28 June 2002 :
THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTS OF 2001
The year 2001 has confirmed the accelerated trend towards the abolition of the death penalty on course for the past ten years.
In 2001 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia became totally abolitionist, Chile abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes, Ireland removed all references to the death penalty from its constitution, Burkina Faso joined the group of de facto abolitionists not having carried out any executions for more than ten years, and Lebanon has imposed a moratorium on executions.
*On May 16, 2002, Mali adopted a bill suspending the death sentence for two years.
*On May 19, 2002, East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century. Its Constitution bans the death penalty and life imprisonment.
To date the great majority of states members of the international community have renounced the death penalty. The total number of states that are abolitionist for all crimes is 77; for ordinary crimes: 14; de facto abolitionist (i.e. not having carried out executions in ten years): 28; committed to abolishing the death penalty or observing a moratorium as members of the Council of Europe: two. Six states are observing a moratorium on executions, whereas 69 states still retain the death penalty.
Paradoxically, though the trend is towards abolition, the number of executions increases from one year to the next. In 2001 at least 4,700 executions were carried out in 34 countries. Of this total, 4,452 executions were carried out in Asia, 161 in Africa, 21 in Europe (Chechnya) and 66 in America (United States).
The death penalty and democracy
In 2001, of the 4,700 executions carried out, 4,610, or 98%, were implemented under dictatorial, absolutist or illiberal regimes. One such state alone, China, accounts for at least 3,500 executions or 74,4% of the total for 2001. Iran executed 198 people; Kenya, Tajikistan and Vietnam around 100 each, Saudi Arabia 82 people; Yemen at least 80 and Afghanistan at least 68. Many of these countries do not issue official statistics on death sentences or executions, which are considered a state secret in some. These figures therefore are based on information from independent sources. In some cases the number of executions could be much higher.
Of the 69 countries that retain the death penalty, 56 are governed by dictatorial, absolutist or illiberal regimes. A definitive solution for these countries, rather than the fight against the death penalty, lies in the quest for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
In 2001, seven countries with a political democracy system (political systems whose leaders are elected in competitive multi-party and multi-candidate processes in which opposition parties have a legitimate chance of attaining power or participating in power) carried out 94 executions: 66 in the United States; 18 in Thailand; three in Taiwan; two each in Bangladesh, Japan and Indonesia and one in Botswana. These 94 executions amounted to 2% of the total executions worldwide.
Taking into consideration not only the political system, but also the country´s human rights record, civil rights, economic freedoms, and rule of law, the liberal democratic countries that still implement the death penalty are down to five: the United States, Thailand, Japan, Botswana and Taiwan. These five states together carried out 90 executions, which make up 1.8% of the world total.
Of the 69 states that retain the death penalty, the liberal democracies are 13.
In 2001 several countries moved towards the abolition of the death penalty.
On January 25, 2001, Armenia became a member of the Council of Europe, even though it had not yet abolished the death penalty as requested. The Armenian parliament was debating a new Penal Code that would replace the death penalty by life imprisonment.
On July 10, 2001, President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with Interfax that Belarus had taken steps towards limiting the death penalty. The Belarusian leader stressed that if earlier, "about 30 people fell under this procedure [execution] annually, last year only three did". It is believed that there were no executions in 2001.
In September 2001, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) with no reservation under Article 2 of the Protocol which would limit abolition to peacetime. On November 5, the Chamber of Citizens (lower house) of Yugoslavia´s Federal parliament adopted a new 600-article Penal Code that replaces capital punishment with a prison sentence of forty years. The Republic of Serbia abolished the death penalty for all crimes on November 5. In Kosovo, it had been abolished in 1999 under the UN administration. Montenegro still retained the death penalty throughout 2001, but in November the Justice Minister announced that the Penal Code would soon be amended to annul the death penalty. *On June 19, 2002, a new Penal Code was adopted in Montenegro that replaced the death penalty with 40 years in jail.
In 2001 various sectors of Russian society clamoured for the resumption of executions in Russia, however President Vladimir Putin insisted on upholding the moratorium on executions imposed in 1996 and confirmed his commitment to the abolition of the death penalty.
Turkey amended its constitution in October 2001 to stipulate that ´´the death penalty cannot be imposed except in times of war, imminent threat of war and for terrorist crimes´´. But the European Union, which made Turkey a candidate for membership in 1999, said it expected abolition and other human rights reforms to be implemented before starting accession talks.
In South Korea, on October 30, 2001, a total of 154 lawmakers, including 60 from the main opposition Grand National Party, tabled a bill for the abolition of the death penalty. The proposal needs to be approved by the 15-member Legislative and Judiciary Committee and by a majority of the 273-member unicameral legislature. The bill stands a good chance of success despite opposition by the Justice Ministry.
Kyrgyzstan has been observing a moratorium on executions since December 1998. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev signed decrees prolonging the moratorium on December 4, 2001, and again *on January 11, 2002, extending the moratorium to December 31, 2002. *On January 17, 2002, Kyrgyzstan adopted a human rights programme under which the death penalty could be abolished by 2010.
Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in January 2001, no executions have been carried out in the Philippines. However, on October 15 President Arroyo made a drastic about-turn on her anti-death penalty stance, calling for the execution of convicted members of kidnap-for-ransom gangs, and ordered officials to check if it was possible to reverse decisions made by her predecessor - deposed leader Joseph Estrada - to grant clemency to those formerly on death row.
*On March 15, 2002, a move to abolish capital punishment suddenly snowballed in both chambers of Congress as some of its most vocal proponents changed their minds. In the Senate 16 of the 24 senators backed the move, making abolition a foregone conclusion in the higher chamber. Congressmen from both the government and opposition parties signalled their intention to back the move and President Arroyo offered to certify the abolition as "urgent" to enable the legislature to approve it in a matter of days instead of months.
On July 26, 2001 the Parliament of Lebanon voted unanimously to repeal a law that made the death penalty mandatory for all premeditated murders and to empower judges to condemn convicts to death only in extreme cases. The bill replaced Article 302 of the Penal Code that had abolished judges´ discretion to consider mitigating factors. In June, an opinion Poll of MPs´ views on the death penalty conducted jointly by the Movement for People´s Rights and Parliament on 94 out of 128 MPs found that 90% opposed the death penalty. No executions have been authorized since Prime Minister Rafik Hariri succeeded the staunchly anti-death penalty Salim Hoss as premier in October 2000.
Chen Ding-nan the Justice Minister of Taiwan, on May 17, 2001 said he planned to abolish the death sentence before his term ends on May 20, 2004.
On April 2, 2001, a majority decision delivered by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal ruled that the mandatory nature of the death penalty was a constitutional violation and the death sentence should be quashed in the seven territories served by the court: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
United States and China, the two facets of the death penalty
The practice of the death penalty has two facets: one, in the United States, in the spotlight of international media attention and the other, in China, hidden from view. Often, for the media, and also for many European abolitionists, only the first exists.
A lot less ink is spilled on executions in China, even though we are aware that China alone was responsible for 74% of the total executions in 2001. It is not just a question of numbers - 66 executions in the US compared to over 3,500 in China - but of the transparency of the judicial system.
In the US official statistics are held of the number of executions, death sentences and also the race and gender of death row inmates. There are guarantees for due process and, theoretically, an infinite number of appeals that can take years. One can only be sentenced to death for first degree murder in the US, whilst China applies the death penalty for over 60 types of crimes, many of which are non-violent. In China there are no official statistics, on the contrary any information on capital punishment is classed as a state secret. Defendants in China can be arrested, charged, put under trial, convicted, have an appeal rejected and executed in a matter of weeks.
In 2001, for the first time since the death penalty was restored in 1976, executions in the US dropped for the second consecutive year to their lowest level in 5 years. There were 66 executions in 2001 that represented a 22% drop in the number of executions from 2000 - when 85 were carried out - and a 13% drop from 1999. By far the most striking change took place in Texas, which had executed a record number of 40 inmates in 2000. In 2001, 17 people were put to death. Virginia executed 2 inmates in 2001, compared with eight in 2000 and 14 in 1999. In fact, executions were down in nine of the 11 states that historically have put the most inmates to death. Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona did not execute anyone in 2001.
In addition to a decline in the number of executions, 2001 also saw public support for capital punishment dropping. A May 2001 Gallup Poll found that nationwide support for the death penalty had fallen to 65%, a significant 15%age point decline from 1994 findings. A later poll conducted by Washington Post-ABC News found that public support for the death penalty had fallen to 63%, the lowest in two decades.
Diminishing public support for the death penalty is tied to the awareness that racial factors have a significant influence on trials and even more in cases of wrongful convictions.
Five inmates walked free from the nation´s death row in 2001, bringing the total number of exonerated death row inmates to 98 since 1973, after DNA tests or other new evidence cast doubt on their convictions. *In April 2002 the hundredth death row inmate was released.
Seventeen states approved legislation allowing death row inmates access to DNA testing.
Observers on both sides of the death penalty debate agree that the country may be on the cusp of changing the way the ultimate punishment is meted out. Even the shift of the country´s focus to the events of September 11 did not halt the trend towards death penalty reform.
In 2001, 23 of the 38 states that have capital punishment enacted reform measures.
Five states in the USA passed legislation banning the execution of those suffering from mental retardation during 2001: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri and North Carolina. This brought to 19 the number of US jurisdictions in which such executions are prohibited - 18 states and the Federal government. President George W. Bush also declared on June 11 that ´´the death penalty should never be applied to any individual who is mentally retarded´´.
*On June 20, 2002, the US Supreme Court, in its verdict on an appeal by Virginia death row inmate Daryl Atkins, ruled 6-3 that executions of mentally retarded criminals are "cruel and unusual punishment," violating the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
*On June 24, 2002, the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that juries and not judges must have the power to impose death sentences. This ruling affects the way death sentences are imposed in at least five states. The court made its ruling retroactive, meaning that more than 150 death sentences must be reconsidered. It held that a sentence imposed by a judge violates a defendant´s constitutional right to a trial by jury.
In 2001, bills for a moratorium were presented in 18 states at federal level, though none were approved. *On May 9, 2002, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening announced a death penalty moratorium. Glendening said that the moratorium was to remain in place until a death penalty study regarding racial bias is completed and the legislature has had an opportunity to review its findings. Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has declared her candidacy to succeed Glendening, announced her support for the moratorium.
China still holds the worldwide record for executions: more than 3,500 in 2001, including at least 13 women.
In April 2001, President Jiang Zemin launched a strike hard campaign targeting gang-related crime and other violent offences. This was the fourth such campaign since 1983.
The Supreme People´s Court issued a circular on April 13, requiring that law courts take severe and quick legal actions against criminal offenders. China´s criminal procedure law was trampled all the more readily by police and court officials eager to meet punishment quotas.
During the strike hard campaigns, China executes people not only for violent crimes, but also for a range of non-violent crimes, including corruption, embezzlement, fraud, exploitation of prostitutes, oil theft, selling noxious foodstuffs, and drug related crimes. In Xinjiang province a number of people were executed for separatist activities.
Diplomats living in China gathered from newspapers that about 2,000 people were put to death during the anti-corruption campaign between April and July.
On April 19, China established a record tally of executions on one day: 206. The south-western municipality of Chongqing alone carried out 55 of the day´s executions.
On May 7, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, a Hong Kong-based human rights watchdog, announced that the Chinese authorities had executed 560 convicts between April 1 and 26 alone. On May 20, state media reported the execution of more than 500 convicts since the launch of strike hard in April 2001. But some diplomats said the number may actually be higher than 700, based on tallies of reports in local newspapers. The New York Times reported that at least 3,000 people were executed in the first ten months of 2001, and double or even triple that number are on death row.
Reportedly, in China people have been executed because organs were requested for transplants.
On June 27, Wang Guoqi, a Chinese burn specialist seeking political asylum in the United States said that as a physician in China, he took part in removing corneas and harvesting skin from more than 100 executed prisoners, including one who had not yet died. Wang, who obtained a passport under a false name and entered the United States on April 30 with a tourist group, said in a written statement that he also saw other doctors remove vital organs from executed prisoners at his hospital, the Tianjin Paramilitary Police General Brigade Hospital. Wang said prisoners were shot, then immediately placed in ambulances, where their kidneys were extracted within two minutes of death. Afterward, he and other doctors went to crematoriums and, in a small room next to the cremation furnaces, carved skin from the arms, legs, chest and back of each corpse. He said he also extracted corneas and other tissue. "After all extractable tissues and organs were taken, what remained was an ugly heap of muscles, the blood vessels still bleeding, or all viscera exposed," he said. "Then the corpse was handed to the workers at the crematorium."
China denied it harvested organs from executed prisoners.
The death penalty under Sharia law
In 2001 at least 864 executions were carried out in 20 states with a Muslim majority population. Many of these executions were ordered by Islamic tribunals applying a strict interpretation of Sharia law. However the problem is not the Koran, as not all Islamic countries whose legislation is inspired by the Koran have the death penalty, or transform the Koranic text into their penal and civil code and in some instances even their constitution.
There are some states with a Muslim majority where the Koran has only a symbolic value and cohabits with civil and penal codes of other inspiration. The problem lies in the literal translation of a centuries-old text into penal norms, punishments and rules valid for present times; a translation done by fundamentalist, dictatorial or authoritarian regimes to impede any democratic processes.
Stoning, hanging, decapitation and firing squad - the means by which Sharia law was implemented in 2001 - were carried out in 40% of the countries with a Muslim majority.
Of the punishments meted out under Islamic law, stoning is the most terrible.
For an execution by stoning, the condemned person is wrapped head to foot in white shrouds and buried in a pit. A woman is buried up to her armpits, while a man is buried up to his waist. A truckload of rocks is brought to the site and court-appointed officials, or in some cases ordinary citizens approved by the authorities, carry out the stoning. The stones should not be large enough that a person is killed on being hit by one or two of them. Stoning is designed to cause a slow, torturous death.
If the condemned person somehow manages to survive the stoning, he or she will be imprisoned for as long as 15 years but will not be executed.
Stoning is a harsh punishment that particularly singles out women. Not only does stoning require burying a woman deeper than a man - a practice proponents say is to protect the woman´s bosom - it is also used against women more often than against men, because it is usually a punishment implemented in regards to sexual offences, like adultery. Women are more susceptible to blame for sexual misbehaviour therefore more likely to be stoned to death than men. Under Islamic law, proving that an act of adultery has been committed requires four fair and unbiased witnesses. Or the guilty party has to confess four times. Finding four witnesses to sexual acts in modern times, is virtually impossible, therefore for men there is little probability of conviction. For women however, the physical proof of pregnancy is enough for conviction, as testified by the cases of Safiya Hussaini in Nigeria. In 2001 Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan meted out death by stoning sentences, and Afghanistan and Iran stoned people to death.
In Afghanistan on February 23, the Taliban regime publicly executed two women, Wasila and Shogufa, at a sports ground in Kandahar, for committing the "heinous act of adultery corrupting the society."
In Iran a woman convicted of acting in pornographic films was stoned to death in the prison where she had been held for eight years on May 21. The unnamed 35-year-old was buried in a pit and pelted with stones until she died in Tehran´s Evin prison. Investigators had identified the woman after noticing the serial number of an electricity meter that was in the background of a scene in one of her films.
The alternative to stoning in the implementation of capital punishment under Sharia law is usually hanging. This method of execution is typically applied to men, but women are not spared either. It is generally carried out in public and preceded by other punishments such as whippings or amputation of limbs.
On August 15 in Iran Reza Nadi, 21, and Kazem Alayemi, 35, were publicly hanged after being convicted of having murdered three jewellers and one student. They had each received 74 lashes of the whip before ending up on the gallows. On September 11, Iran publicly hanged a man, Ali Dehghan, in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas for raping a 14-year-old girl he had kidnapped off the street. The court also sentenced the offender to 80 lashes for drunkenness, which he received before the execution.
In Afghanistan on August 8, 2001, the Taliban publicly hanged four men convicted of setting off bombs in the Afghan capital Kabul in November 2000, and strung their bodies from cranes and a traffic tower in Kabul. The bodies of the four men, Gulaf Khan, Aidi Mohammed, Mohammed Tahir and Ebadollah, who were thought to be in their late 20s, were strung up near the presidential palace, the site where the hardline Islamist group executed the Soviet-backed former president Najibullah after sweeping to power in 1996. Hundreds of people gathered with heavily armed Taliban fighters to watch the execution.
Beheading is the preferred method of execution in Saudi Arabia, a state that observes Sharia law.
Executions generally take place in the city where the crime was committed, in an open, public space near the town´s largest mosque with the executioner wielding a sword.
However this method is not exclusive to Saudi Arabia. In Iran on June 18, 2001, an Afghan sentenced for armed robbery, multiple rape and kidnappings and terrorist activities was beheaded at a crossroads in Zabol in front of hundreds of people.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq Andreas Mavrommatis on April 1, 2002 reported to the UN Human Rights Commission that the Iraqi government had executed 4,000 people since 1998. Iraqi refugees in both Jordan and Syria spoke of the beheading of 130 women between June 2000 and April 2001. Thirty prostitutes were beheaded in a "clean-up" in October 2000 and their severed heads were left on the doorsteps of their homes.
Death by firing squad is not a traditional Islamic punishment but was used in 2001 to execute people condemned under Sharia law.
In Yemen on January 30, 2001, Ahmed Mohammed Sharaf, 27, had his right hand chopped off before facing a firing squad for murder. On June 20, a Sudanese morgue worker convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering two female students at Sanaa University was executed. A police firing squad shot dead 52-year-old Mohammad Adam Omar, who had been dubbed in the local press as the "Sanaa Ripper", in a square near the university complex as thousands of Yemenis looked on. He was shot five times in the heart after receiving 80 lashes for drinking alcohol, which is banned under Yemen´s Islamic law.
On September 15, in Chechnya mojahedin from the special purpose Islamic detachment killed a traitor in Argun. The traitor was accused of close collaboration with the Russian occupying troops.
Execution of capital punishment by the families of victims is not unusual under Sharia law.
In Pakistan on July 16, a Loya Jirga [assembly of elders] of North Waziristan tribesman at Ladha Tehsil ordered the execution of an Afghan accused of murder. The Afghan was blindfolded and shot dead in public, at a football ground, by the father of the eleven-year-old boy he allegedly killed.
In Afghanistan on July 13, two men convicted of murder were publicly executed at the Mazar-e Sharif [Balkh Province, northern Afghanistan] sports ground. Ghawsoddin and Sayd Ebadollah were executed by the heirs of the deceased.
Sharia law allows the families of victims to pardon condemned killers. In most cases, the family of the murderer pay diyya or blood money.
On November 17, in Iran, a man hanged for murder was cut down alive from the gallows after four minutes, following a pardon granted by his victim´s family. Ramin Tshaharleng was then taken to hospital and his condition was pronounced "satisfactory".
In Saudi Arabia on June 27, a Yemeni man, Jahwi Hussein Qasim Abubakr, escaped execution by the sword when his victim´s father stood up at the last minute and forgave him. A crowd gathered in the Saudi capital Riyadh to watch the execution of the 20-year-old convicted of killing Saud ibn Daghaileeb Al-Markouzi Al-Buqami. As the executioner raised his sword, Saud´s father stood up suddenly and declared: "I have pardoned him, seeking the pleasure of Allah." The amazed crowd chanted praise for the father´s magnanimity, leaving Abubakr - whose eyes were covered - to prostrate himself, praising God for his new lease of life.
Sharia law does not only have provisions for the death penalty but foresees whippings for extra-marital relations, floggings for alcohol consumption and the amputation of limbs for petty thieves. Such practices are carried out openly despite being contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In Sudan on January 23, five men who were convicted of armed robbery had their right hands and left feet amputated as punishment. On December 12, an emergency tribunal in Nyala, Southern Darfur, convicted Abduh Isma´il Tong and Yusuf Yaow Mombai of stealing Sudanese £3 million (about US $1,160) and sentenced them to the amputation of the right hand.
On November 19, a Sharia court in Gusau Local Government Area of Zamfara State in northern Nigeria sentenced a 40-year-old man, Nagogo Kakumi, to 40 strokes of the cane and two months imprisonment for contravening the Sharia law by marrying five wives at the same time. On December 21, a Sharia court in Sokoto State, also in northern Nigeria, ordered the amputation of the right hands and left legs of two convicted armed robbers: Malam Sani Shehu and Malam Garba Dandare. They were found guilty of stealing a policeman´s beret, belt and bicycle and electronic equipment from a Sokoto resident. The two said they were satisfied with the judgement and would not appeal.
Resumption of executions
On February 5, 2001, Guinea resumed judicial executions interrupting a moratorium that had been in place since 1984, when President Lansana Conte came to power. Five persons were executed for murders in five different Guinean cities.
After suspending the implementation of capital punishment for three and a half years, Bangladesh resumed executions. On March 1, Motaleb Hawlader was hanged in the Jessore prison, in Barisal district, for killing his wife. On March 14, Firoze Mia was executed by hanging in Dhaka´s Central Jail. He had been convicted of four murders in 1991, including that of two children, which occurred when he intervened in an altercation between his child and the son of a neighbour over a game of marbles.
On May 18, 2001, after a five-year suspension, Indonesia also resumed executions. Gerson Pandie and Fredik Soru, both were executed at midnight by the gunshots of two different firing squads, deep in the eucalyptus woods in Oekabiti district. The two, along with a third already dead, were found guilty by the Kupang District Court in 1989 of robbing and brutally killing an old couple, as well as their two grandchildren.
On October 5, 2001, Zimbabwe hanged three convicted murderers in the country´s first executions since 1998. The men killed five people in separate incidents, including three women and a 12-year-old girl who was also raped.
In the United States on June 11, 2001, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection at the Terre Haute federal penitentiary in Indiana. McVeigh was executed for the April 19, 1995 bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 168 people and wounded hundreds more. It was the first federal execution since 1963.
On June 19, a second convict under federal law, Juan Raul Garza was executed by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. On November 6, Terry Clark, 45, was executed in New Mexico by chemical injection - the first person executed in New Mexico in nearly 42 years. He had never denied killing 9-year-old Dena Lynn on July 17, 1986 and had dropped all his appeals.
The death penalty for juveniles
In open defiance to international pacts, in 2001 three people who were less than 18 years old when they committed the crime for which they were sentenced to death were executed in three different countries: Iran, Pakistan and the US (Texas).
In Iran on May 29, Mehrdad Yusefi, an 18-year-old man, was hanged in the western city of Ilam after the Supreme Court upheld a death sentence passed on him by a lower court for killing a friend in 1999.
On November 3, 2001, in Pakistan, Ali Sher, 21, was hanged for murder at the district prison in Timergarah. The convict was only 13 when he killed the younger sister of his sister-in-law in Swat, Mingorah district. Sher´s was the first-ever execution by hanging in the history of the Lower Dir district. A large number of prisoners - most of whom felt sympathy for the young boy who had been abandoned by his own family - gathered to witness his execution, guarded by a heavy contingent of district police. In December, President Musharraf announced he would commute the death sentences of around 100 young offenders to imprisonment.
In the United States, Gerald Mitchell, condemned for a murder he committed at 17, was executed Texas on October 22, 2001. He was condemned for killing Charles Anthony Marino and Kenneth Fleming on June 4, 1985. Mitchell, 33, was the 19th US prisoner to be executed since 1976 for a murder committed when the killer was younger than 18. He was the 10th in Texas, where he was among 31 death row inmates who were 17 at the time of their crime.
The death penalty for women
In 2001, at least 31 women were executed in 10 countries: China (at least 13), Iran (at least 6), US (three, all in Oklahoma), Afghanistan (at least two), Saudi Arabia (two), Botswana (one), Iraq (at least one), Kuwait (one), Malaysia (one) and Singapore (one).
In China on May 29, the Shijiazhuang Municipal Court carried out the execution order on Xu Ailing for swindling money. On November 7, Zhu Hongjuan, 21, was condemned to death for smuggling 1.5kg of heroin. The public sentencing took place outside Guangzhou´s main train station.
On December 14, Li Yufen, a former manager in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province, northeast China, was executed for embezzling over 90 million yuan from local businesses and individuals who had invested in her company.
In Iran, Sa´ideh Qasempur-Malayeri was hanged in Tehran´s Qasr Prison for murdering her husband and burning his corpse in complicity with her lover. The man, Amir Hoseyn Fada´i won a last-minute reprieve on his sentence and was sent back to prison.
In the US, on January 11, 2001, Oklahoma executed Wanda Jean Allen for killing her lover Gloria Leathers after the US Supreme Court and Governor Frank Keating rejected pleas for a stay because she was borderline mentally retarded. Allen was the first woman put to death in the state since 1903 and the first black woman executed in the United States since the 1950s.
On May 1, another woman, Marilyn Plantz, was executed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary and on December 4, Lois Nadean Smith, 61, became the third woman put to death in Oklahoma in 2001, and the last woman on Oklahoma´s death row.
Botswana executed South African Marietta Bosch, 50, on March 31, 2001. Bosch was the first white woman to hang in Botswana since it won independence from Britain in 1966. Marietta Bosch had been sentenced to death in February 2000 for murdering Maria Wolmarans, her best friend, in June 1996, so she could marry the victim´s husband. The execution, two months after Bosch´s appeal, was an all-time record for Botswana, where appeals against execution normally take about nine months and often several years. Moreover, her capital sentence was confirmed by an Appeals Court that included commonwealth judges from abolitionist states like Sir John Blufeld from England, Lord Weir of Scotland, and Justice Patrick Tebbutt from South Africa.
On June 17, 2001, Kuwait hanged 24-year-old Qadeer Kaleeja, an Indian maid, for strangling her elderly employer and stealing her jewellery. This was the first execution of a female since 1991.
In Malaysia on November 2, a female witchdoctor, Mona Fandey, whose real name was Maznah Ismail, 45, was hanged along with her husband and assistant for the murder of a Malaysian state assemblyman. Mazlan Idris, a US-educated lawmaker in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was said to have sought supernatural help to climb up the party ladder. Before his killing, he was made to lie on a floor, close his eyes and wait for money to "fall from the sky". He was then beheaded with an axe, skinned and chopped into 18 parts before being buried in a hole and covered over with cement.
On February 16, 2001, Singapore hanged 52-year old Julaiha Maniam along with two younger men who had helped her to kill her husband, a retired police officer, so that she could then become the sole owner of their $1.15-million terrace house.
The death penalty for drug-related crimes
The fight against drug-proliferation was a major contributing factor to the practice of capital punishment in 2001. Laws against drug-related crimes were tightened and executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Oman, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Ten of the total 82 executions in Saudi Arabia in 2001 were for drug-related offences, including, on September 3, that of Pakistani national Aqil bin Wazir Sherfaqir, convicted of smuggling an unspecified amount of hashish into the kingdom.
On June 26, 2001, China executed at least 56 people for drug crimes and staged mass rallies nationwide to mark the UN anti-drug day. Thousands of people attended a rally at a stadium in Kunming, capital of south-western Yunnan province, where 20 alleged drug traffickers were sentenced to death, said a city police official. Using remote-control detonators, government officials ignited two metric tons of confiscated heroin placed in large metal pans and doused with gasoline. The executions were carried out immediately afterwards at a separate location.
China metes out the death penalty to anyone convicted of trafficking 50 grams or more of heroin.Since 1991 Iran has executed around 5,000 drug pushers. More than 90,000 people - some 60% of the prison population - are in jail on drugs offences. Iranian law imposes the death penalty for possession of more than 30 grams of heroin or five kilos of opium.
On March 19, 2001, five people, including a woman, involved in a "ring of drug-traffickers" in Tehran´s Khak-e Sefid District, were executed in public after being sentenced to death the day before by Tehran´s Islamic Revolution Court. The woman, Fariba Tajiani-Emamqoli, 30, blindfolded and with her hands tied, implored pardon from the judges but her appeal was ignored and she was hanged from one of five cranes set up in the eastern Khak-e Sefid district. The whole process took 25 minutes, with the bodies left hanging for 10 minutes before being taken down. Some 500 people, screaming "death to dealers", watched from nearby, while other spectators gathered on the roofs of houses.
On January 31, 2001, a Pakistani national, Murad Bkhit was executed in Oman for drug trafficking. This was the first time a drug trafficker was executed in Oman.
Singapore has a mandatory death sentence for anyone over 18 found guilty of trafficking in more than 15g of heroin, 30g of morphine or 500g of marijuana. More than half of the 300 people hanged since 1975 in the staunchly anti-drug city-state were convicted drug traffickers. On October 26, 2001, drug trafficker Jimmy Goh Chye Soon, 26, was hanged for possessing more than 80 g of diamorphine, the scientific name for heroin.
In Thailand on November 15, legislation setting penalties for possession and trafficking in methamphetamines was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives. The new legislation stipulates that anyone caught with 15 pills or more was to be judged as a drug dealer, not an addict. The previous limit was 800 pills.
In 2001, 13 of the total 18 executions were carried out for drug trafficking, whereas another 60 dealers were sent to death row. Of the 371 people on death row as of December 1, 247 were convicted on drug-related charges. On April 18, the government executed four drug dealers, Lee Yuan-kuang, Chu Chin-kuay, Boonkerd Jitpranee, and Vichien Saenmahayak at the Bang Kwang maximum security prison. The Corrections Department for the first time allowed the media into Bang Kwang prison to witness the executions. Dozens of reporters and cameramen showed up.
Taiwan executed Lee Yihsiung, a drug trafficker on June 7. Lee Yi-hsiung was the first drug trafficker to be put to death under an execution order signed by Minister of Justice Chen Ting-nan after Chen announced, on May 20, the government´s plan to scrap the death penalty within three years.
In Vietnam, capital punishment is the penalty for trafficking 600g and upwards of drugs. On August 18, twelve drug traffickers were executed by firing squad in Vietnam. The news of their execution was given by the communist party newspaper. In all, 55 people were condemned to death for drug-trafficking in 2001.
The death penalty for religious motives
In China on June 11, the Supreme People´s Court and Supreme People´s Procuratorate issued a legal interpretation permitting the use of the death penalty and harsh anti-subversion laws to punish followers of the banned Falun Gong movement. According to a lengthy directive to local law enforcement agencies, effective immediately, practitioners who in any way take part in suicide attempts may be charged with murder, which is usually punishable by death.
On June 20, fifteen female Falun Gong practitioners died due to "brutal torture" in the Wanjia Labour Camp, the Falun Gong said. The meditation movement accused the authorities at the Wanjia Labour Camp in Heilongjiang Province of beating the practitioners to death. The labour camp said the victims "had committed mass suicide by hanging themselves with ropes made of bed sheets".
In December, the South China Church leader Gong Shengliang was sentenced to death along with his relative Li Ying and three other church members in a closed trial. They were accused of "serious crimes by inflicting harm on those who offend them, and raping women and other serious criminal activities". The South China Church, founded in 1991, grew rapidly and drew the wrath of the authorities.
On January 8 in Afghanistan the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar issued a decree banning conversion from Islam. On August 4, the Taliban arrested 24 workers of the aid agency Shelter Now International (SNI) - including two Americans, four Germans and two Australians - on charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The agency´s Kabul office was later sealed by enforcement officers from the Taliban ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, witnesses said. The officers reportedly seized a Bible, two computers, Christian literature translated into the local Dari language, cassettes and musical instruments. The Taliban said about 60 children, who were allegedly being taught by the Christian workers, had been sent to a correctional facility. On November 15, the eight Western aid workers were freed by anti-Taliban fighters and spirited to safety aboard US helicopters. The 16 Afghan employees of Shelter Now International, arrested with the Western aid-workers, were freed when the [anti-Taliban] Northern Alliance forces entered Kabul on December 2.
In Vietnam Christians and Buddhists suffered brutal repression during 2001. Members of the Montagnard Christian minority were attacked and tortured to death after protests in February 2001 in the Central Highlands.
People who openly proclaim their Christian faith in North Korea risk persecution and death at the hands of government forces. "The [Communist] Party would regularly raid houses and go through all the belongings, looking for foreign books, and if they found a Bible, you could be executed," one witness said. The US State Department´s 2001 human rights report on North Korea stated that members of underground churches had been killed for their religious beliefs.
The death penalty for political crimes
In Iraq the concept of punishment in proportion to the seriousness of the offence does not exist.
In early June 1994, the Iraqi government published a list of decrees which established harsh punishments such as amputation, branding and the death penalty for 18 different offences. In many cases, due to the secrets surrounding the proceedings, it is not possible to establish whether they concern judicial or extra judicial executions. On October 24, 2001, Andreas Mavrommatis, a United Nations human rights expert, revealed in a report that he had "received information suggesting that people who had allegedly insulted the president of Iraq have had their tongues amputated without trial". On November 15, the Iraqi Communist Party Human Rights Office said that in a move bearing resemblance to savage Nazi ways, the Iraqi dictator´s son Qusay Saddam Hussein supervised the execution of 15 prisoners in a gas chamber. The execution was carried out by gathering detainees in a room and turning on poison gas taps.
In China, in the northwestern Muslim majority province of Xinjiang, at least 25 Uighurs were executed in 2001 and scores more are waiting on death row, according to people who track executions of this ethnic group in the Xinjiang news media.
In one such execution of Uighurs, on September 26, Islamic militants faced the execution squad, stupefied by drink and driven to their deaths on an open lorry past laughing crowds. These men had apparently been captured fighting for an independent Islamic state in the predominantly Turkic province of Xinjiang, where separatists have been trying to prise the largely Muslim area from Beijing´s grasp and establish a new nation, East Turkestan.
In October, another rally gathered in the Hotan sports stadium to watch court officials sentence a man to death. The man, Metrozi Mettohti, 34, was given the death penalty for trying to "split the country". According to one account, Mettohti shouted "Long live East Turkestan!" - the name of the country separatists would like to create - before being gagged. After the rally, local people said, he was put in the back of a truck, driven to a village outside of town and shot in the back of the head. Most of the Uighurs condemned to death in Xinjiang are charged with murder or with otherwise causing deaths, but some, like Mettohti, are being executed for lesser transgressions.
The two executions registered in 2001 in the territories administered by the Palestinian Authority were both on charges of collaboration with Israel. On January 13, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Allan Bani Odeh was shot in a public square as thousands of Palestinians chanted "God is Greatest." On the same day, Majdi Mikkawi was shot at the main Gaza police station. They were both found guilty of giving Israel information that led to the killing of Palestinian militants. President Yasser Arafat had ratified their death sentences issued two days previously by Palestinian security courts.
The North Korean Penal Code stipulates capital punishment and confiscation of all personal assets for a wide variety of "crimes against the revolution", including attempted defection, listening to foreign broadcasts and possessing "reactionary" printed matter.
The ruling Korea´ Workers Party requires citizens to display pictures of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il and his father and decreed that defacing or disrespecting their images was a political crime which could even be punishable by death.
The death penalty for non - violent crimes
Offences punishable by death in China include a number of non-violent crimes. In 2001 death sentences and executions were meted out for firearms stealing, embezzlement, tax fraud, grave robbing, sale of counterfeit money, smuggling of protected species and corruption. China also introduced the death penalty for pirating information technology and internet-related crimes.
On January 10, a couple, Liu Yixia, 37, and her husband, Li Shaoyang, 44, both unemployed at the time, were executed for embezzling more than 8.7m yuan between 1996 and 1999 from the China Scientific and Technological Development Foundation (CSTDF), where Liu Yixia had worked. On May 11, Huang Zhenchi, Lin Sucun, Huang Wenlong and He Tao were executed for tax fraud in Guangdong. On August 13, Qi Huogui, described as "the most seriously corrupt official since the founding of Hainan Province," was executed by firing squad for accepting bribes. On September 18 Mia Changshun was arrested for running a prostitution racket.
In North Korea in May and June 2000 a group of more than 30 senior party and company officials, merchants and hooligans were executed in Hyesan City, Jagang province. Of them, 12 were shot dead in public near Hyesan´s Unchon Airport. More than 10,000 people gathered to watch the executions. The charges ranged from embezzlement, arranging family reunions between North and South Koreans to accepting bribes.
The death penalty and extradition cases
For years Canada was the only western country that regularly handed over suspected criminals to the United Sates and other countries without asking for guarantees against execution. On February 15, 2001, for the first time Canada refused to extradite its citizens, putting an end to this policy of extraditing without asking for guarantees regarding the non-application of the death penalty, except in exceptional cases. The Supreme Court´s ruling on the Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay case reversed this policy, stating that the Canadian government must routinely seek and obtain assurances in extradition cases ´´in all but exceptional circumstances´´ (which the Court declined to define).
On May 28, 2001, the South African Constitutional Court ruled that the government had violated its constitutional and legal obligations by handing over Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, a Tanzanian national involved in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania, to US authorities without first obtaining assurances that he would not face the death penalty in the USA. Mohamed was later convicted by a US federal court, but after three days of deliberation, the jury could not reach the requisite unanimity for a death sentence. As a result, on October 18, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, pressures have been mounting for a comprehensive European agreement to guarantee extradition from any of the 15 EU member states if requested by the US. Chris Patten, the European Commissioner for external relations, and Antonio Vitorino, his colleague responsible for justice and home affairs, called for the EU to allow extradition "while, at the same time, maintaining the EU´s consistent opposition to the death penalty". In other words, if America´s judicial authorities give assurance that capital punishment would not be enforced in the case of suspected terrorists, then an agreement might be reached.
On October 4, 2001, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty and life sentences go against Article 22 of the Mexican constitution and are considered excessive and inhumane. The Court established that all extraditions of Mexican citizens will require a guarantee the prisoner will not be sentenced to the death penalty or life in prison.
The death penalty and international organisations
The institution of the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the setting up [in July 2002] of the International Criminal Court - all of which exclude the death penalty form their statutes - virtually eradicate the death penalty from international law. In this context the campaign against the death penalty shifts its focus to the contradictory stances of states like the US and China, that as members of the UN Security Council that set up the ad hoc tribunals, say no to the death penalty for crimes such as genocide, rape of ethnic minorities and mass graves on the one hand, but approve the death penalty for infinitely lesser crimes committed on their own territory.
On April 25, 2001 the UN High Commission for Human Rights approved for the fifth consecutive year the resolution for a moratorium on executions with a view to the abolition of the death penalty. The votes were: 27 in favour; 18 against and seven abstentions. The countries that sponsored the resolution were 66. The principal UN organ for the protection of human rights expressed its conviction that the "abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights."
*On April 25 2002, UN High Commission for Human Rights approved for the sixth consecutive year the resolution for a moratorium on executions with 25 votes in favour, 20 against and eight abstentions. The number of co-sponsors increased to 68.
On June 27, 2001, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in an historic judgement found that the United States had "breached its obligations to Germany and to the LaGrand brothers under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations," by failing to promptly inform Karl and Walter LaGrand following their arrest of their right to communicate with their consulate. The La Grand brothers, German nationals, were condemned to death for murder in 1982 and executed in Arizona in 1999. The ICJ further ordered the US to reconsider all judgments in similar cases.
On June 25, 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe endorsed an in-house report calling for the abolition of the death penalty in Japan and the United States. Failure to take significant steps towards abolition by January 1, 2003 will portend putting at risk their observer status in the 43-member organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy and human rights.
*On May 3, 2002, foreign ministers and representatives of 36 of the Council of Europe´s 44 member states signed Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights pledging the total abolition of the death penalty even in cases of war, imminent threat of war or "exceptional circumstances".
The future outlook of the abolitionist campaign
The situation in various countries is diametrically opposite today to what it was in 1993, when Hands Off Cain was set up. Then there were 99 abolitionist states at differing levels, and the states retaining the death penalty were 97 - 28 more than the present total.
At present, the campaign against the death penalty coincides with the fight for democracy, a secular state and the rule of law in many Arab, Asian and African countries.
Hands Off Cain´s aim is now for the EU to present a resolution for a global moratorium on executions to the UN General Assembly and work for it to be put to vote by 2003, when the EU presidency will have been taken over by Italy, the state that in recent years has, by itself, done more to advance the fight against the death penalty than all 15 EU member states and a lot of other countries put together.
This aim will not be easily achieved without an international mass mobilisation against the death penalty.
Hands Off Cain plans to work on two basic levels: consolidate within the EU the will to present the moratorium resolution to the UN General Assembly and, in view of this target, continue raising public awareness of the death penalty issue.
Hands Off Cain has scheduled missions to Nigeria, Botswana, Zambia, South Korea, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority territories, the United States and various European countries. Demonstrations, media events and music concerts targeted to raise public awareness on the issue are also in the pipeline.
The Nazionale Italiana Cantanti has already decided to sponsor our campaign and, in the words of well-known Italian pop singer Enrico Ruggeri, "shift attention from the stadia where football is played and concerts are held, to those were, as still happens in China, executions take place."
Hands off Cain´s Stop the death penalty through Internet campaign, co-sponsored by the media company Nexta.com and Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, has already gathered tens of thousands of signatures from Italian and Spanish citizens. The online campaign will now move on to Nuremberg, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Paris, Athens, New York and Washington in an attempt to create a worldwide network of pro-moratorium Internet sites.
The worldwide web provides the possibility of crossing borders otherwise inaccessible for human rights activists, and to give voice to the thousands of people condemned to death under totalitarian and fundamentalist regimes who die every day amidst a deafening silence.
* Important developments in 2002