April 13


Amnesty: Tunisia not doing enough to abolish death penalty

Tunisia has failed to take steps to abolish its law on the death penalty, Amnesty International said in its latest report.

Since the early 1990s, no death sentences have been carried out in Tunisia but the death penalty still exists in the country. At the end of last year, 77 people were on death row in Tunisian prisons and 25 Tunisian courts handed down death sentences in connection with national security crimes, an increase from 44 in 2016.

According to a poll by the 3C Studies Institute, 70 per cent of Tunisians are in favour of the death penalty. Moreover, the new anti-terrorism law, passed in July 2015, has maintained the death penalty despite calls to abolish it.

Since independence, Tunisia has completed 135 executions.

Amnesty also deplored the fact that the measure of death sentences in Algeria has not been properly recorded due to authorities not making official data public. Amnesty recorded 27 death sentences in Algeria last year, less than the 50 recorded in 2016.

In Morocco and the Western Sahara, 15 death sentences were handed out in 2017, compared to at least 6 in 2016.

According to the NGO, the use of the death penalty in the Middle East and North Africa region decreased slightly in 2017 and the number of executions recorded decreased by 1 %, from 856 executions in 2016 to 847 in 2017.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq carried out the largest number of executions in the region and account for 92 % of recorded executions in the MENA region. However Egypt was guilty of handing out the most convictions in the region during 2017. Of the 619 convictions of capital punishment recorded by the group, 402 were from Egypt – an increase of about 70 %
compared to 2016.

By the end of 2017, 106 countries abolished the death penalty in their legislation.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


Crown Seeks Death Penalty In Exuma Shooting Death Case

THE CROWN is seeking the death penalty for 1 of 2 men convicted of the shooting death of a man in his Family Island home during the process of an armed robbery four years ago.

Prosecutor Al-Leecia Delancy submitted to Justice Carolita Bethel yesterday that Giordano Rolle Jr "should be made to suffer death" for murdering Dwayne Finnekan in Exuma in February 2014.

Ms Delancy said his accomplice, Demetri Rolle should receive 25 years for manslaughter, and that both men should each get 25 years for robbing Finnekan at gunpoint on that date.

The prosecutor submitted that while Demetri Rolle didn't actually shoot the deceased, he played a "significant role" in the incident by being present when it occurred, and also being armed with a shotgun which he used to hold up the only other person who could have assisted the deceased before he was killed.

And concerning the armed robbery charge for which both men were convicted, Ms Delancy noted the "utterly unnecessary," "senseless" and "heinous" manner in which the offence was executed.

The submissions came during a hearing for counsel to make submissions and/or recommendations on sentencing for both men concerning the armed robbery and subsequent shooting death of Finnekan on February 18, 2014.

On March 10, 2017, following a trial by jury over the crimes in question, Giordano Rolle was convicted of murder and armed robbery, while Demetri Rolle was convicted of manslaughter and armed robbery.

According to previous reports, on the date in question, Finniken, also known as Dwayne Nixon, was at home with another man when two men armed with firearms entered the residence.

The 2 convicts, while armed with a handgun and a shotgun, subsequently robbed Finnekan of cash, a gold necklace and a hand chain.

One of the men shot the victim, resulting in his death, before they fled on foot. The 23 year old was pronounced dead at the scene by the island's local doctor.

According to Ms Delancey, Finniken was lying face down on the bed when he was shot in the back. The one person who was in a position to assist him in any way was being held at gunpoint by Demetri Rolle in the front room.

In his record of interview, Demetri Rolle said: "We went there because American sent us there…to take the drugs and money…"

When asked if it was he who shot and killed Finnekan, aka "Yardy," and not Giordano Rolle or another individual, Demetri Rolle said: "It was Gio, sir, not me."

Yesterday afternoon, David Cash, attorney for Giordano Rolle, submitted that the crime in question does not fall under the category of "worst of the worst" as mandated by the Privy Council, having regard to all of the circumstances of the case.


Mr Cash further submitted that while the court has the jurisdiction to sentence someone to death, it is "the duty of the court" to make a determination whether or not the murder in question can be considered to be the "worst of the worst," and if it automatically warrants the death penalty.

In any event, Mr Cash requested the court to consider imposing a 30-year sentence on his client for murder, and 12 years for armed robbery.

Meanwhile, Demetri Rolle's attorney Sonia Timothy, in providing the mitigating factors on behalf of her client, noted that he does not have any previous convictions for offences of a similar nature.

However, she noted that her client has convictions for causing damage and possession of dangerous drugs.

Ms Timothy also submitted that as noted in the probation report, her client has had continuous employment since leaving high school, serving as a space cleaner, landscaper, construction worker, tree-trimmer, as well as a helper in paving roads.

Ms Timothy also noted that he was employed at the time of his arrest. She also said that since being incarcerated, he has participated in at least one programme.

Ms Timothy thus requested Justice Bethel to consider imposing a 12-year and 6-year sentence for her client's manslaughter and armed robbery convictions, respectively.

Justice Bethel noted the submissions and adjourned the matter to May 10 for sentencing.

(source: tribune242.com)


Susan Kigula: The woman who freed herself and hundreds from death row
By Megha Mohan BBC Stories

When a young woman was convicted of murdering her partner and sentenced to death, no-one could have imagined that she would study law and free not only herself but hundreds of others from death row. Now Susan Kigula wants to go further and set up the first legal chambers staffed by lawyers behind bars.

What's about to happen next in a small, wooden panelled courtroom in Kampala, will be written up by the local press as a melodramatic confession to a gruesome murder.

Standing in the dock one afternoon in November 2011, Susan Kigula is about to let the weight of the past 11 years on death row get to her as she turns to her stepson.

"Don't you know that I love you so much?" she'll cry to the 14-year-old boy who is sitting with her late partner's family just feet away.

The courtroom will be deadly silent as Kigula falls to her knees.

"You know that I do love you so much?" she'll repeat. "I'm your mother!"

And then, turning to the family of her late partner, Susan Kigula will say sorry.

The local press in Uganda will write it up as if it was a scene in a soap opera. A hammy admittance of a horrific crime.

Except that's not what she meant, she says.

"The press lied."

You didn't confess to the murder of your partner, Constantine Sseremba?

"No, dear," Kigula's voice is calm. She's been asked this question too many times to be offended. "I'll tell you my truth."

Kigula was born in the Central Ugandan cattle-farming town of Masaka, about 134km (84 miles) south-west of Kampala.

"Growing up I was a daddy's girl," she says. "I used to tell him that I wanted to work in a bank because I thought that was a good job and I would be strong and independent if I had a good job. I had a lot of dreams back then because my parents made me believe they could all come true."

She and her three brothers and five sisters enjoyed a sheltered middle-class upbringing, centred around a close-knit church community. The children played in the open fields into the evening and ate together with their parents every night.

"My happy childhood didn't prepare me for what was to come in adulthood," she says simply.

Kigula had been working for a couple of years in a small gift shop in Kampala when she met Constantine Sseremba, who, at 28, was 10 years her senior.

They moved in together. The apartment was small, just two rooms, but Kigula says it was ideal for the family, which included Sseremba's young son from a previous relationship. They soon had a daughter of their own.

"We loved each very much," says Kigula. "We would go to the cinema and the park and people would tease us. They would call us twins because we were so in sync. We were not rich but we were happy that we had each other.

"We saw the best in our situation and we didn't dwell on the negative."

It's an outlook that, many years later, would save her life.

The 9 July 2000 could have been another forgettable evening, says Kigula.

The young family ate dinner together. They laughed.

Kigula and Sseremba, his son and their daughter retired to bed. They slept all together in the only bedroom. Their housemaid, Patience Nansamba, was on a mattress in the living area next door.

Kigula says that she was woken up around 2.30am by a piercing, flashing blow to the back of her neck.

"There was hot blood oozing from a wound there. The sheets were wet with blood. It wasn't just mine.

"Because the main lights were off I couldn't immediately take in the scene or see what was happening to us. I sat up dizzily on the bed in confusion.

"Then a small panel of light from the security lanterns outside came on and some of the room was lit. The children were unharmed. They were awake and distressed.

"Constantine was on the floor, groaning. His neck was cut. It was all happening so quickly.

"Our housemaid Patience ran into the room saying she had seen two people run out of the flat moments earlier.

"My vision was blurring and I was unsteady on my feet as I made my way outside to alert the neighbours to come help us. I saw a couple of figures running away, but they could have been anyone at this point, I can't be sure they were my attackers.

"I made it to a restaurant outside where I was given a blanket, I hadn't realised that I had run out of the house naked.

"I was still bleeding and then my vision started blurring. I passed out."

Kigula woke up hours later in hospital, the wound to the back of her neck still throbbing, to hear that her partner had died. She was told that her family were looking after their one-year-old daughter Namata and Sseremba's relatives, with whom she had a frosty relationship, had taken his three-year-old son into their home.

It dawned on her that up until that moment she had lived a happy life; a contented childhood, a successful relationship, a good job. That was all gone now, she thought.

Kigula's father informed her that the families had arranged Sseremba's burial for the following day.

"My mind was a whirlwind. I couldn't understand what had happened or why. Whoever had come to attack us was targeting both of us. Who wanted me and Constantine dead? I thought about it a lot. It bothers me still."

There was no obvious motive for the attack. Nothing had been stolen.

After Sseremba's funeral, Kigula was being driven back to the hospital when she heard an announcement on the radio that made her freeze.

The news reader announced that Constantine Sseremba and his 21-year-old partner, Susan Kigula, had both been murdered in a bungled burglary.

"I thought, 'Oh my god, the person who tried to kill us both had arranged a joint obituary assuming we would both be dead by now. They thought they'd get us both.'"

Then, 3 days later, Kigula, still receiving treatment for her large neck wound, received a visit from the police. To her amazement, they charged her with murder and took her straight to a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Kampala, to await trial.

Sseremba's family said that her three-year-old stepson had seen Kigula and the housemaid kill his father.

"I was naive in that moment," says Kigula. "I thought, 'Obviously all of this is a mistake. The poor young boy is traumatised and confused. I'm innocent and of course people will see that.' I had no idea how the legal system worked."

She didn't hire a lawyer. She couldn't afford one and, anyway, she was confident in the justice system.

But two years later, Susan Kigula and Patience Nansamba were found guilty of the murder of Constantine Sseremba - based on the testimony of Sseremba's now five-year-old son. Police also said that a blood-stained panga, a machete-like farming tool that was found in the doorway to the bedroom of the flat belonged to Kigula.

The murder conviction came with a mandatory death sentence. The women were told the method would be hanging.

Kigula looked at her now three-year-old daughter, sitting with her parents, and burst into tears.

It was 2005 and 20-year-old British student Alexander McLean was taking a break from his studies, after obtaining a law degree.

After finishing school, a few years earlier, McLean had volunteered at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, hoping to bolster his CV for university, and had been deeply disturbed by the dire conditions there. He saw patients lying on unswept floors, often in pools of vomit and blood.

Their families were required to provide fresh sheets and towels, but when the patients were prisoners, relatives often left them to fend for themselves.

McLean found himself drawn to these patients, some of whom were handcuffed to their beds. Curious about the conditions they faced in custody, he visited Luzira Upper Prison.

"I was struck by how massively overcrowded it was, how young the inmates were, how few had had decent legal representation," he says.

A particularly gruesome, and avoidable, death of a young male prisoner in the jail prompted McLean, on his return to London, to raise money for healthcare facilities for prisoners in Uganda. He set up the African Prisons Project.

When he returned to Uganda in 2005 to oversee the refurbishing of the sick bay at Luzira Women's Prison, Susan Kigula began to act as his translator. She made an instant impression on him.

By this time Kigula had been in the prison for five years.

"Every day I would wake up and think, 'Is this the day that I will be hanged?'" she says.

But when asked what conditions were like her response is unemotional.

"Prison is prison," she says, without expanding.

Kigula shared a cell built for one person with three other women. They used a bucket as toilet.

A 2011 report into Ugandan prisons by Human Rights Watch said prisoners often slept on one shoulder, packed together so that they could only shift if an entire row agreed to roll at once. Inmates were sometimes confined in isolation cells, the report said, often naked, handcuffed, and sometimes denied food; the cells occasionally flooded with water up to ankle height.

Kigula doesn't want to talk about such things. But she is keen to tell the story of how she obtained her freedom.

I decided, 'We have to do something. We have to change our attitudes.' So I started by forgiving the people who put me in prison.

For the first few weeks in prison Kigula, then aged 24, and the 50 or so women in her section would talk to each other about their impending death, about who would care for their children outside.

"As I got to know the women I began to learn that many of them, like me, had been wrongly accused of crimes. Some were guilty but none of them deserved to be sentenced to death because the crimes they had committed were crimes of passion, they told me. Some of the crimes were a result of years of sexual and physical abuse by partners. I became a leader among the prisoners. I decided, 'We have to do something. We have to change our attitudes.' So I started by forgiving the people who put me in prison. I encouraged the other women to do the same. Then I decided to get to work."
Image copyright Jan Banning
Image caption Susan Kigula in Luzira Women's Prison in 2013

Kigula mobilised a choir, she wrote songs, she started playing netball and led the prison dance troupe. To keep her spirits up, she spent more time with positive thinking inmates.

She learned that the men in the neighbouring wing had access to education whereas women prisoners did not. She asked the prison administration if a small group of them could take courses in History, Economics, Divinity and Management at secondary school level.

The Acting Commissioner for Welfare and Rehabilitation asked Kigula how she planned to operate a school without teachers.

"Let me try and be the teacher to start with," she replied.

They used textbooks donated by their families and the prison wardens connected them to the school in the men's prison, which started sending the women study notes to help them. They held their classes under trees.

When the wardens saw the women were dedicated, they expanded the resources and allowed more classes, with Kigula and some of her friends playing a leading role. Kigula says the prison wardens would provide support and encouragement.

Another motivating voice came from Alexander McLean, the young British founder of African Prisons Project, who had returned to oversee the refurbishment of the sick bay - a project that resulted in a sharp decline in deaths of inmates (from 114 the year before the refurbishment to 12 in the year of completion).

"I saw that Susan was dynamic, she mobilised and motivated people," says McLean. "She had great humility - she would kneel down to speak to the prison wardens, which is the custom at that prison. She never tired of serving others."

McLean had been working with Ugandan authorities to improve conditions beyond the sick bay too. His organisation sponsored sports activities, ran mother-and-baby reading groups and adult literacy classes. Kigula acted as an intermediary between the charity and the prison authorities on a project to open a prison library.

In 2011 Kigula and a group of other prisoners, supported by African Prisons Project, became the first Ugandan prisoners to take a correspondence course with the University of London, studying law.

The project was a huge success. As time went on, prison staff would come to her for legal advice.

Then Kigula started a legal clinic in prison to help fellow inmates with bail applications, writing memorandums of appeal for them, and teaching them how to represent themselves in court, if they couldn't afford a lawyer. She helped dozens of inmates get released from prison.

Emboldened by her academic success, Kigula decided, even before she completed her University of London degree, to organise a petition challenging Uganda's mandatory death sentence. The process would take years.

"The Ugandan public is generally very conservative and reluctant to see what could be perceived as a softening of the law with respect to criminal justice matters," says McLean.

Susan Kigula and 417 Others vs Attorney General is a landmark case. The petitioners, all on death row, aimed to abolish capital punishment by declaring it unconstitutional.

When the Supreme Court of Uganda gave its ruling, on 21 January 2009, it did not abolish the death penalty. However it did rule that a sentence of death should not be mandatory in cases of murder, and that a condemned person should not be kept on death row indefinitely - if a convict is not executed within three years, the sentence is automatically turned into life imprisonment. And, in light of these changes, the Supreme Court ruled that death-row inmates could go back to the High Court for retrial.

Kigula would have another day in court.

It was at this moment, in November 2011, that she called out to her stepson, using the word "sorry". But Kigula says this was not a confession - as the press chose to interpret it - it was an expression of regret for what he had been through. She still proclaimed her innocence, pleading not-guilty to murder for a second time, but the court - and the media - were not convinced.

The High Court reduced Kigula's sentence to 20 years, and with four taken off for her time in remand, Kigula was released from prison in 2016.

To begin with, it felt like an alien, new world.

"It was like I was walking on the moon! I could not believe what was happening to me," she says.

Her father had died while she was in prison and her mother had been killed in a road accident just two months before her release.

Kigula now has new goals.

She wants authorities to reduce the sentence of the remaining 417 inmates from her petition - although dozens were released, like her, some are still behind bars.

Working with Alexander McLean and African Prisons Project, Kigula plans to establish the world's first prison-based legal college and law firm, where prisoner lawyers would represent peers who can not afford legal help.

"The hope is to create a new generation of servant lawyers who follow in the footsteps of Susan and the others who pioneered this alongside her," says Alexander McLean. "The legal system in Uganda is not like the UK's."

"People can be put in prison for being gay, women are on death row for not being able to get care for a sick child in rural areas, or if their husbands commit crimes and can't be found. Of course there are guilty people in prison but we believe that everyone deserves due process. We believe everyone deserves a second chance to be of use to society. Susan has always maintained her innocence and she wants to serve her community."

Kigula now lives with her sister and her 19-year-old daughter.

"My daughter calls me her hero. That was all I needed to hear after 16 years away from her."

Life is good again, she says.

(soruce: BBC News)


Young Yemeni woman on death row suffers the wrath of the Huthis’ ‘psychological war’ on opponents

Asmaa al-Omeissy set off from southern Yemen to seek safety and reunite with her father in the capital Sana’a. Instead, the 22-year-old, who has 2 young children, was subjected to a brutal ordeal that has left her as the 1st known Yemeni woman on death row on ‘state security’ charges.

In September 2016, her husband, an al-Qa’ida suspect, fled and left her during an ambush by forces from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition near the southern city of al-Mukalla. After briefly detaining her following the ambush, the coalition troops let her go. But this was only the start of her troubles.

A family friend had offered to drive her from al-Mukalla to the Huthi-controlled Sana’a so that she could re-unite with her father. Another male passenger travelled with them. On 7 October 2016, Huthi security forces stopped their vehicle at a checkpoint in the capital and whisked them away for interrogation. Following their detention, Asmaa al-Omeissy’s father was also summoned and arrested.

Their arrest marked the beginning of a horrific ordeal including enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, and death sentences following a grossly unfair trial. Because of their connection with the armed conflict in Yemen, these violations by the Huthis may amount to war crimes.

Since the Huthi armed group and its allies took control of large parts of Yemen in late 2014, thousands of people have been arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, and tortured on the basis of their perceived political allegiance or religious beliefs, rights groups say. Amnesty International and other local and international human rights groups have documented such cases and urged the Huthis to respect their obligations under international law.

But far from heeding these calls, the Huthis have been widening their crackdown against opponents and critics, including journalists and human rights defenders. Those detained include people they perceive as supporting their adversaries – Yemen’s UN-recognized government, based in the south, and its backers, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. Moreover, the Huthis have also been increasingly using the judiciary to settle political scores, with several grossly unfair trials resulting in death sentences.

These trials and the process leading up to them demonstrate a complete disregard for Yemeni and international law. Asmaa al-Omeissy and her 3 co-defendants, for example, were barred from contacting the outside world for months while they were taken from one facility to the next, including a “secret” part of the Criminal Investigations Department. She was unable to get any news about her 2 children from a previous marriage – now 4 and 7 years old – who currently live with family members in the south.

Asmaa al-Omeissy was beaten up in front of her 50-year-old father Matir al-Omeissy, including being punched and hit with a cane by a policewoman, the father told me. She was also forced to watch 2 other detainees in the case being tortured, hung from the ceiling by their wrists as they were kicked and punched all over their bodies.

She was interrogated over alleged links to al-Qa’ida, and wrongfully accused of committing an “illegitimate sex act” with her male travel companions. “It was a psychological war,” Asmaa al-Omeissy’s father told me.

“Can you imagine what it’s like for a woman to be kept alone in [an interrogation] room and accused of such things all the while being innocent?” he said, explaining how interrogators tried to break her by attacking her “honour.” In Yemen, extra-marital affairs are both illegal and taboo.

It was not until May 2017 that Asmaa al-Omeissy and the others were finally charged and referred to Sana’a’s notorious Specialized Criminal Court that handles “terrorism” and “state security” cases. The charges included “aiding a foreign country in a state of war with Yemen,” a reference to coalition member the United Arab Emirates. None of the defendants had legal representation during the trial.

While the 3 men were released on bail months before the verdict, including 2 on medical grounds, it is not clear why Asmaa al-Omeissy was the only defendant in the case who remained in custody. All three men subsequently fled to safety in areas of Yemen outside Huthi control, and she alone was present in court on 30 January when the judge sentenced her and two of the other defendants to death. The spurious “indecent act” charge landed her an additional sentence of 100 lashes and her father, a 15-year prison sentence.

Those who have spoken to Asmaa al-Omeissy at Sana’a Central Prison have told me her morale is extremely low. Her prison conditions continue to be woefully inadequate. She has to pay for her food, has no access to clothes or hygiene products, and her relatives haven’t visited, out of fear of being detained themselves.

Conditions in Yemeni prisons have long been inhuman and degrading, but local activists say they have only worsened under Huthi control. Detainees are crammed into filthy, overcrowded cells, and are systematically extorted for money.

And although abuses against female detainees, including rape and other forms of sexual violence were reported in the past, activists say they are shocked at the recent rise in reports of such abuses. One human rights defender told me his group has documented hundreds of cases of female detainees who were subjected to torture and humiliation, including “degrading use of women prisoners in construction work.”

Asmaa al-Omeissy’s father tells me he wants the world to know about her case and that she is innocent. A lawyer has filed an appeal request on her behalf, but he has been struggling to obtain the case file from the court. Meanwhile, the court has been liberally issuing death sentences, including in January against 52-year-old prisoner of conscience and member of the Baha’i community, Hamid Haydara.

Huthi authorities must stop making a mockery of justice: they must immediately quash these unsafe convictions and death sentences, and end the use of this inherently cruel punishment. Every day Asmaa al-Omeissy spends behind bars and on death row compounds this injustice, leaves her at risk of further violations, and is time stolen from her children’s lives.

(source: Rawya Rageh, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International)


A Man Hanged in Kerman Prison

A prisoner who was allegedly sentenced to death on murder charges was executed at Kerman Central Prison.

According to Baluch Activists Campaign, on the morning of Tuesday, April 10, a prisoner was executed at Kerman Central Prison. The prisoner, identified as Omid Damani, 33, was charged with murder.

Habibollah Sarbazi, Baluch human rights activist, told IHR, “Omid Damani was most probably executed on murder charges, and he was also charged with sedition. However, the exact charges are not indicated yet.”

The prisoner was buried in Iranshahr on April 12.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges.

There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Iran Responsible For Over Half of Executions World Over, Says Amnesty International

In a report released on April 12, London-based international human rights watchdog Amnesty International said “more than half (51%) of all recorded executions in 2017 were carried out in Iran.”

Iran ranks second in the world after China in terms of executions and has “carried out 84% of the global total number of executions with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.”

However, Amnesty International has observed that there has been “a slight decrease (5%) in execution figures” in Iran compared to 2016.

The report said Iran is one of the 23 countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty.

According to Amnesty International, “Iran executed at least 507 people, accounting for 60% of all confirmed executions in the region.”

Out of the 507 individuals executed in Iran last year, “501 were men and 6 were women. At least 5 juvenile offenders were executed and 31 executions were carried out publicly. The executions were carried out for murder (240); drug trafficking (205); murder and rape 4; robbery 11; “spreading corruption on earth” 2; rape (male on female rape) 16; kidnapping and murder 3;moharebeh (politically motivated) (2); and 19 were for offences that could not be confirmed,” the AI reported.

Amnesty International received reports indicating that at least 5 people in Iran were executed for crimes committed when they were under 18 years of age. Iran also sentenced to death other people who were younger than 18 at the time of the crime. The imposition and execution of the death penalty against people who were aged under 18 when the crime was committed is a violation of international law.

Amnesty International added, “For the first time in many years Amnesty International recorded more executions for murder than for drug-related offences. The organization believed that hundreds of death sentences were imposed during the year; however, it was unable to confirm any credible figure.”

Amnesty International recorded a noticeable decrease in the overall number of executions carried out for drug-related offences. This was due to the fact that “in November, Iran amended the Anti-Narcotics Law, raising the level of drug possession needed to trigger the imposition of a mandatory death sentence, with potential retroactive effect,” the Amnesty International observed.

Meanwhile, “The widespread use of the death penalty remains a grave concern; Iran continued to use the death penalty for conduct that did not amount to a recognizably criminal offense". such as "enmity against god", "spreading corruption on earth" and “insulting the Prophet”.

Amnesty International’s research showed that basic fair trial guarantees were absent in death penalty cases and that courts often relied on “confessions” extracted under torture to impose death sentences. The use of torture is absolutely prohibited under the UN Convention against Torture,” the AI report stressed.

“In Iran and Iraq some of these ‘confessions’ were broadcast on television before the trial took place, further violating the defendant’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Amnesty International believed that hundreds of other death sentences were imposed in Iran but was unable to confirm any credible figures.

The AI noted that execution figures in China are probably the highest in the world, but there are no figures publicly announced as China regards such figures “state secrets.” Iran ranks the 2nd with 507 registered executions and Saudi Arabia is the 3rd with 146 executions in 2017 according to Amnesty International.

Raha Bahraini, an Iran researcher with the IA, told Radio Farda that “Iran lags behind the global progress in the move to abolish death penalty.”

Bahraini reiterated that Iran even lags behind its neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq, as Tehran has executed far more people than those 3 countries during the past year,” adding that these 4 countries and China comprise an isolated minority in the community of nations that still violate people’s right to live.”

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Amiri Moghaddam, head of the Iran Human Rights Organization in Norway, said in an interview with Radio Farda that some 70 to 80% of executions in Iran are not reported.”

(source: radiofarda.com)


Maneka wants death penalty for rape of minors under 12 years

With the uproar over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua, the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi today said that she favours bringing an amendment to the POCSO Act for rape of minors below 12 years.

“I am deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases on children. I, and the ministry intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO Act asking for death penalty for rape on children below 12 years,” she said in a Youtube video shared by her spokesperson.

The Ministry didn’t clarify why there was a cap of 12 years and whether the issue had been discussed with the Ministries of Law and Home Affairs.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, there is a punishment of 10 years to life imprisonment for aggravated penile sexual assault and 5 to 7 years for aggravated sexual assault. Sexual harrasment is punishable with up to 3 years in jail.

(source: The Hindu)


Will make death penalty mandatory for those raping minors, says Mehbooba

Even as Kathua gangrape continues to fuel national outrage, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today said that her government will soon table a new law to make death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors.

"We will never ever let another child suffer this way. We will bring a new law that will make the death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors, so that minor's case becomes the last," said Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet.

The chief minister further assured the entire nation that she stands committed not to just ensure justice for the minor girl but will also seek exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

The 8-year-old girl, who went missing on January 12, was found dead on January 17 based on a tip off by a local. The chargesheet which was filed on Monday reveal chilling details of the crime. The minor girl was sedated and raped repeatedly before she was brutally murdered.

Several politicians and public figures joined the chorus to demand justice for the deceased. All eight accused in the gangrape have been arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has called for a midnight candlelight march at India Gate to protest the Kathua and Unnao gangrapes, both incidents that have sparked nationwide outrage.

Gandhi plans to march from the Congress headquarters in New Delhi to India Gate at midnight and has called on everyone to join his protest. Here are the live updates from tonight's demonstration.

(source: India Today)


Death sentences awarded by Indian courts dip in 2017, 20% fewer than last year

The Indian courts gave 109 death sentences last year, but the country did not execute anyone, according to Amnesty International.

The number of death sentences imposed last year were 27 fewer than the 136 in 2016, the human rights organisation said in its report, “Death Sentences and Executions 2017”, released here on Thursday.

Last year, 51 death penalties were imposed for murder alone, down from 87 in 2016, the London-based organisation said quoting the National Law University’s Centre on Death Penalty.

For murder charges involving sex offences, 43 death sentences were handed out. Two death sentences were imposed for drug-related offences.

The report said it also “monitors daily developments on the use of death penalty” and that the number of death sentences it collected were lower than that of the National Law University.

Overall, there were 371 people on death row in India.

The report said that it had recorded commutations of death penalty or pardons in India, but it did not give a number.

The last time India had carried out an execution was in 2015 when Yakub Memon was hanged after being found guilty in the 1993 Mumbai terrorist bombings that killed 257 people.

(source: Financial Express)


Death penalty report reveals which country is the ‘world’s top executioner’

Executions worldwide dropped again in 2017, with at least 993 recorded in 23 countries, Amnesty International said.

A new annual report on the death penalty has called sub-Saharan Africa a “beacon of hope” amid a decline in executions worldwide.

Twenty countries across sub-Saharan Africa have now abolished the death penalty for all crimes, Amnesty International said.

Just two countries in the region, Somalia and South Sudan, carried out executions last year.

Executions worldwide dropped again in 2017, with at least 993 recorded in 23 countries. That is down 4% from the year before and down 39% from 2015.

At least 2,591 death sentences were recorded in 53 countries last year, down from a record high of 3,117 the year before, the London-based human rights organisation said.

The numbers do not include the thousands of executions and death sentences that Amnesty International believes have occurred in China, where they are considered a state secret.

China remained the “world’s top executioner”, the report said.

Excluding China, 84% of the reported executions last year were carried out in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

Countries resuming executions in 2017 were Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States remained the only country in the Americas to carry out executions, with 23 last year, up slightly from the year before.

With the progress in Africa, “the isolation of the world’s remaining executing countries could not be starker”, said the organisation’s secretary general, Salil Shetty.

Even among those countries some “significant steps” were seen.

In Iran, executions were down 11% and drug-related executions were reduced to 40%.

In Malaysia, changes to anti-drug laws now allow discretion in sentencing for drug trafficking crimes.

But Amnesty International called “distressing” the continued use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, with 15 countries last year imposing death sentences or carrying out executions.

Drug-related executions were recorded in China, Iran, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, where “drug-related beheadings rocketed from 16% of total executions in 2016 to 40% in 2017”.

The rights group also expressed concern that at least five people in Iran were executed last year for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18, with another 80 people with similar pasts still on death row.

People with “mental or intellectual disabilities” were executed or faced a death sentence in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore and the Maldives.

Worldwide at least 21,919 people are known to be under a death sentence, and Amnesty International said: “Now is not the time to let up the pressure.”

Other challenges remain, the report said, including in sub-Saharan Africa: both Botswana and Sudan reportedly resumed executions this year.

And early this year, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said he will sign the first death warrants in nearly two decades to create fear among criminals, vowing to “hang a few”.

(source: Associated Press)


Ghana must abolish death penalty by 2019 - Amnesty International

Human rights organisation, Amnesty International (AI) has reiterated its strong opposition to the death penalty sentence in Ghana's legal system, thus calling on government to totally abolish it by 2019.

According to AI, Ghana is among the countries that have abolished the execution of prisoners on death row but is yet to stop sentencing “criminals” to death by getting rid of the punishment from its legal system.

Speaking at the launch of the 2017 Global Death Penalty Report in Accra, Country Director of Amnesty International, Robert Amoafo Akoto revealed that 7 people were sentenced to death in only 2017 but Ghana’s prisons are currently holding a total of 160 persons on death row, including six foreigners.

As indicated in the report, some Sub-Saharan African countries including Guinea and Kenya have abolished the penalty, therefore, Ghana, according to the AI must take inspiration from these nations and do same.

Launching the Amnesty International's Death Sentence and Executions 2017 Report in Accra Thursday, International Board Member of Amnesty International, Dr. Vincent Adzahlie-Mensah said the death penalty is a wicked and torturous punishment that must not be practiced by Ghana.

According to him, Ghana is still practicing death penalty as a result of “ignorance and misinformation” and “lack of political will”.

“It is important that as a people, we recognise that in this report, it is stated that the year under review two countries; Guinea in Africa and Mongolia outside Africa abolished the death penalty. What is it that is happening in Ghana? What evil are Ghanaians than the people in Guinea that we deserve the death penalty,” Dr. Adzahlie-Mensah stated.

The AI also argues that death penalty is a revengeful and an inhumane punishment which must be completely abolished from the justice system of a country practicing the democratic system of governance.

"Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of circumstances of the crime," the organisation stated in its 2017 report on death sentences.

Prisoners on death row, reports say, are exposed to various ill-conditions, subjecting them to, among other things, various diseases and psychological trauma, a reason the AI and its partners want Ghana to be part of the abolitionists.

In an interview with www.Ghanaweb.com, Dr. Adzahlie-Mensah maintains the capital punishment should be abolished because “It doesn’t solve any problem and it’s like a father who has two children and one killed the other and so the father says I’ll kill the second one. I don’t think it makes sense in any human community. In Ghana we don’t even apply it so why do you have a law that you don’t even apply? That’s the problem. ”

Inasmuch as persons may make a strong case that convicted murderers should also be subjected to the torture their victims went through, he believes no civilised society should operate based on the principles of “a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye”.

“That is stone age ideology. You see when you have death penalty what it does is it makes our law enforcement very lazy because we all reside in the thought that ‘don’t worry if somebody kills, if somebody harms you, somebody attacks you we’ll kill the person,” he stressed.

Amnesty International also pledged its commitment to support government in working towards the total abolishment of the capital punishment.

"We take cognizance of our neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Gambia, Senegal, Benin and Kenya that have successfully abolishing the death penalty and encourage Ghana to do same," the organisation stressed.

About Amnesty International's Global Death Sentence and Executions 2017 Report

According to the Amnesty International's Death Sentence and Executions 2017 report, 142 countries worldwide had obliterated death penalty in both law and in practice and 106 countries had also abolished the penalty in law for all crimes.

The report indicates a global decrease of 17 percent, reflecting a decrease of over 2591 in 2017 from the high record of 3117 of death sentences in 2016. The number of countries known to have imposed new death sentences reduced from 55 in 2016 to 53 in 2017.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Amnesty International recorded about an 81 percent drop in the number of executing countries from 5 in 2016 to 2 (Somalia and South Sudan) in 2017 resulting to a drastic decrease in number of death sentence imposed and that was from 1086 in 2016 to 878 in 2017.

Guinea abolished the death penalty for all crimes and Kenya abolished the mandatory death sentence of murder.


160 on death row in Ghana

Amnesty International (AI) has said that there are 160 people known to be on death row in Ghana.

According to AI, although Ghana has not executed anyone on death row since 1993, the death penalty remains in the statute book with some “seven people sentenced to death in 2017”.

This was disclosed by the Director of Amnesty International Ghana, Robert Amoafo Akoto at the launch of the 2017 global death penalty report.

He said Ghana is identified as an abolitionist in practice, meaning “we still have it in our laws, even in 2018 one person has been sentenced to death, the judges are using it in the court and people can go back to it but we don’t execute”.

Meanwhile, on the global scale, while 106 countries abolished the death penalty in 2017, China continued to be the world's top executioner, according to AI.

Mr Akoto indicated that “over thousands” are executed every year even though the country does not release the official figures.

Launching Amnesty International's Death Sentence and Executions 2017 Report, International Board Member of Amnesty International, Dr Vincent Adzahile-Mensah called on President Akufo-Addo and all well-meaning Ghanaians to support the call for abolishment of the death penalty.

(source for both: ghanaweb.com)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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