understand why the courts take so much time handing down sentences. But, as
lawyers say, 'it's better to let 100 guilty people walk then execute someone
who is innocent,'" Nikolic said.
He added that at the start of her 1st term as British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher bent under public pressure and brought back the death penalty. This
didn't help as the average crime rate never changed.
Supreme Court upholds acquittal of man sentenced to death
The Supreme Court upheld Thursday a High Court decision that Hsu Tzu-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
kidnapping 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
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
Activists and Hsu's lawyers criticized Hsu's conviction on the grounds that it
was based on the confessions of his co-defendants.
(source: The China Post)
Questioning capital punishment
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations' recent call to abolish capital
punishment should serve as a catalyst for informed and broad public
discussions. Both the Justice Ministry and the lawyer group have an important
role to play in making necessary information available to ensure those
discussions are meaningful. The ministry's responsibility is especially heavy -
the secrecy surrounding this nation???s death penalty system is often blamed
for the lack of public discourse on the issue.
The bar federation adopted a resolution calling for ending capital punishment
at its Oct. 6 meeting in Fukui for promoting protection of human rights, with
546 of the 786 participants supporting it. Some lawyers who support capital
punishment criticize that it is unreasonable for the organization not to accept
letters of attorney from members who could not attend the meeting. Still, the
declaration by the organization comprising some 37,600 Japanese lawyers and
hundreds of registered foreign legal professionals is significant. The
federation in the past always stopped short of calling for an outright end to
death penalty, although at a similar meeting 5 years ago it called for starting
broad discussions on abolishing capital punishment and requested that the
justice minister suspend executions.
A key factor behind the move is an international trend. According to Amnesty
International, 102 countries had abolished the death penalty as of the end of
2015, a sharp increase from 60 in 1996, and another 38 countries have not
carried out executions for 10 years or longer. Of the 35 OECD member countries,
only Japan, the United States and South Korea retain capital punishment as an
institution, although South Korea's last execution was in 1997. In 2014, the
United Nations Human Rights Committee urged Japan to "give due consideration in
the abolition of the death penalty."
Since the current Abe administration came to power in December 2012, a total of
16 inmates have been executed. The bar federation calls for abolishing capital
punishment by 2020, when the U.N. Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal
Justice is to be held in Japan.
More fundamental factors behind the resolution are inherent problems in the
death penalty system, including its vengeful nature as criminal punishment and
its cruelty. While noting that even the worst offenders stand a chance of
reintegrating with society, the federation charges that if an innocent person
or an offender not truly deserving death is executed, the human rights
violation is irrecoverable. The risk of false charges and convictions have been
highlighted by the fact that 4 inmates on death row were exonerated in retrials
in the 1980s and by the freeing in 2014 of Iwao Hakamada after spending 48
years behind bars. He had been sentenced to death for the 1966 murders of 4
people on the strength of evidence apparently fabricated by the police.
Supporters of the death penalty refer to the sentiments of crime victims and
their family members - who are inclined to think that killers deserve execution
- as well as public opinion that favors capital punishment. In the 2014 version
of a survey conducted every 5 years by the Cabinet Office, 80.3 % of
respondents said the death penalty is unavoidable, while only 9.7 % called for
abolishing the system.
At the same time, 40.5 % of those who endorsed the death penalty system said it
can be abolished in the future "if the situation changes." Of all the
respondents, 37.7 % said the death penalty should be scrapped if life
imprisonment without parole is introduced. Currently, a person serving a life
sentence has a chance of being paroled after serving at least 10 years in
prison. The JFBA's declaration proposed introduction of either life
imprisonment without parole or granting parole only after the inmate has spent
20 to 25 years behind bars - in place of hanging.
But discussions about capital punishment should not just focus on substituting
stricter varieties of life in prison. The Justice Ministry should not only
provide sufficient information about Japan???s system but study and disclose
criminal punishment policies and public opinions on the death penalty in other
countries. This kind of information is indispensable for informative
The government should gather and provide information as to whether capital
punishment is an effective deterrent to crime, including through comparison of
examples of countries that maintain the death penalty and those that have
abolished it. Relying just on public opinion endorsing capital punishment to
justify its existence does not stand up to reason.
Another point to consider is whether the treatment of death row inmates is
humane enough. Such prisoners in Japan are kept in solitary confinement and
their communication with people outside is tightly restricted. Currently, the
ministry doesn't give advance notice of executions to the inmates nor to their
lawyers and relatives, and it is not clear what criteria is used in deciding
when a prisoner is to be executed.
Since the introduction of the lay judge system in 2009, it is now possible for
ordinary citizens to take part in handing down a death penalty. That alone
calls for more public discussions on capital punishment. Relevant authorities
and parties should not dismiss the JFBA's call but use it as material for the
public to think about the issue, irrespective of which position they take on
(source: Editorial, The Japan Times)
Public Defender Challenges Execution Order Against Iranian Child Bride for
Alleged Crime Committed as Juvenile
The execution order against Zeinab Sekaanvand Lankarani, who was married off at
15-years-old to the man she allegedly killed 2 years later, is being challenged
by her public defender. Lankarani, imprisoned at Urmia Central Prison in
northwestern Iran, is accused of killing her husband when she was 17 years old.
"Zeinab admitted to the murder while she was being interrogated, but in court
she denied it and said her husband's brother carried out the crime and told her
to take the blame," Rita Tootoonchi, Lankarani's court-appointed lawyer, told
the International Campaign for Human Rights on October 12, 2016. "In the
Appeals Court I presented evidence that showed Zeinab may not have been the
murderer ... Zeinab is right-handed, but the direction of the knife wound
showed that it had to have come from the opposite hand."
"I am hoping my request will be accepted and the execution will be postponed by
the Supreme Court after considering the fact that she was under 18 years old at
the time of the crime," she added.
Tootoonchi also told the Campaign that she had not been in contact with her
client since she was informed by judicial authorities on October 3 that
Lankarani's execution would be carried out "within the next few weeks, unless
the victim's family agrees to stop it."
"I asked the victim's family to pardon Zeinab and told them that it's not
really clear that she was the murderer. She may have had an accomplice who
actually made the blows. But unfortunately the victim's family have not agreed
and they want retribution," she said.
"All I can do at this point is ask the court to consider Article 91 of the
Islamic Penal Code, so that maybe then her life could be spared. Unfortunately,
Zeinab does not have anyone to look after her case, and the victim's family has
not pardoned her, unfortunately," added Tootoonchi.
According to Article 91: "... if mature people under 18 years do not realize
the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is
uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age, they
shall be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter."
According to the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights and the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is illegal to execute someone for
crimes committed under the age of eighteen. Iran is party to both treaties.
Nonetheless, Iran remains one of a handful of countries still putting juveniles
to death. Lankarani was born in Maku, in Kurdistan Province. She was arrested
on March 1, 2012 and charged with killing Hossein Sarmadi, who she was married
off to 2 years earlier at the age of 15. She was sentenced to death on October
22, 2014 by Branch 2 of the Urmia Criminal Court. The ruling was later
confirmed by the Supreme Court, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network reported on
October 4, 2016.
According to official Iranian statistics, tens of thousands of girls under the
age of 15 are married off by their families each year in Iran. The United
Nations has categorized child marriage as a human rights violation. Civil and
children's rights activists in Iran have opposed religious conservatives who
advocate child marriage.
(source: Iran Human Focus)
Iran Holds the Highest Number of Executions Per Capita in the World
The mayor's office in Paris' 1st district hosted an exposition into executions
in Iran on October 10, The World Day Against the Death Penalty.
The exposition, organized by the Support Committee for Human Rights in Iran
(SCHRI), featured speeches from politicians, human rights activists and
witnesses of human rights violations from Iran.
It focused, most notably, on the 1988 Iranian Massacre but also the continued
execution of political prisoners which has been denounced by the U.N. Secretary
Jean-Francois Legaret, the mayor of Paris' 1st district, said that there is "a
battle to fight against the death penalty and other barbaric acts in Iran".
He stated that the West must not negotiate with Iran's barbaric regime.
Henri Leclerc, Honorable President of the League for Human Rights, said that
the West could not let Iran's extensive use of the death penalty go
unchallenged and warned that "unpunished crimes will recur."
During 1988, the Iranian Regime murdered 30,000 political prisoners; mainly
members of the People's Mojahidin Organization of Iran (PMOI). Further evidence
of the Iranian Regime's role in the massacre was revealed in August after an
audio recording of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri admonishing a Death
Committee was leaked online.
Speaking of the 1988 Massacre, Leclerc said: "It is a crime against humanity
when we know that thousands were executed while they were in prison. This must
be denounced and we must act. We have sufficient materials. I hope that the
U.N. conducts an investigation which brings those responsible to trial."
Leclerc said that the victims "died for liberty around the world; these men,
women, and children have a right to justice. If we leave such crimes
unpunished, it is our future that will truly be tragic."
The speakers emphasized the importance of bringing those responsible for the
1988 Massacre before an international court to account for their "crimes
Jacques Boutault, the mayor of Paris' 2nd district thanked the Iranian
Resistance and those who fought to bring human rights to Iran. He highlighted
that the Iranian regime is complicit in Syrian Civil War and called on the
French government to denounce Iran's crimes in Syria.
Iran holds the highest number of executions per capita in the world and
executed 1,000 people in 2015 alone.
CJ nominee David Maraga says MPs to decide fate of death penalty
The Chief Justice nominee, Justice David Maraga, has stated that the
responsibility of withholding or abolishing the death penalty rests with
Speaking when he appeared before the National Assembly's Justice and Legal
Affairs Committee for vetting, Justice Maraga, who was nominated for the
position by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), said that as the Chief
Justice, he would not have any powers to decide the fate of death penalty since
it has to be abolished through an Act of Parliament.
"The world is moving away from the death penalty and this issue is also being
debated in other countries. It is a fundamental issue but can only be dealt
with by the Parliament; the court can only come up with principles of law
within the given legal framework," he said.
Kenya takes death penalty debate to the people
The 2nd and final leg of the Kenyan national public debate on capital
punishment has begun.
The debate is to solicit views from Kenyans on the administration of capital
punishment and management of capital offences.
The public discussion, which is being spearheaded by the Power of Mercy
Advisory Committee (POMAC) and National Crime Research Centre (NCRC), will be
conducted in 28 counties countrywide, within the next 2 months.
The debate provides a platform for Kenyans to express their opinions on capital
offences and what form of punishment capital offenders should be subjected to.
According to the Kenyan law, 5 types of offences attract capital punishment.
These are: murder, treason, and robbery with violence, attempted robbery with
violence and oathing with intent to commit a felony.
After the debate, the committee will document findings of the public views and
make appropriate recommendations.
The 1st public dialogue took place in June in the first 19 counties.
In 2009, former President Mwai Kibaki commuted the sentences of all those on
death row to life imprisonment. The decision affected over 4,000 prisoners and
at the time was said to be one of the largest commutation of death sentences
anywhere in the world.
According to the Kenya Prisons Act, executions are to be carried out by
hanging. The last hanging in Kenya took place in 1987 after the plotters of the
August 1982 coup attempt were sentenced to death.
Filipino fit to enter plea, stand trial: Insp
A 36-year-old Filipino charged with murder is fit to enter his plea and stand
trial, the Magistrate's Court heard on Wednesday.
Inspector Azaman Hamat, prosecuting, informed Magistrate Jessica Ombou Kakayun
on the outcome of a report obtained from Hospital Mesra Bukit Padang on Ismail
Ismail was referred to the psychiatric centre months ago following a request
from his counsel to observe his mental condition.
Azaman, however, applied for another mention date since the medical report has
not been received yet.
The court fixed Nov 23 for mention of the case.
Ismail, a Bajau holding the IMM13 document, is accused of committing the
offence on one Md Adzmar Alex, 19, also a Bajau holding the IMM13 document at
11.30pm on May 1 at Kampung Rampayan.
No plea was taken from him under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries
the death penalty on conviction.
Ismail was represented by counsel Timothy Daut.
(source: Daily Express)
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