ANALYSIS OF THE 2016 REPORT DATA AND OBJECTIVES OF HANDS OFF CAIN
August 3, 2016: As can be seen in the 2016 Report by Hands off Cain, the worldwide trend towards de jure or de facto abolition, underway for more than fifteen years, was again confirmed in 2015 and the first six months of 2016.
Nevertheless, as we have seen, the countries that have made use of the death penalty increased from 22 in 2014 to 25 in 2015, as well as there were at least 4,040 executions in 2015, compared to at least 3,576 in 2014.
This is due, in particular, to escalating numbers of executions recorded in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and once again in Iran, and to the resumption of executions in Chad and Oman, respectively, after12 and 6 years of de facto moratorium.
The âWar on Drugsâ and âWar on Terrorâ have contributed quite substantially to the practice of the death penalty in 20154 and the first six months of 2016.
In Iran, the rate of executions has risen sharply since Hassan Rouhani took office as President in June 2013 (at least 2,214 prisoners were executed between 1 July 2013 and 31 December 2015). About 46% of those executed in 2014 were hanged for drug-related crimes, and this figure has rocketed to 65,2% in 2015.
In Saudi Arabia, a surge in executions began towards the end of the reign of King Abdullah, who died on 23 January 2015, accelerating this year under his successor King Salman, who took a strong position on law and order, in particular against drug traffickers. About half of the beheadings in the Saudi Kingdom were carried out for drug offences. In addition, Saudi Arabia has carried out at least 47 executions for acts of âterrorismâ in the first half of 2016.
After a hiatus registered in 2014, Indonesia resumed executions in 2015, when 14 people were put to death, all for drug offenses.
Iraq executed at least 30 people in 2015, including 27 for acts of terrorism. At least 55 other people were hanged in the first six months of 2016, all for terrorism.
In August 2015, Chad resumed executions after twelve years of suspension. Ten members of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram were executed by firing squad.
In Pakistan, of at least 326 hanged people in 2015, 30 had been convicted of terrorism or facts of political violence.
In Somalia, at least 25 executions were carried out in 2015, including 9 for acts of terrorism. Other 13 executions were carried out in 2016 (as of 30 June), including 3 for terrorism.
In Egypt, at least 22 people were executed in 2015, including 7 for terrorism or political violent acts.
Under international law, even countries that maintain the death penalty have to restrict its application to the most serious crimes.
A definition of terrorism that the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted in 2004 and that the UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights subsequently endorsed says that terrorism is an act committed with the intent to kill, cause serious bodily injury, or take hostages with the aim of intimidating or terrorizing a population or compelling a government or international organization.
However, new anti-terror laws adopted in many countries far exceed such a framework, and also run counter to a basic principle in international human rights law that requires laws to be precisely drafted and understandable as a safeguard against their arbitrary use and so that people know what actions constitute a crime.
A project aimed at âContaining the death penalty in times of âWar on Terrorâ in Egypt, Somalia and Tunisiaâ was submitted by Hands Off Cain in 2015 and accepted by the EU Commission.
It aims to support actions aiming at establishing a moratorium on executions, ending and/or reducing the use of the death penalty in the target countries, starting from the respect of the international minimum standards on the death penalty and the strengthening of the framework for the promotion and protection of human rights, justice and the Rule of Law.
The action will be carried out with local partners â the Somali Women Agenda (SWA) in Somalia, the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) in Tunisia and the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) in Egypt. It will consist in monitoring, through questionnaires for detainees, death row and prison conditions; data collection and public awareness campaigns; capital cases advocacy; training judiciary, legal professional and policy makers on international standards and States obligations. The Action will last three years.
The campaign of Hands Off Cain for the abolition of the death penalty in the world must also include the abolition of the penalty until death, the life sentence.
The issue of life-imprisonment was at the centre of the Hands Off Cain Congress which was held at Milanâs Opera Prison in December of 2015. âSpes Contra Spemâ was the title of the Congress and it was inspired by the motto contained in Saint Paulâs Letter to the Romans which speaks of Abrahamâs unyielding faith and how âhe had faith hoping against every hopeâ.
Hands Off Cainâs project regarding life-imprisonment has three goals.
The first is to raise awareness about those in prison â that the changes in their ways of thinking, feeling and behaving represent the key to transforming, not only their being, but also the reality in which they live a ânever-ending punishmentâ. The tangible result of the Project could be, not only the explicit departure from outdated logic and behaviours, but also a newfound faith in State institutions.
The second, on the legal level, aims to present, with real cases, national appeals at the Constitutional Court, and supranational appeals at the European Court for Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, all designed to end life sentencing, at least in its harshest aspects: the so-called âLife Without Paroleâ (of 1,576 condemned to life, 1,162 are condemned to life without parole, that is, they are excluded by law from any of the benefits reserved for other inmates) and solitary confinement under the Italian prison regime known as 41-bis (about 700 inmates). Such actions shall also aim to document the psycho-physical effects on inmates in sustained periods of isolation while awaiting the end of a never-ending sentence, similar to the already well-documented cases of those awaiting the death penalty (the so-called âdeath-row phenomenonâ).
The third goal is to sensitise public opinion. To this end, in collaboration with Hands Off Cain, director and documentary film-maker Ambrogio Crespi has created the docu-film âSpes Contra Spem â Liberi Dentroâ, the result of the dialogues and reflections of both inmates and prison officials at the Casa di Reclusione di Opera in Milan. The work is made up of images and interviews with inmates serving life sentences, the prisonâs Director Giacinto Siciliano, prison guards and the head of the Italian Department of the Penitentiary Administration Santi Consolo. From their testimonies, a powerful internal change on the part of the inmates emerges, as well as the fact that this change can be facilitated by penal institutions and could even evolve into facilitating inmates to authentically become, once again and for always, free individuals. The docu-film âSpes Contra Spem â Liberi Dentroâ will be presented at the Venice Film Festival in September of 2016.