Dec. 1


A manifesto for life: Abolish the death penalty

What makes Indians bloodthirsty in this 21st century? While most of Latin America and Europe have abolished the death penalty, India, along with the United States, Pakistan and China, find it necessary to eliminate undesirable elements in society by the death penalty and feel reassured.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former diplomat and governor of West Bengal, makes a convincing case for life in Abolishing The Death Penalty (Published by Aleph, Pages 124, Price Rs 399). Abolishing The Death Penalty is a must-read for all those who value life as well as for every incensed Indian who wants retributive justice for terror attacks and for crimes such as murder and rape.

A few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court scrapped the Kerala high court's decision awarding the death penalty for the convict in Soumya murder case, there was bedlam in Kerala. The 'civil society' was shocked at the 'apparent' miscarriage of justice. The Supreme Court's decision even provoked a former SC judge, that gadfly Markandeya Katju, to castigate the judgment in a Facebook post, and resulted in the Supreme Court, uncharacteristically, hauling him over the coals of contempt of court proceedings.

The public sentiment, in this case, was for hanging the convict. Gandhi, however, points out the need for administrators and the ruling class to rise above public sentiment and adhere to certain values.

He urges politicians to learn from the example of Nelson Mandela, the South African legend, and Francois Mitterrand, the former French president, who led rather than allowed themselves to be led by an inconstant public opinion in abolishing the death penalty in their own countries.

Gandhi raises the question that: Would our progressive enactments on untouchability, dowry and domestic violence have stood a chance against the orchestrations of opinion by khap panchayats and their kind. He concedes that a democracy is about what people want, no doubt, but reminds us that a state that believes in a moral code is also about what its enlightened New Agers from Asoka to Ambedkar have wanted it to be.

Gandhi writes that the death penalty is a symbol of a state's political strength, even as a nuclear weapon is a sign of its military strength. "We need the death penalty to strike the fear of a secular God in those who want to challenge the writ of the Indian state, and want to undermine its sovereignty, its essential being," writes Gandhi.

The greatest dilemma faced by abolitionists is when they come face-to-face with those bereaved or affected by murders. Gandhi says that to try to explain the reason for abolishing the death penalty to the bereaved would not just be futile, it would be callous. What, however, makes Gandhi's argument special is the realization that the answer to revenge cannot be ecumenical or evangelical but has to be emotional. The central argument in Gandhi's passionate plea is that victims' anguish and the penalty's cruelty are independent truths - one is not less than the other. And he lists three reasons. First, murder cuts short the victim's span of life - an inherently audacious act. Second, committed by a fellow human who is part of the same chain of life, it is aberrant. And the third, it is irreversible.

Gandhi is a realist and rues the fact that the death penalty (which he describes as a conglomeration of multiple murders - judicial, administrative, political and social) is not likely to be abolished in India in the foreseeable future despite it being a global trend.

He, however, reminds us that the ending of the death penalty has to be accompanied by the ending of a great many ills in our criminal justice system, of which the use of the '3rd degree', the use of torture to extort what passes for confessions, prolonged imprisonment of undertrials, and a coarsening investigation system, are part. There need to be greater and vigorous efforts by the ruling class and human rights activists to bring about changes, at least, in those aspects.

(source: John Cheernan, The Times of India)


For killing family: Court awards death penalty to man

A court in Gilgit on Wednesday handed down the death penalty to a man who had killed his wife and 2 kids by pushing them into the river.

The sentence was pronounced by Justice Haq Nawaz and Justice Wazir Shakil of Gilgit-Baltistan's Chief Court where the killer, Ibrahim, had appealed against the decision of a lower court.

"When the act of murder is established, its penalty is death," observed the judges.

On July 29, 2010, Ibrahim pushed his 30-year-old wife Parveen, his 6-year-old son and 8-month old daughter into the river. He then lodged an FIR with the Gilgit police, claiming that his family had gone missing.

Police discovered that it was Ibrahim who had pushed them into the river, something which he confessed to later. Subsequently, a sessions court sentenced Ibrahim to life in prison. He then challenged the verdict in the chief court which converted the verdict into a death sentence.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Mali's ex-junta chief Sanogo goes on trial over killings

A Malian court began a trial of former coup leader General Amadou Sanogo on Wednesday on charges of "complicity in kidnapping and assassination," 3 1/2 years after his junta was accused of killing 21 soldiers.

Sanogo led a coup in March 2012 that deposed former President Amadou Toumani Toure and plunged Mali into chaos, enabling Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants to take over the north. He was arrested in December 2013.

Authorities in the same month found a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of missing soldiers. He is accused alongside 17 others of involvement in their deaths and faces a possible death penalty.

Sanogo entered the court in the southern city of Sikasso wearing a suit and tie. A crowd of supporters cheered him on while family members sat solemnly wearing white. The trial was adjourned until Friday before he had the opportunity to plead.

Rights groups have applauded the trial as a rare case of justice involving a high profile figure in a region where abuses by military strongmen often go unpunished.

"The trial of General Sanogo and his co-defendants represents clear progress in tackling the culture of impunity in Mali," Corinne Dufka, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"For far too long, men like Sanogo were considered untouchable and above the rule of law."

Sanogo's coup allowed Tuareg separatists and al Qaeda-linked fighters to occupy Mali's vast north until they were scattered during a French-led intervention in January.

A peace deal signed with the separatists in mid-2015 has failed to end violence and factional infighting that continues to threaten the stability of Mali and the wider West Africa region.

(source: Reuters)


Death Sentence for Tetouan Man Charged with Murder

A Tetouan man who was charged with the murder after killing a mosque-goer last August has just been sentenced to the death penalty.

The court sentenced the man, who admitted his guilt, on Tuesday, November 29 to the death penalty after the murder of a man inside the Al Andalous mosque in the Mellah neighborhood of Tetouan, an act which authorities concluded was premeditated.

Since the verdict was publicized, a new conversation on the death penalty in Morocco was started.

Earlier today, it was reported that Morocco had abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution asking for the international abolition of the death penalty.

The resolution was presented to the UN's 3rd committee, specializing in human rights.

On November 17, a UN press release stated that a "representative of Morocco said his country had had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1993." With the recent death sentence handed in Tetouan, this statement is no longer true, which begs the question as to what the nation will tell the UN the next time it asks about the death penalty.

The UN would have also criticized the country's position on the death penalty, arguing that it was incompatible with Articles 20 and 21 of the constitution.

(source: Morocco World News)


Court Martial charges 3 over info leakage

3 soldiers including Lt. Col Deziderio Balidda have been charged with offences related to security at the army General Court Martial.

Court presided over by Lt. Gen Andrew Gutti on Tuesday charged the accused and remanded them to Makindye Military Police barracks.

Balidda, 57, was charged alongside WOII Robert Wanyama, 39, and Pte. Ivan Asiimwe, 28. The soldiers are attached to field Artillery division in Masindi district. Wanyama is a senior non-commissioned officer while Asiimwe is a gun repairer.

They were charged contrary to section 130 (1) of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) Act No 07/2005. Offences related to security carry a maximum penalty of death on conviction.

The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, prompting court to remand them until December 20, when they will re-appear in court for mention of their case.

It is alleged that the accused on August 16, this year at Naguru and Ntinda in Kampala and other various places in Masindi district recruited soldiers and disclosed vital information to an authorized persons with intent to prejudice the security of the defence forces.

Prosecution led by Raphael Mugisha informed court that investigations into the matter were still on-going.

Meanwhile the legal advisor to the chairman, Gideon Kattinda informed the accused of their right to legal representation, saying they have a right to representation by an advocate of their choice.

But the suspects instead allowed Maj. Patra Aisha, a lawyer provided by the state to represent them.



EU, Rights Groups Condemn Executions Of At Least 2 In Belarus ---- According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.

The European Union has condemned the executions of 2 convicts in Belarus.

Relatives of Ivan Kulesh, 28, and Syarhey Khmyaleuski, 31, say they have been informed that the 2 men were executed in November.

In a November 30 statement, a spokesperson for the EU's diplomatic service, said that Minsk's "continued application of the death penalty runs counter to Belarus's stated willingness to engage with the international community, including the EU."

Kulesh was sentenced to death in November 2015 after a court found him guilty of 3 murders, theft, robbery, and attempted murder.

Khmyaleuski was convicted of 3 murders and sentenced to death in January.

Amnesty International's campaigner on Belarus, Aisha Jung, said on November 30 that the "sudden and shameful purge" of death-row prisoners in Belarus was "additionally shameful" because executions there "are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment's notice."

Amnesty International said it fears that a third death-row inmate, Hyanadz Yakavitski, may also have been executed since November 5.

It also quoted rights activists in Minsk who said the executions were carried out with gunshots to the back of the prisoners' heads.

Jung said the "sudden spike in executions is especially surprising in Belarus, the death penalty's final frontier in Europe, since many believed the country was on track to eliminate capital punishment for good."

Jung noted that the sudden string of executions in Belarus came after a hiatus.

Before this month, only one person had been executed in the former Soviet republic since November 2014 -- Syarhey Ivanou, who was executed on April 18, 2016.

The EU, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations have been calling on Minsk to join a moratorium on the death penalty for years.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.



Poor evidences fail to ensure death penalty of accused

The state has failed to identify the direct culprits of this killing and provide justice.

A death-sentence was anticipated by many for the much-publicised killing of Ekushey-award winning journalist Manik Saha, but in an unexpected turn of events lifetime imprisonment was announced.

The judge specifically mentioned insufficient evidences and lack of information presented by the witnesses as the main reason for this verdict during his announcement at the empty court room yesterday.

One of prime reasons was identified as lack of cooperation from late Manik Saha's family, most of who were absent despite being summoned to the court many times during the trial to present information as witnesses.

Also in some instances, they appeared as disinterested in providing information to the court.

Consequently summing up these events together, the court gave the verdict of lifetime imprisonment to nine accused of this case largely based on police investigations.

Wishing anonymity, one of the advocates of this case said: "The trial for this case had been going on for nearly 12 years. During this time, no statements from Manik Saha's daughter Moumita Saha and former journalist Sahabuddin Ahmed could be taken as none of them were in Khulna. Manik Saha's younger brother was summoned to the court many times, which he initially declined. Eventually, although he did appear at the court, he however refused to present information despite the lawyers probing him with questions to find answers."

Khulna Divisional Fast Track Tribunal Public Prosecutor (PP) Advocate Enamul Haque said although he had anticipated the highest penalty or death sentence for this case, the judge had to give lifetime imprisonment penalty under the given circumstances. He said if the witnesses presented their information boldly, the outcome could have been as expected. The PP said he is, however, not disappointed with the verdict. PP Advocate Enamul believes that justice has been obtained through this verdict and it will serve as an example of the firmness of the country's law enforcement and justice system.

During the announcement of the verdict, the Khulna Divisional Fast Track Tribunal Judge M A Rob Hawladar in his brief statement said: "The witnesses of this case have not provided sufficient evidence and information. Information provided by Manik Saha's family, relatives and colleagues were not as useful or cooperative as expected. The verdict is being given mostly based on the case documents."

Khulna court's Additional PP M M Sajjad Hossain said: "Despite being a very strong case, only because of insufficient information from the witnesses, such is the outcome of the trial. Had the evidences been presented in a better manner and the family and colleagues been more cooperative, the highest penalty could have been ensured to the convicts."

Khulna Press Club President S M Nazrul Islam and General Secretary Mamun Reza along with the other members however pointed out poor investigation done by the police as the reason why all the culprits behind this killing could not be identified and brought to justice.

Khulna Journalists' Union President S M Jahid Hossain said they would comment when an analysis was made after they received a copy of the verdict.

He said: "Only the analysis will clearly explain why death penalty was not given to the convicts, and we will take the next steps accordingly."

Manik Saha's brother Pradip Saha said: "The state has failed to identify the direct culprits of this killing and provide justice. The state is the plaintiff for this case and the state must consider this in taking the next steps."

Incidentally, journalist Manik Saha was killed on January 15, 2004 near Khulna Press Club in a planned bomb attack and the case was filed on January 17 with the Khulna police station.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Sheng Siong kidnapping: Accused asked to be given death penalty in letter to court

Sales executive Lee Sze Yong was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday (Dec 1) after he was found guilty of kidnapping the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee in January 2014.

Lee, 44, was also given 3 strokes of the cane.

In a handwritten 3-page letter to the court, Lee had asked to be given the death penalty instead of "deprivation of liberty for the rest of my life".

"I had ruined my life. By dying, I hope that I have repaid my debt and to be at peace," he wrote.


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