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THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTS OF 2009 (and the first six months of 2010)

July 15, 2010: THE SITUATION TODAY
 
The worldwide trend towards abolition, underway for more than ten years, was again confirmed in 2009 and the first six months of 2010.
There are currently 154 countries and territories that, to different extents, have decided to renounce the death penalty. Of these: 96 are totally abolitionist; 8 are abolitionist for ordinary crimes; 6 have a moratorium on executions in place and 44 are de facto abolitionist (i.e. countries that have not carried out any executions for at least 10 years or countries which have binding obligations not to use the death penalty).
Countries retaining the death penalty worldwide are down to 43, compared to the 48 retentionists in 2008, 49 in 2007, 51 in 2006 and 54 in 2005.
In 2009, the number of countries resorting to the death penalty was 18, a considerable decrease compared to 2008 and 2007 when there were 26.
The gradual abandonment of the death penalty is also evident in the declining use of capital punishment by countries that still maintain death as the maximum penalty for criminal acts. In 2009, at least 5,679 executions were carried out, down from a minimum of 5,735 in 2008 and a minimum of 5,851 in 2007.
In 2009 and in the first six months of 2010, there were no executions in 9 countries where executions were carried out in 2008: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Belarus (which went on to carry out two in the first months of 2010), United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Mongolia (which has gone on to declare a moratorium on executions), Pakistan, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Somalia.
On the other hand, 3 countries resumed executions: Thailand (2) in 2009, after stopping in 2008; Taiwan (4) and Palestinian National Authority (5) in 2010, after five years of suspension.
 
Of the 43 countries worldwide that retain the death penalty, 36 are dictatorial, authoritarian or illiberal States. Fifteen of these countries were responsible for approximately 5,619 executions, about 99% of the world total in 2009. It points to the fact that the fight against the death penalty entails, beyond the stopping of executions, a battle for democracy, for the respect of the rule of law and for political rights and civil liberties.
The terrible podium of the world’s top executioners is taken by three authoritarian States in 2009: China, Iran and Iraq.
Of the 43 retentionists, only 7 countries are considered liberal democracies. This definition, as used here, takes into account the country’s political system and its respect towards human rights, civil and political liberties, free market practices and the rule of law.
There were 3 liberal democracies that carried out executions in 2009, and they accounted for 60 executions between them, about 1% of the world tally. These were: The United States (37), Japan (7) and Botswana (1). In 2008 there were 6 (with Indonesia, Mongolia and Saint Kitts and Nevis) and they carried out 65 executions.
 
Once again, Asia tops the standings as the region where the vast majority of executions are carried out. Taking the estimated number of executions in China to be about 5,000 (more or less equal to the number in 2008 but diminished in respect to preceding years), the total for 2009 corresponds to a minimum of 5,608 executions (98.7%), down from a minimum of 5,674 in 2008.
In the Americas, the United States of America was the only country to carry out executions (52) in 2009.
In Africa, in 2009, the death penalty was carried out in only 4 countries – Botswana (1), Egypt (at least 5), Libya (at least 4) and Sudan (at least 9) – where there were at least 19 executions as in 2008 and compared to 26 in 2007 and 87 in 2006 on the entire continent.
In September 2009, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights organized a sub-regional conference in Kigali, Rwanda, to discuss the abolition of the death penalty in central, eastern and southern Africa. Fifty participants representing different African Union member states and national human rights commissions agreed to support the abolition of the death penalty by putting emphasis on a formal moratorium that can be adapted on the basis that governments can be held accountable. The participants also recommended the drafting of a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa. “We urge all the AU member countries which have not yet done so to subscribe to Human Rights Instruments that prohibit the death penalty, namely the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and the Rome Statute and align national legislation accordingly,” their resolution document says in part.
Between April 12-15, 2010, the death penalty working group of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights organized a second regional meeting in Cotonou, Benin. The conference focused on North- and West-African countries and around 50 people from 15 countries in the region came to take part in the debates. Plenary sessions and workshops targeted the death penalty in Africa and the means to achieve abolition.
A continental conference involving experts and officials from African Union member states will follow the Kigali and Cotonou regional meetings. African Commissioner Sylvie Kayitesi, who chairs the working group, is planning to use that opportunity to present African heads of State and government with a draft of an additional protocol on the death penalty to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Such a move would give Africa a chance to adopt a binding instrument calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
 
In Europe, the only blemish on an otherwise completely death penalty-free zone continues to be Belarus. In 2009 there were no executions, but in March of 2010 two men were put to death for homicide. At least 4 executions were held in 2008. There was at least 1 in 2007 and, according to OSCE records, there were at least 3 executions in 2006 and 4 in 2005.
A resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty and towards its abolition was adopted during the annual session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), held between June 29 and July 3, 2009 in Vilnius, Lithuania. The resolution specifically urges OSCE participating states Belarus and USA to adopt an immediate moratorium on executions, and calls on Kazakhstan and Latvia to amend provisions in their national legislation that still allow for the imposition of the death penalty for certain crimes under exceptional circumstances.
 
After 2008, when 3 countries became total or de facto abolitionist, another 6 joined the list in 2009 and the first six months of 2010.
In April 2009, Burundi adopted a new penal code abolishing the death penalty. In June 2009, Togo’s parliament voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty. In July 2009, the President of Kazakhstan supported a law that limited the death penalty exclusively for crimes of terrorism causing death and for especially grievous crimes committed in time of war. As of July 2009, Trinidad & Tobago has gone more than ten years without practicing the death penalty, establishing itself as de facto abolitionist country. As of January 2010, The Bahamas have gone more than ten years without practicing the death penalty, establishing themselves as de facto abolitionist country. In January 2010, Mongolia’s President announced a moratorium on the death penalty.
 
In 2009 and in the first six months of 2010, significant political and legislative steps towards abolition or at least positive signs, such as collective commutations of capital punishment, have been seen in numerous countries.
In April 2009, the Justice Minister said the death penalty will be abolished in Jordan for all crimes except premeditated murder. In June 2009, a conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo concluded with the National Assembly President and Senate President announcing the start of the legislative process to abolish the death penalty in Congo. In June 2009, Vietnam voted in favor of abolishing the death penalty for eight crimes. In August 2009, the Justice Ministry in Lebanon launched a nationwide campaign to rally public support for the abolition of the death penalty. In September 2009, the government of South Korea agreed to the non-application of the death penalty, as requested by the Council of Europe. In November 2009, the government of Benin submitted a government bill to the National Assembly concerning the constitutional abolition of the death penalty. In April 2010, Djibouti, already abolitionist for all crimes, approved an amendment that introduces the abolition of the death penalty in its Constitution.
In 2009, for the first time in the country’s history, there were no executions in Pakistan.
On January 7, 2009, on his last day in office as President of Ghana, John Kufuor pardoned more than 500 prisoners. In January 2009, Uganda’s Supreme Court ruled that death sentences be commuted to life imprisonment after three years in jail. In January 2009, the President of Zambia pardoned and commuted the sentences of 53 prisoners on death row. In July 2009, King Mohammed VI of Morocco amnestied about 24,000 prisoners to mark the 10th anniversary of his coronation many people currently on death row will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. In August 2009, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya announced more than 4,000 death row inmates would all have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. In August 2009, Lagos State Governor in Nigeria granted an amnesty to 3 prisoners sentenced to death and pardoned a further 37 death row inmates. In November 2009, the President of Tanzania commuted 75 death sentences to life imprisonment.
 
In the United States, the State of New Mexico abolished the death penalty on March 18, 2009, becoming only the second U.S. State in over forty years to do so, following New Jersey’s abolition of capital punishment on December 13, 2007. The State of Connecticut came close to abolishing the death penalty with both the State Senate and House of Representatives voting for abolition only to have the legislation vetoed by State Governor M. Jodi Rell on June 5, 2009.
 
Negative developments were topped by the resumption of executions by Thailand in August 2009, after about six years of de facto moratorium.
In April 2010, in Palestine the Hamas government in Gaza took it upon itself to resume executions after a de facto moratorium that had lasted five years. At the end of April 2010, Taiwan also resumed executions after five years of suspension.
 
 
 
 
 
The information contained in this report is the result of daily monitoring of news and developments concerning the death penalty worldwide. It offers a comprehensive overview of relevant events that took place in 2009 and in the first six months of 2010. All information contained in this report, including sources, dates of reports and more is available on Hands Off Cain’s online death penalty news database at www.handsoffcain.info
 
 
 
 
TOP EXECUTIONERS FOR 2009: CHINA, IRAN AND IRAQ
 
Of the 43 countries worldwide that retain the death penalty, 36 are dictatorial, authoritarian or illiberal States. Fifteen of these countries were responsible for approximately 5,619 executions, about 99% of the world total in 2009.
China alone carried out about 5,000, or 88%, of the world total of executions; Iran put at least 402 people to death and Iraq at least 77; Saudi Arabia, at least 69; Yemen, at least 30; Sudan and Vietnam, at least 9; Syria, at least 8; Egypt, at least 5; Libya, at least 4; Bangladesh, 3; Thailand, 2; North Korea, at least 1; Singapore, 1. It is possible that executions were carried out in Malaysia, although none were officially reported.
 
Many of these countries do not issue official statistics on the practice of the death penalty, therefore the number of executions may, in fact, be much higher.
In some countries, such as China and Vietnam, the death penalty is considered a State secret and reports of executions carried by local media or independent sources – upon which the execution totals are mainly based – in fact represent only a fraction of the total of executions carried out nationwide every year.
The same is applicable for Belarus, where news of executions filters mainly through relatives or international organizations long after the fact.
In Iran, that carries out executions regularly without classifying the death penalty as a State secret, the main sources of information on executions are reports selected by the regime and carried by State media. These reports do not carry news of all executions, as evidenced by information occasionally divulged by individual citizens or by political opposition groups.
Absolute secrecy governs executions in some countries, such as North Korea, Malaysia and Syria, where news of executions does not even filter through to the local media.
Secret executions are being carried out in Iraq in the prisons run by Nouri al-Maliki’s government as well.
Other States, like Saudi Arabia, Botswana, Egypt, Japan and Singapore divulge news of executions after they have taken place with relatives, lawyers and the condemned people themselves being kept in the dark before the actual executions take place.
This is the prevalent situation worldwide concerning the practice of the death penalty. It points to the fact that the fight against the death penalty entails, beyond the stopping of executions, a battle for transparency of information concerning capital punishment, for democracy, for respect of the rule of law and for political rights and civil liberties.
 
The terrible podium of the world’s top executioners is occupied by three authoritarian States in 2009: China, Iran and Iraq.
 
China: Officially the World’s Record-holder for Executions (Despite a Significant Reduction)
 
Although the death penalty remains a State secret in China, some news in recent years, including declarations from official sources, suggest that the use of the death penalty may have diminished as much as 30% compared to preceding years.
A major turnabout came after the introduction of a legal reform on January 1, 2007, which requires that every capital sentence handed down in China by an inferior court be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
The China Daily newspaper reported that the Supreme People’s Court overturned 15 per cent of death sentences handed down in 2007 and 10 per cent in 2008.
According to The Dui Hua Foundation’s estimate, the number of prisoners executed annually may have fallen by as much as half from the 10,000 cited by a National People’s Congress delegate in 2004. In any event, statistics and percentages are of little value as all aspects of capital punishment remain a State secret including the actual number of death sentences and executions.
 
The Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that works on behalf of political prisoners and monitors Chinese prisons, estimates that “about” 5,000 executions were carried in China in 2009, while the number of executions in 2008 according to the Foundation – “exceeded 5,000 and may have been as high as 7,000.” According to the Foundation, run by business executive-turned-human-rights advocate John Kamm – who still maintains good relations with government officials – about 6,000 people were executed in 2007, a 25 to 30 percent drop from 2006, in which estimates reported at least 7,500 executions.
Not even Amnesty International knows the exact number of executions carried out in 2009. However, according to Amnesty, “evidence from previous years and current sources indicates that the figure is in the thousands.” Amnesty International had reported at least 1,718 executions in 2008, though the same organization warned that the real number could be much higher.
 
On July 29, 2009, Zhang Jun, Vice-President of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), said China was to reduce the number of people it executes to “an extremely small number.” The top court official said the court would, in the future, impose more suspended death sentences. Zhang, quoted in the State-run China Daily, said legislation would be improved to reduce the number of death sentences, and that the SPC would tighten restrictions on the use of capital punishment. He said: “As it is impossible for the country to abolish capital punishment under current realities and social security conditions, it is an important effort to strictly control the application of the penalty by judicial organs.”
In February 2010, China’s highest court has issued new guidelines on the death penalty that instruct lower courts to limit its use to a small number of “extremely serious” cases. The Supreme People’s Court told courts to use a policy of “justice tempered with mercy” that takes into consideration the severity of the crime, the State-run Xinhua news agency quoted court spokesman Sun Jungong as saying in a report on February 9. The guidelines reflect the court’s call in July of 2009 for the death penalty to be used less often and for only the most serious criminal cases.
 
On March 11, 2010, in his report to the annual session of the National People’s Congress, the chief justice of the Supreme People’s Court, Wang Shengjun, in keeping with the government’s customary secrecy, gave no figures for the number of death sentences or executions. Wang only noted that the courts concluded 767,000 criminal cases and sentenced 997,000 people, down by 0.2 percent and 1.1 percent respectively. But again he did not say how many were related to death sentences, and, for the first time, he did not even announce – nor did official media sources report – how many people were “sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or more than five years in prison,” the formulated phrase used in the past by the country’s Supreme Court to speak of “severe penalties” resulting from trials. “The courts strictly controlled the number of death sentences and prudently used death penalties,” is all Wang’s report says. The courts implemented the policy of “tempering justice with mercy,” it says. The SPC itself dealt with 13,318 cases of various types and concluded 11,749 cases in 2009, up 26.2 percent and 52.1 percent year on year, respectively.
It can be safely presumed that the great majority of these cases (for which they hired literally hundreds of new judges) are death penalty review cases, as the SPC doesn’t have jurisdiction over many other cases. One Chinese scholar estimates that death penalty review in and after 2007 would be more than 90% of the SPC’s case load. “Death penalty cases will make up more than 90 percent of the total number of cases heard by the court,” said Ni Jian in an opinion piece appeared on November 21, 2007, in The Beijing News.
Under such circumstances and considering that the SPC dealt with 13,318 cases of various types and concluded 11,749 cases, an approximate but realistic estimate would put the number of death sentences in 2009 at around 10,000.
 
At the same session of the National People’s Congress, China’s Chief Justice Wang Shengjun said that courts will take actions on judicial corruption to prevent abuse of judicial power. The Supreme People’s Court will “strengthen capacity building and act as a model for local courts,” Wang said. The pledge came after Huang Songyou, former SPC vice president, was sentenced on January 19, 2010 to life imprisonment for taking bribes and embezzlement. Wang said nearly 800 court officials were punished for violating laws in 2009.
 
The reform, which took effect on January 1, 2007, is considered one of the most significant reforms concerning the death penalty in the last twenty years. It signals a turn-around from the “hit hard” approach taken on in the Eighties that brought the Supreme Court to delegate final decisions regarding capital punishment cases to the lower provincial courts.
According to the new provision, the review of each case should be carried out by three judges of the Supreme Court, who must re-examine all evidence, the laws applied, the appropriateness of the sentence, the arguments of the preceding trial and they must hear the accused in person or by letter before reaching a final decision. If the judges find the evidence insufficient, the sentencing inappropriate or the trial arguments illegal, they present the case to the Judicial Committee of the Supreme Court. The committee examines the case along with a prosecutor from the Office of the Attorney General Supreme of the People. The cases which have not yet gone to a public trial of appeal will not be reviewed by the Supreme Court, but are sent back to a lower court for public trial.
In fact, as of July 1, 2006, all appeal processes concerning capital cases should have received public hearings in China. Defense attorneys were to have their arguments heard and the accused were to give depositions. These hearings were to be video-taped to allow for their re-examination. To date, provincial High Courts have approved death sentences with only legal precedent as their guide and without hearing from defense attorneys or the accused.
On May 22, 2008, China’s Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice jointly issued regulations on the protection of defense lawyers’ roles in capital cases to ensure that defendants’ legal rights were upheld. The regulations build upon existing documents on defense lawyers’ work in capital cases. They also standardize the lawyers’ duties, the official said. Some provisions of the regulations include: legal aid institutions must designate lawyers with criminal defense experience in capital cases; lawyers shall not transfer such cases to assistants and must meet the defendant before trial; judges must “earnestly listen” to lawyers’ suggestions, ensure that lawyers are able to complete their presentations, and explain why defense lawyers’ motions are honored or denied; the Court must inform “interested parties,” lawyers and prosecutors of any date change for court hearings three days ahead of time; the Court must notify lawyers if prosecutors submit new evidence or re-evaluate the case before a re-trial.
After the reform, there were also cases of pardon and cases of compensation for wrongful detainment, such as that of the two wrongly condemned death row inmates who were granted State compensation after they were found not guilty of heroin trafficking on appeal and set free in July. On November 15, 2009, Mo Weiqi was paid 50,507.49 yuan (US$7,398.20) while Xie Kaiqi received 48,491.67 yuan, China Youth Daily reported. Mo was sentenced to death by the intermediate court of Dehong Dai and the Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture on September 17, 2008. Mo appealed to the Yunnan Higher People’s Court eight days after his conviction, insisting that he had no idea about the heroin in his luggage. Trafficker Xiong Zhengjiang was later seized and confessed to police that Mo and Xie had no idea about the narcotics hidden in their luggage. The compensation was calculated based on last year’s average daily income for domestic workers and the number of days Mo and Xie were in prison. Mo had been jailed for 451 days and Xie had spent 433 days in a detention center.
On May 30, 2010, two new regulations were jointly issued by the top court, the top prosecutor, the ministries of public security, State security and justice, regarding specific rules on collection of evidence and review in criminal cases. Evidence obtained illegally such as through torture during interrogation cannot be used in testimony, particularly in cases involving the death penalty, according to the two regulations. The first regulation sets out principles and rules for scrutinizing and gauging evidence in cases involving the death penalty, and the other sets out detailed procedure for examining evidence and for excluding evidence obtained illegally. They are expected to cut down on death sentences and reduce forced confessions, experts say. The regulations make it clear that evidence with unclear origin, confessions obtained through torture, or testimony obtained through violence and intimidation are invalid, particularly in death sentences. The new regulations define illegal evidence and include specific procedures on how to exclude such evidence. Lu Guanglun, a senior judge at the Supreme People’s Court, said such details do not exist in the Criminal Procedure Law and its judicial interpretations. “This is the first time that a systematic and clear regulation tells law enforcers that evidence obtained through illegal means is not only illegal but also useless,” said Zhao Bingzhi, Dean of the law school at Beijing Normal University. “Previously we could only infer from abstract laws that illegal evidence is not allowed. But in reality, in many cases, such evidence was considered valid,” he said. “This is big progress, both for the legal system and for better protection of human rights,” he said. “It will help reduce the number of executions.”
 
According to the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) of the PRC, after receiving an order from the Supreme People’s Court to execute a death sentence, the People’s Court at a lower level shall cause the sentence to be executed within seven days. A death sentence may be executed on the execution ground or in a designated place of custody. The judicial officer directing the execution shall verify the identity of the criminal, ask them if they have any last words or letters and then deliver them to the executioner for execution of the death sentence. Executions of death sentences shall be announced but shall not be held in public. After a death sentence is executed, the court clerk on the scene shall prepare a written record of it. The People’s Court that caused the death sentence to be executed shall submit a report on the execution to the Supreme People’s Court. After a death sentence is executed, the People’s Court that caused the death sentence to be executed shall notify the family members of the executed.
 
Despite these first signs of an at least superficial approach to guaranteeing civil liberties, both violent and non-violent criminals continue to be cast indiscriminately into the meat-grinder of Chinese justice. They are prosecuted and dispatched with a lack of transparency, according to Chinese lawyers who complain of blocked access to their clients and say many confessions are still coerced.
There are also double standards: public officials accused of embezzling billions of yuan receive suspended death sentences that spare their lives, while ordinary citizens convicted of stealing far less die by lethal injection or a single gunshot to the head, according to lawyers and court records.
On August 5, 2009, a businesswoman in Zhejiang Province was executed for fraud. Du Yimin was convicted of “fraudulent raising of public funds” and sentenced to death in March 2008. Her appeal was rejected on January 13, 2009. According to the verdict, she had illegally raised approximately 700 million yuan (US$102 million) from hundreds of people investing in her beauty parlors. Her lawyer stated that Du Yimin should have been convicted for the lesser offence of “illegally collecting public deposits,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 yuan (US$73,000). Du Yimin’s death sentence caused a debate about the consistency in the application of the death penalty in the People’s Republic of China. The day before she was sentenced to death, an official who used 15.8 billion yuan of public funds to cover his personal spending was sentenced to a fixed term of imprisonment.
 
The peak times for executions are around the holidays. Generally, the Chinese government “celebrates” national holidays executing massive numbers of condemned and, traditionally, a wave of executions has preceded the “celebration” of the Chinese National Day and the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, as well as the opening of sessions of the National People’s Congress.
 
The Chinese Government has used the “war on terrorism” as a pretext to harden its’ iron fist against all forms of political or religious dissent in the country. In particular, China passes off repression against Tibetans and the Uyghurs as part of the war on terrorism and exercises pressure on its neighbors such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal and Pakistan to force them to repatriate exiled members of Xinjiang’s Muslim Turkic-speaking Uyghur population. Many of the repatriated Uyghurs have suffered serious violations of their human rights including torture, unfair trials and, also, execution.
Arrests and prosecutions for “endangering State security” (ESS) in 2009 retreated from the “historic levels” reached in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but remained high, according to new estimates produced by The Dui Hua Foundation. During 2009 as many as 1,150 individuals were arrested and nearly 1,050 individuals indicted on State security charges in China. The foundation said that the acceleration of arrests in the past two years reflected China’s desire to keep control over its restive ethnic regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, where mass riots have occurred, and to impose heavy penalties for “subversive” speech.
According to State press reports 26 people have so far received capital punishment and at least nine have already been put to death for their part in the Xinjiang uprising in July 2009. Most of the names of those sentenced to death or executed appeared to be Uyghur.
 
In China, death sentences are carried out by such means as shooting or lethal injection. China has recently introduced mobile execution units, which consist of specially-modified vans manned by execution teams and equipped with facilities to put people to death with lethal injections close to trial venues. It is easy to imagine that the transition from firing squads to injections in death vans facilitates an illegal trade in prisoners’ organs. China’s refusal to give outsiders access to the bodies of executed prisoners has added to suspicions about what happens afterward: corpses are typically driven to a crematorium and burned before relatives or independent witnesses can view them.
On August 26, 2009, State media reported two-thirds of organ donors in China are executed prisoners.
 
In February 2009, the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislature, ratified a treaty on extradition with Mexico. Where the death penalty was concerned, the two sides agreed to settle solutions based on individual cases, instead of writing this into the pact as a motive for refusal.
 
Iran: Still at Second Place on the Podium of Inhumanity
 
In 2009, once again, Iran has come in second in the bid for the highest number of executions and, along with China and Iraq, finds itself atop the loathsome awards podium of the champion Executioner-States of the world.
On the basis of Iranian newspaper reports and reports from humanitarian organizations such as Iran Human Rights, there were an estimated 402 executions in Iran in 2009, 339 were reported by the official Iranian media. This number is the highest since 2000. In 2008, at least 350 people were put to death (282 of them reported by the official Iranian media).
According to the Iranian Human Rights News Agency (HRANA), the Islamic Republic’s judicial system issued and enforced over 562 execution orders for murder, rape, drugs and prisoners of conscience throughout the Iranian year which goes from March 21, 2009 to March 20, 2010.
 
On the basis of official Iranian media reports in 2010, as of June 30, there have already been at least 132 executions.
The numbers could be higher as the Iranian authorities do not provide official statistics. The cases that are counted arrive from scattered reports by Iranian journalists or independent sources, that evidently don’t report all executions throughout the nation.
On May 11, 2009, lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, who is acting for many of the country’s death row prisoners and, in particular, campaigning to save 25 prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed as minors, said he believes the true number of executions far exceeds estimates given by international human rights groups. “I have calculated there were at least 400 executions in 2008, but it could be 500 to 600,” he said.
According to the Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights, the highest number of the executions were carried out in the month before the June 2009 presidential elections (May; 50 executions) and the month after the elections (July; 94 executions, 50 of them in Tehran). Tehran (77), Ahvaz (41), Zahedan (41), Isfahan (40), Shiraz (30), Kermanshah (19) and Kerman (17) were the cities with the highest number of executions.
Most of those executed were either identified only by their initials or not identified at all. Age and time of committing the offence was not provided for many of those executed.
Most of those executed were convicted of drug trafficking (140), murder (56), rape (24), and moharebeh (31). Moharebeh (waging war against God) is a term commonly used by the Iranian regime for those who are involved in armed struggle against the authorities. Twenty-seven of the 31 individuals executed for moharebeh, were convicted of being members of the Baluchi group Jondollah. However, many of these individuals either didn’t have any connection with Jondollah or only carried out web-based activities.
Among the charges used for the death sentences, we also find adultery (2), acts against chastity (1) and unspecific charges such as “disruption of order”. One man who was convicted of adultery sentenced to death by stoning, was hanged in the prison of Sari.
Many of those executed were tried in closed “Revolutionary Courts”.
There were at least 5 minor offenders and 13 women among the 339 executions reported by the official Iranian media.
 
The Iranian system and its treatment of information regarding the death penalty became even more opaque when, on September 14, 2008, the Mullahs’ Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (MCIG) warned newspaper editors to censor unofficial reports about escalating numbers of executions, in particular those of minors in the country.
 
The execution of child offenders continued into 2009, when at least 5 were hanged in Iran, in open violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which it is a co-signatory.
In 2008, at least 13 people under the age of 18 at the time of their crime were executed in Iran, the only country on record to have done so in 2008, while at least 8 minors were put to death in 2007.
Following pressure from the international community, the regime of Mullahs announced a partial and, in practice, ineffectual revision of a practice that places Iran, in a way that seems not be isolated to this situation and in total isolation, at the fringe of the international community. On October 18, 2008, Hossein Zabhi, Deputy State Public Prosecutor, announced that a new Iranian judicial directive, initially issued more than a year before, would ban the execution of juvenile offenders for drug crimes but would keep capital punishment for those convicted of murder. The new directive doesn’t apply to the 120 minors currently on death row, according to Zabhi.
 
Hanging is the preferred method with which to apply Sharia law in Iran, but stoning was used in at least two cases in 2008 and one in 2009, while shooting was used in at least one case.
Hanging, as practiced in Iran, is often carried out by crane or low platforms to draw out the pain of death. The noose is made from heavy rope or steel wire and is placed around the neck in such a fashion as to crush the larynx causing extreme pain and prolonging the death of the condemned. Hanging is often carried out in public and combined with supplementary punishments such as flogging and the amputation of limbs before the actual execution.
In November 2006, then-Iranian Minister of Justice, Jamal Karimi-Rad, claimed that stoning was not used in Iran, but the facts of following years made the truth abundantly clear.
A man was stoned to death on July 5, 2007, after being convicted of adultery. On December 25, 2008, another two men were stoned, while a third prisoner managed to get out of the hole in which he was buried, avoiding death. The three men were convicted of adultery. The last execution by stoning was reported on March 5, 2009, when a 30-year-old man was stoned to death in the Lakan prison in the northern city of Rasht. These last executions bring the total number of people executed by stoning for adultery to 6 since a moratorium on the practice was requested by then head of the magistrate of Iran, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi.
On December 20, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution first adopted in November by the UN Third Committee that calls on the Iranian Government to abolish any executions carried out without due process of law. Furthermore, it calls for the end of the execution of minors, as well as the use of stoning as a means of execution.
 
As further testimony to the fervor and fury of the Iranian Regime, mass executions continued in 2009. Between January 20 and 21, nineteen people were hanged in only two days. In the month of May, 52 people were hanged, 21 of whom between May 2 and May 8. The number of executions has increased dramatically since the pro-democracy demonstrations started in the summer of 2009 in Iran. In the month of July, Iran hanged at least 95 people, the highest monthly number of executions in many years. Most of those executed were not identified by name and we can’t know whether the charges mentioned in the reports published by the authorities were true. On July 4, twenty “drug traffickers” were hanged in the prison of Karaj. Another 24 people were hanged on July 30 in the same prison in Karaj for “drug trafficking”.
In 2010, there was no sign of progress. Mass executions continued. In the month of April, at least 28 people were hanged. Between May 8 and 9, eleven people were hanged in two different Iranian cities. Between May 18 and 31, twenty-six people were hanged in seven Iranian cities. The number of the executions increased in view of the first anniversary of the post-electoral uprisings on June 12. Between June 3 and 9, 2010, twenty-two people were hanged in five different cities.
 
On January 30, 2008, Iran announced that the powerful head of its judiciary must, in the future, approve any executions to be carried out in public and banned all pictures of the events. The new decree was issued by then judicial chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. “Public executions will be carried out only with his approval and based on social necessities,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said in a statement. After Shahroudi’s decree public executions decreased. In 2008, at least 30 public executions were held, of which 16 took place after the decree. In 2007, there were at least 110 public executions.
Public executions have continued in 2009: at least 12 people were hanged in public places. In 2010, as of June 30, at least 16 public executions were held.
 
In 2009, Iran continued to apply the death penalty to clearly non-violent crimes. On October 5, 2009, Rahim Mohammadi was hanged in the prison of Tabriz (northeast of Iran) for “anal rape” and adultery, human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei reported.
 
In 2009, repression of members of minority religious groups and religious and spiritual movements not recognized by authorities continued in Iran. On July 12, 2009, an Iranian follower of the Ahl-e Haq religious faith (a Shiite offshoot adhering to Imam Ali the first Shiite Imam) was executed in the city of Orumiyeh, for being mohareb, or an enemy of God.
 
The prohibitionist ideology regarding drugs, prevalent worldwide, once again made its contribution to the death penalty in Iran. In the name of the war on drugs, according to Iran Human Rights, there were at least 140 executions in 2009 compared to 87 carried out in 2008, while according to the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs there were actually 172, almost double the 96 carried out in 2008. Authorities admit that many of the executions in Iran are for drug-related crimes, but human rights observers believe that many of those executed for common crimes such as drugs are actually political dissidents.
 
The use of the death penalty for purely political motives continued in Iran in 2009. But it is probable that many of the people put to death in Iran for ordinary crimes or for “terrorism,” may well be in fact political opponents, in particular members of Iran’s ethnic minorities, including Iranian Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Baluchis, and Arabs. Accused of being mohareb – enemies of Allah – those arrested are often subject to rapid and severe trials that often end with a sentence of death.
During 2009 the first sentences of death were issued for participation in demonstrations against the fraudulent Presidential Election results of June 12 which saw the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The first of these executions were carried out in 2010.
 
However, the death penalty is not the only punishment dictated by the Iranian implementation of Sharia or Islamic law. There is also torture, amputation, flogging and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments. These are not isolated incidents and they occur in flagrant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Iran signed and which expressly prohibits such practices.
Every year, thousands of youths are whipped in Iran for consuming alcohol or attending parties with the opposite sex or for outrages against public decency. The Iranian authorities consider whipping an appropriate punishment to combat immorality and such punishments are publicly inflicted as a “lesson to those who watch.”
But the regime particularly outdoes itself in its violation of women’s rights. The segregation of men and women has increased since the first election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who as mayor of the capital first inaugurated the segregation of men and women in the city’s elevators.
In June 2010, Iranian authorities began police patrols in the capital to arrest women wearing clothes deemed improper. Hard-liners say that improper veiling is a “security issue” and that “loose morality” threatens the core of the Islamic republic. Iran’s interior minister has promised a “chastity plan” to promote the proper covering “from kindergarten to families,” though the details are unclear. Tehran police have been arresting women for wearing short coats or improper veils and even for being too suntanned. Witnesses report fines up to $800 for dress considered immodest.
On March 3, 2010, the amputation sentence of one person was carried out in the Karoun prison of Ahvaz. The person was identified as Shoghi Z. (age not mentioned) and was convicted of armed robbery and moharebeh. Another person was flogged in public in Laleh Square of Sosangerd (in the province of Khuzestan). The person was identified as Mehdi H. and was convicted of disorderly conduct.
 
Iraq
 
In 2009, for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein on April 9, 2003, and the subsequent reinstatement of the death penalty, Iraq has become one of the top Executioner-States in the world, third after China and Iran.
There were at least 77 executions according to information provided by the Iraqi Supreme Court.
“Seventy-seven death sentences were enforced in 2009,” the head of the court Medhat al-Mahmud said in a statement on January 5, 2010. According to the court, the prisoners were found guilty in “cases related to terrorism” and their punishment was applied as a matter of priority.
According to Amnesty International however, at least 120 prisoners were executed by Iraq in 2009, while 366 death sentences were handed down.
There were at least 34 executions in 2008. In 2007, at least 33 executions were carried out.
 
After the fall of Saddam’s regime, the death penalty was suspended by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition. It was reintroduced after the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities on June 28, 2004. On August 8, 2004, a little more than a month after it came to power, the Iraqi interim government, led by Iyad Allawi, approved a law that reintroduced the death penalty for homicide, kidnapping, rape and drug-trafficking.
On May 30, 2010, the Iraqi Council of Ministers extended the application of the death penalty for economic crimes to the stealing of electricity. The practice of taking a line from the national network of electricity is common practice in deprived rural and urban areas in Iraq.
 
With the execution of ex-Rais Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity on December 30, 2006, there were 65 executions in Iraq during the year. To this were added other exponents of the deposed regime in 2007: Barzan al-Tikriti, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, and Taha Yassin Ramadan.
On March 2, 2009, the Iraqi High Tribunal acquitted former deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz, for involvement in “the Friday prayer incident,” referring to the deaths of dozens of Shiites in 1999 in the Sadr City district of Baghdad and in the central shrine city of Najaf.
On March 11, 2009, two of Saddam Hussein’s half-brothers, former interior minister Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and director of public security Sabawi Ibrahim, were sentenced to death for crimes against humanity. The trial dealt with the 1992 execution of the 42 merchants accused by Saddam’s government of price gouging while Iraq was under U.N. sanctions. Hussein’s former foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the execution of the 42 merchants. The conviction was the first against Aziz.
 
On January 25, 2010, Ali Hassan al-Majid, the cousin of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, was executed for crimes against humanity, a government spokesman said. The week before, Al-Majid – nicknamed “Chemical Ali” by the Western media – was sentenced to death for ordering the gassing of Kurds in the Iraqi village of Halabja. In March 1988, Iraqi jets swooped over the village of Halabja and sprayed it with a deadly mix of mustard gas and the nerve agents Tabun, Sarin and VX. It is believed that about 5,000 people died in the attack, three-quarters of them were women and children. For Chemical Ali this was the fourth sentence of capital punishment. Majid was sentenced to hang in June 2007 for his role in a military campaign against ethnic Kurds, code-named Anfal, that lasted from February to August of 1988. In December 2008, he also received a death sentence for his role in crushing a Shia revolt after the 1991 Gulf War. In March 2009, he was sentenced to death, along with others, for the 1999 killings of Shia Muslims in the Sadr City district of Baghdad.
 
DEMOCRACY AND THE DEATH PENALTY
 
Of the 43 retentionists, only 7 countries are considered liberal democracies. This definition, as used here, takes into account the country’s political system and its respect towards human rights, civil and political liberties, free market practices and the rule of law.
There were 3 liberal democracies that carried out executions in 2009, and they accounted for 60 executions between them, about 1% of the world tally. These were: The United States (37), Japan (7) and Botswana (1). In 2008 there were 6 (with Indonesia, Mongolia and Saint Kitts and Nevis) and they carried out a total of 65 executions.
In Indonesia, 2009 was the first year without an execution since 2004, while India has not carried out an execution in five consecutive years.
 
United States: The Number of Death Sentences and death row Inmates Continues to Decrease
 
Executions
 
Executions rose in 2009 compared to the last two years. There were 52 executions; there were 37 executions in 2008 and 42 in 2007.
The data is not consistent however, because during the two preceding years for a number of months (from September 2007 to May of 2008) a de facto moratorium was in place while waiting for a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the protocol for lethal injection (the case of Baze v. Rees in Kentucky, April 16, 2008).
Executions took place in 11 of the 35 States with the death penalty: Texas (24), Alabama (6), Ohio (5), Georgia (3), Oklahoma (3), Virginia (3), Florida (2), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (2), Indiana (1) and Missouri (1).
The number of executions in 2009 was still 47% less than that recorded in 1999 (98).
51 were carried out by lethal injection, 1 with the electric chair (Virginia). All those executed were male: 23 whites, 22 blacks and 7 Latin-Americans.
 
Relevant Cases
 
During 2009 the most followed executions were those of John Allen Muhammad and Kenneth Biros.
John Allen Muhammad, known as “The Washington Sniper”, was executed on November 10 in Virginia. He was accused with at least 10 homicides which occurred in the Washington D.C. Area in 2002.
The execution of Kenneth Biros, carried out on December 8 in Ohio, was the first utilizing the new lethal injection protocol. According to the new protocol, the lethal injection is composed of an overdose of barbiturates, specifically of sodium thiopental. Sodium thiopental was already present in the former protocol and was the first of three drugs injected, followed by a muscle-paralyzer and a heart-stopping poison.
 
Death Sentences
 
2009, for the 7° consecutive year, saw a decrease in death sentences, arriving at 106, the lowest number since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1976. There were 111 death sentences in 2008 and 119 in 2007. The 106 death sentences of 2009 represent a 2/3 reduction since the record of 328 death sentences handed down in 1994.
The most notable drop was that of Texas, which had 11 death sentences compared to the average of 34 annually throughout the nineties. A former assistant district prosecutor in Houston, Vic Wisner, attributes the fact to a “constant media drumbeat” about suspect convictions and exonerations which “has really changed the attitude of jurors.” Wisner points out that while opinion polls continue to show the “theoretical” support of the death penalty, when individuals are called to serve on a jury, the possibility that an error of justice could lead to an irreversible execution puts the brakes on the actual use of the death penalty.
Besides that of Texas, the other highly revealing fact comes from out of Virginia, a State which is generally only second to Texas in the number of executions. While throughout the nineties Virginia sentenced an average of 6 people to death a year, only one death sentence was handed down in 2009 and there have been a total of only 6 death sentences in the last five years.
Contrary to national trends is the State of California, where death sentences have increased: there were 29 in 2009, while there were 20 in 2008. Of the condemnations, 13 were handed down in Los Angeles County. In short, the County of Los Angeles alone condemned more people to death than the entire State of Texas.
 
Death Row
 
In the first 9 months of 2009, the number of inmates on death row decreased by 34, from 3,297 to 3, 263. The highest number of inmates on death row was reached in the year 2000 at 3,593 inmates. Since then the number has diminished regularly.
As has been the case for many years, the death row of California is the biggest in the United States. As of October 1, 2009 it held 694 inmates. If it’s indeed the case that in 2009 California handed down more death sentences than all the other States, the principal reason for the size of its death row can only be blamed on the State’s procedure for appeals which is longer than in other States with certain courts holding a particularly hard-line on the protection of civil rights, all resulting in a low number of executions (there were 13 in 1976).
After California, the States which have death row populations exceeding 100 are: Florida (395), Texas (339), Pennsylvania (223), Alabama (201), Ohio (170), North Carolina (169), Arizona (132) and Georgia (108).
The lowest death row populations are those of New Hampshire and Wyoming (1) and those of Montana and New Mexico (2), besides that of the State of New York, which is empty.
In the last 10 years, the death row which has grown the most proportionally is that of the Federal justice system: in 2000 it had 19 inmates and by the end of 2009 there were 58 inmates, while 8 men are being held on the death row of the Military justice system.
Along racial lines, 44.4% of inmates are white, 41.6% are black, 11.6% are Latin-American and 2.4% belong to other ethnic groups. Divided by gender, there are 53 women and 3,224 men on the United States’ death rows. Women represent 1.6% of the death row population in the U.S.A. In 2008, there were 58 women.
 
Legislation
 
Eleven States considered legislative proposals to repeal the death penalty in 2009, a considerable increase from previous years.
The costs of the death penalty – linked to the lengthy procedures surrounding capital cases and detentions in maximum security prisons – were frequently cited in legislative debates about the death penalty.
Some proposals had limited life-spans in the legislature, while others were more successful.
On March 18, 2009, New Mexico abolished the death penalty, becoming only the second U.S. State to do so in more than forty years, after New Jersey on December 13, 2007. Although New Mexico is a southern State, bordering the “champions” of the death penalty such as Texas and Oklahoma, it has only carried out one execution in the last 49 years.
On April 21, 2009, the House approved a bill to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado and shift funds currently used to prosecute death-penalty cases to deal with the growing backlog of more than 1,400 unsolved homicides. However, the Senate defeated the proposal on June 6 by one vote. It is estimated that 3 out of every 10 homicides in Colorado go unsolved. The law was backed by family members of over 500 victims in unsolved cases. The most recent execution occurred in 1997.
In Montana, the State Senate voted to abolish the death penalty on February 17, 2009, but the House Judiciary Committee voted against the bill on March 30. Montana has executed 3 people since reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1970s. The most recent execution occurred in 2006, but this involved a “volunteer”, a condemned person who renounced available appeals.
In Maryland, for a number of weeks, it seemed possible that an abolitionist law would be passed following a recommendation expressed on December 13, 2008 by the Commission on the Death Penalty put together by Governor Martin O’Malley. Blocked by the Senate, the proposal was transformed into a compromise bill (SB 279) which makes it more difficult to issue a death sentence. The bill restricts capital punishment to murder cases with biological evidence such as DNA, videotaped evidence of a murder or a videotaped confession. The Democratic governor, who is Roman Catholic, opposes capital punishment and backed a bill that would have abolished the death penalty altogether. But he says the bill that passed is a step toward justice. Maryland has executed five people since reinstating the death penalty in 1978. The most recent execution occurred in 2005.
In Kansas, Republican Senator Carolyn McGinn presented an abolitionist bill that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which, however, on March 4, 2009, decided to send the bill to an interim study committee rather than advancing it to the chamber floor for debate. On January 29, 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee again passed the bill that would abolish the death penalty, but on February 19 the Senate voted 20-20, one vote less than the 21-vote majority needed for the passage of the bill. No one has been executed in Kansas since the death penalty was reinstated in 1994.
On June 5, 2009, the Governor of Connecticut, M. Jodi Rell, vetoed the bill, approved on March 31 by the State House and on May 22 by the State Senate, which would have abolished the death penalty replacing it with life imprisonment without parole. The last execution in Connecticut was that of Michael Ross on May 13, 2005, but this was also the case of a “volunteer” who insisted on being executed. The last execution before this was in 1939.
In New Hampshire, the State House voted to repeal capital punishment on March 25, 2009, but the Senate voted to put off action on the bill on April 29, as the democratic governor, John Lynch, had promised to veto it. As a compromise the Senate and the House approved a bill that instituted a “Study Commission” on the death penalty. The State’s last execution was in 1939 and currently there is only one person on death row.
 
Laws intended not to limit but to expand the use of the death penalty were approved in Virginia, where Governor Timothy M. Kaine exercised his veto power on March 27, 2009. Three different laws would have expanded the death penalty to criminals who assist in murders (the so-called “triggerman rule”) or who kill fire marshals or auxiliary police officers. It was the third year in a row Kaine vetoed the “triggerman” bill.
In Utah, a proposal that would have amended the State constitution to speed up the appeals process, particularly in death-penalty cases, failed in the House on March 12, 2009.
In New Hampshire, on March 10, 2010, the Senate voted against a bill to apply the death penalty in home invasion murder cases.
On March 18, 2010, in Maryland, the House Judiciary Committee rejected a bill that would have imposed the death penalty for the murder along with the sexual assault of a child.
 
However, moratoriums established in recent years still hold, such as the de jure moratorium in Illinois and those de facto moratoriums in the States of Kansas, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and in the Military Administration and those created by appeals against execution protocols in California, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska and the Federal justice system.
 
Methods of Execution
 
On May 28, 2009, Nebraska adopted lethal injection as its principal method of execution, as it was previously the only State to have the electric chair in use as its principal means of execution.
After the choice of Nebraska, today all the States use lethal injection as their primary method of execution. In some States the “old methods” are still available upon request by the condemned and generally only for crimes committed before the adoption of lethal injection.
The electric chair is still available in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The gas chamber is still available in Arizona, California, Maryland, Missouri and Wyoming. The firing squad is available in Oklahoma and Utah. Hanging is available in New Hampshire e Washington.
On November 17, 2009, in Virginia, Larry Bill Elliott was put to death upon his request by electric chair.
On June 17, 2010, Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad at Utah State Prison in Draper. Gardner, 49, white, was the first death row inmate to be executed since 1999, and the first by firing squad in the United States since 1996. He was strapped to a black metal chair surrounded by sandbags to stop ricocheting bullets. A target was then pinned over his heart, a hood placed over his head, and five volunteer marksmen armed with 30-caliber rifles opened fire from behind a wall. Only four of the weapons were loaded with live rounds and one contained a wax bullet, allowing the marksmen to retain some doubt over whether they fired the fatal shot. Gardner was condemned to death in 1985 for double homicide.
With that of Gardner, there have been 1,216 executions in the U.S.A. From 1976 to the present: 1,042 by lethal injection, 157 with the electric chair, 11 in the gas chamber, 3 by hanging, 3 by firing squad.
 
In November of 2009, Ohio was the first State to switch its lethal injection method from the three-drug cocktail used in almost all States to a one-drug protocol. The protocol was modified after the botched execution of Romell Broom in September, with medical professionals making at least 18 attempts to find a suitable vein in his arms and lower legs. The single-drug technique amounts to an overdose of the anesthesia, sodium thiopental. In cases where a suitable vein cannot be located, a combination of 2 chemicals will be injected into muscle. Those drugs will be midazolam and hydromorphone.
On March 2, 2010, Washington became the second State to change to the single-drug protocol, but the three-drug protocol remains an option for inmates who request it. Several other States have taken steps towards modifying their protocol.
 
The Supreme Court
 
In recent years the Supreme Court has made “milestone” decisions prohibiting the execution of minors, the mentally ill and confirming the constitutionality of lethal injection. The sentences of 2009 regarded much less generalized themes, although some would seem to suggest themselves as “interlocutors” to the controversies that will surround the death penalty in the years to come.
 
On March 9, 2009, with the sentence in Thompson v. McNeil, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Florida death row inmate William Thompson who claimed that his 32-year imprisonment constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment. It’s an argument which has often been presented by death row inmates and has always been rejected. This time, however, two Justices – John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer – voted in dissent. Justice Stevens called the treatment of the defendant during his 32 years on death row “dehumanizing,” noting that a punishment of death after significant delay is “so totally without penological justification that it results in the gratuitous infliction of suffering.”
Sooner or later, the Supreme Court will find itself discussing an even more clamorous case, that of Romell Broom who, as already mentioned, should have been executed in Ohio on September 15, 2009. After strapping the condemned to a gurney and having tried for two hours to inject needles into veins that were either too difficult to find or too fragile, the execution was suspended. The failure convinced the State of Ohio to modify its execution protocol, but the defense called for an appeal to the Supreme Court sustaining that after the anxiety and stress of the failed execution, a new attempt would constitute “cruel and unusual punishment”.
 
On August 17, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an exceptional move, ordered a U.S. district court in Georgia to hear new testimony in the case of Troy Davis. For the first time in 50 years, the Court has accepted a direct appeal presented to the Court not having come from an inferior court. In fact, in Georgia there is a special anti-terrorism law that limits the rights of appeal for those condemned of, among other things, the murder of a police officer, and Davis is accused of having killed a police officer in 1989. The appeals of Davis were all declared “null” for their delayed presentation as stipulated by the anti-terrorism law, without considering new evidence that would have exonerated the condemned including written declarations from almost all the witnesses that testified against him, revealing that they were pressured by police (Davis, a black man, is accused of killing a white police officer twenty years ago). “The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing,” said Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court. Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, calling the court’s action “extraordinary ... one not taken in nearly 50 years.”
 
On November 30, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a sign of the times for a nation at war on two fronts, unanimously overturned the death sentence of a Florida veteran whose “combat service unfortunately left him a traumatized, changed man,” as the Court put it in Porter v. McCollum, involving Korean war veteran George Porter. This decision appears to be the first in which the court cited “post-traumatic stress disorder” from military combat as the kind of crucial evidence that calls for leniency. He was charged with the October 1986 shooting and killing of his ex-girlfriend Evelyn Williams and her new boyfriend Walter Burrows. There was little doubt of his guilt. But his jury was never told, and his appointed lawyer did not know, of his valiant military service more than 3 decades earlier.
 
Exonerations and Commutations
 
“Exonerated” is a technical term that, in the U.S. justice system, indicates an individual convicted in the first degree but absolved on appeal. As is well noted, appeals in the United States are not one-time, unrepeatable events, but can be presented every time the defense feels that it has discovered new elements relevant to exonerating the condemned. It is not rare that certain “appeals” can be presented 20 years or more after initial sentencing. In some cases, the “exonerated” are obviously innocent (in cases where DNA evidence proves the guilt of someone else, for instance), in other cases, there is dismissal on appeal for “lack of evidence” or because, after so many years from the actual crime, the Public Prosecutor no longer has credible witnesses to testify.
In 2009, nine men on death row were released from prison, bringing the total number of “exonerated” to 139 from 1973 to December 31, 2009.
Three were absolved: Daniel Wade Moore (white) in Alabama; Herman Lindsey (black) in Florida; Nathson Fields (black) in Illinois. The other 6 had charges against them dropped by Public Prosecutors: Ronald Kitchen (black) in Illinois; Yancy Douglas (black) in Oklahoma; Paris Powell (black) in Oklahoma; Paul House (white) in Tennessee; Michael Toney (white) in Texas; Robert Springsteen (white) in Texas.
 
Besides complete exonerations, 3 condemned received commutations to life imprisonment thanks to political interventions.
On February 12, 2009, in Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland commuted Jeffrey D. Hill’s death sentence to a term of 25 years to life.
On May 19, 2010, in Oklahoma, Governor Brad Henry granted “clemency” to Richard Tandy Smith and commuted his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On June 4, 2010, in Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland commuted Richard Nields’ death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
 
On July 22, 2009, the Innocence Project released a new report pointing to problems with eyewitness identifications in criminal cases. The report, “Reevaluating Lineups: Why Witnesses Make Mistakes and How to Reduce the Chance of a Misidentification,” states that over 175 people (including some who were sentenced to death) have been wrongfully convicted based, in part, on eyewitness misidentification and later proven innocent through DNA testing. But DNA testing is not a solution to the problem since it is only available in 5-10% of all criminal cases, according to the report. The findings in the report specified that in 38% of the misidentification cases, multiple eyewitnesses misidentified the same innocent person; fifty-three percent of the misidentification cases, where race is known, involved cross-racial misidentifications; in 50% of the misidentification cases, eyewitness testimony was the central evidence used against the defendant (without other corroborating evidence like confessions, forensic science or informant testimony).
 
The Cost of the Death Penalty
 
Besides questions of judicial error, which have been debated heatedly in recent years, is the question of “cost.” As is well known, in contrast to the European systems of justice, in the United States the various courts have very precise budgets which must be accounted for to the last cent. If prosecutors wish to try cases involving the death sentence they must provide more evidence, more lab results, more testimony and the State must provide the accused with better legal counsel. This all has its costs, which increase in successive phases of the legal process, because those who risk death have a right to increased free legal assistance, lab analysis to contrast that of the Prosecution (at cost to the State), and to hire expert witnesses (also at cost to the State) and to present a series of appeals and recourses that are not available to those who risk imprisonment. This means that when prosecutors begin death penalty cases, they start a process which drains funds from the State, and that, often, because of these expenses, there are less funds for other activities.
In many interviews with politicians and in bills presented in numerous States, the problems related to the “cost of the death penalty” came under focus with consideration of an alternative: giving up on capital punishment, which usually involves people for which there is already ample proof for conviction and using the money saved to solve cases where criminals have yet to be identified.
Studies have calculated that approximately 50% of the death sentences handed down eventually are transformed into sentences of life imprisonment after the appeals process. These percentages do not include exonerations, and therefore cannot be attributed to errors of justice, but instead indicate a waste of public funds by the judicial process. The suspicion is that district attorneys, who often aim for political careers, seek to try death penalty cases for personal prestige, regardless of the costs. Other studies have shown, even in cases where the death sentence “holds,” keeping a person in prison for life costs ten times less than keeping someone on death row for a few years and then putting them to death. Of course, there is always the media to show that the family of the victim after an execution is “very satisfied and finally relieved,” but to this, which always helps politicians garner consensus, some associations of victims’ families are answering by saying that, in the interest of the victims, it would be better to direct funds to “cold cases,” those thousands of unsolved cases that present themselves every year. The satisfaction of some dozens of victims’ families who get to see “their perpetrator” put to death comes at the cost of thousands of families who won’t see “their perpetrator” brought to justice because there are no funds to look for them. This “quantitative” reasoning, as could be expected from American culture, is having success, and many politicians traditionally in favor of the death penalty are starting to change their minds. The question of “cost” is bound to become more compelling in the years to come and, together with the question of errors of justice, should bring about important changes.
 
Doing away with capital punishment can potentially save States in the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars annually, according to a new study released by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) on October 20, 2009.
Richard Dieter, author of the study and DPIC’s director, assesses the data in the following way: “It is doubtful in today’s economic climate that any legislature would introduce the death penalty if faced with the reality that each execution would cost taxpayers 25 million dollars, or that the State might spend more than 100 million dollars over several years and produce few or no executions. Further down the road, only 1 in 10 of the death sentences handed down may result in an execution. Hence, the cost to the State to reach that one execution is 30 million dollars.” The number of death sentences handed down in the United States has dropped from roughly 300 a year in the 1990s to 115 a year more recently. Executions are falling off at the same rate, the report says. In the meantime, some 3,300 inmates remain on death row. “The death penalty is turning into a very expensive form of life without parole,” said Richard Dieter.
A 2008 study in California found that the State was spending $137 million a year on capital cases. A comparable system that instead sentenced the same offenders to life without parole would cost $11.5 million, says the DPIC report, citing the study’s estimates. New York spent $170 million over nine years on capital cases before repealing the death penalty. No executions were carried out there. New Jersey spent $253 million over 25 years with no executions. That State also repealed capital punishment. Some officials may be tempted to try to cut capital-punishment costs, notes the DPIC report, but many of those costs reflect Supreme Court-mandated protections at the trial and appeals-court levels. In Maryland, a comprehensive cost study by the Urban Institute estimated the extra costs to taxpayers for death penalty cases prosecuted between 1978 and 1999 to be $186 million. Based on the 5 executions carried out in the State, this translates to a cost of $37 million per execution. In the cost study conducted by Duke University, the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the costs of a non-death penalty system imposing a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life. Between 1973 and 1999, only 3 of the 89 death-penalty trials in Nebraska resulted in an execution. Those death-penalty cases cost a total of $45 million, according to a State legislative study. In Tennessee, death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment, according to a new report released by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. In its review of death penalty expenses, the State of Kansas concluded that capital cases are 70% more expensive than comparable non-death penalty cases. The study counted death penalty case costs through to execution and found that the median death penalty case costs $1.26 million. Non-death penalty cases were counted through to the end of incarceration and were found to have a median cost of $740,000. Florida is spending approximately $51 million per year on the death penalty, amounting to a cost of $24 million for each execution it carries out.
 
The police has also taken a surprising stance. In April 2010, in California, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) pointed out that in a State that is spending $137 million per year on the death penalty, many homicide investigations have been put on hold due to a budget crisis in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is forcing officers to suspend work on their cases and take days or weeks off because of new overtime limits. In March, the number of hours that officers had to take off was equivalent to removing 290 officers from the police force, reported the Los Angeles Times on April 12, 2010. California has the largest death row in the country and needs a new facility that may cost another $400 million, on top of the yearly costs of capital punishment. Los Angeles County had the most death sentences in the country in 2009.
 
Yet the most surprising position comes from families of victims. As already discussed, in Colorado an abolitionist law failed to pass by only one vote. It had the full support of Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons (FOHVAMP), an association that represents the families of over 500 homicide victims whose cases have yet to be solved. FOHVAMP believes the death penalty is a waste of taxpayers’ money, and it is no deterrent to those who contemplate murder. “We propose to eliminate the death penalty and use those funds to investigate our unsolved murders,” FOHVAMP’s director Howard Morton said. The last execution in Colorado was in 1997, and was the only execution in more than four decades. From the point of view of the victim, explains Morton, catching more killers would be a more effective deterrent than capital punishment and a better use of State funds, because the small satisfaction gained by some people as a result of sporadic executions that are actually carried out pales in regard to the absolute uncertainty and, often, fear, that accompanies the families of the over 1,300 victims whose cases remain to be solved.
 
The Relation between Crime and Punishment
 
A survey conducted of the principle exponents of the most important criminological associations in the United States (Radelet & Lacock, 2009), shows that 88% believe that executions are not a deterrent to homicides, 5% believe that they are a deterrent and 7% are undecided.
According to results of a recent poll of 500 police chiefs nationwide, 57 % of the chiefs polled said they agreed with the statement that the death penalty does little to prevent violent crimes because perpetrators rarely consider the consequences when engaged in violence. They suggest more efficient use of resources – such as boosting funding for drug and alcohol abuse programs.
 
The Uniform Crime Report for 2008, released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in September 2009, showed a decline in the national murder rate. The rate dropped 4.7% in 2008 compared to 2007. Despite a regional decline, the South still has the highest murder rate among the four geographic regions: 6.6 murders per 100,000 people, higher than the national rate of 5.4. The Northeast still maintains the lowest murder rate at 4.2. There were 16,272 murders or non-negligent man-slaughters in 2008, according to the report. The South has accounted for over 80% of executions since 1976 (971 of 1,176 executions), while the Northeast accounted for less than 1% (4 of 1,176). Of the 20 states with the highest murder rates in the country, all of them had the death penalty in 2008. Blacks and whites were victims of murder in about equal numbers in 2008, with each accounting for about 48% of murder victims. In death penalty cases resulting in executions, however, 78% of the victims in the underlying murder where white.
Studies have shown that defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim in the underlying murder was white than if the victim was black.
 
Opinion Polls
 
In recent years, opinion polls show a basic ambivalence: when given a simple “yes” or “no” to whether one supports the death penalty, the answer “yes” maintains favor, and its decline, year by year, is slow. Instead, when opinion polls include a question offering life imprisonment without parole, things change drastically. Many people are “on principle” in favor of the death penalty, however, when asked to reflect on the possibility of innocent people being put to death, they feel that life imprisonment without parole is more appropriate. When adding those opposed to the death penalty “conventionally” to those, who, while approving of the death penalty in principle, but opting for life imprisonment without parole, the percentage against the actual practice of the death penalty represents a healthy majority. It is a subtle difference, but it is safe to say that in the U.S. the percentage in favor of the death penalty “on principle” is slow in decreasing, while the percentage of those “contrary in practice” is growing rapidly.
 
The Gallup Poll, a multinational survey, has recorded the United States’ opinion on the death penalty since 1936. It is a principle point of reference at the national level in the United States. Gallup’s 2009 Crime Survey, based on telephone interviews with 1,013 adult U.S. nationals, aged 18 and older, conducted on October 14, 2009, finds that 65% of Americans continue to support the use of the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, while 31% oppose it – continuing a trend that has shown little change over the last six years. The current 65% support level is roughly equal with what has been measured for most of this decade. Gallup’s earliest reading, in 1936, found that 59% of Americans supported the use of the death penalty. The all-time high level of 80% support came in September 1994, at a time when Americans most often cited crime as the most important problem facing the nation. This year’s update also shows that nearly half (49%) of Americans say the death penalty is not imposed often enough. Twenty-four percent say it is imposed “about the right amount,” while 20% say it is imposed too often – a percentage that has been only as high as 23% in recent years. Apparently, this data contrasts with the fact that 59% are also agreed that “at least one innocent person has been put to death in the last 5 years.” As usual, Gallup research has found that support for the death penalty is lower if Americans are offered an explicit alternative – “life imprisonment, with absolutely no possibility of parole.” (47% said they preferred the death penalty to life imprisonment; 48% favored life imprisonment). The death penalty is favored by most Republicans nationwide (81%), but it also receives the general support of a solid majority of independents (67%). Support for and opposition to the death penalty are roughly even among Democrats (48% for and 47% against).
 
Japan: No Executions Since the New Government Enters Office
 
The escalation of executions seen in Japan over the last few years may be abating due to the launch of the new government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, in September 2009. No executions have taken place since then, under Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. At the time of her appointment, Chiba called for a public debate on the death penalty.
Prior to the change of government in September, seven inmates were hanged in Japan in 2009. Less than half the number in 2008, when a total of 15 inmates have been executed in 2008, the most in a single year since 1999 when the government started announcing the number of executions, and the highest total since 1975 when Japanese authorities hanged 17 people. In 2007, 9 people were executed in Japan, compared to 4 in 2006. This represents an unprecedented escalation, considering that from 1998 to 2005 there were only 16 executions, an average of two a year.
Japan had a de facto moratorium on executions for 15 months until 2006 because the then-justice minister, Seiken Sugiura, said the death penalty went against his Buddhist beliefs.
There were 34 death sentences handed down in 2009.
 
The government maintained a maximum reserve regarding executions until December of 2007, when, with the first execution of the Fukuda government, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama broke with the tradition of not publicizing them and announced the names and crimes of the three convicts being executed. The tradition of not carrying out executions while the Diet (Japanese Parliament) is in session in an attempt to avoid unnecessary controversies was also broken. Each of the four series of executions, decided upon by the first Fukuda governments and carried out between December 2007 and June 2008, were done while the legislature was in session.
 
The death penalty in Japan is provided for 13 crimes, but, in practice, is applied only to homicide cases.
Death is by hanging: the detainee, hooded and tied, is placed over a trap-door which gives way without warning.
Typically, the accused is not informed of the date of their execution until the actual day of their hanging. Because prisoners are advised of their execution only one hour beforehand, prisoners are unable to see family members or make final appeals. Family members and lawyers are generally notified after the execution, at which even lawyers are not allowed to be present.
The prisoners are held in small cells which are monitored by closed circuit cameras 24 hours a day. Speaking to other prisoners is prohibited. Apart from visits to the toilet, prisoners are not allowed to move around the cell and must remain seated. Death row prisoners are less likely than other prisoners to have access to fresh air and light and more likely to suffer additional punishments because of behavior that may infringe upon the strict rules imposed on them.
Detainees’ contact with the outside world is limited to highly supervised visits with family members and lawyers. Contact with family members, lawyers and others can be restricted to as little as five minutes at a time. Hobbies and television are forbidden except for the possession of three books. More books can be borrowed with the permission of the warden, but they cannot contain material deemed to “subvert authority.” Physical exercise is limited to two brief weekly sessions outside the four-walled, single tiny-windowed cell.
“These inhuman conditions increase a prisoner’s anxiety and anguish and in many cases push prisoners over the edge and into a state of mental illness,” said James Welsh, Amnesty International’s Health Coordinator and lead author of the report “Hanging By a Thread: Mental Health and the Death Penalty in Japan.” Amnesty International’s report, published on September 10, 2009, highlights five cases where mental illness has been reported, including two cases with extensive medical documentation.
According to the report, Japan is breaching its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its treatment of prisoners on death row. Japan has agreed to international standards that require that those with a serious mental illness be protected from the death penalty. The country is contravening those standards by its failure to prevent the execution of prisoners who are mentally ill.
As of December 31, 2009, 106 people were on death row in Japan waiting to find out if their government would put them to death. The exact number of death row prisoners with mental illness is unknown, because of the secrecy around the death penalty and prisoners’ health, combined with a lack of scrutiny by independent mental health experts.
 
Upon entering office in August of 2007, Minister of Justice Kunio Hatoyama promised to “empty out death row.” During his stay in office, which lasted one year, Hatoyama ordered 13 executions, a record number which earned him the nickname of the ‘grim reaper’ from the media. After the execution of three men on December 7, 2007, the first in which Japanese authorities announced the names of the executed, a source at the Ministry of Justice felt it necessary to specify that the decision to provide such information was taken by the Minister of Justice “to gain popular support for the death penalty.”
 
On January 29, 2009, Japan hanged four convicted murderers, officials said, carrying out the country’s first executions of the year. The executed inmates were Yukinari Kawamura, 44, his accomplice Tetsuya Sato, 39, Shojiro Nishimoto, 32, and Tadashi Makino, 58. Authorities hanged the four in Tokyo, Nagoya (two people) and Fukuoka, leaving another 95 people on death row in Japan. In a sign of Japan’s commitment to the death penalty, three of the inmates were executed within three years of finalization of their sentences. Japan often waits 10 years or more before hanging death row inmates. “These are heinous cases which destroyed precious human lives,” then-Justice Minister Eisuke Mori told reporters. “I ordered the executions after cautious examination,” he said.
On July 28, 2009, Japan hanged three inmates convicted of multiple murders including a Chinese national and a middle-aged man who found his victims through an Internet suicide site, Justice Minister Eisuke Mori said. Hiroshi Maeue, 40, was executed in Osaka for killing three people in 2005. Yukio Yamaji, 25, also executed in Osaka, raped and then stabbed two sisters to death, stole their money and set fire to their apartment in 2005. Chinese national Chen Detong, 41, was executed in Tokyo for killing three of his compatriots and injuring three more in Kawasaki, southwest of Tokyo, in 1999.
 
On September 16, 2009, Yukio Hatoyama, a Christian Baptist, was elected by Parliament as the new Prime Minister of Japan. In the elections of August 30, the Democratic Party was able to gain an absolute majority in the Lower House, after more than 50 years of nearly unbroken rule by conservatives.
On September 17, new Japanese Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said she will deal carefully with death penalty cases and called for a wide-ranging debate on whether capital punishment should be abolished. At her inaugural news conference following the first meeting of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s new Cabinet, Chiba said that it is her “personal feeling that it would be good” if there were moves toward a moratorium on executions or abolition of the death penalty. But she added: “The fact remains that the justice minister is tasked with professional duties under the law. I am fully aware (that a justice minister) is obliged institutionally to deal with executions.” Chiba, a former lawyer and member of the Parliamentary League for the Abolition of the Death Penalty went on to say that “the death penalty involves a person’s life, so I will cautiously handle (the cases) based on the duties of the justice minister.”
Any move toward carrying out executions could also trigger resistance from other members of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s Cabinet. Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People’s New Party, leads the anti-death penalty league, and Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, also is staunchly opposed to capital punishment. Nobuto Hosaka, Secretary General of the Death Penalty Opponents’ Parliamentary League, is hopeful about the new justice minister. “I would think she will probably institute a moratorium. No doubt a brake will be put on executions,” he said.
On September 30, 2009, the Justice Minister once again declared the necessity for a debate in the country over the death penalty and increased transparency regarding the issue.
On December 2, 2009, Financial Services and Postal Reform Minister Shizuka Kamei said the Japanese Government would work to abolish the death penalty. He added that “the journey isn’t easy and the road is steep,” considering that 80% of the population is in favor of capital punishment. Kamei, a member of Yukio Hatoyama’s Democratic Government, was guest of honor at a conference on the death penalty from the European and Asian perspective. The conference was promoted in Tokyo by the European Union delegation in Japan, the Swedish Embassy and Waseda University. “It is the first time that a minister has expressed this in public,” secretary of the Parliamentary League for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Hirotami Murakashi, told ANSA. The group has hundreds of members, including politicians and senators, from every political division. The Minister, who is the President of the League, explained that there are conditions “for a new and extraordinary era and for the writing of a new chapter of human rights in Japan.” Criticizing the politics of ex-liberal democratic premier Junichiro Koizumi, Kamei said “We must go further and work for a better life.” Hatoyama launched the concept of ‘brotherhood’, and furthermore there is a new Justice Minister, Keiko Chiba, who formally left the League after becoming a minister.” They are all conditions for a de facto moratorium, the first step would be to approve a law that introduces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. “It would be a milestone because at this point life imprisonment makes the death penalty useless. I will continue to do my best to abolish the death penalty, in line with the international trend.”
After just eight months in office, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stepped down on June 2, 2010, amid tensions over a controversial US military base on the island of Okinawa. Two days later, Japan’s parliament elected Naoto Kan as Prime Minister, and on June 8 Kan named his new cabinet, keeping 11 of the 17 ministers in place, including Justice Minister Keiko Chiba.
 
On February 7, 2010, the Japanese government said over 85% of Japanese believe that the death penalty is necessary under certain circumstances. The poll showed that only 5.7% of the Japanese oppose the death penalty. The support for the death penalty has grown by 4 percentage points since 2004. The poll cited heinous crimes and the fear of rising crime after the abolition of capital punishment among key factors.
 
Botswana
 
The death penalty has been on the books in Botswana since its independence from Great Britain in 1966. Since then, there have been 43 people put to death.
Capital crimes include homicide, piracy, treason, attempting to take the life of a head of State and military crimes such as mutiny and desertion in the face of the enemy.
The number of executions, often carried out in secret, has always been low, one or, at most, two a year. For the first time in many years, there were no executions in 2004 and 2005. Between 2006 and 2009 there were four executions, one a year. Only 2 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
Executions cannot be carried out without a signed mandate from the President, but no President has ever granted clemency.
On October 31, 2008, President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama said the Botswanan Government does not intend to change its current stance on the death penalty. This, he said, did not mean that the government enjoyed ‘doing it’ but it was the only way to discourage people from taking other individuals’ lives. “The fear of facing death penalty can make a would-be killer to think twice about murdering somebody,” he said. “Nobody wants to die.”
On April 7, 2009, the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs in Botswana, Peter Siele, told Parliament that the role of executioner had not been localized. Gaborone South MP Akanyang Magama asked if it was traumatic for warders “whose core business is to rehabilitate prisoners, to again be called upon to execute them.” Siele said the Department of Prisons and rehabilitation has a continuous counseling program for officials involved.
On December 18, 2009, a Zimbabwean man was hanged in Botswana, after he was charged with four counts of murder. Gerald Dube killed two children and a maid together with his employer who was his cousin in Francistown on September 13, 2001.
 
Indonesia
 
In Indonesia, 2009 was the first year without an execution since 2004.
In 2008, ten people were executed, the highest number in recent years. At least one person was put to death in Indonesia in 2007, while three men were executed in 2006, and two people were put to death in 2005.
 
Since its independence in 1945, Indonesia has executed as many as 62 people.
Executions were relatively rare in Indonesia until 2004, when under the scope of a national campaign against drug abuse and drug dealing launched by then-President Megawati Sukarnoputri in view of October elections, three foreigners were shot for trafficking heroin.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has overseen a steep increase in the country’s use of the death penalty. Nineteen people have been executed since Yudhoyono took over in 2004, compared to a total of just four executions under his predecessors Megawati Sukarnoputri and Abdurrahman Wahid. Since Yudhoyono was elected, Indonesia’s courts have sentenced 57 people to death, including three Australians.
 
In mid-2009 the Attorney General’s Office in Indonesia reportedly disclosed that there were 111 prisoners on death row, 56 of them for drug offences, including 41 foreigners from 16 countries. Nigeria tops the list with 12 inmates, followed by Australia with 6 and China with 5. Drug traffickers made up of 56 of the total death row inmates, while the remaining 53 comprised murderers and terrorists.
On March 16, 2009, Indonesia’s Supreme Court prepared a new edict giving prosecutors the right to speed the execution of death row inmates. Supreme Court judge Joko Sarwoko said he drafted the new edict. “The prosecution must inform the death row inmates that their remaining legal avenue must be exercised. If, after the proper time limit, the person does not exercise his rights, the prosecutors are entitled to execute the person.” Judge Sarwoko said he believed the appropriate time period was “one or two months.”
 
The penal code provides for the death penalty in cases of murder, crimes involving illegal arms, corruption, drugs and terrorism.
On the basis of Indonesian law, requests for clemency are automatic and are made by the courts themselves when not made by the condemned.
Generally, executions are carried out by firing squad early in the morning on deserted beaches or in the middle of remote woods. The condemned is informed of their execution only 72 hours in advance. With their head covered by a hood and wearing a white shirt with a red mark at heart-level, the condemned faces a platoon whose members – a dozen – are lined up in front of the accused at a short distance. Some of the rifles are loaded with blanks to prevent anyone from knowing who exactly fired the fatal shot. After the shooting, a doctor controls the bullet-riddled body for remaining signs of life. If the condemned is still alive, the commander of the platoon fires a final shot into the head of the prisoner.
 
On September 14, 2009, Indonesia’s Aceh province passed a new law making adultery punishable by stoning to death. Under the legislation, that was passed unanimously by Aceh’s regional legislature, married Muslims or non-Muslims convicted of adultery can be sentenced to death by stoning, while unmarried people can be sentenced to 100 lashes with a cane. The controversial ordinance was endorsed in a plenary meeting two weeks before a new legislature led by the moderate Aceh Party was sworn in following a heavy defeat of conservative Muslim parties in September 2009 local direct elections. The Aceh Party said it would review the law once the new provincial assembly was sworn in.
On September 28, 2009, Indonesian religious leaders criticized the by-law passed by Aceh’s provincial legislative council to stone adulterers to death. Amidhan, head of the national Islamic scholars’ council, said “the bylaw must recognize and respect human rights, and must not be in conflict with national laws and the State’s 1945 Constitution.” “I do not agree with the regulation because it is against human dignity,” said Father Sebastianus Eka.
On October 27, 2009, Aceh government spokesman Abdul Hamid Zein said the Islamic law authorizing the stoning to death of adulterers in Aceh province would be reviewed. “Acehnese Governor Irwandi Yusuf has refused to sign the by-law because of the stoning (provision), which is identical to a death sentence,” Zein told AFP. “From the beginning the Acehnese government hasn’t agreed with the stoning law. We hope the parliament will discuss the law again.”
 
India
 
For the fifth year in a row, India has not carried out a death sentence.
India’s first reported execution since 1995 took place on August 14, 2004 in Calcutta. India keeps no official statistics on the number of death sentences and executions, nor on the number of people on death row. According to the Report “Lethal Lottery: The Death Penalty in India,” brought out by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Amnesty International, released on September 13, 2008, between 1950 and 2006, the Supreme Court has passed over 700 death sentences.
According to Amnesty International, at least 50 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
In India, death-penalty offences include conspiracy against the Indian Government; desertion or attempted desertion; murder or attempted murder; inducement to suicide of a minor or a mentally-retarded person.
Special courts applying the Terrorist Affected Areas Special Courts Act, 1984, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002, were empowered to impose the death sentence for terrorism. The latter law, which had broadened the scope of the death penalty, was repealed by Parliament on December 9, 2004.
 
Death sentences must be confirmed by the Supreme Court, which itself ruled on May 9, 1980, in the landmark judgment “Bachan Singh v State of Punjab”, that the death sentence as a punishment should be given only in the “rarest of rare” cases.
On August 11, 2008, in the case of Murli Manohar Mishra alias Swami Shraddhananda, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that in order to minimize the use of death penalty, it has the power to fix tenure of life imprisonment while substituting it for death sentence. A bench comprising Justices B N Agrawal, G S Singhvi and Aftab Alam, while substituting life imprisonment for the death sentence, ruled that the appellant Murli Manohar Mishra alias Swami Shraddhananda shall remain in jail till death. The high court in its judgment noted, “further formalization of a special category of sentence, though for an extremely few number of cases, shall have the great advantage of having the death penalty on the statute book but to actually use it as little as possible, really in the rarest of the rare cases.” Swami was sentenced to death for burying his wife alive in the backyard of his house after administering some sedatives to her.
On August 18, 2009, the Supreme Court said judges, while awarding the death penalty in accord with the 1980 ‘Bachan Singh’ judgment, appear to have lost sight of its essence – “the lesser alternative (life imprisonment) is unquestionably foreclosed” and “objective fairness standards.” These two ingredients must essentially be fulfilled by judges before awarding the death penalty, but have not been complied with diligently in the recent past, said a Bench of Justices S B Sinha and M K Sharma. Concerned by the varying interpretation of the “rarest of rare case” guidelines laid down in Bachan Singh judgment, the high court said the time had come for an attempt towards deciphering a common view on this to usher in “some objectivity to the precedent on death penalty which is crumbling down under the weight of disparate interpretations.”
The judgment came in a case in which the high court awarded a life sentence to four members of a gang responsible for killing three “Shiv Sena” workers in Mumbai in March 1999 but rejected the Mahrashtra government’s appeal for a death sentence for the three of them.
It took note of the concern of legal commentators that while the rich and powerful never got the extreme penalty, “it is invariably the marginalized and destitute who suffer the extreme penalty ultimately.”
 
On February 10, 2010, the Supreme Court held that long incarceration and socio-economic factors leading to crime are relevant and mitigating considerations for commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment. Justices P. Sathasivam and H.L. Dattu commuted the death sentences of Mulla and Guddu for causing the death of five agricultural laborers for ransom on December 22, 1995 in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district. The Bench said: “In the present case, the convicts belong to an extremely poor background and one thing is clear – that they have committed these heinous crimes for want of money. Though we are shocked by their deeds, we find no reason why they cannot be reformed over a period of time.” One of the appellants was 65 years old and the other 64, and they had already been in prison for more than 14 years, the Bench pointed out. “Despite the nature of the crime, the mitigating circumstances can allow us to substitute the death penalty with a life sentence. However, the punishment of life must extend to their full life, subject to any remission by the government for good reasons.”
On May 20, 2010, with a sentence that seems to be in line with India’s Supreme Court, the Gauhati High Court in India commuted the death sentence of rickshaw puller Sujit Biswas, 24, to life imprisonment. A Division Bench comprising Justices Amitava Roy and P.K. Mushahary found that the death penalty was not an appropriate punishment for the rape and murder of a three-year-old in the city’s Nepali Mandir locality in October 2007, as the appellant “is young and lives in poverty.”
 
On September 16, 2009, a Union Minister called for a rethinking of the issue of capital punishment. “There are few countries left in the world that still take revenge on killers by killing them. We still have the death sentence,” Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.
On November 9, 2009, Justice Ajit Singh Bains, President of the Punjab Human Rights organization, appealed for the abolition of capital punishment in India. He was speaking at a function organized by the Punjab Sikh Council to mobilize public opinion for the abolition of the death sentence.
 
 
 
 
 
 
EUROPE: DEATH PENALTY FREE BUT FOR BELARUS AND RUSSIA
 
Europe would be a death penalty free continent if not for Belarus, a country that has continued to execute its citizens regularly, unlike many of the former Soviet-bloc States. The situation in Russia is different for its commitment to abolish the death penalty as member of the Council of Europe, and for a 1996 moratorium on executions that is still in effect.
As far as the rest of Europe is concerned, with the exception of Latvia which retains the death penalty for crimes during wartime, all other European countries have abolished the death penalty in all circumstances.
In July 2009 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) adopted a resolution “on a moratorium on the death penalty and towards its abolition.”
 
Belarus
 
The death penalty in Belarus is envisaged for 14 crimes, ranging from murder to terrorism, crimes against humanity and a number of military crimes. Article 24 of the Constitution reads that “the death penalty can be applied as an exceptional measure of punishment for grave crimes in accordance with the law and only under court sentences until it is abolished.”
Information on the death penalty is still considered a State secret. Convict’s relatives are not informed of the date or place of execution even after the event, the body is not returned to the family and the place of burial is not disclosed.
 
By unofficial estimates, up to 400 people were executed in Belarus since 1991. According to official data, more than 160 death penalties have been carried from 1997 to 2008. Only one condemned person is known to have been pardoned by Alexander Lukashenko’s decree.
In 2009 there were no executions, but on March 22, 2010 two men were executed for murder. Four people were executed in 2008 and 1 in 2007.
Regarding events of previous years, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) gives official statistics which indicate that there were 5 executions between June 30, 2005 and June 30, 2006. Keeping sight of the fact that the Chairman of the Supreme Court, Valyantsin Sukala, declared on February 8, 2006 that 2 people were executed in 2005, and given the data of OSCE, it follows that 3 people were executed in 2006. According to Belarusian Interior Minister, Uladzimir Navumaw, “five people” had been sentenced to death and executed in 2004. According to statistics provided by OSCE, Belarus executed at least one person in 2003, 5 in 2002, 7 in 2001, and 10 in 2000. According to then-General Prosecutor Oleg Bozhelko, 14 death sentences were carried out in 1999. OSCE data for 1998 records 40 executions.
 
In a 1996 referendum, which was not recognized by the international community due to serious irregularities, the majority of voters (80.44%) voiced their support for the continued use of the death penalty. Partly due to the country’s stance on the death penalty, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) suspended Belarus’ special guest status in January 1997. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has also been sharply criticized in the West for his authoritarian rule.
The Belarusian authorities did not take any decisive measures aimed at the abolition of the death penalty or a moratorium. The discussion on this issue was mainly restricted to discussion of the perspective of Belarus joining the Council of Europe and the abolition of death penalty as one of conditions for this political step.
At the same time, sociologists paint a considerably more humane view of Belarus’ citizens on the death penalty. In particular, according to the information of the national survey that was held in September 2008 by the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, 44.2% of the respondents spoke out for abolition of capital punishment in the Republic of Belarus, while 47.8% were for its preservation. It means that references to the referendum that was held twelve years ago no longer reflect the real public opinion and are used to justify the reluctance of the authorities to take political action.
On January 21, 2009, Prosecutor General of Belarus Grigory Vasilevich told a press conference that Belarus should abolish the death penalty in its pursuit to join the Council of Europe. “If we are moving towards joining the Council of Europe, we should stick to the rules of this organization,” Vasilevich said.
On March 6, 2009, Yevgeny Smirnov, Chairman of the Legislative Commission of the National Assembly, said the Belarusian authorities are unlikely to agree to abolish the death penalty in the country, but a Russian-style death penalty moratorium would be an acceptable option. Smirnov added: “Especially as it has already effectively become valid.” “If our courts have achieved this number of verdicts – two a year, a moratorium can probably be introduced,” Smirnov said.
On March 11, 2009, the chairman of the Constitutional Court of Belarus, Pyotr Miklashevich, told a news conference: “It is the President and Parliament that can initiate the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus.” However, he added, “The clause on the death penalty is contained in the first section of the constitution which is under special protection. Any amendments or addenda to it are only possible via referendum.”
On March 25, 2009, Deputy Head of the Belarus Supreme Court Valery Kalinkovich was quoted by Interfax as saying “We are practically one step away from banning the death penalty.” At the same time, Kalinkovich said the death penalty issue was out of the Supreme Court’s competence.
On August 19, 2009, Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich stated that grave crimes should be punished with the death penalty. “The measure is severe, but fair,” declared Vasilevich at a press-conference in Minsk.
On October 10, 2009, the World Day against the Death Penalty, the Council of Europe’s Information Centre in Minsk launched a campaign on the abolition of the death penalty. The director of the Information Centre, Ihar Horski, stated that a 45-second TV clip would be demonstrated on Belarusian TV channels within the framework of the campaign. Its essence is that death penalty is not a deterrent for criminals. This clip will also be demonstrated on liquid-crystal displays in administrative buildings and business-centers in Minsk. The public service advertizing is to be placed on billboards in the capital and in regional capitals as well as universities. The EU and the Council of Europe have many times called upon the Belarusian authorities to abolish the death penalty or to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Belarus. Besides, in June the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution according to which the Belarusian Parliament could regain its Special Guest status in the PACE if Belarus imposed a moratorium on the death penalty.
On November 30, 2009, President Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus would soon launch an information campaign to press for the abolition of death penalty. “We will hold parliamentary hearings and discuss the issue in the media. The people will decide whether the death penalty should be abolished or not,” Lukashenko told the Italian newspaper La Stampa. The overwhelming majority of Belarusian citizens supported the death penalty in a referendum in 1996, Lukashenko said. Only a new referendum can change things, he noted. “If we hold a new referendum right now, it will have the same results as the previous one,” Lukashenko said.
On March 23, 2010, the Council of Europe denounced the execution of two death row inmates, Andrey Zhuk, 25, and Vasil Yuzepchuk, 30, who were executed by shooting in Belarus. “The death penalty is barbaric and degrading, and this is why it has been abolished by the Council of Europe through Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights,” the chair of the Committee of Ministers, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe said in a joint statement. The Council of Europe “strongly condemns” the executions, the Council’s statement said. “The authorities of Belarus are the only remaining ones in Europe who execute people,” it said. “The recent executions, if confirmed, are a serious setback to our aspiration to bringing Belarus closer to European values.”
On May 14, 2010, at a court in Grodno, Judge Pyotr Bandyk sentenced Aleg Gryshkautsou (29) and Andrei Burdyka (28), to death for the October 2009 murder of two women and a man during an armed robbery. They allegedly stole $520 and torched the victims’ house.
 
Russia
 
The situation in Russia is different for its commitment to abolish the death penalty as member of the Council of Europe since February 28, 1996. In August 1996, then-President Boris Yeltsin, in maintaining international obligations, imposed a moratorium on executions, still in effect. However, executions were reportedly carried out between 1996 and 1999 in the Chechen Republic.
The abolition of the death penalty received the constant refusal on the part of the parliament (Duma of the State).
In 1996, Russia signed the Protocol Number Six to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty, but it has not ratified the document yet.
In 2000, the Constitutional Court established that no capital sentences could be handed down until the country’s new jury system was in place nationwide. On December 8, 2006, the Russian Duma approved the extension of the moratorium by three years, fixing its end-date in 2010, instead of 2007, as was formerly established, to earn the necessary time to introduce the jury system to Chechnya in place of a three judge board, as provided for by the Constitutional Court in 2000. This was completed on January 1, 2010.
On November 19, 2009, Russia’s Constitutional Court prolonged a moratorium on the death penalty, which was due to expire on January 1, 2010, until it is banned completely. “This decision is final and shall not be appealed,” court chairman Valery Zorkin said reading out the ruling. Zorkin said the moratorium on executions will be in place until Russian parliament ratifies Protocol 6 to the European Convention banning the death penalty. He said an “irreversible process to abolish capital punishment” is going on in Russia, which is in line with its international commitments and global tendencies.
 
For his part, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has repeatedly called for its abolition, explaining that “The most efficient weapon in the struggle against crime is the inevitability of punishment, and not the cruelty of punishment.” According to the leader of the Kremlin, the only thing required to abolish the death penalty is “general education, it’s necessary that people understand.” The reference is obviously pointed at the fact that according to a survey the majority of Russians would like to see the death penalty re-instated. “However, one mustn’t adhere to populism,” declared Putin, “and I believe that in Russia today there is no need to.”
On September 8, 2009, the Kremlin said Russia would continue to maintain a moratorium on capital punishment. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman Nataliya Timakova said neither the presidential administration nor the Russian judiciary were considering an end to it. Timakova’s comments came in response to a report in the week’s edition of the Russian Newsweek magazine, which claimed that the Kremlin was thinking about lifting the moratorium.
 
On March 23, 2010, Russian State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said Russia has refrained from ratifying Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights that covers the abolition of the death penalty due to terrorist threats. “Certain circumstances do not allow us to do that [ratify the protocol abolishing the death penalty]. This issue has to do with terrorist activities in Russia,” Gryzlov said in a meeting with Andreas Gross and Georgy Frunda, members of the PACE monitoring commission, in the State Duma. Gryzlov reiterated that Russia has fulfilled most of the obligations it assumed when it joined the Council of Europe in 1996. Gryzlov said Russia is ready to continue working on the appropriate report “although some other countries, which in our view are in a worse situation, have stopped monitoring,” Gryzlov told the PACE officials.
On March 31, 2010, Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council upper house of Russian parliament, declared to not support the death penalty for terrorists. Mironov told reporters, “The proposal of Lyskov, the chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Judicial and Legal Affairs, for the death penalty for terrorists whose actions caused many deaths is his personal opinion.” The speaker made assurances that “such legislative initiatives are not envisaged” in the Federation Council and “there is no working group on the matter.” As to Mironov’s personal stand, it “remains constant: punishment must be unavoidable.” The speaker holds that there must be life imprisonment for criminals instead of the death penalty, and there must be a supplement to legislation precluding pardon. Life imprisonment “should not be mitigated for any reason, including ill health,” Mironov added. He also pointed out that because of blunders in a number of judicial processes, innocent people may be sentenced to death.
 
Forty-four per cent of Russians think capital punishment should be fully re-instated and applied, according to a Russian Public Opinion Research Centre poll made public on February 19, 2010. Eighteen per cent said the death penalty should be completely abolished, while 29 per cent would preserve the current moratorium.
 
 
 
 
 
ABOLITION, DE FACTO ABOLITION AND MORATORIUMS
 
The worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty by law and de facto of the last ten years was reaffirmed in 2009 and in the first six months of 2010.
After 2008, when 3 countries became total or de facto abolitionist, another 6 joined the list in 2009 and the first six months of 2010.
In April 2009, Burundi adopted a new penal code abolishing the death penalty. In June 2009, Togo’s parliament voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty.
In July of 2009, the President of Kazakhstan promoted a law that limited the death penalty exclusively to crimes of terrorism causing death and for especially grievous crimes committed in time of war.
In July 2009, Trinidad & Tobago has gone more than ten years without practicing the death penalty, establishing itself as a de facto abolitionist country.
As of January 2010, The Bahamas have gone more than ten years without practicing the death penalty, establishing themselves as a de facto abolitionist country.
In January 2010, Mongolia’s President announced a moratorium on the death penalty.
In the United States, on March 18, 2009, New Mexico abolished the death penalty, becoming only the second U.S. State to do so in more than forty years, after New Jersey on December 13, 2007. Connecticut came close to doing so with favorable votes in the State House and Senate, only to have the legislation vetoed by Governor M. Jodi Rell on June 5, 2009.
 
Burundi
 
On April 22, 2009, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza promulgated the new criminal code which abolishes the death penalty and sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for a crime. According to the new law, all prisoners currently sitting on death row will see their sentences commuted.
The new penal code, comprising 620 articles, also incorporates provisions of international law against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, which were not considered offences. The law also brings Burundi into compliance with a provision of the UN Convention against Torture that requires the criminalization of torture under domestic law, and introduces a draft of provisions aimed at protecting women and children against all forms of violence, notably sexual violence. The new criminal laws provide for jail terms ranging from 10 years to life for torture and from 20 years to life for rape.
The negative aspect of the new code is that it makes homosexuality a crime punishable by jail in Burundi. According to Article 567 of the Penal Code, whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex is punished by a prison sentence of three months to two years and a fine of 42 to 84 USD, or one of these penalties. The lower house of Burundi’s parliament in March reversed a Senate vote that rejected an amendment to the new criminal code that would criminalize homosexuality. On March 6 thousands of Burundians took part in a government-organized demonstration to protest the senate’s decision not to criminalize homosexuality.
More than 60 national and international rights groups have slammed the measure making homosexuality a crime. “The government claims to support human rights, but has passed a law that not only violates the right to privacy, but also discriminates against a group of citizens who have been recognized as vulnerable to HIV/AIDS,” said David Nahimana, president of the Burundian human rights organization Ligue Iteka. “These aspects of the Penal Code should be revised immediately.”
On November 21, 2008, the National Assembly of Burundi adopted by 90 votes for, no votes against and 10 abstentions, the new penal code abolishing the death penalty. However, the National Assembly adopted an amendment to the penal code which criminalizes homosexuality. “It is a revolutionary penal law because it abolishes the death penalty for the first time in Burundi,” MP and former Justice Minister Didace Kiganahe said. “This vote required some courage because the lawmakers voted in favor of abolishing the death penalty knowing that their electorate wanted to maintain it,” said Kiganahe, responsible for drafting the new law. Some lawmakers and human rights organizations nevertheless bemoaned that an amendment in the bill outlawing homosexuality tarnished the new law’s success. “Unfortunately, this penal law is also a regression because it now makes homosexuality a criminal offence, whereas it had been tolerated until now,” said MP Catherine Mabobori, who abstained during the vote.
On February 17, 2009, the Senate voted through the reform of Burundi’s criminal code, abolishing the death penalty and rejecting the amendment in the bill outlawing homosexuality. Of the 43 senators present, 36 voted against the provision criminalizing homosexuality, Senate speaker Gervais Rufyikiri said. “I am not disappointed if (the amendment) concerning homosexuality is rejected,” said Justice Minister Jean-Bosco Ndikumana, who was against the proposal.
The senate version went back to the national assembly for adoption but the lower house of Burundi’s parliament in March reversed the Senate vote that rejected the amendment against homosexuality. Under the Burundian constitution, the National Assembly prevails in cases of conflict between the two houses of Parliament.
 
Burundi, like its neighbor Rwanda, has seen several outbreaks of violence between the dominating minority Tutsi ethnic group and the majority Hutus since independence from Belgium in 1962, when it became an independent kingdom. The ethnic conflict worsened in 1993, after the assassination by Tutsi extremists of President Hutu Melchior Ndadaye, the country’s first democratically elected President. Over 500,000 people died, and several hundred-thousand were displaced in the depositions, assassinations, rebellions, massacres and coups that followed.
On August 28, 2000, a peace agreement was signed in Arusha, Tanzania, by nineteen parties including six of the rebel groups. A power-sharing transitional government was inaugurated on November 1, 2001, and as stipulated in the Accord, Tutsi President Pierre Buyoya, who had led the Government for the first 18 month period handed power to his Hutu Vice-President, Domitien Ndayizeye, on April 30, 2003 for the second 18 months of the transition.
In April 2003 Burundi’s transitional national parliament also voted unanimously to recognize the statute of the International Criminal Court, the United Nation’s permanent war crimes court. In January 2005, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up by presidential decree. The Commission was given an initial two-year mandate to investigate political crimes committed between 1962 and 2000.
In March 2005, a new power-sharing constitution designed to satisfy both ethnic Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-led army was approved by popular vote in a referendum. Former Hutu rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza was the sole candidate of presidential elections held in August 2005, the first democratic elections in the country since the start of the civil war.
 
Before the reform of the code that abolished the death penalty, premeditated murder, sorcery, treason, spying, attempt on the Chief of State’s life and cannibalism were crimes punishable by death in Burundi. More than 600 people were sentenced to death for violent crimes committed between 1993 and April 2003.
Sixty-two executions were carried out in 1999. In 2000 two soldiers were executed for murder. There were no executions since 2001.
A local human rights organization stated at the end of 2008 that there were approximately 800 people on death row, whose sentences should now be commuted.
 
Togo
 
On June 23, 2009, Togo’s parliament voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty. Under the new law, convicts condemned to death will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
The law, made up of five articles, affirms the principle of the abolition of the death penalty, establishes its replacement with life imprisonment and calls for the substitution of every reference to the death penalty with “reclusion for life” in all of Togo’s legislation.
The vote of the National Assembly, held at a plenary session presided over by President Hadj Abass Bonfoh, was witnessed by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has been campaigning for a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its total abolition. Addressing the parliament as part of a State visit to the West African country, Zapatero called the vote “a giant step for Togo.” “The Togolese parliament has raised a voice for justice and human dignity,” Zapatero added. And Justice Minister Kokou Tozoun said: “I think that it’s the best decision that we took in this year... we don’t have the right to give death to someone if we know that death is not a good thing to give.”
 
The decision to abolish the death penalty came from the Council of Ministers of Togo on December 10, 2008. “The choice made by the country to set up a healthy justice system that limits judicial mistakes, corrects, educates and guarantees inherent rights to the human person is no longer compatible with the penal law which still maintains the death sentence and thus recognizes for the jurisdictions an absolute, the consequences of which are irremediable,” announced Oulegoh Keyewa, the Togolese Minister for Communication and Culture, reading a statement of the cabinet. “The abolition of the death sentence which is considered as a humiliating, degrading and cruel sentence by the community of nations that respect the rights of the human person to which we belong, imposed itself on the collective conscience of Togo as a moratorium of 30 years, while it continued to be among the penal law,” Oulegoh Keyewa said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had welcomed the decision by Togo to remove the death penalty from its penal code. In a statement she said the abolition of capital punishment in the West African country demonstrates Togo’s respect for the right to life, and Togo is putting in place an “objective justice system that doesn’t resort to violence.”
 
Premeditated murder and plots against the security of the State were capital crimes.
Togo stopped applying the death penalty more than three decades ago. The last executions of people sentenced to death date back to 1978 and the last death sentence was handed down in 2003.
Thirteen people were condemned to death in December 1986, for their part in a failed coup d’état in September 1986. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by then President Gnassingbé Eyadéma in October 1987.
At the time of abolition, there were at least six inmates on death row in Togo.
 
Kazakhstan
 
On May 27, 2009, the Majilis of the Kazakh Parliament approved a draft law “On the introduction of amendments to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the issues of capital punishment” aimed at bringing the current criminal legislation into compliance with the Constitution. It is proposed to impose the death penalty only for crimes of terrorism causing people’s death and for heavy and especially grave crimes committed in time of war, while granting a sentenced person the right to intercede for mercy. The law reduces the number of crimes that carry the death penalty to eight.
On June 24, 2009, with the approval by the Lower House of amendments introduced by the Senate, the new norms were drafted by the Parliament in Astana and sent to President Nursultan Nazarbaev that backed the law on July 10, 2009.
 
Representatives of the Supreme Court, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Defense Ministry, as well as the Committee of National security participated in drafting the reform. The draft law was examined by OSCE independent experts.
An amendment of May 21, 2007 to the Constitution of Kazakhstan abolished the death penalty in all cases, save for acts of terrorism entailing loss of life and for especially grave crimes committed in wartime. The reform was proposed in a joint session of Congress on May 16 called for by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who declared, “Establishing these limits at the Constitutional level, Kazakhstan will become a country with the death penalty virtually abolished.” Nazarbayev added that “capital punishment has not been used in the country for the last four years thanks to the moratorium that I introduced.”
In conforming with the new constitutional norm it was necessary to amend the new Penal Code that came into force on January 1, 1998, reducing death-penalty offences in peacetime from 18 to 3: premeditated murder, genocide and sabotage. The death penalty was retained also for treason in wartime and for 7 other military crimes.
On December 17, 2003, President Nursultan Nazarbayev introduced a moratorium on executions that is to stay in place until the death penalty is completely abolished. Life imprisonment has been in place as the death penalty’s alternative since January 1, 2004.
At least 19 people had been put to death in 2003 before the introduction of the moratorium. The last executions in the country were in November of 2003 when five people were put to death. According to interior ministry data, 32 people were executed in 2001 and 33 in 2002.
 
Trinidad and Tobago
 
Trinidad and Tobago became a “de facto abolitionist” in July 2009, after more than ten years without carrying out a hanging. In fact, the last executions in Trinidad took place on July 28, 1999, when Anthony Briggs and Wenceslaus James were hanged, though the latter had an appeal pending before the organization of American States.
According to Amnesty International, at least 11 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
In August 2008, fifty-two people in Trinidad and Tobago convicted of murder had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment after Justice Nolan Bereaux of the Port-of-Spain High Court ruled in favor of a Constitutional motion brought by the prisoners, that they be removed from Death Row. In a sentence established by Pratt and Morgan of the Privy Council of London, which acts as a final court of appeals for the Caribbean Region, there is a constitutional time limit to carry out executions within five years of the verdict.
The prisoners who were convicted for some of the most gruesome killings will now spend their lives in prison.
After the High Court ruling, the Trinidad and Tobago government said it would seek to amend existing legislation to make it easier to carry out the death penalty. Attorney General Bridgid Annisette-George confirmed that the ruling however “does not affect the death penalty (imposed) from July 8, 2004.” The Attorney General said that at least 30 persons remain on Death Row and that the State is committed to carrying out the death penalty. Annisette-George said that the Patrick Manning-led government would be seeking an amendment to Constitution Amendment Bill 2008 to deal with the existing problem of the Privy Council’s Pratt and Morgan ruling, which gives a five-year limit from the date of conviction to carry out the death sentence.
 
Trinidad and Tobago was one of the original signatories of a 2001 agreement to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), meant to replace the Privy Council, whose rulings have often stood in the way of hangings in the Caribbean, as the highest court of appeal. Caribbean countries view the CCJ as the means to throw off the last vestiges of colonialism, but human rights groups have warned that the Court may be a hanging court.
On April 16, 2005, the Caribbean Court of Justice was inaugurated in Port of Spain, Trinidad’s capital, where the CCJ has its headquarters. However, the government has as yet failed to pass the required amendment to its constitution to enable it to adhere to the CCJ.
 
The Bahamas
 
As of January 2010, The Bahamas have gone more than ten years without practicing the death penalty, establishing themselves as de facto abolitionist country.
Treason and piracy are capital crimes. Until 2006, the death penalty was mandatory for murder.
The Bahamas is a British Independent Territory for which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of London (JCPC) remains the final court of appeal.
Since the 1993 Pratt and Morgan ruling by the Privy Council, the death penalty cannot be carried out if the prisoner concerned has been under sentence of death for more than five years, in which case the sentence is automatically commuted to life imprisonment.
On March 11, 2002, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council confirmed the April 2001 decision of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (ECCA) ruling that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional, and unanimously struck down the mandatory death penalty for murder. The JCPC made one modification to the ECCA’s ruling, saying that sentences should be set by a judge and not a jury. All death row cases in these countries had to be reviewed.
On March 8, 2006, the mandatory death penalty in the Bahamas was abolished by the five British law lords when they held it to be a breach of international human rights. In a significant ruling the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council struck down the mandatory death sentence imposed in two test appeals as a breach of the constitution. Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the senior law lord, said that, as early as 1973, the mandatory death penalty should have been regarded as inhuman and degrading punishment. Since 1973 sixteen people have been executed in the Bahamas. If the judge had had discretionary powers then they would probably not have been executed.
A particularly important case was that concerning David Mitchell and John Higgs, both of which were sentenced to death. In 1999 the Privy Council rejected their appeals, but two of five judges dissented. Lord Steyn and Lord Cook affirmed that because of their inhuman conditions of detention, Mitchell and Higgs should not be executed.
Mitchell was hanged on January 6, 2000 at the main Fox Hill prison in the capital Nassau, despite the victims’ son also appealing for clemency for him, and a pending petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Mitchell’s was the last execution in the Bahamas. Higgs, scheduled to be hanged at a minute’s interval from Mitchell, committed suicide whilst on suicide watch hours before the hanging.
The Bahamas was one of the eleven states that signed an agreement in 2001 to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council as the region’s final court of appeal. The country would, however, have to hold a special referendum to be able to change over to the CCJ, that was inaugurated in Trinidad and Tobago in 2005.
 
Mongolia
 
On January 14, 2010, President Elbegdorj Tsakhia’s announced a moratorium on the death penalty, a move that human rights groups welcomed as a step toward changing Mongolian law to ban executions permanently.
Many in the opposition-held parliament, however, withheld their applause in protest of President Elbegdorj’s speech, a sign that making a lasting change could be difficult. While the power to commute any death sentences rests with the President, changing the law would require help from Mongolia’s opposition-dominated parliament. Mongolia’s legal system follows the former Soviet legal system, and many lawyers and legislators favor harsh punishment for criminals.
“The majority of the world’s countries have chosen to abolish the death penalty. We should follow this path,” Elbegdorj said. “From tomorrow, I’ll pardon those on death row,” he said. “I suggest commuting the death penalty to a 30-year severe jail sentence.”
 
After having been a satellite State of the Soviet Union for 65 years, in 1990, Mongolia began the transition towards democracy by legalizing opposition parties and holding its first multiparty elections.
After modifications to the Penal Code in 1994, the crimes punishable by death were reduced to: premeditated homicide, aggravated rape, rape of a minor, and crimes against the State involving acts of violence. Women over the age of 60 and men under the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to death.
The government of Mongolia does not make statistics on capital punishment available to the public. According to Amnesty International, there were at least 3 executions in 2006, and Amnesty International, in the absence of reliable sources, believes that it is possible that more executions were carried out in 2007, while at least five people were executed in 2008.
In 2009 there were no executions reported in the Country and President Elbegdorj has commuted at least three death sentences since taking office in May.
On October 15, 2009, Mongolian death row prisoner Buuveibaatar, 33, had his death sentence commuted after being granted a pardon by the country’s President, Tsakhia Elbegdorj. Buuveibaatar was sentenced to death by the Bayangol District Court, in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, on August 1, 2008. He was found guilty of murdering his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend in January 2008. His father, who claims the crime was committed in self-defense, says that Buuveibaatar was beaten in police custody, and confessed to the crime during interrogation. Buuveibaatar’s death sentence had been upheld by Mongolia’s Supreme Court. His family wrote to the former President of Mongolia to appeal for a pardon on April 1, 2009, and again on July 2 to the newly elected President, Elbegdorj, who granted the pardon.
 
The United States of America
 
On March 18, 2009, New Mexico abolished the death penalty, becoming only the second U.S. State to do so in more than forty years, after New Jersey abolished it on December 13, 2007.
The Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, a Democrat who served as the Secretary of Energy on the Cabinet of President Bill Clinton, at the press conference on the ratification of the new law that replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, explained how his prior support of the death penalty had changed stating that signing the law had been the most difficult decision of his political career, but that he had to act as the possibility of an innocent being executed exists, and that such a possibility was anathema to our sensibilities as human beings. Richardson went on to explain that he had visited death row and was struck by the high percentage of minority inmates, that he had visited the “death chamber,” and that he had also visited a maximum security ward, where those serving life sentences without parole would be housed, concluding that the cells he saw were, if possible, worse than death and that he felt the punishment just. He went on to explain that given the flaws in the judicial system, the execution of an innocent could never be absolutely beyond the realm of possibility, while life imprisonment equally guaranteed the safety of society without such risks posed by the ultimate punishment of death.
The Senate approved the bill on March 13 with a vote of 24-18, and the House followed on February 11. The law prohibits new death sentences as of July 1, 2009, but is not retroactive, so it does not apply to the two death row inmates currently serving time in the State of New Mexico. The State has only carried out one execution in the last 49 years, that of Terry Clark, on November 6, 2001.
To convince Richardson to sign the bill into law, pressure was exerted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, former President Jimmy Carter and Deputy Governor Diane Denish. Richardson invited citizens to contact his office to give their opinion of the legislation, receiving 12,000 calls, three-quarters of which were in favor of abolition. District attorneys were decidedly contrary, believing it useful to have the death penalty as a possible sentence against an accused, as well as the Association of Sheriffs and the Police, who feel the death penalty deters people from committing crimes against their ranks.
Richardson, remembering his time as a House Representative in Washington and then as a Cabinet Minister, also revealed that the use of the death penalty had negative implications from the point of view of foreign relations, for the high number of minorities on death row, but also because “it is not a good sign of moral leadership.” The abolitionist law was approved both in 2005 and 2007 in the State House, but was blocked both times by the Justice Commission of the State Senate, while this year the vote in favor at the Senate (18-13) was definitive.
 
On June 5, 2009, as already promised while work in the State Congress was underway, the Governor of Connecticut, M. Jodi Rell, vetoed Bill HB6578, approved on March 31 by the State House and on May 22 by the State Senate, which would have abolished the death penalty replacing it with life imprisonment without parole. Rell, 63 years old, white, Republican, in a letter to the State Congress explaining her decision wrote: “We will not tolerate those who kill in the most vile and inhuman way. We should not, and will not, tolerate those who kill for the pleasure of killing, or those who have taken a precious life and devastated the lives of so many others.” To override the veto of the Governor, the Congress would have needed a two-thirds majority, which it did not have. The bill passed by 90-56 in the House and 19-17 in the Senate.
 
Since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1976, numerous de facto and de jure moratoriums are still in place, established for various reasons or determined by various circumstances throughout the United States.
Kansas, New Hampshire and the Military Administration have not carried out executions, while South Dakota has only carried out one, in 2007, but of an inmate that insisted on being executed
In the State of New York death row has been empty since 2007. In 2004, the Court of Appeals declared a part of the law concerning the death penalty unconstitutional. Since then, the State Congress has willingly avoided introducing any new legislation concerning the death penalty. Observers are confident that New York will maintain this compromise in the years to come, this vacatio legis in which the death penalty is not abolished, but is not re-introduced.
On February 6, 2009, the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, declared that he has no intention of revoking the moratorium on the death penalty already in place for nine years any time soon. The moratorium was declared by then-Governor George Ryan in 2000, who, three years later, cited dozens of cases of death sentence rulings riddled with mistakes in the State, when he commuted the sentences of all 167 death row inmates to life imprisonment without parole. After him, Governor Blagojevic, Democrat, while approving of some reforms concerning the death penalty, maintained the moratorium as is, while the State Congress was in no hurry to review bills that would have brought the moratorium to an end.
In North Carolina a de facto moratorium, which began in January 2007, is still in place after the absolute refusal to participate in executions by the State Medical Association. As the presence of a physician is called for by both State and Federal law, the position of physicians in the State has brought about a long series of appeals, concluded, at least for the moment, by a ruling of the State Supreme Court on May 1, 2009, that established that the Association could not punish its members who wished to participate in an execution. Despite the sentence, it was not possible to find a doctor in North Carolina willing to do so, even with the hypothesis of varying the protocol to only require the observation of a medical professional and not active participation in the lethal injection. The halt could continue for quite some time to come.
In California a de facto moratorium is still in place, imposed by the ordinance of Justice Jeremy Fogel that, on December 15, 2006, declared the lethal injection protocol unconstitutional as it risks inflicting too much pain on the condemned. The protocol was subsequently modified by a team nominated by Governor Schwarzenegger, but before Justice Fogel could review the protocol, a new appeal pointed to the illegality of the new procedure as it was created by experts without any public debate, required by law. On January 5, 2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, following the letter of the law, made public a 25-page document containing the proposed modifications of the execution protocol. This is only the first step in the procedure of approval and formalization of the new protocol. According to experts, it is unlikely that California will resume executions anytime soon.
In Maryland a de facto moratorium is still in place which began on December 19, 2006, after the Court of Appeals identified procedural flaws relative to the preparation of the execution protocol, and who should oversee and approve them. Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat against the death penalty, tried to take advantage of the stop to seek abolition, but renounced such hopes on March 14, 2009, at least for this year, because of divisions within the State Senate. In fact, on March 5, the Senate revised an abolitionist bill that was approved by the State House so that it became a law which simply placed certain limits on the death penalty. On June 24, 2009 the administration of Governor Martin O’Malley, having stalled its introduction for as long as possible in favor of abolishing the death penalty, made note of the newly instated lethal injection protocol. It is not probable that executions will resume shortly however, because the new procedure must be approved by a bi-cameral commission of the legislature and the two co-presidents of the legislature are both against the death penalty, making a series of public hearings most likely before even considering heading to a vote on the protocol. According to experts, years may pass before another execution in Maryland.
In Nebraska the de facto moratorium which began on February 8, 2008 when the Supreme Court declared the use of the electric chair unconstitutional is still in effect. On February 10, 2010, Governor Dave Heineman ratified the State’s lethal injection protocol, but it is thought that the series of appeals of constitutionality presented by defense attorneys is likely to prolong the de facto moratorium for another two years.
On November 25, 2009, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the State may not execute anyone until it adopts regulations in compliance with the law. In its 35-page ruling, the court said the State Department of Corrections must follow State-mandated administrative procedures before adopting the current lethal injection process of a three-drug cocktail. It also said the State should have held public hearings on the process. “The Department of Corrections is required by Kentucky law to promulgate a regulation as to all portions of the lethal injection protocol except those limited issues of internal management that are purely of concern to department personnel,” the high court said. It identified “limited issues of internal management” such as identities of the execution team, storage location of the drugs and other security-related issues.
 
 
 
TOWARDS ABOLITION
 
In 2009 and in the first six months of 2010, significant political and legislative steps towards abolition or at least positive signs, such as collective commutations of capital punishment, have been seen in numerous countries.
In April 2009, Justice Minister said the death penalty will be abolished in Jordan for all crimes except premeditated murder.
In June 2009, a conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo concluded with the National Assembly President and Senate President announcing the start of the legislative process to abolish the death penalty in Congo.
In June 2009, Vietnam voted in favor of dropping the death penalty on eight crimes.
In August 2009, the Justice Ministry in Lebanon launched a nationwide campaign to rally public support for the abolition of the death penalty.
In September 2009, the government of South Korea agreed to the non-application of the death penalty, as requested by the Council of Europe.
In November 2009 the government of Benin submitted a government bill to the National Assembly concerning the constitutional abolition of the death penalty.
In April 2010, Djibouti, already abolitionist for all crimes, approved an amendment that introduces the abolition of the death penalty in its Constitution.
In 2009, for the first time in the country’s history there were no reported executions in Pakistan.
On January 7, 2009, his last day in office as President of Ghana, John Kufuor pardoned more than 500 prisoners.
In January 2009, Uganda’s Supreme Court ruled that death sentences be commuted to life imprisonment after three years in jail.
In January 2009, the President of Zambia pardoned and commuted the sentences of 53 prisoners on death row.
In July 2009, King Mohammed VI of Morocco amnestied about 24,000 prisoners to mark the 10th anniversary of his coronation: many people currently on death row will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
In August 2009, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya announced more than 4,000 death row inmates all would have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
In August 2009, Lagos State Governor in Nigeria granted an amnesty to 3 prisoners sentenced to death and pardoned a further 37 death row inmates.
In November 2009, the President of Tanzania commuted 75 death sentences to life imprisonment.
 
Jordan
 
On April 5, 2009, Justice Minister Ayman Odeh said the death penalty will be abolished in Jordan for all crimes except premeditated murder if amendments to the Kingdom’s Penal Code pass through an extraordinary session of the House. Minister Odeh said “the death penalty will still be imposed on premeditated murders.” “The amendments include the replacement of the death penalty on six different State security crimes including terrorism, espionage and treason, with a life sentence with hard labor,” Odeh explained. However, Odeh denied that international calls on the government to completely remove the death penalty played any role in the proposed amendment.
Reducing the number of crimes eligible for capital punishment is one of the changes that has been proposed by an ad hoc Justice Ministry committee comprised of judges, lawyers and jurists tasked with updating Jordan’s Penal Code. The group has been meeting since August 2008 to address what the ministry sees as loopholes in the current legal system.
Jordan abolished the death penalty for crimes related to drugs, weapons and explosives in August 2006.
On March 4, 2010, Jordanian Justice Minister M. Ayman Odeh said that shortly he will submit a new amendment to the penal code that substitutes the death penalty for life imprisonment to the Council of Ministers.
 
According to official data, 41 persons were executed in the country since the beginning of 2000, all of whom were convicted for murder, terrorism or sexual assault charges. At least seven executions were carried out in 2003, and fourteen people were known to have been put to death in 2002. At least one execution took place in 2004. At least 15 people were put to death in 2005, according to a Jordanian police source.
The last execution in Jordan took place in March 2006.
As of April 21, 2009, there were 45 people on death row in Jordan, including five women, mostly for murder, rape of minors and crimes against the State, the website thenational.ae reported. Those on death row include Sajeda Atrous Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who embarked on a failed suicide mission at a hotel in Amman in 2005, part of triple bombings that killed 60 and injured hundreds. Rishawi was arrested four days after the attacks and sentenced to death in September 2006. She is incarcerated in Jwiadeh prison for women. Her lawyer, Hussein Masri, said his client had appealed to King Abdullah for clemency.
According to Amnesty International, at least 12 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
Democratic Republic of Congo
 
The current constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in place since early 2006, recognizes the “right to life” and the “inviolable nature of human beings.” A proposition for an article explicitly abolishing the death penalty was rejected by the national parliament during the text’s elaboration in 2005.
On June 11, 2009, Hands Off Cain held a conference in Kinshasa against the death penalty in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that was sponsored by the Congolese National Assembly President and Senate President. The conference concluded with the Senate President announcing the start of the legislative process to abolish the death penalty in Congo. He also announced that, in the meantime, a legal moratorium on executions would be established. The President of the National Assembly, Evariste Boshab, echoed this in his inaugural speech. He explained that ordinary penal laws will be brought into line with the new Congolese Constitution that no longer provides for the death penalty. Two proposed laws regarding this have already been lodged in the Senate and the National Assembly, by Leonard She Okitundu and Nyabirungu Mwene Songa respectively. Speaking at the conference, Justice Minister Luzolo Bambi spoke of “responsible abolition” and the necessity for improving jail conditions in the country, in view of the abolition of capital punishment. The opinion of Italian Senate Vice President Emma Bonino, present in Kinshasa, was positive. “The conference fully acknowledged the method and the contents of the Resolution for the moratorium approved by the UN General Assembly. The Democratic Republic of Congo is symbolic of the bloodshed in Africa, and this sends a signal of hope and nonviolence to the entire world.” Italian Parliamentarian Elisabetta Zamparutti, the organizer of Hands Off Cain’s Kinshasa conference, said that “the abolition of the death penalty in Congo will turn the page and interrupt the absurd chain of hate and revenge that was most tragic and real in this part of the continent.” The conference was followed by a three-day seminar coordinated by Oliviero Toscani for computer specialists from various provinces in Congo with the aim of creating a multimedia campaign to raise public awareness against the death penalty.
 
The last executions took place on January 7, 2003, when fifteen people, charged with crimes such as subversion of the State, treason, armed robbery and participation in organized crime, were executed in secret at a military camp close to Kinshasa’s Ndjili airport. These were the first executions known to have taken place since the lifting, on September 23, 2002, of a moratorium on executions announced by then-Human Rights Minister Leonard She Okitundu on December 10, 1999.
The executions of the 15 were ordered by the Court d’Ordre Militaire (COM) a special itinerant tribunal that, since its creation in 1997, had been responsible for the execution of some 200 individuals. The COM was abolished on April 24, 2003.
On June 28, 2003 during a meeting with an Hands Off Cain delegation in Kinshasa, President Joseph Kabila declared that he would not authorize any executions, not even those of the men condemned for the assassination of his father Laurent.
Since then, numerous death sentences have been handed down by Courts and Military tribunals, but none have been carried out.
 
On May 5, 2010, two soldiers, Sergeant-Major Seba Tandema and Sergeant Oscar Tchenda Kashama, and a civilian identified as Mushamuka were sentenced to death by a military court for murdering journalist Didace Namujimbo, 34, in Bukavu in November 2008. Six journalists have been killed in the volatile eastern DRC since 2005. Local media rights group Journalists in Danger (JED) has previously denounced “intimidation, denigration and threats” against journalists in the region, which for a decade has been the theatre of ongoing clashes between the army and several rebel groups.
On May 19, 2010, eleven militia members were sentenced to death for their part in an attack that left two UN staff dead in April in the town of Mbandaka. The unrest followed clashes between two ethnic groups over fishing rights. Some 36 men were initially charged; four were acquitted and the rest were given prison terms. Mbandaka is the capital of Equateur province, where at least 100 people were killed in clashes between the Lobala and Boba communities in 2009, displacing an estimated 200,000 people.
On June 10, 2010, a military court in Kisangani sentenced Norwegians Joshua French and Tjostolv Moland to death a second time for murder, espionage and conspiracy. On April 22, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s military high court overturned the death sentences handed down to French and Moland after their driver was found dead in the jungle in May 2009. Both Joshua French, who also holds British citizenship, and Tjostolv Moland had previously served in Norway’s military but Oslo has denied they were in active service when the incident occurred near the town of Kisangani. French and Moland said that their driver Abedi Kasongo was killed in an ambush by armed bandits. After the first death sentence was pronounced on September 8, 2009 by a military tribunal in Kisangani, Congo’s Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba assured his Norway counterpart Jonas Gahr Stoere that “the two men would not under any circumstances be executed even if the verdict is upheld...The Congolese government has adopted a moratorium on the death penalty and capital punishment is no longer applied in the country,” he said.
 
Vietnam
 
On June 19, 2009, Vietnam voted in favor of dropping the death penalty on eight crimes. The amendments to the Criminal Code, passed at the closing day of the National Assembly’s month-long session, take place from January 1, 2010, and those already under sentence of death for offences that are no longer capital crimes will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Rape, fraud for appropriating property, smuggling, making and trafficking counterfeit money and bonds, using drugs, giving bribes, hijacking, piracy and destroying military weapons will no longer be capital offences, a parliamentary statement announced (the proceedings were closed to foreign reporters).
Seventy-five percent of the deputies in the communist-dominated National Assembly endorsed the amendments to the penal code. The parliament removed using drugs from the list of crimes punishable by death, but deputies maintained capital punishment for drug trafficking.
Vietnam last reduced the number of death penalty crimes from 44 to 29 in 1999, but even with the latest amendments the country still has 21 crimes on its statutes that are punishable by death.
 
Capital punishment exists for crimes such as murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking, sexual abuse of children, production and trade of harmful food, foodstuffs and medicines. Seven political acts perceived as “threats against national security” carry the death penalty as a maximum sentence.
The definition of “national security” crimes is extremely broad, and the United Nations has frequently expressed concern that critics in Vietnam may be sentenced to death under these provisions simply for the peaceful exercise of the right to free expression.
 
In the past, Vietnam was known as one of the countries that liberally falls back on the death penalty in confronting crime. Until 2004, executions numbered typically between 80 and 100 per year, most of them involving drug-related crimes.
In 2007, the number of executions reported declined to at least 25 from 82 in 2004. According to an official media report, 95 people were sentenced to death in 2007, and 116 in 2006.
There were at least 19 executions in 2008 along while at least 64 new death sentences were handed down.
In 2009, according to Amnesty International, at least 9 people were executed, while at least 59 were sentenced to death.
 
Lebanon
 
On August 29, 2009, the Justice Ministry in Lebanon launched a nationwide campaign to rally public support for seven draft amendments that are awaiting Cabinet approval, among them the controversial abolition of the country’s death penalty. Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar told The Daily Star that the amendments have been presented to the Cabinet and that the campaign has been started to put pressure on ministers to pass the reforms through to Parliament. The minister stressed in particular that the abolition of the death penalty, the most contentious of the reform bills, should be implemented immediately in the interests of “more humane and more efficient justice.” Najjar is calling for revoking Penal Code articles that allow courts to issue death sentences, replacing them instead with a life sentence at hard labor.
The draft law that would abolish the death penalty was presented to the Cabinet in October 2008. “Science has proved that there is no causal relationship between the crime and the presence or absence of the death penalty,” Lebanese Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said, adding that abolishing the death penalty was in line with religious and humanitarian values, as well as Lebanon’s own legal culture, and was supported by criminology studies, which, he said, revealed that “preventative measures were more effective than the death penalty in reducing crime.”
On January 7, 2010, a gathering held inside Lebanon’s largest prison, Roumieh, urged the Lebanese government to move toward formal abolition of the death penalty. “It’s true that in Lebanon there are, for the time being, no executions, but there is no official moratorium,” said Tanya Awad Ghorra, communication officer at the Lebanese Association for Civil Rights (LACR).
 
Lebanon reinstated the death penalty in 1994 in a bid to stem a rise in violent crime following the 1975-90 civil war. Crimes punishable by death are: murder, attempted murder, collaboration with Israel, terrorism and acts of riot and strife.
Article 302 of the Penal Code had prescribed a mandatory death sentence for all premeditated murders and stripped judges of discretion to consider mitigating factors. In July 2001, the Lebanese Parliament voted unanimously to repeal this law and leave the application of the death penalty to the discretion of judges.
Execution decrees must be signed by the President and the Prime Minister.
Between 1994 and 1998, 14 murderers were executed by hanging or firing squad.
When President Emile Lahoud took over from Elias Hrawi in 1998, executions were interrupted because then Prime Minister Salim Hoss, an opponent of the death penalty, refused to sign any execution orders. In December 2001, President Lahoud pledged to maintain a moratorium on executions for the duration of his mandate. However on January 17, 2004, three Lebanese men sentenced to death for murder were executed at dawn in Roumieh prison, northeast of Beirut, on his authorization. Although a large number of death sentences have been passed since Lebanon’s independence, only 51 people have been executed.
 
South Korea
 
On August 4, 2009, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC), established by the National Assembly in 2001 as a national advocacy institution for human rights protection, filed a petition with the Constitutional Court to end capital punishment. In the petition, the commission said the nation has no authority to deprive citizens of life, as life is the most fundamental right of human beings. “Even in extreme situations, human life shouldn’t be a tool or an object to realise state policy or promote public interest,” it said.
On September 2, 2009, the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the South Korean government agreed to the non-application of the death penalty, as requested by the Council of Europe, The Hankyoreh newspaper reported. Terry Davis, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said the deal was part of South Korea’s agreement to adhere to the Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.
In his letter to South Korea’s Constitutional Court, Terry Davis wrote, “The South Korean government has confirmed to the Council of Europe that it guarantees the non-application of the death penalty at the time of accession to the European Convention on Extradition (ETS No. 24), Additional Protocols (ETS Nos 86 and 98) and European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and its Protocol (ETS No. 99).” On this matter, the Justice Ministry said, “It is true that the South Korean government has made this pledge.” Kim Hysung-tae, a lawyer who has managed constitutional appeals related to the death penalty, asked the Council of Europe to share its opinion on the death penalty in August and submitted its letter of response to the Constitutional Court of South Korea.
 
On February 25, 2010, South Korea’s highest court upheld the death penalty, confirming a similar sentence of 14 years ago on the same issue. The Gwangju High Court filing a petition on behalf of ‘Oh’, a 70-year-old fisherman, who was sentenced to death in the first trial for killing four tourists in 2007 addressed the Constitutional Court on October 3, 2008. He asked his appellate court judge to file the petition, alleging capital punishment infringed on the constitutional guarantee of human dignity. Accepting his suggestion, the appellate trial was suspended until the Constitutional Court reviews the petition. The latest ruling, which stuck to current law, was made in 1996. The presiding judge of the trial said, “At the time of the latest constitutional ruling on the death penalty in 1996, the Constitutional Court stated it was constitutional although it indicated the need to scrap capital punishment on a long-term basis.”
The Constitutional Court in a five-to-four decision said the constitution allowed for the death penalty and it would be an over-interpretation to say its provision on the right to life superseded capital punishment. The court needed a six-judge majority to strike down the death penalty. The court added, however, that it recognized the death penalty could be subject to errors and abuse in enforcement and that parliament, which had the power to repeal the punishment, was the proper forum for any debate or change.
 
A special bill to abolish capital punishment has languished in parliament for years. It was initially proposed in December 1999 by over 90 lawmakers. In October 2001, 155 lawmakers introduced a similar bill to the National Assembly, and 175 lawmakers did so again in December 2004. Although a majority of members of the National Assembly signed the bill in 2001 and 2004, it remains pending.
 
Since independence in 1948, 902 people have been executed in South Korea, most of them by hanging. More than half of those executed up to 1987 had violated the National Security Law.
The Justice Department has put a stay on death row cases since 23 were executed on December 30, 1997. There have been steady calls for the abolition of capital punishment led in part by late former President Kim Dae-jung, who was sentenced to death for treason under a military ruler but had his sentence commuted. He was in office from 1998 to 2003.
On December 31, 2007, in a traditional New Year amnesty, then-President Roh Moo-hyun had commuted the sentences of six inmates on death row to life imprisonment before he was slated to leave office. For his part, the new President, Lee Myung-Bak, who replaced Roh in February 2008, has said he would maintain the death penalty but use it with restraint.
According to Amnesty International, at least 5 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
On March 18, 2010, the National Assembly speaker demanded the abolition of the death penalty in South Korea, just days after the Justice Minister indicated the government could resume executions after more than 12 years. “A human life is a dignified given value and right, and even the power of the State should not be able to take it away,” House Speaker Kim Hyung-o said in a radio interview. Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam said the government may build a facility where executions of convicts imprisoned for heinous crimes can be carried out, suggesting a resumption of capital punishment. Kim said South Korea should completely abolish the death penalty instead of continuing an “ambiguous” moratorium. “A country that has propelled itself into the 21st century should not return to the habits of the old era,” Kim said. “Criminals committing serious crimes can be punished through lifetime imprisonment without a chance for parole or pardon.” Justice Minister Lee told lawmakers that he did not mean executions would resume immediately. “We have taken a cautious approach to the matter and will also do so in the future,” he said.
According to government records, about sixty inmates are currently awaiting execution by hanging.
 
According to a survey carried out by ruling-party think-tank Youido Institute in March 2010, 83.1 percent of South Koreans support capital punishment. Only 11.1 percent were opposed, according to the survey, polling 3,049 adults nationwide.
 
Benin
 
On February 28, 2009, a year after its creation by presidential decree in February 2008, the ad hoc commission for revision of the December 11, 1990 Constitution (“the Ahanhanzo-Gléglé Commission”) released its report. Article 15 of the revision project of fundamental laws was rephrased in these terms: “Every individual has the right to life, liberty, security and the integrity of their person. (…) none can be sentenced to death.” The revision project must be subject to a national debate and a referendum.
Benin’s President Thomas Yayi Boni has asked the parliament to enshrine the abolition of the death penalty in the constitution. A bill was sent to the National Assembly in November 2009 for discussion and finally adoption. “The executive has theoretically done its part for this revision of the constitution, compiling preliminary studies, writing the bill and leaving it on the desk of the National Assembly. But the government is still lobbying members of parliament. The bill will be discussed at the first parliamentary session in April and we hope to see it passed during the first half of the year,” Justice Minister Victor Tokpanou said on February 7, 2010.
 
The death penalty is provided for in the penal code for various offences, including: murder, piracy, treason, sorcery and other practices causing public disturbance. The last reported executions were carried out in 1993 when seven people were put to death. According to Amnesty International, at least 5 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
 
Djibouti
 
On April 14, 2010, the parliament of Djibouti approved an amendment to the constitution that introduces the abolition of the death penalty in its Constitution. “The European Union congratulates Djibouti for further strengthening its commitment to the abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend towards abolition,” declared Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union.
 
Djibouti abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 1995, when the reformed Penal Code and Code of Penal Procedure came into force on January 1. In 2002, Djibouti ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
Only one person had previously been sentenced to death, for a terrorist offence, and his sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment in 1993. No executions have been reported in Djibouti since it gained independence from France on June 27, 1977.
 
Pakistan
 
In 2009, 276 death sentences were handed down in Pakistan, but for the first time in the country’s history there were no executions.
In 2008, Pakistan executed at least 36 people, and at least 159 people were sentenced to death. A significant rise from 2007, when 134 convicts were executed and 309 were given death sentences.
On June 3, 2010, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari signed the instrument of ratification for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The two covenants were signed by Pakistan on April 17, 2008.
 
The major turnabout in the practice of the death penalty started on July 3, 2008, when the Pakistani Federal Cabinet formally approved a proposal of commutation of the death penalty to life imprisonment providing relief to some 7,000 prisoners all over the country. The decision was made at a meeting of the Federal Cabinet held with Prime-Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Gilani declared his intentions on June 21, 2008, during the Fifty-fifth anniversary celebration of the birth of Benazir Bhutto, as a tribute to the leader of his Pakistan People’s Party who was slain in a bombing and shooting attack outside an election rally in December 2007.
The Pakistan Law Ministry strongly opposed the federal cabinet approving the commutation of the death penalties of 7,000 convicts to life terms, claiming the decision was a violation of Islamic laws. Sources in the Prime Minister Secretariat said that the PM was advised against the commutation of death sentences by the Law Ministry, which said it would also be a violation of the decisions of the Supreme Court. The President, in the Law Ministry’s view, has no right to commute a death sentence awarded under Hudud and Qisas laws. Similarly, even some categories of capital punishment given in murder cases, registered under Tazir laws (man-made laws), could not be pardoned or commuted to life term without the consent of the heirs of victim. However, the federal cabinet still decided to convert the death penalties. A PM Secretariat source said that the law ministry, in its advice, acknowledged that the Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan empowered the President to commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.
On November 22, 2008, adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik informed the National Assembly in a written statement that the federal Law Ministry was processing the proposal to abolish the death penalty in the country.
On January 29, 2009, the Pakistani Interior Ministry sent a summary to President Asif Ali Zardari for his approval to replace capital punishment with life imprisonment, a private TV channel reported. The channel quoted its sources as saying that the federal government sent its proposals on the subject to the Law Ministry six months before. The Law Ministry forwarded a reviewed draft of the proposals to the Interior Ministry, which in turn sent the draft to the President for his approval. The sources said the law, if approved, would not apply to people sentenced to death for terrorist attacks harming national integrity.
On April 10, 2009, the Lahore High Court abolished the death sentence for women and children under trial for narcotics charges.
On June 24, 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan advised Courts to observe extreme care when choosing to award the death penalty. The Bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal and including Justice Sayed Zahid Hussain and Justice Muhammad Sair Ali stated this in an appeal by Muhammad Sharif.
On September 16, 2009, Sindh Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ayaz Soomro said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wants to replace capital punishment with 24 to 30 years of imprisonment. President Zardari called on provincial governments to submit recommendations on the matter, Ayaz Soomro said.
On September 17, 2009, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said a draft proposal on abolishing capital punishment was sent to the law division for consultation. But he made it clear that persons sentenced to death for acts of terrorism would not benefit if capital punishment is abolished in the country.
On October 13, 2009, Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro confirmed in the Sindh Assembly that the Pakistani Federal Government asked the provinces to consider their recommendations for the conversion of the death penalty into a life term. In addition, Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza stated before the Assembly that as many as 228 prisoners including a woman are waiting for capital punishment in jails throughout the provinces. He said the government is engaged in serious deliberations to transform the capital punishment law into a sentence of life imprisonment.
On February 17, 2010, Pakistani Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed during question hour in the National Assembly that the government was actively considering ending the death sentence, except regarding the most heinous crimes.
 
Ghana
 
On January 7, 2009, his last day in office as President of Ghana, John Kufuor pardoned more than 500 prisoners. All convicts sentenced to death had their terms commuted to life and anyone on death row who has already served 10 years would have their sentence reduced to 20 years, Deputy Information Minister Frank Agyekum said.
This provision is part of a long series of amnesties granted by President John Kufuor, devoted Catholic and known as “the good giant of Africa,” since the opposition guided by him in successful Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2000 unseated the Government of Jerry Rawlings, which had been in power for twenty years.
In June of 2003, President John Kufuor had granted amnesty to 179 prisoners who had served at least 10 years on death row. On March 6, 2007, in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of National Independence, President Kufuor commuted 36 death sentences to life imprisonment. On July 1, 2007, President Kufuor pardoned hundreds of prisoners for humanitarian reasons, including seven who had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
After two terms of office, President John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) ceded the position to John Evans Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who won more than 50 percent of the votes in the second round of the country’s elections on December 28, 2008.
 
Several influential figures in Ghana have, in recent years, voiced their opposition to the death penalty, including the former Minister of Justice and members of Parliament, who in April 2008 underlined the need for a debate around death penalty in Ghana.
In January 2010, a Constitutional Review Commission was established. It will hold public consultations, including on the abolition of the death penalty, present recommendations to the government and draft a bill for amendment of the Constitution.
 
The death penalty has been in Ghana’s statute books since the inception of English common law in the country in 1874. Ghana still retains the death penalty for armed robbery, treason and first-degree murder.
There have been no executions since July 1993, when 12 prisoners convicted of robbery and murder were executed by firing squad.
While no death row prisoner has been executed since 1993, the death penalty continues to be in the statute books and death sentences continue to be imposed.
In 2009, at least 7 people were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International.
 
Uganda
 
Uganda’s penal code provides for 15 capital offences: nine separate offences grouped under the collective heading “treason” and offences against the State, rape, defilement, murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping. Death is a mandatory punishment for six of the treasonous offences and a discretionary sentence for the remaining felonies.
In March 2002, Uganda’s Parliament passed an anti-terrorism bill that imposes a mandatory death sentence for terrorists.
On June 10, 2005, Uganda’s constitutional court struck down the imposition of mandatory death sentences. In a narrow three-to-two decision, a five-judge panel at the country’s second-highest court said laws that mandated the death penalty as punishment for certain serious crimes were unconstitutional and must be rewritten. All five justices, however, rejected the inmates’ argument that the death penalty was unconstitutional “because it is given by the law as punishment after due process.”
In April 2007, Uganda’s Parliament passed a law that prescribes the death penalty for those who intentionally transmit the HIV virus.
On April 3, 2009, the Ugandan Parliament unanimously created a new clause in the “Prevention of Trafficking of Persons Bill 2007” providing for the death penalty as a maximum sentence to a person convicted of human trafficking.
 
On January 20, 2009, Uganda’s Supreme Court ruled that death sentences be commuted to life imprisonment after three years in jail, in a move rights groups hailed as a major step towards ending capital punishment. In its judgment, the court upheld the death penalty as constitutional but ruled that “a delay beyond three years after a death sentence is an inordinate delay.”
The Supreme Court also upheld the judgment of the Ugandan Constitutional Court, which held that the mandatory application of the death penalty is unconstitutional. The court decided that the mandatory death sentences should be commuted to life imprisonment.
The case was brought against Uganda’s Attorney General by a prominent Kampala human rights organization, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, on behalf of 417 death row inmates, who filed a petition in 2008 challenging the death sentence on the grounds that the method of execution by hanging is cruel, the condemned are subjected to mental torture and that the majority of prisoners were jailed for years long after their sentences had been passed.
The seven-person panel of judges dismissed the appeal and instead recommended that the government should execute the condemned within a period not exceeding three years or the convicts should be handed life sentences instead.
The judges also recommended that parliament define the methods of executing the condemned prisoners to address complaints that the methods of execution were cruel and inhumane. “On the issue of constitutionality of hanging, it is cruel, inhumane and degrading and affects the convicts and executioners,” the panel said. “Since the death sentence is provided for in the constitution, we are concerned over the way the death sentence is carried out.” The Supreme Court justices also urged the legislature to “re-open the debate on the desirability of the death penalty in our constitution.”
“This is a very important development because many of the people who are on death row have actually been there for more than three years,” said Livingstone Sewanyana, Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative. Sewanyana said about 330 of his clients were affected by the ruling.
On January 25, 2009, President Museveni praised judges for refusing to scrap the death penalty. Addressing the 23rd National Resistance Movement/Army victory celebrations at the Kololo ceremonial grounds, Museveni said those who kill innocent Ugandans deserve nothing less than death. “There were some people asking the Supreme Court to abolish the death penalty. It is not the work of the Supreme Court to do this but Parliament. I am glad the courts also saw it and said it is not their duty.”
 
On January 20, 2009, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni pardoned Chris Rwakisisi, who was serving a death sentence for kidnapping with intent to murder. Rwakasisi was convicted in 1988. He was the Security Minister during the second administration of former President Apolo Milton Obote between 1980 and 1985. Museveni also pardoned Ali Fadhul, who was the Minister for Regional Administration during the regime of Idi Amin Dada. Ezra Kusasirwa, the third condemned person to receive a pardon, was sentence for desertion. Other convicts, Samuel Sempijja, Benon Hazimana and Wasswa Abdallah had their death sentences commuted to life in prison.
On November 13, 2009, five inmates waiting to be hanged for more than 20 years were released by Luzira Prison authorities in Uganda after the Supreme Court ruling in January stating executions must be commuted to life imprisonment if not carried out in three years. The prison’s spokesman, Frank Baine, said while this had raised a lot of excitement among the inmates, the hanging of condemned inmates is still legal and can be effected anytime. “If the Government adheres to the ruling of the Supreme Court, executions will be more frequent compared to the past,” Baine said. Hajji Mohammed Birikkadde Kasoozi was sentenced to death in 1982 for kidnapping, Fred Tindigwihuura was convicted in Hoima in 1987. Two others were identified as Isaiah Bikumu and Ben Ogwang Simba. Yowana Serunkuma, who was convicted for robbery, also qualified to be released but was kept in prison because he once attempted to escape.
 
According to prison records, at least 377 people, including one woman, have been legally executed by hanging in Uganda since 1938. The last executions in Uganda occurred in 2006.
On September 16, 2009, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative reported that Luzira Prison in Kampala was stuck with 17 inmates sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were below 18 years. Some of them, now adults, have spent 12 years in prison. Their fate can only be determined by the Minister of Justice.
As of November 2009, there were 637 prisoners on death row in Uganda. Many of them had been on death row for over 10 years and there were some which had been awaiting execution since the 1970’s.
 
Zambia
 
On January 14, 2009, the President of Zambia, Rupiah Bwezani Banda, pardoned and commuted the sentences of 53 prisoners on death row at Mukobeko prison, Kabwe. The death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment and other varying prison terms.
On April 3, 2009, President Rupiah Banda said that he will not sign a death warrant for any condemned inmate despite the death sentence still being enshrined in the Constitution. Speaking to a delegation of German parliamentarians, Banda said he would follow the footsteps of his predecessor, Levy Mwanawasa, who in the seven years of his tenure never signed a death warrant. Rupiah Banda was Deputy President of Zambia under President Mwanawasa from 2006 until the latter’s death in 2008, when he became the candidate of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy to replace Mwanawasa.
 
Since 1964, when Zambia gained its independence, 53 people have been executed by hanging. The last execution in Zambia occurred in January of 1997, when ex President Frederick Chiluba authorized the hanging of 8 detainees on the same day. Since then, there have also been a number of decisions and positions taken towards an improvement of human rights in the country.
In August of 2003, the parliament decided to abolish corporal punishment. “We abolished it because of its barbarism, but also to give Zambia an acceptable image internationally,” declared the Minister for Legal Affairs, George Kunda. “Their abolition is a step forward towards the abolition of hanging, the supreme corporal punishment,” said two parliamentarians of the majority during a debate in Parliament.
In April of 2003, President Levy Mwanawasa formed a commission to re-write the Constitution and to evaluate the possibility of abolishing capital punishment. In July of 2005, the commission presented its recommendations including that the practice of capital punishment be maintained. It will eventually be up to parliament to decide on the issue.
The policy of President Levy Mwanawasa, a Christian Baptist of abolitionist leanings, from his election in 2001 until his death, refused to sign orders of execution, commuting hundreds of death sentences. “People can’t be sent to the butcher like they were chickens, and as long as I’m President, I will not sign any orders of execution. I don’t want to be the executioner’s boss,” Mwanawasa said.
 
On February 3, 2010, the National Constitutional Conference in Zambia upheld the Constitution’s death penalty clause. Article 34 (2) states that a person shall not be deprived of life intentionally except in the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law in force of which that person has been convicted. After a heated debate where some delegates said the clause should be retained in the Constitution while others said that it should be deleted, the conference decided that capital punishment should be allowed in Zambia. Contributing to the debate, Colonel Moses Phiri said the death penalty should be upheld and that the Bible was clear as it gave the State power to take the life of a person in the case of offences like treason or terrorism. Christine Mulundika asked why society should talk about the rights of someone who had killed another person at the expense of the one that had lost their life. Bishop John Jere said that God’s word should be supported as it said that those who live by the sword die by the sword while Dante Saunders asked why the clause should be removed when other countries wanted to re-introduce it.
 
Morocco
 
King Mohammed VI of Morocco has not signed an execution decree since he took the throne on July 23, 1999.
On July 30, 2009, King Mohammed VI amnestied about 24,000 prisoners to mark the 10th anniversary of his coronation, the Arabic Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported. Many people currently on death row will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The Moroccan court said that more than 16,000 prisoners, including women and children, would be released early and some 8,000 offenders would receive lighter sentences. The amnesty concerns pregnant women, mothers of young children, youth offenders, the elderly, the disabled and foreigners.
For many observers it is a sign of the coming abolition of the death penalty in the country. The last major act of clemency occurred on March 2, 2007, when the King of Morocco granted clemency to 14 people condemned to die. The decision was reached in the context of a general amnesty that the sovereign conceded to a total of 8,836 inmates after the birth of his first daughter, Princess Lalla Khadija on February 28.
 
As of August 19, 2008, some 150 inmates were on Morocco’s death row, living in sub-human, “life-threatening conditions,” according to leading NGOs and rights activists. “The general situation of Morocco’s prison inmates, especially those on death row, is absolutely catastrophic and inhumane,” Mohamed Kouhlal, a writer specializing in human rights issues, told IPS. Conditions on death row were “even worse than execution itself,” added Al El Ouakili, a well-known writer and death penalty abolitionist campaigner. Kouhlal and El Ouakili are two of several activists who have written investigative reports recently on the situation in Moroccan jails. These have been confirmed by photographs smuggled out of prison showing inmates packed into cells like sardines.
 
After the terrorist attacks of May 16, 2003, in which 45 people died at Casablanca, the parliament immediately approved a new law which extended the scope of the death penalty to crimes linked to terrorism.
The suicide attacks in Casablanca at the start of 2007, provoked resistance on the part of the government in the process of abolishing the death penalty in the country underway for at least the last two years.
“Abolition now depends directly on the King Mohamed VI,” Mostafa Hannaoui, a member of the Progress and Socialism Party, said. “Only the king had the authority to break the current deadlock and put the controversial subject back on the political agenda.” This opinion is also shared by Khadija al-Riadi, the President of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. “We in Morocco were close to abolishing the death penalty last year, but unfortunately, the return to the country of terrorist attacks which threaten our security currently do not allow us to do so,” she said. In December 2007, Morocco’s new Justice Minister, Abdelwahed Radi, said his country is on the verge of abolishing capital punishment. Radi said ending the death penalty could be accomplished as part of a revision of Morocco’s penal code, Med Basin Newsline reported.
 
The country has 11 crimes that carry the death penalty, including aggravated murder, torture, armed robbery, arson, treason, desertion, and attempting to kill the King.
Since 1973, only two of 133 people sentenced to death have been executed. The last execution took place in 1993 when Mohammed Tabet, Chief of Police and Chief of Intelligence of the country, was executed for abuses of power and the rape of hundreds of woman and girls.
According to Amnesty International, 13 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
Kenya
 
On August 3, 2009, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya announced more than 4,000 death row inmates all would have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Kibaki said he made the decision following advice of a constitutional committee and that he was commuting the sentences using powers provided for under Kenya’s constitution. “Extended stay on death row causes undue mental anguish and suffering, psychological trauma (and) anxiety while it may as well constitute inhuman treatment,” the President said in a statement. Kibaki noted that the decision did not in any way suggest the abolition of the death penalty but said he had directed the government to assess whether the punishment was having any impact on the fight against crime.
On June 3, 2009, the Committee on Administration, National Security and Local Authorities reported to the Kenyan Parliament that more than 900 death row convicts are in Nairobi prisons alone. The countrywide number is 5,000, according to a report tabled before the House.
On March 8, 2009, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka said the Kenyan government was reviewing the death penalty. The Vice-President said his office was consulting with the Attorney-General and the President’s offices to chart the way forward. “Some African countries like Rwanda have already abolished the death penalty; we may go in that direction if there is consensus,” he said.
On May 11, 2010, Kenya rejected a UN proposal to delete the death penalty from its law books among a draft of recommendations that the government rejected at the UN Council meeting in Geneva. A statement by Kenya’s envoy to the UN mission in Geneva, Philip Owade, said the public had vetoed attempts to abolish the death penalty.
 
Murder, treason and armed robbery are capital crimes. Courts in Kenya apply the death penalty to violent robberies with particular rigor. Judges, not juries, pass death sentences.
The election, on December 27, 2002, of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) brought 39 years of Kenya African National Union (KANU) rule to an end and a commitment to abolish the death penalty by the new government. President Mwai Kibaki, already on February 25, 2003, commuted to life the death sentences of 195 prisoners, and released 28 others who had already served 15-20 years and had a record of good conduct.
The NARC government, committed to the introduction of a new constitution, opted to include abolition. On March 9, 2004 Kenya’s National Constitutional Conference (NCC) – mandated to review a new draft constitution – decided to abolish the death penalty for treason and robbery with violence but retain it for murder and the rape of minors.
This setback suffered by the government by the Constitutional Conference’s decision to restrict the number of capital crimes rather than do away with the death penalty was immediately contested by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi, who slammed the move as “retrogressive”. Murungi, a staunch abolitionist even as an opposition backbencher, said his government was determined not to hang anyone because the death penalty constituted an inhuman punishment. On March 10, 2004, he announced that President Kibaki had commuted all death sentences. According to government statistics, there were 2,618 death row inmates in Kenya up to October 2003.
The draft of the new constitution approved on March 15, 2004 by the NCC was reviewed and amended by the Kenyan Parliament. The new version was approved on July 21, 2005 and retained the death penalty. The draft constitution was, however, rejected by a popular referendum in November 2005, in what was widely regarded as a protest against President Kibaki, rather than a vote on the constitution itself.
Kibaki was re-elected on December 30, 2007, after elections contested by the opposition for alleged fraud.
The last hanging in Kenya took place in 1987, when the August 1, 1982 coup-plotters Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu were executed following a court-martial.
 
Nigeria
 
On March 22, 2009, Minister of Interior Godwin Abbe said that close to 200 inmates in the country’s prisons were on death row. “Some of them have been there for 15 to 20 years, waiting for the hangman’s noose, and you can imagine the agony and trauma of waiting for death,” Abe said at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). He blamed the “long wait for death” on reluctance of State governors to endorse death warrants. “Our governors are humane people who do not want to spill blood, but they could use their powers of prerogative of mercy to either commute some of the death sentences to life imprisonment or lesser forms of punishment,” he said. “They are given opportunities to appeal to the highest level; if still found guilty, it is left for the governors to confirm the death sentence. We are working to see if their sentences could be commuted to prison terms. Some could be reviewed to serve 21 years and the governors have a right to free some on the prerogative of mercy. We are also appealing to the governors to do something on the death sentences; not necessarily to confirm the sentences, but at least, take decisions,” he said. Abbe dismissed speculations that execution of inmates on death row was delayed because there were no hangmen to carry out the execution, saying the prison service had several hangmen in its employment. “But we will not identify them. They are an integral part of the Service. We don’t disclose their identity and we don’t disclose their number.”
On May 22, 2009, as part of measures to reduce overcrowding at the nation’s prisons, the Nigerian government was urged to release the 87 inmates currently on the death row that are 60 years old and over. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, made the suggestion at the meeting of the Body of Attorneys in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital. He also recommended that the Attorney-Generals of the various States take similar steps and initiatives aimed at further decongesting the prisons and advancing the human rights of citizens.
 
On January 3, 2009, Ebonyi State Governor Chief Martin Elechi commuted the death sentences of two prisoners to life sentences. Attorney-General of the State and Commissioner for Justice, Jossy Eze, explained that the gesture was a Christmas and New Year’s gift to the inmates with the expectation that they would reciprocate with a positive change of heart. He said that the governor performed the duty in full consultation and advice of the State Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, a body also enjoined by law to make such recommendations.
On August 26, 2009, in Nigeria, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola granted an amnesty on “humanitarian grounds” to three prisoners sentenced to death and released them. A further 37 death row inmates in Lagos had their sentences commuted by the State governor, including 29 who will now face life imprisonment. Fashola said that he wanted to give the prisoners “hope of changing their behaviors and [being] rehabilitated into society.” While no death row prisoner from Lagos State has been executed for over ten years, death sentences continue to be imposed.
On October 1, 2009, the Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, commuted the death sentences of four people to jail terms to mark Nigeria’s 49th independent anniversary. Sunday Eweje and Sunday John will now serve 21 year jail terms for murder. Ayodele Bunmi and Alonge Temitope were sentenced to death for armed robbery and stealing N500,000,00 and will now spend 27 years in jail. The Governor gave the order based on the recommendations made by the State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy. “The orders were made not to reward or encourage crime, but to offer the beneficiaries another opportunity to turn a new leaf,” Mimiko said. He therefore admonished them “to regard the mercy shown on them as a mark of benevolence of God to them and our country, whose independence anniversary we are celebrating.”
On October 25, 2009, Jigawa State Governor Alhaji Sule Lamido pardoned six prisoners sentenced to death by hanging for manslaughter. A statement from the office of the Secretary to the State Government said Sale Dagayya, Isa Mato, Shabe Alhaji Galadima, Haruna Alhaji Galadima, Amadu Idi and Sambo Alhaji Galadima were sentenced to death by hanging by High Courts in Hadejia, Kazaure and Kano respectively.
On January 3, 2010, Kwara State governor Bukola Saraki pardoned Bayo Ajia and Olayinka Are. They were sentenced to death by the State High Court on charges of manslaughter in March 2005.
 
Kidnapping was made a capital offence in eight Nigerian states during 2009 – Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers.
The last executions took place in Nigeria in 2006, when at least seven people, convicted in a Kano State court, were secretly executed by hanging, despite the fact that the Nigerian government swore that no one had been executed in the country “in years.”
In 2009, 58 people were sentenced to death in Nigeria, according to Amnesty International.
In May 2010, a total of 820 prisoners were on death row. Nigeria’s State governors backed their execution to clear space in the overcrowded jails. “It was agreed that those people who have been condemned should be executed accordingly,” said Theodore Orji, governor of the southeastern State of Abia, after a meeting of the 36 State governors in Abuja on April 20, 2010. The governors, who have the power to sign execution orders, said also that 80 percent of Nigeria’s prison population is awaiting trial and efforts should be made to “leave go” those having served out lengthy stays, according to Orji. Koyode Odeyemi of the Nigerian Prisons Service said 36,000 of the 40,106 inmates are awaiting trial.
On May 24, 2010, the 820 prisoners on death row in prisons across Nigeria sued the 36 State governors and the Comptroller-General of Prisons before a Federal High Court, seeking an order to stop their planned execution. The prisoners want the court to stop any planned execution because it would be cruel and inhuman, and some have cases in court challenging their conviction and sentences or challenging the mandatory provisions they were sentenced under.
 
Tanzania
 
On November 19, 2009, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said at a conference in Rome that he had commuted 75 death sentences to life imprisonment “just a few days ago.” He explained that many Tanzanians support the death penalty. However, “the death penalty was only being used as a toothless dog. More than 200 people were on the death row but none had been executed.” “The law is there but for a long time it has not been applied,” said Kikwete.
 
On July 13 and 14, 2009, the UN Human Rights Committee considered the fourth periodic report of the United Republic of Tanzania on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee called on the Tanzanian Government to seriously consider abolishing death penalty and ensure that the rights of detainees on death row are not violated. The Committee recommended, “The State party should seriously consider abolishing the death penalty and becoming a party to the Second Optional Protocol of the Covenant. It should also consider the early commutation of the death sentences of all persons currently sentenced to death.” Moreover, the Committee noted “that no executions have been carried out since 1994, but was concerned about the high number of prisoners on death row (292 prisoners as of 2009).” Several experts were concerned about the detainees, who, “due to the unofficial moratorium, are living with the constant fear of execution.” According to the Committee, “such very difficult mental circumstances could be considered as a form of inhuman and degrading treatment or even torture.” The Tanzanian delegation assured that their government “is slowly working towards abolition of the death penalty.”
The UN appeal coincides with a report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Tanzania submitted to the UN body by three local organizations: Southern Africa Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations” (SAHRINGON), the Tanganyika Law Society and the Legal and Human Rights Centre.
 
In 2008, Legal and Human Rights Centre in collaboration with the SAHRINGON and the Tanganyika Law Society filed a petition with the High Court to press the government to abolish the death penalty saying it denies one’s right to life.
The Tanzanian Government, through its Constitutional Affairs and Justice Minister Mathias Chikawe, said it was collecting views on whether or not to abolish the death penalty, although the proposals to abolish the death penalty have come at the wrong time because of the recent albino killings.
 
Murder and treason are capital crimes. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for people who are convicted of murder. However, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has noted that legislation dictating the mandatory imposition of the death penalty is prohibited under international human rights law as it violates the right to life.
Statistics compiled by the Law Reform Commission of Tanzania (LRCT) indicate that at least 2,478 prisoners were sentenced to death from 1961 to 2007. It further indicates that out of those convicted 238 were hanged, out of whom 232 were men.
The last execution in Tanzania was in 1994. As of July 2009, there were 292 prisoners on death row.
 
 
 
REINTRODUCTION OF THE DEATH PENALTY AND RESUMPTION OF EXECUTIONS
 
Regarding steps backwards, the most important news is that of the resumption of executions in Thailand in August 2009, after about six years of de facto moratorium.
In April of 2010, in Palestine, the Hamas Government in Gaza took it upon itself to resume executions after a de facto moratorium that had lasted five years.
At the end of April 2010, Taiwan also took up executions again after a five year suspension.
 
Thailand
 
On August 24, 2009, two men were executed by lethal injection in the prison of Bang Khwang in Bangkok. These executions marked the end of a de facto six-year-long moratorium on the death penalty in Thailand.
Bundit Jaroenwanit, 45, and Jirawat Poompreuk, 52, were arrested in 2001 for drug trafficking. It is the second case of death by lethal injection since 2003, when an amendment to Article 19 of the Criminal Code changed the method of execution from death by firing squad to lethal injection. Jaroenwanit and Poompreuk were given 60 minutes to call or write to their loved ones. They were then offered a last meal and a chance to listen to a sermon from a monk invited from Wat Bang Praek Tai. They were blindfolded and given flowers, candles and incense sticks before being taken to the execution chamber. The two, their legs manacled, turned their faces towards the temple as they were laid out on beds. They received three injections: the first a sedative, the second to relax their muscles and the third, the fatal one, a drug that stopped their hearts.
The European Union and human rights activists condemned the execution of Bundit Charoenwanich and Jirawat Phumpruek, urging the Thai government to adopt an immediate moratorium on executions as a first step, with the final aim of the total abolition of the capital punishment.
 
Under the Penal Code alone, the death sentence can be applied to 35 crimes, including offences against the King, treason, murder, rape in which the victim is killed and arson and robbery which results in death. In Thailand the death penalty applies to heroin or amphetamine drug trafficking, especially when a prisoner is found guilty after pleading not guilty at the start of the trial
According to the Thai Penal Code, prisoners who receive the death sentence can appeal for a royal pardon. The appeal must be made within 60 days of the verdict. Each prisoner can appeal only once. If the pardon is granted, execution will be commuted to life imprisonment.
It is never known in advance when a death warrant is to be issued, and executions are performed only once in a while. Usually a death warrant arrives in the morning and the execution takes place in the evening of the same day. If the prisoner is a Buddhist, monks will be invited to give a sermon, followed by the reading of the death sentence by the prison director.
Thailand resumed executions in 1995 after a de facto eight-year suspension.
On October 19, 2003, after 68 years and 319 lives (316 men and three women) taken by the firing squad, Thailand marked the introduction of lethal injection as a means of execution by a solemn ceremony at the Bang Kwang jail – notoriously known as the ‘Bangkok Hilton’. The firing squad had replaced decapitation as the method of execution in 1935.
On December 12, 2003, Thailand carried out its first executions by lethal injection, putting to death three people convicted of drug trafficking and one of murder at the Bang Kwang jail. These were the only executions in 2003. Nine people had been put to death in 2002 and 18 in 2001. For the fifth consecutive year, no executions were registered in Thailand in 2008.
As of August 24, 2009, there were 832 persons convicted in death row in the country. According to Thai media reports, 127 of them have had their final court ruling, without further possibility of appeal.
 
Palestinian National Authority
 
On April 15, 2010, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza executed by firing squad Nasser Salama Abu Fraih, 35, from ‘Izbat ‘Abed Rabbu area in Jabalya town in the northern Gaza Strip, and Mohammed Ibrahim Isma’il (al-Sabe’), 36, from the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, after being convicted by a military court of collaborating with Israel.
Mohammed Ibrahim Isma’il had been convicted of treason and participation in premeditated murder by the Higher Military Court on November 3, 2009. At the initial trial, on July 19, 2009, the Permanent Military Court had sentenced him to life imprisonment with hard work, but the Military Advocate General appealed against the sentence of the Permanent Military Court and the Higher Military Court in Gaza was convened on an exceptional basis to review the sentence.
Abu Freih, who was a First Sergeant in the civilian police of the Palestinian Authority, had been detained by the military prosecution in Gaza on May 2, 2008, and, on February 22, 2009, the Military Court in Gaza had sentenced him to death by firing squad on charges of treason and conspiracy to murder, under the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Military Penal Code of 2008.
It was the first time that Hamas has carried out formal executions since the Islamist group seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from the rival Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas, who governs in the West Bank. A Hamas government official confirmed the executions after the bodies of two men arrived at a Gaza hospital but did not say how they were carried out. Under Palestinian law, execution orders can be carried out only with presidential approval. But Hamas does not recognize Abbas’s presidency, and the executions represented a further challenge by the group to his authority. Abbas has refrained from approving death sentences against Palestinians convicted of capital offences in the West Bank. The execution sparked a major outcry among Palestinian rights groups and international organizations. The United Nations called for a halt to the practice and France condemned it as murder.
The last execution in Gaza took place in July 2005.
On April 19, 2010, Hamas said it would continue to carry out executions in the Gaza Strip, rejecting criticism by human rights groups and some Western governments. “We will continue to implement execution sentences,” Fathi Hammad, minister of interior in Hamas’s Gaza-based government, told reporters. Hammad said capital sentences would also be handed out for serious criminal offences, such as murder and major drugs crimes.
On May 18, 2010, in fact, the Palestinian movement Hamas hanged three men convicted of murder in its Gaza enclave, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Hamdi Shaqura, of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, identified the three men as Rami Mohammed Sa’id Juha, 25, Matar Harb al-Shoubaki, 35, and ‘Amer Saber Hussein Jundeya, 33. He said Juha was sentenced to death by a civilian court on April 13, 2004, for gang-raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl in 2003. Shoubaki was sentenced by a civilian court, on March 15, 1996, for the murder of another man. Jundeya was sentenced by a Hamas-run military court on March 10, 2009, for the murder of a money changer. “The Interior Ministry this morning carried out the death penalty on three criminals who had committed murders after completing all legal procedures,” the Ministry said in a statement. The Ministry said the three had been given “every right to defend themselves in open trials attended by their lawyers and family members.” It also said that it granted the opportunity for the families of the victims to forgive the killers and accept blood money, in keeping with Islamic law, “until moments before the death sentence was carried out.” These death sentences were carried out without the approval of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
 
In Palestinian areas, three types of penal legislation are currently applied. In the West Bank the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 (1960) is enforced, which provides for the death penalty in cases of high treason and murder. The Gaza Strip is under Egyptian Law No. 74 (1936) that imposes the death penalty for the disturbance of internal order. There is also the Palestinian Authority (PA) law that is fairly flexible concerning capital punishment. Those guilty of treason are also condemned on the basis of Article 131/A of the Palestinian Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, and according to Military Penal Code no. 4 (2008). It is worth noting that the Revolutionary Penal Code of Palestine Liberation Organization is unconstitutional in the PNA, as it has not been presented to nor approved by the legislature. In addition, the Military Penal Code no. 4 (2008) was issued in the context of ongoing political fragmentation, that prevents the legitimate operation of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), whose meetings are held by members of the Change and Reform Bloc (Hamas), with other Parliamentary Blocs and PLC members refusing to participate. 
Article 327 of the Palestinian National Authority Criminal Procedure Law (#3 2001) requires the submission of an appeal in all cases in which the death penalty or a life prison term has been handed down. The appeal must be submitted to the appeals court in Gaza city within 15 days of the decision. If the appeal is rejected, the death sentence must then be ratified by the President of the Palestinian Authority in order for it to be implemented.
 
Since the Palestinian Authority was instituted in 1994, eighteen Palestinians have been ‘legally’ executed, including four people executed on charges of collaboration with Israel. Two of these executions were carried out in the West Bank and 16 in the Gaza Strip.
However during the PNA’s regime, more than 100 convicted or suspected collaborators have been killed by Palestinian militants more often than by official police death squads. Armed and masked activists have broken into private homes, police stations, jails and even courts to get at the alleged or convicted collaborators.
The PA carried out its first execution on August 30, 1998. Two brothers, Raed and Muhammad Abu Sultan, members of the Palestinian military intelligence, were executed by firing squad in Gaza City after receiving a summary and unfair trial before a special military court, only three days after they were charged with committing two killings.
On June 12, 2005, the Palestinian Authority resumed executions after three years. Four men, all convicted of murder, were executed in Gaza City, three by hanging and one by firing squad. Ten days after the executions and following international criticism, on June 22, 2005, Mahmoud Abbas asked his justice minister to annul court verdicts against dozens of Palestinians, including some convicted of collaborating with Israel. However, another execution – the fifth of 2005 – took place on July 27, when Raed al-Mughrabi was put to death for murder at the prison in Gaza City.
As far as the preceding years are concerned, in 2002, three people were shot to death, all for murder; in 2003, four people were condemned to death, but no executions were carried out; in 2004, for the second year running, no executions were carried out in Palestine.
 
The total number of death sentences handed down by the Palestinian National Authority as of June 30, 2010 reached no less 103, 23 in the West Bank and 80 in the Gaza Strip, according to the Gaza City-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).
In 2009, Palestinian courts handed down at least 18 death sentences: 3 of them issued in the West Bank and 15 in the Gaza Strip, including those of Naser Salama Abu Freih and Mohammed Ibrahim Isma’il “al-Sab’a”, executed in April 2010, and of ‘Amer Saber Hussein Jundeya, hanged in May.
On January 25, 2009, the Military Court in Hebron sentenced Mahran Rashad ‘Abdul Rahman Abu Jouda, 25, a member of Force 17 (presidential security) from al-’Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron, to death by firing squad. Abu Jouda was arrested nearly two years ago by the General Intelligence Service before he was transferred to detention by the Military Intelligence Service. The court had held 10 sessions to consider his case before it issued its ruling. The court convicted Abu Jouda of treason in violation of article 131/A of the Palestinian Military Penal Act of 1979, so it sentenced him to death.
On March 10, 2009, the Military Court in Gaza sentenced 3 Palestinians from al-Shoja’eya neighborhood, in the east of Gaza City, to death. The three were convicted of murdering Fawzi Jameel Kamel ‘Ajjour, 40, a money changer, on October 4, 2008. The court convicted the first defendant, ‘Aamer Saber Hussein Jundiya, a member of the Palestinian National Security Forces, of kidnapping the victim for the purpose of killing him, in violation of the Palestinian Penal Code of 1936, and of premeditated murder, in violation of the Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) of 1979. The court convicted the two other defendants, Salem ‘Ali Jundiya and Mo’men Hussein Jundiya, of premeditated murder and sentenced them both to death by firing squad.
On April 7, 2009, the Military Court in Gaza sentenced four Palestinians, two from the al-Sheja’eya neighborhood and two from al-Tufah neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, to death in absentia. The four Palestinians were convicted of the murder of Husein Ahmed Abu ‘Ajwa, from the al-Tufah neighborhood, on July 5, 2006. Three other Palestinians were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor for the same convictions. The four sentenced to death are Hani Ibrahim Zeideya, and three members of the Preventive Security Service: Major Bassam Kamal Rahmi, and servicemen Na’el Salah Juha and Mohammed Salem al-Mathloum. The three Palestinians who were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor are Mohammed Zaher Zeideya, Hamed Mahmoud al-Sherbasi, and Na’el Jamal Harb. The Court charged the seven Palestinians with forming a “Devil’s Association” in violation of the Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) of 1979. The sentences were issued publicly and are subject to ratification and appeal.
On April 28, 2009, a three-judge panel in a Hebron military court sentenced Anwar Breghit, a 59-year-old Palestinian from the village of Beit Ummar, north of the southern West Bank city, to death after it found him guilty of treason and of selling property to Israelis. The Hebron court said its decision was final and that the convicted person could not appeal his sentence.
On May 24, 2009, the Permanent Military Court in Gaza sentenced three Fatah members to death for killing two Hamas-affiliated journalists. Shadi Khader Deeb, 30, from Beit Lahi, has been detained since October 10, 2007; Shadi ‘Abdul Karim al-Madhoun, from Beit Lahia, and Ra’ed Sabri al-Maqqoussi, 29, from Jabalya refugee camp, were sentenced in absentia. Judge Mohammed Nofal found the three guilty of kidnapping and killing Mohammed Abdo and Suleiman al-Ashi on May 13, 2007. The three perpetrators were members of the presidential guard forces who were in charge of providing security for President Mahmoud Abbas.
On October 7, 2009, the Permanent Military Court in Gaza, headed by Judge Ayman ‘Imad al-Din, sentenced Saleem Mohammed Saleem al-Nabahin, 27, from al-Boreij refugee camp, to death for collaboration with Israel. The sentence, which may be appealed, was issued in the presence of the defendant, who was arrested on December 28, 2007. The court convicted the defendant of “collaboration with hostile parties” and sentenced him to death by hanging.
On October 29, 2009, a pro-Fatah policeman was sentenced to death by a Hamas military court in Gaza for collaborating with Israel, Hamas’ Interior Ministry said. Abdulkareem Shrair, 35, an Az-Zaitun resident, in Gaza, “was charged with treason in violation of the Palestinian revolutionary law,” the Ministry said in a statement sent to the media, adding that his cooperation with Israel had led to assassination of Palestinian activists. The statement gave no more details on the alleged assassinations. The statement said that Shrair was a policeman enrolled with the former security services that report to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah party. Shrair was also found guilty of manslaughter under articles (378/ a) and (88/a) of the same code.
On December 9, 2009, a West Bank military tribunal in Ramallah sentenced private ‘Izziddin Rassem Daghra, from Kufor ‘Ein village north of Ramallah, to death by firing squad, after convicting him of collaboration with Israel. The head of the Palestinian court, Ahmed Abu Dayyeh, said the information the man provided to Israel led to the arrest of several Palestinians. Abu Dayyeh said that the 41-year-old officer was recruited as an informer in 1992.
On February 22, 2010, the de facto government’s Court of First Instance in Gaza issued a death by hanging sentence against a 30-year-old resident found guilty of killing a Christian gold trader on August 2, 2009. The accused, identified only as A. Gh., stood trial for the shooting death of Akram Issa Ibrahim Al-Amash, 34, in Beit Lahiya. He was found guilty of premeditated murder, a statement from the court said. The sentence can be appealed at the Court of Appeals in Gaza.
 
In 2006, the PA held its first national elections in which Hamas competed. It won a surprise victory, claiming 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats.
Then, in a coup in June 2007, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, ousting its rival party Fatah and assassinating Fatah loyalists.
On December 24, 2008, the London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat reported the Hamas parliament in the Gaza Strip had voted in favor of a law allowing courts to mete out sentences in the spirit of Islam. The same report was run on the same day on the website of Al-Arabiya, the online arm of the popular Al-Arabiya satellite news outlet. According to the bill, courts would be able to condemn offenders to a plethora of violent punitive measures in line with Sharia Law. Such punishments include whipping, crucifixion and hanging. PA legislators in Gaza denied the reports that they adopted Islamic criminal penalties, saying that there has been no official statement to that effect. However, in the preceding two months, official Hamas leaders had proudly announced in the Hamas-run media that this Islamic penal code was being prepared according to the “noble Islamic religious law,” and was nearly ready. When Palestinian voters elected Hamas in 2006, organization spokesman Hamed Bitawi declared: “The Quran is our constitution, Muhammad is our prophet, jihad is our path, and dying as martyrs for the sake of Allah is our biggest wish.” His statement was answered with a standing ovation and calls of “Allahu Akbar.”
The fact is clear that with the coup carried off by Hamas in June of 2007 in the Gaza Strip, the influence of radical Islam on the daily lives of the population has continually increased. Regardless of any legal basis, Islamic codes of behavior are imposed on the population by the iron-fisted control of Hamas through its strategic control of schools, mosques, social welfare structures and the media, which have all had a decisive impact on current life in the Gaza Strip. The imposition of such codes in daily life is enforced by the internal security forces of Hamas, which operate like a sort of “moral police” similar to those found in Iran, Saudi Arabia and in Afghanistan at the time of the Taliban, making sure, for example, that women on the streets or at the beach are dressed appropriately.
In July 2009, a “virtue campaign” was launched in Gaza by the Religious Affairs Ministry with a list of religious dos and don’ts featured on posters and in mosque sermons. It also calls for gender separation at wedding parties and tells teens to shun pop music with suggestive lyrics. “We have to encourage people to be virtuous and keep them away from sin,” said Abdullah Abu Jarbou, the Deputy Religious Affairs Minister.
Hamas insists compliance with its “virtue campaign” is still voluntary and simply responds to a Gazan preference for conservative ways. But the rules are vague and there are reports of alleged offenders being beaten and teachers being told to pressure girls to wear head scarves.
“There are attempts to Islamize this society,” said Khalil Abu Shammala, a human rights activist in Gaza. Hamas’ denials “contradict what we see on the street.”
Beach patrols break up groups of singles and make men wear undershirts and knee-length shorts. In June 2009, three young men walking on the beach with a female friend said they were beaten by Hamas police, detained and ordered to sign statements promising not to engage in “immoral activities.”
Police enforced the restrictions on mannequins and salesmen said they ripped off the tags on packages of panties and bras which showed women in underwear. Lingerie shops were ordered to hide its scantily clad mannequins. Other shopkeepers said they were told to remove the mannequins’ heads so they don’t violate the Islamic ban on copying the human form.
On July 9, 2009, Counsellor ‘Abdul Ra’ouf al-Halabi, Chief Justice of the Higher Court of Justice and Head of the Higher Justice Council, ordered female lawyers to wear head scarves and dark robes or be barred from courtrooms. Under the latest decision, male attorneys would be required to wear a uniform in court that consists of a robe, dark suit, white shirt and black tie. Female counterparts would also wear a robe and a scarf. “We will not allow people to ruin morals,” he explained.
On November 30, 2009, the Hamas-run government ruling Gaza approved a legal change that will allow for the execution of convicted drug dealers, attorney general Mohammed Abed said.
 
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) called on the Palestinian National Authority to announce an immediate moratorium on executions, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to ratify these cruel and inhumane sentences, and to prevent their implementation. PCHR also calls upon the PNA to review all legislation relative to the death penalty, and to enact a unified penal code that conforms to the spirit of international human rights instruments, especially those pertaining to the abolition of the death penalty.
On December 16, 2009, the Second Palestinian National Conference for the Abolition of the Death Penalty concluded in Ramallah, and recommended that Palestine’s military be completely separated from its civil arm. Conference delegates also suggested a suspension of the use of the death penalty until it can be totally eliminated from Palestinian law. Executive Director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) Randa Siniora inaugurated the conference with a speech on behalf of the Palestinian Coalition Against the Death Penalty. She said that the coalition and the ICHR and were gravely concerned by death penalties issued by Palestinian military and civil courts. While asserting that no criminals should escape punishment, Siniora called the death penalty contradictory to modern penal policy which recommended reform rather than putting an end to human life.
 
Taiwan
 
On April 30, 2010, Taiwan executed four people, the Justice Ministry said, in the island’s first cases of capital punishment since December 26, 2005, when two men, Lin Meng-kai e Lin Hsin-hung, were put to death for murder in Taichung prison.
The Ministry of Justice confirmed that four death row convicts, identified as Chang Chun-hung, Hung Chen-yao, Ko Shih-ming and Chang Wen-wei, were executed earlier in the day, two days after Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu signed the warrants for the executions, the Ministry said in a statement. The four had been convicted of “the most serious crimes”, including murder and kidnapping, the Justice Ministry declared. “The justice ministry gave death penalty orders to the four people on April 28 and the order was carried out on April 30,” the on line statement said.
 
In recent years, the Taiwanese Government has often tried to manifest its political will towards abolishing the death penalty by giving a broader scope to and greater care towards human rights.
In February of 2006, then-Minister of Justice Morley Shih said that the government was moving towards abolition, but that there was still a majority of public opinion that considered capital punishment a deterrent. According to the Taipei Times, the Minister of Justice tried to postpone executions with extraordinary appeals to the Supreme Court and by suspending executions when the Court upholds the death sentence.
On April 25, 2008, the new Minister of Justice of Taiwan, Wang Ching-feng, attracted more attention than most others included in Liu Chao-shiuan’s Cabinet by voicing her opinion on the death penalty. Wang, a woman known for her active involvement in social and political activities, had held a number of high government posts and was highly regarded for her ability and vision. In an interview she had with the Chinese-language Apple Daily newspaper, Wang said she personally disapproves of the death penalty. “Life should not be taken away (from a human being),” she said. “I respect life. The removal of one life cannot restore a lost life.”
On May 21, 2008, new Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng said she would attempt to abolish the death penalty to bring the island into line with the international trend. “Keeping the death penalty has cost the country’s international image. Especially when Taiwan is struggling to defend its fragile diplomacy, it is not worth it,” Wang said a day after she took office. “Abolishing the death penalty is an international trend.... The European Union is actively pushing for the goal,” she said.
On August 9, 2008, the Ministry of Justice reiterated in a statement that capital punishment is cruel and fails to demonstrate that punishments should also serve rehabilitation purposes. However, ruling Taiwanese Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers said that they would oppose the Ministry of Justice plan to phase out the death penalty, claiming that a lack of capital punishment would increase the crime rate.
 
On March 12, 2010, Taiwan’s Justice Minister resigned after failing to win support for her opposition to the death penalty. On March 10, Wang Ching-feng said she would not give the go-ahead for any executions. She added she would gladly die instead of any of the 44 inmates on death row, if only they got a chance to rehabilitate themselves. “If these convicts can have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, I would be very happy to be executed or even go to hell in their stead.” “People who died could not come back to life, so guaranteeing the right to life should not be a thing of the future, but should be advancing right now,” her statement said. “I would rather step down than sign any death warrant,” she added. Ms Wang’s comments were criticized by President Ma Ying-jeou, by her own Kuomintang party and by victims of violent crime. Wang’s resignation was approved by President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih. On March 11, the Presidential Office said in a statement that legal amendments were necessary to cut the number of executions, but Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng should adhere to the law. Presidential spokesman Lo Chih-chiang read a statement emphasizing the rule of law, implying Wang could not refuse to sign orders to execute convicts already sentenced to death.
On March 22, 2010, Taiwan’s new Justice Minister, who was appointed after his predecessor refused to authorize executions, said he had ordered a review of the cases of all 44 prisoners on Taiwan’s death row. Tseng Yung-fu was also quoted by the official Central News Agency as suggesting that his ministry would carry out the death sentence in cases where the condemned prisoners’ guilt had been confirmed. “The Justice Ministry will decide whether to execute any of the death row prisoners and will not avoid its responsibility if the review confirms they were guilty,” Tseng was quoted as saying. He also told the news agency that carrying out executions would not violate two UN human rights conventions to which Taiwan was a signatory and which oblige signatories to reduce the number of executions. “Carrying out executions (of those already convicted) should not go as far to violate the two conventions,” Tseng said, after he was sworn in as Minister. The option of abolishing the death penalty was still open and the Ministry will organize several seminars to hear public opinion on the issue, Tseng was quoted as saying.
On April 22, 2010, Catholic bishops in Taiwan urged the government to abolish the death penalty in a statement published in Catholic Weekly. Archbishop John Hung of Taipei said that Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist leaders were united in opposing the death penalty. “If the government thinks that it cannot abolish capital punishment, it should suspend executions, and introduce some countermeasures from overseas experience,” he said.
On May 1, 2010, the European Union condemned the resumption of executions in Taiwan, asking the country to immediately re-establish the de facto moratorium on the death penalty. “The Union asks the government of Taiwan to immediately re-establish the moratorium on the death penalty and work towards the abolition of capital punishment, in accordance with the global trend towards universal abolition,” EU Foreign Affairs high representative Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
The continuation of the death sentences was thought to become an obstacle to attempts at winning visa exemptions for Taiwanese visitors to the European Union. The government said it would try to explain the situation so that the Schengen Group of Nations – 22 EU members and three other countries – still agreed to introduce the visa waivers before the end of 2010.
A bill proposing the end of capital punishment has failed to pass the cabinet since 2001 amid opposition from the public. A January 2010 survey has found that 74 percent of the people in Taiwan are against the abolition of the capital punishment, and over half of them think death row inmates should be executed. It is the first time that more than 50 percent of the people surveyed in Taiwan have called for the execution of those condemned to death.
On May 12, 2010, Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu said there was no need to hold a referendum on the death penalty given that almost 80 percent of the public supported it. Tseng made the remarks at the legislature in response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang’s proposal to resolve the death penalty controversy once and for all through a referendum. A referendum on the issue would be better considered once public opinion is more evenly spread, Tseng added. He said that abolishing the death penalty was the nation’s long-term goal. The Ministry has been promoting policies toward the abolition of capital punishment, but it has not set a timetable for its implementation. The Ministry will follow public opinion, he said. In the meantime, the Ministry would not suspend executions in accordance with the law, he said.
On May 28, 2010, the Justices of the Taiwanese Constitutional Court rejected a petition aimed at halting plans to execute the 40 inmates that remain on death row. “There is no violation of the Constitution in the convictions,” the Constitutional Court said in a statement. “Execution of the death row prisoners does not violate the two United Nations covenants that Taiwan has signed,” the court said, in a reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
 
About 500 inmates were executed between 1987 and 2005. However, there was a drastic reduction in death sentences and executions in Taiwan between 1998 and 2005: 32 people were put to death in 1998; 24 in 1999; 17 in 2000; 10 in 2001; 9 in 2002; 7 in 2003; down to 3 in 2004 and in 2005. No one was executed in 2006, in 2007, in 2008 and in 2009. Seven death sentences were handed down in 2009.
After the executions of April 30, 2010, a further 40 inmates remain on death row, according to the Ministry of Justice.
 
 
 
 
 
SHARIA LAW AND THE DEATH PENALTY
 
In 2009, at least 607 executions, compared to 585 in 2007, were carried out in 10 Muslim-majority countries (16 in 2008), many of which were ordered by religious tribunals applying a strict interpretation of Sharia law.
Eighteen retentionist countries look explicitly to Sharia law as the foundation of their judicial system.
However, the problem is not the Koran itself as illustrated by the fact that not all countries that observe its teachings predominantly practice the death penalty, or make the text the basis of their penal or civil codes, or their fundamental law. It lies rather in the literal translation of a centuries-old text into penal norms, punishments and rules applied to our times, a transposition performed by fundamentalist, dictatorial or authoritarian regimes and used by them to impede any democratic progress.
Of the 48 Muslim-majority States worldwide, 23 can be considered abolitionist in various forms, while 25 retain the death penalty, of which 10 applied capital punishment in 2009.
Hanging, beheading and firing squad are the methods which were used to enforce the Sharia in 2009 and in the first six months of 2010, but in Iran there were also cases of stoning (at least one case in 2009).
 
STONING
 
Of all Islamic punishments, stoning is the most terrible. It is meant to cause a slow torturous death. 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 used must be neither too large, or they may cause instant death, nor too small to be fatal. 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.
In 2009 and in the first six months of 2010, sentences of death by stoning were issued only in Iran, where one man was actually stoned to death on March 5, 2009, after being convicted of adultery. At least three people were stoned to death in Somalia in 2009, but they were condemned to death by extra-judicial Islamic tribunals for having sex out of wedlock.
 
Iran
 
Hanging was the preferred method of applying Sharia law in Iran, but execution by stoning was also carried out in at least one case in 2009.
On November 21, 2006, the Iranian Minister of Justice, Jamal Karimi-Rad, assured that Iran has not carried out any stonings, despite the various sentences of death by stoning handed down in as many convictions for adultery. “There have been no stonings. Lower tribunals can issue these types of sentences, but none has ever been carried out,” said Karimi-Rad speaking to journalists, adding that “it is extremely difficult” to verify the crimes punishable by stoning.
Events of preceding years were denied. On July 5, 2007, Jafar Kiani was stoned to death after being condemned to death for adultery after having spent 11 years in jail. On December 25, 2008, two men were stoned by the mullahs’ judiciary in Behesht Zahra cemetery in the holy city of Mashhad. A third prisoner, identified as Mahmoud, an Afghani national, managed to get out of the hole. According to mullahs’ penal codes he cannot be stoned a second time. The three men were convicted of adultery.
On March 5, 2009, a man was stoned to death for adultery in Rasht (northern Iran). On May 5, 2009, the Iranian judiciary spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshidi, in response to a question, confirmed that “Stoning was carried out during the Iranian month of Esfand,” which ended on March 20. Iranian Resistance had previously reported, “On March 5, a 30-year-old man from Parsabat Moghan, northern Iran, was stoned to death in the Lakan prison in the northern city of Rasht. He was identified as Vali Azad, an employee of the Commerce Department. The mullahs’ local judiciary refused to release the body to his family and buried him in an unknown location.” On May 5, the State-run daily Aftab-e Yazd reported that a 30-year-old government employee identified only as ‘V’, was stoned to death in Rasht prison on March 5, further confirming the report.
In 2002, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, ex-head of the mullahs’ judiciary, had announced a ban on implementing stoning sentences. The judiciary spokesman explained about this inconsistency as well as the rationale for implementing stoning, and said, “Considering the independence of judges, it is possible that as long as the ban on stoning has not become law, the recommendations of the head of the judiciary would not be acted upon.” The woman involved in the case has “repented and so has not been stoned,” Jamshidi added.
With these last executions, there were at least 6 people stoned to death for adultery, since, in 2002, a moratorium on stoning was called for by the Chief Magistrate of Iran.
 
On June 21, 2009, the official IRNA news agency reported the umpteenth announcement by the Iranian Parliament to scrap stoning and amputation of a hand as punishments in a revised version of the Islamic penal code. “Parliaments judicial commission decided not to put some Islamic punishments including stoning in the (revised) law in line with the interests of the country,” commission head Ali Shahrokhi told the agency. He said the commission is also proposing the abolition of amputation and has considered the idea of a “special court for minors under 18.” Once the commission has finalized the new version of the penal code, parliament will vote on whether to implement the revised law for a trial period. Afterwards it will be discussed for final approval by the vetting legislative body, the Guardians Council.
On October 5, 2009, a man was hanged for “anal rape” and adultery, human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei reported. Mostafaei wrote in an open letter that his client Rahim Mohammadi was hanged in the prison of Tabriz. Neither he nor Mr. Mohammadi’s family had been informed prior to the execution. Mr. Mohammadi’s wife, Kobra Babai, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and her sentence may be carried out in the near future.
The lawyer explained that Rahim Mohammadi and Kobra Babai, married for approximately 16 years with an 11-year-old daughter, lived in conditions of extreme poverty and were forced to rely on State welfare services. Certain employees of these services offered money to Mohammadi to have sex with his wife and he accepted. The woman was prostituted to around 40 men, according to the lawyer. For this she was sentenced to be stoned to death.
Initially, Mohammadi was only condemned of adultery, a charge which calls for stoning, but he was then found guilty of homosexual activities (Lavat) because of the testimony of a neighbor, which calls for a sentence of hanging. “We all know that stoning is a sentence which is not easy to carry out because it is not practiced in other countries, and because it will lead to unwanted national and international reactions,” Mohammad Mostafaei explained. “In order to carry out the death sentence in an easy manner, the court found him guilty on Lavat charges – charges that he denied and that were retracted by the person who had brought them up.”
Rahim Mohammadi was flogged severely a few days before his execution and was hanged while his body was crushed because of the lashes he had received.
On January 6, 2010, the Azarbaijan Provincial Court of Appeal in Iran confirmed the death sentence by stoning of Vali Janfeshani and his unidentified partner for adultery.
 
Somalia
 
In Somalia, at the end of 2006, troops of the transition government in Mogadishu defeated the Islamic Courts with the help of the Ethiopian military. But the rebels took on guerrilla tactics that proved very hard to combat, and Islamist fighters from the hard-line Al-Shabaab insurgency run much of south and central Somalia imposing laws inspired by the most severe conceptions of Islam, while the UN-backed government only control parts of the capital.
 
On November 6, 2009, Islamists in southern Somalia stoned a man to death for adultery but spared his pregnant girlfriend until she gives birth. Abas Hussein Abdirahman, 33, was killed in front of a crowd of some 300 people in the port town of Merka. An official from the Al-Shabaab group said the woman would be killed after she has had her baby. Al-Shabaab official Sheikh Suldan Aala Mohamed said Abdirahman had confessed to adultery before an Islamic court. “He was screaming and blood was pouring from his head during the stoning. After seven minutes he stopped moving,” an eyewitness told the BBC.
On November 17, 2009, Islamist rebels publicly stoned a woman to death and flogged a man 100 times for alleged adultery in southern Somalia. Sheik Ibrahim Abdurrahman, an Al-Shabaab court judge in the village of Elbon in the Bakool region, told local media about the courts verdict. “Halimo Ibraahim Abdurrahman, 29, who had been previously married, had illegal sex with Nanah Mohamed Maadey, 20, previously unmarried, and they confessed to the acts in front of the court which sentenced Halimo to be stoned to death and Nanah to receive 100 lashes in accordance with the Islamic law,” Sheikh Abdurrahman said. Before executing the sentence the woman was allowed give birth to the child that was conceived from the rapport. Hundreds of local people, mostly women and children, saw the stoning of the woman and the lashing of the man which were carried out by Islamist fighters from Al-Shabaab insurgent group.
On December 13, 2009, witnesses in the town of Afgoye, southwest of Mogadishu, said Islamist militants stoned Mohamed Abukar Ibrahim to death, 48, accused of adultery. The militants apparently summoned the town’s residents to watch the execution.
 
Stonings were carried out once again by the Islamic rebels Al-Shabaab in 2010.
On January 16, 2010, a Somali man was stoned to death for adultery in the town of Barawe by Al-Shabaab militants. Hussein Ibrahim Mohamed, 26, was accused of raping a girl and was sentenced to death by a court in Barwe town. At least two hundred people gathered at open ground in the city center to watch how the execution was carried out, but some residents say they were forced to watch the killing. “It was not our intention to watch such very shocking incident, but we were ordered to do so and I am sorry that I have watched the killing of the young man whom I knew for more than ten years,” a resident who demanded anonymity said by telephone from the city.
 
 
HANGING – BUT NOT ONLY...
 
A common alternative to death by stoning in sentences based on Sharia law is hanging, preferred for men but used for women as well.
In 2009 and in the first six months of 2010, hangings carried out on the basis of Sharia law were practiced in Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Sudan.
Hanging is often carried out in public and combined with supplementary punishments such as flogging and the amputation of limbs before the actual execution.
 
Egypt
 
The Egyptian Constitution makes no reference to the death penalty. But, in accordance with Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution, as amended in 1980: “Islam is the State religion and Arabic is its official language. The Sharia is the principal source of legislation.”
Egyptian legislation allows for the death sentence to be imposed for a large number of offences defined by the Penal Code, the Military Code of Justice, the Arms and Ammunition Law, and the Anti-Drug Trafficking Law.
Egypt has expanded its application of capital punishment since President Hosni Mubarak took office in 1981. Capital offences, previously confined to premeditated murder and crimes against the State, now number over 40. Capital crimes include aggravated murder, arson, abduction and rape of a female, perjury leading to the sentencing and execution of a person, hijacking, espionage, drug trafficking, political and military offences.
All capital executions must first be approved by the Mufti, the country’s highest religious authority. The final decision goes to the President of the Republic who, by law, has the power to grant a pardon or commute a sentence.
Executions cannot take place on public holidays or religious holidays in accordance with the religion of the accused.
In 1999 the Government abolished an article of the Penal Code that permitted a rapist to be absolved of criminal charges if he married his victim. However, marital rape is not illegal.
 
There is very little official data available on death sentences and executions in Egypt.
In 2009, Amnesty International recorded 269 death sentences – up from 86 the previous year – and 5 executions.
 
June has been dubbed “the month of executions” and 2009 “the year of mass executions” by Egyptian newspapers and analysts amid debate about abolishing capital punishment.
“We’ve haven’t seen anything like this in over 200 years,” said Nasser Amin, director of the Cairo-based Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession. “The numbers are alarming. In one case in 2009 twenty-four people were sentenced to hang, and in another a judge handed down 10 death sentences.”
In the first six months of 2009, Egyptian courts handed down unprecedented numbers of death sentences, most of them for violent crime. “Two hundred and thirty death sentences in six months,” read the headline of independent daily Al-Dustour on June 24, 2009. “Fifty in the last week alone.” “So many death sentences have been handed down by the courts that the Grand Mufti has had little time to concentrate on his other responsibilities,” Alaa Eddin Al-Kifafi, psychology professor at Cairo University told IPS. “For the average citizen, there are fewer job opportunities than ever, which has led to a widespread sense of hopelessness and despair,” said Al-Kifafi. Azza Quraim, social science professor at the Cairo-based National Centre for Social and Criminal Research said, “Extreme violence, generally unknown in Egyptian society before, appears to be becoming a behavioral norm.” But according to Quraim, the State’s hasty recourse to capital punishment is a misguided – and socially destructive – approach to the dilemma, and represents “its own kind of mass murder.” “By issuing harsh verdicts such as the death penalty, judicial authorities have begun to practice their own kind of violence against society,” Quraim added.
Religious authorities are vocally opposing such sentiments. “Any Muslim who denies qisas [capital punishment], which is mentioned in the Quran, is an infidel,” said cleric Abdel Fattah el Sheikh, former director of Al Azhar University and director of the jurisprudence committee which is affiliated with Al Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prominent institution.
However, Egypt said that it will maintain the death penalty, even though human rights groups say that fair trials are not guaranteed. “Egypt will not abolish the death penalty. It is a deterrent especially in murder crimes,” State Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mufid Shehab told a human rights session in parliament on December 10, 2009. “This penalty is carried out with full guarantees of a fair trial in several phases and the accused is not executed until after an opinion from the mufti,” the country’s most senior Muslim legal scholar, Shehab said in comments carried by the official MENA news agency.
However, a report by 16 Egyptian human rights groups stated, “Criminal courts in Egypt, which issue all death sentences in cases unrelated to terrorism, offer no recourse to appeal before a higher judicial body.” “More serious are the death sentences for civilians issued by emergency courts or military tribunals, since these courts do not provide the minimum standards of a fair trial,” it added.
 
On March 10, 2010, Egyptian man Atef Rohyum Abd El Al Rohyum was hanged in Cairo’s Isti’naf prison, and his female co-defendant, Jihan Mohammed Ali, was executed in Giza for murdering Ali’s husband in January 2004. Ali claimed she killed her husband alone as he was beating her, and Atef only helped move the body. Atef was reportedly tortured and his family were not informed of his execution until they were asked to collect the body. At an earlier stage, following his arrest, Atef Rohyum Abd El Al Rohyum is reported to have been interrogated without the presence of a lawyer and tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Those who say they witnessed him being tortured and harshly treated were not called to give evidence at his trial.
 
Iran
 
Hanging is often carried out by crane or low platforms to draw out the pain of death. The noose is made from heavy rope or steel wire and is placed around the neck in such a fashion as to crush the larynx causing extreme pain and prolonging the death of the condemned. Hanging is often carried out in public and combined with supplementary punishments such as flogging and the amputation of limbs before the actual execution.
 
On January 30, 2008, Iran announced that the powerful head of its judiciary must, in the future, approve any executions to be carried out in public and banned all pictures of the events. The new decree was issued by then-judicial chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. “Public executions will be carried out only with his approval and based on social necessities,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said in a statement. “Publishing photos or images regarding the executions in the media is prohibited based on this decree,” he added.
“We have repeatedly seen that people expressed sympathy with the person who was going to be hanged in public. People even expressed their abhorrence at the execution of the sentence,” said the assistant prosecutor for sentences in Tehran’s criminal prosecution office, the State-run daily Javan reported on January 31. “With far less expenditure, executions could be carried out in prison,” he added. The State-run websites regretted that in addition to generating hatred among people, public hangings have also damaged the status of the regime in the world.
After Shahroudi’s decree public executions decreased. In 2008, at least 30 public executions were held, of which 16 took place after the decree. In 2007, there were at least 110 public executions.
Public executions have continued in 2009: at least 12 people were hanged in public places. In 2010, as of June 30, at least 16 public executions were held.
 
On May 30, 2009, Iran hanged three men who were accused of being involved in the May 28 mosque bombing that killed 25 people and wounded more than 100 in the south-eastern city of Zahedan, the official IRNA news agency reported. They were hanged at 6 a.m., before the funeral of the victims, close to the Ali Ibn-Abitaleb mosque, where the explosion occurred.
On November 15, 2009, one man was hanged in a public square in the northern Iranian city of Qaemshahr in the Caspian Sea Mazandaran province, reported the Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan. The man was identified as A. B. (24) and was sentenced to death in 2007, convicted of raping a woman according to the report.
On November 19, 2009, three Iranian men were hanged for raping a 17-year-old boy who subsequently committed suicide, the Fars news agency reported. The three, who were not identified, were convicted of kidnapping the youth in the central city of Isfahan and taking him out of town, where they assaulted him. No date was given for the executions.
On December 9, 2009, the Fars news agency reported that Iran publicly hanged an unidentified man for murder. He was executed in the town of Masjed Soleiman in Khuzestan province, which has a substantial Arab minority.
On December 9, 2009, an unidentified man convicted of armed robbery was hanged in a square in the city of Ahvaz in Iran’s western Khuzestan province, Fars news agency reported.
On December 13, 2009, Iran hanged a man convicted of armed robbery in the western Khuzestan province, Fars news agency reported. Hamad Kh. was hanged in the Javadolaemeh square of Ahvaz, the report said.
On December 14, 2009, Iran publicly hanged Mohammad Sadegh, 27, in the northern town of Shahr-e-Nour, the Vatan Emrouz newspaper reported. He was convicted of stabbing another man to death with the help of his wife. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 72 lashes and death in public. The public prosecutor told the newspaper that Sadegh’s wife had been sentenced to a 15 year prison term.
On December 15, 2009, one man was hanged in public in the Serahe Khoramshahr Square of Ahvaz, in the southwest Iranian province of Khuzestan early the morning. According to the official site of the Iranian judiciary in Ahvaz, the man was identified as Ali S. and was convicted of armed robbery.
On December 22, 2009, two men convicted of armed robbery were hanged in the south Iranian city of Sirjan in Kerman province, reported the State-run news agency Fars. The men were identified as Esmaeil Fathizadeh and Mohammad Esfandiarpour. Their execution took place in two distinct phases. They were scheduled to be executed in public in the morning. But a few moments after being hanged they were rescued by a crowd of people, among them the families of the two men, who threw stones at the security forces and shouted slogans against the Iranian regime. The security forces answered with tear gas and shooting in the air. But the people managed to take away the bodies of the two men. One of the men seemed to be still alive when his body was removed by the protesting people, said the report. A few hours later both men were arrested by the security forces and their hanging was rescheduled for early evening. But due to heavy clashes between the people and the security forces they were transferred to the prison where it is believed they were hanged. Quoting Farajollah Karegar, General Prosecutor of Sirjan, the State-run news agency ISNA reported that the two men were hanged in the late evening and 14 others have been arrested in connection with their escape. Farajollah Karegar admitted that due to clashes with people the authorities’ second attempt to hang the men in public failed and they were transferred to the prison. He also said that two people were killed during the clashes and several cars belonging to the security forces were damaged. According to Iran Human Rights, many people have been arrested in connection to this public uprising, at least 3 people were killed and more than 30 wounded, some of them seriously.
 
On January 27, 2010, Iran publicly hanged a man convicted of murdering a top judiciary official in the central city of Isfahan, Fars news agency reported. The man identified as Jamshid Hadian, 59, was executed in front of Isfahan court house for shooting the deputy prosecutor of the city, Ahmad Reza Tavalai to death in 2009.
On February 18, 2010, five people were executed in the city of Orumiyeh for assisting the terrorist organization PEJAK. They were executed on the top of police cars in a square in the city. Their bodies were returned to families two days after the execution.
On March 10, 2010, one man was hanged in public in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz, reported the official Iranian news agency IRNA. The man who was identified as S. M. was convicted of drug trafficking and was hanged in the “Ramedan Alley” (kooye Ramezan) of Ahvaz.
On April 8, 2010, two men were hanged in public in the towns of Behbehan and Shadegan, in the southwest Iranian province of Khuzestan. The State-run newspaper Kayhan confirmed that two people were hanged in public in Ghadir Square of Behbehan and Shahrdari Square of Shadegan. The newspaper wrote that the men were convicted of drug trafficking. According to some of the sources the man who was supposed to be hanged in public in Behbehan, survived the hanging and was later executed inside the prison.
On April 13, 2010, Iran publicly hanged a man and amputated the limbs of another for armed robbery in the southern town of Mahshahr, government newspaper Iran reported. The two, along with a third man, had resorted to hijacking trucks and stealing their shipments, the report said. The man executed in a public square in Mahshahr was identified only by his first name, Adnan Adnan Alboali (28). “The amputation of a hand and leg of the other member of the group was carried out in prison,” Mahshahr prosecutor Reza Abolhasani told the paper without giving further details.
On April 14, 2010, three men were hanged in public in the northern Iranian city of Babolsar, reported the State-run Iranian news agency Fars. The men who were identified as A.A. (24), M. V. (25) and A. T. (30), were convicted of rape and acts against chastity, according to the report. The executions took place in the Imam Ali Square of Babolsar early in the morning. The three had abducted and then raped 13 women, one of whom was pregnant, in 2007.
On April 14, 2010, a man was hanged in public in the town of Khoramshahr, in the southwest Iranian province of Khuzestan, according to the official website of the Khuzestan judiciary. The man was identified as Torab A. (age unknown) and was convicted of drug trafficking according to the report. The public hanging took place in the Ashayer Square of Khoramshahr.
On May 20, 2010, Iran publicly hanged a man convicted of drug trafficking in the western city of Ahvaz, Fars news agency reported. The man, identified by his initials as A.A., was arrested with 1.375 kilos of heroin. According to the reports published on Iran Human Rights’ website, Ahwaz (capital of the Khuzestan province) has been the city with the highest number of public hangings in 2010.
On June 9, 2010, one man was hanged in public in the town of Sarab, northwest Iran. According to the official Iranian news agency IRNA, the man was hanged in Chamran Square in the town, which is near Tabriz. The man, who was identified as M. H. was convicted of murder which he perpetrated using a Kalashnikov.
 
As further testimony to the fervor and fury of the Iranian Regime, mass executions continued in 2009.
Between January 20 and 21, 2009, in only two days, 19 people were hanged. On January 21, ten men convicted of murder were hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison. Nine people were hanged on January 20 in three different Iranian cities for armed robbery, rape or drug trafficking.
Between January 25 and 29, 2009, 15 people were hanged in various Iranian cities. On January 25, Iran hanged six men convicted of drug trafficking and other crimes in a prison in the northeastern city of Bojnoord. On January 27, four young men between the ages of 18 and 20 were hanged in the prison of Mashad. The men were convicted of the kidnapping and rape of a boy in 2008. At the time, one or more of the executed must have been a minor. On January 28, five men were hanged for murder in Isfahan, Kazeroon and Shiraz. On January 29, a woman was hanged in the prison of Rafsanjan for the murder of her husband. 
Between February 17 and 18, 2009, nine people were executed. On February 17, five men were hanged in the prison of Isfahan for drug trafficking or murder, while another man was hanged in the city of Bushehr for murder. On February 18, three men were hanged in Ahwaz. The men were convicted of murder.
On March 9, 2009, five prisoners were hanged in Iran for murder and kidnapping. Four of them were hanged in the city of Zahedan. The other prisoner was hanged in prison in Isfahan.
On March 14, 2009, four men were hanged in Adelabad prison in the southern city of Shiraz. Three of them were executed for murder. The fourth was found guilty of raping two teenage boys. 
Between May 2 and 8, 2009, Iran carried out 21 hangings for murder or drug-trafficking in six different cities: Tehran, Khash, Taybad, Ardabil, Shiraz and Kerman.
Between May 11 and 13, 2009, another nine people were hanged for murder and drug trafficking in Isfahan, Zahedan and Qazvin.
On May 16, 2009, eight men were hanged in Shiraz and Isfahan for murder and drug trafficking.
Between May 19 and 20, 2009, six people were hanged in Dezful, Isfahan and Shiraz for drug trafficking and murder.
Between May 30 and 31, 2009, eight people were hanged in Zahedan and Kerman for “terrorism” and drug trafficking.
Between June 16 and 20, 2009, six men were executed in Ahvaz and Zahedan for drug trafficking and murder.
In the month of July 2009, Iran hanged at least 95 people, the highest monthly number of executions in many years. Most of those executed were not identified by name and we don’t know whether the charges mentioned in the reports published by the authorities were real.
Between July 1 and 2, 2009, fourteen people were hanged for murder and drug trafficking in the prisons of Shiraz, Tehran and Qom.
On July 4, twenty “drug traffickers” were hanged in the prison of Rajaee Shahr, at Karaj, after being convicted for buying, selling and possessing various drugs.
Between July 12 and 14, 2009, twenty-one people were hanged in five different Iranian cities. On July 12, a follower of the Ahl-e Haq religious faith was executed in Orumiyeh for being mohareb, and three men convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in Arak. On July 14, three men were hanged in a prison in Isfahan for drug trafficking, and a woman who unintentionally killed her father-in-law in the course of a family dispute was executed in Qazvin. The same day, in a mass prison execution, 13 rebels from the Sunni insurgent group Jundallah were hanged in prison in Zahedan for a string of attacks, including kidnapping of foreigners.
Between July 20 and 25, 2009, eleven people were executed in different Iranian cities. On July 20, four men were hanged in the prison of Qom for sexual assault of a girl. On July 21, two men convicted of murder were hanged in a prison in the central city of Isfahan. On July 22, one man, convicted of murdering his wife, was hanged in the prison of Semnan. On July 23, a man convicted of rape and murder was hanged in a prison in the southern town of Estehban. On July 25, another two members of the Jundallah group were hanged in Zahedan prison grounds, where a man was executed on the same day for being involved in transporting heroin and hashish.
On July 29, 2009, a woman and a man were hanged in the prison of Shiraz. The woman was convicted of murdering her husband, while the man was convicted of murdering a 19 year old man. Another three people were hanged in the prison of Isfahan. One of those executed was convicted of an extramarital relationship and murder and he was hanged after an unspecified number of lashes were administered. The two others were convicted of murder and drug trafficking, respectively.
On July 30, 2009, twenty-four people were hanged in the prison of Rajaee Shahr, at Karaj. All the 24 sentenced to death were convicted of drug trafficking. None of those executed were identified by name.
On August 3, 2009, five people were executed after being convicted of rape. Two people, who were not identified by name, were hanged in the prison of Boroujed, Lorestan province, western Iran. Three men were hanged in the prison of Hamedan.
On August 12, 2009, two men convicted of rape were executed in a prison in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, the Etemad newspaper reported. The report identified Afghan national Zaeim, who was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl during a robbery at her home. The second man was identified as Hamed, who was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman.
On August 19, 2009, four people were hanged in Iran. Two men were executed in the prison of Isfahan (central Iran), reported the government newspaper Iran. According to the report, the men were identified as Mansour (51) and Meysam (24), and were convicted of drug trafficking and murder, respectively. Another two men were hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison, reported the Iranian State-run news agency ISCA news. The men were identified as Moharamali (30) and Mehdi (29) and both were convicted of murder according to the report.
On September 24, 2009, one woman was hanged in the prison of Sarakhs, north-east Iran, reported the State-run Iranian news agency ISNA. The woman, whose name and age were not mentioned, was convicted of murdering her husband 10 years ago.
On September 28, 2009, five people were hanged in the prison of Taybad for drug trafficking.
Between October 5 and 8, 2009, seven people were hanged, among them two women. Six condemnations were carried out in Ahvaz for murder and drug trafficking. One execution was carried out in Tabriz, the condemned man accused of adultery and homosexuality.
On October 21, 2009, one woman and four men were executed in Tehran’s Evin prison early the morning. Soheila Ghadiri, 30, was convicted of killing her new born baby (5 days old) in 2006. In the court she had said: “I escaped from home and got married to the boy I loved, at the age of 16. He died in an accident and after that I started with prostitution and drug addiction. I got HIV and hepatitis. When my baby was born, I killed her because I didn’t want her to have the same destiny as mine.” The four men, who were executed after being convicted of murder, were: Mohammad Hassan B, 25, Mehran, age not mentioned, Ali, 32, and Saeed, 32.
On November 7, 2009, four men were hanged in the prison of Kerman (southeastern Iran) for drug trafficking.
Between November 11 and 19, 2009, eleven people were hanged in five different Iranian cities. On November 11, Kurdish political prisoner Ehsan Fattahian was hanged in the prison of Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Kordestan (Iranian Kurdistan). On November 12, Iran hanged two men convicted of rape and murder in the prison of Hamedan. On November 15, one man was hanged in a public square in the northern Iranian city of Qaemshahr. The man was identified as A. B. (24) and was convicted of raping a woman. On November 17, three people, among them one woman, were hanged in the prison of Isfahan for using and smuggling narcotics. On November 18, an unidentified 23-year-old man convicted of robbery and rape was hanged in Bojnourd. On November 19, three Iranian men were hanged in the central city of Isfahan for raping a 17-year-old boy.
Between November 25 and 28, 2009, two people were hanged in two different Iranian cities. On November 25, an Iranian man convicted of rape was hanged in a prison in the city of Karaj. Mohammad Orouji, 25, had also been convicted of consuming alcohol. The sentence included 80 lashes. On November 26, Mohammad S. (also known as Fattah) was hanged in the prison of Amol. He was convicted of possessing 472 grams of heroin.
Between December 13 and 17, 2009, thirteen people were hanged in six different Iranian cities. Three of them were hanged in public: two in Ahvaz and one in Shahr-e-Nour (mentioned previously). On December 14, an unidentified man was hanged in the northeast Iranian town of Bojnord. He was convicted of “acts incompatible with chastity”. On December 16, three men were hanged in the prison of Zahedan, and another man was hanged in the prison of Kerman. They were convicted of drug trafficking. On December 17, a minor was hanged in the Dizelabad prison of Kermanshah (western Iran) along with four unidentified people.
Between December 20 and 22, 2009, five people were hanged in two different Iranian cities. On December 20, three men convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in the prison of Isfahan. On December 22, two men convicted of armed robbery were hanged in the city of Sirjan in Kerman province.
 
In 2010, there were no signs of change. Mass executions continued.
Between January 4 and 9, 2010, ten people were hanged in three different Iranian cities. Three men, two Iranian and an Afghan, convicted of murder and rape, were executed on January 4 inside a prison in Varamin. On January 6, Kurdish political prisoner Fasih Yasamini was executed in Khoy. On January 9, six men convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in the prison of Isfahan.
Between January 20 and 21, 2010, two people were executed. One man was hanged in the prison of Khash and the second one was hanged in the prison of Ardebil.
Between January 27 and 30, 2010, five people were executed. On January 27, Iran publicly hanged a man convicted of murdering a top judiciary official in the central city of Isfahan. On January 28, two of the people who have been sentenced to death in connection with the post-election protests in Iran, were hanged in Tehran. On January 30, two young men convicted of raping a woman were hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison around noon.
Between February 18 and 27, 2010, 16 people were hanged in three different Iranian cities. On February 18, five men were executed in the city of Orumiyeh for assisting terrorist organization PEJAK. On February 20, three people were hanged for drug trafficking: two men in the prison of Isfahan and another man in the prison of Zahedan. On February 25, five men were hanged in the prison of Kerman for drug trafficking and arms possession. On February 27, three men were hanged in the prison of Birjand. They were convicted of murdering several security forces during an armed clash, and were put to death in front of the families of the slain policemen.
Between March 7 and 10, 2010, the Iranian news agencies reported that six people were hanged in three different cities. On March 7, one boy – identified as Mehdi Esmaeili – was hanged in the prison of Rajaee Shahr. According to the Iranian human rights news agency (HRANA), he had been arrested for murder at the age of 19 and spent seven years in Ward 5 of Rajaiee Shahr prison before being executed. On March 8, two men were hanged in the city of Khorramabad for drug trafficking. On March 10, three convicted of drug trafficking were executed: one man was hanged in public in the city of Ahvaz, two other men in the prison of Qom.
On April 8, 2010, ten people were executed in four different Iranian cities for drug trafficking. Five people were hanged in the prison of Mashad. Three people were hanged in the prison of Taybad. Two men were hanged in public in the towns of Behbehan and Shadegan.
Between April 11 and 14, 2010, eight people were hanged in four different cities. On April 11, three men were hanged in the prison yard of Isfahan for drug related crimes. On April 13, a man was executed in a public square in Mahshahr for armed robbery. On April 14, four men were executed in public: three convicted of rape and acts against chastity were hanged in the “Imam Ali” Square of Babolsar; one convicted of drug trafficking was hanged in “Ashayer” Square of Khoramshahr.
Between April 19 and 20, 2010, eight other people were hanged in three different places. Seven men were executed on April 19: two convicted rapists in a prison in the central city of Isfahan; an unidentified man for rape and four men for drug smuggling, all hanged in a prison in the southeastern province of Kerman. On April 20, one man convicted of murder was hanged in the prison of Dezful.
Between April 26 and 29, 2010, three people were hanged in two different cities. On April 26, two men convicted of rape in two separate cases were hanged in the prison of Mashad. On April 29, one person convicted of keeping heroin was hanged in the prison of Ardebil.
Between May 8 and 9, 2010, eleven people were hanged in two different cities. On May 8, six men were hanged in the Ghazal Hesar prison of Karaj, for drug trafficking. On May 9, five Kurdish activists, including a woman, were hanged at dawn in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
Between May 18 and 31, 2010, nineteen people were hanged in seven different cities. On May 18, two men were hanged for drug trafficking in Isfahan Central Prison. On May 20, Iran publicly hanged a man convicted of drug trafficking in the city of Ahvaz. On May 21, a man identified only as Mohammad was hanged in the prison of Isfahan for murdering a woman. On May 23, one man was hanged for drug trafficking in the prison of Ahwaz. On May 24, five people, including one woman, were hanged in the prison of Rasht. On May 24, Abdolhamid Rigi, brother of Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Jondollah, was hanged in a prison in the city of Zahedan. On May 25, four people were hanged in the prison of Yazd after they were convicted of drug smuggling. On May 26, a man identified as Jamshid Mir was hanged in the central prison of Zahedan for rape. On May 29, an Afghan citizen was hanged in the prison of Isfahan for smuggling crack. On May 31, nine people were executed for drug trafficking in two different cities: two people were hanged in the prison of Shirvan, while seven Afghan refugees were executed in a jail of Taybad.
The number of the executions increased in view of the first anniversary of the post-electoral uprisings on June 12.
Between June 3 and 9, 2010, twenty-two people were hanged in five different cities. On June 3, a 25 year old man identified as Saeed was hanged in the prison of Isfahan for rape. On June 4, a 36 year old man identified as Jalil B. was hanged in the prison of Mianeh for drug trafficking. On June 6, according to the official site of Judiciary in Isfahan a man identified as Reza A, 26, was hanged in the prison of Isfahan after he was convicted of possessing 172 grams of crack. On June 7, 13 people convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in the prison of Ghezel Hesar, Tehran. On June 8, five people were hanged in the central prison of Qom, south of Tehran. Four of those executed were convicted of kidnapping and rape while the fifth person was convicted of drug trafficking. Two of the convicted of sexual abuse were identified as ‘a 33 years old man’ and ‘a 21 years old boy’. On June 9, one man was hanged in public in the town of Sarab for murder.
Between June 18 and 20, 2010, three people were hanged in Zahedan and Tehran. On June 18, one man was hanged in the prison of Zahedan. According to the State-run Iranian news agency ISCA news the man was identified as Akbar H. and convicted of rape and murder. On June 20, the government daily Iran reported a man identified as Jamshid, 48, was hanged in Zahedan for raping a woman. On June 20, Abdolmalek Rigi, the founder of the armed Baluchi group Jondollah, was hanged inside Tehran’s Evin prison.
 
However, the death penalty is not the only punishment dictated by the Iranian implementation of Sharia or Islamic law. There is also torture, amputation, flogging and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments. These are not isolated incidents and they occur in flagrant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Iran signed and which expressly prohibits such practices.
On March 3, 2010, according to the web site of the Public Relations Office of the Khuzestan Court House, the amputation sentence of one person was carried out in the Karoun prison of Ahvaz, southwestern Iran. The person was identified as Shoghi Z. (age not mentioned) and was convicted of armed robbery and moharebeh. The report didn’t mention what parts of the body of the person were amputated, but according to the Iranian penal laws, mohareb can be sentenced with amputation of the right arm and left foot. According to the official Iranian sources, this is the fifth case of amputation in the city of Ahvaz during the last 12 months. The same web site said another person was flogged in public in the Laleh square of Sosangerd (in the province of Khuzestan). The person was identified as Mehdi H and was convicted of disrupting the order. The report didn’t mention how many lashes the person received.
 
Iraq
 
The hangings are carried out regularly, from a wooden gallows in a small, cramped cell of al-Kadhimiya Prison, in Saddam Hussein’s old intelligence headquarters at Kadhimiya, a Shia district of Baghdad. There is no public record of these killings in what is now called Baghdad’s “high-security detention facility” but there have been hundreds since America overthrew Saddam’s regime.
On December 30, 2006, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity in the same “secure” unit at Kadhimiya where Nouri al-Maliki’s people, in an echo of Saddamite Baathist terror, now hang their victims.
The same end, in the same place, befell other exponents of the deposed regime: Barzan al-Tikriti, Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Taha Yassin Ramadan, executed in 2007, and Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed “Chemical Ali”, hanged in January 2010.
Illicit videos of Saddam Hussein and Barzan al-Tikriti’s executions later became public. Saddam’s body could be seen on a hospital trolley, his head twisted at 90 degrees. Barzan was decapitated by the noose.
 
In many cases, it seems, the Iraqis neither keep nor release any record of the true names of their captives or of the hanged prisoners. The condemned prisoners in Kadhimiya are said to include rapists and murderers as well as insurgents awaiting the same summary justice they mete out to their own captives.
On May 3, 2009, 12 people were hanged in Iraq.
On June 10, 2009, 19 people – 18 men, one woman – were hanged.
On July 21, 2009, Amnesty International reported that at least three women have been executed since early June. At least nine other women under sentence of death were in imminent danger of execution, as Iraq’s Presidential Council had ratified their death sentences, and the authorities transferred them to the 5th section of Baghdad’s al-Kadhimiya Prison, which is where condemned prisoners are held immediately before they are executed.
On August 13, 2009, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) reported that “two of the women on death row were taken out of the Extreme Protection prison in Kadhimiya-Baghdad and were not returned a few days ago.” It is most probable that they were executed as well.
In July 2009, at least 1,000 prisoners were believed to be on death row, including about 150 prisoners who had exhausted all means of appeal or clemency.
 
Sudan
 
The 1991 penal code based on Sharia law prescribes both the death penalty and corporal punishment.
Retributive crimes (homicide and crimes against any person’s physical integrity) allow for the family of the victim to chose between retribution and blood money. Those considered hudud (crimes against God) are adultery, use of alcohol, apostasy, defamation regarding chastity, armed robbery and theft of capital. In August of 2005, the interim Constitution of the Republic of Sudan amplified the use of the death penalty. Article 36 established that “the death penalty may be inflicted as retribution or punishment for serious crimes as considered by law” and in the case of minors “the death penalty can be applied to minors under the age of 18 [...] in cases of retribution or hudud.”
The Government of Sudan has, since May 2003, been responsible for the repression of the civilian population of Darfur because of insurrectionist movements present in the region. The military and militias known as janjaweed, through a campaign of killing, torture, rape and razing, have forced the exodus of almost two million people seeking refuge in Chad and more remote and secure villages. The number of dead is uncertain. United Nations sources speak of 200,000 victims, but other sources place the number at 400,000 dead.
In 2005, the Security Council handed over responsibility for judging crimes against humanity committed in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (article 13/b of the Statute).
Regardless, on February 27, 2007, the Sudanese Minister of Justice announced the formation of a Special Criminal Court for Darfur, one day before the International Criminal Court handed down its first verdict for crimes committed in the region. Furthermore, on July 11, 2007, the Sudanese Government declared in front of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that it did not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and that the military and security officials responsible for crimes in Darfur would be prosecuted by State tribunals.
On March 4, 2009, the International Court of Justice at the Hague (ICJ) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity for the massacres in Darfur. The accusation of genocide was dismissed. A spokesperson for the ICJ, Laurence Blairon, detailed that the arrest warrant regarded five charges of crimes against humanity and two for war crimes, including homicide, extermination, forced migration, torture and rape.
 
In 2009, Sudan hanged at least nine people, while at least 60 were sentenced to death. At least five people were hanged in 2008, while another seven hangings were carried out in 2007. There were at least 8 executions in the first six months of 2010.
On April 13, 2009, Sudanese authorities executed nine men from Darfur for murder, State media and a police source said. The State news agency SUNA later confirmed the men were hanged at Kober prison in Khartoum and named them. The men were found guilty in November 2007 of murdering Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed, a journalist and owner of the Arabic-language al-Wifaq newspaper. The decapitated body of Ahmed was found on a dirt road in Khartoum in September 2006. During the trial the lead police investigator, Abdul Rahim Ahmed Abdul Rahim, said the defendants’ motives were “political, ethnic and financial.” Abdul Rahim said the defendants had been infuriated by an article in Taha’s paper. A defense lawyer said the article had played down reports about rape in Darfur and used unflattering language to describe Darfurian women. According to Amnesty International and The Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC), the nine men who were executed may have been innocent because they were tortured to confess to the crime.
On January 14, 2010, six people were hanged in Sudan’s capital for their role in deadly clashes in 2005 between police and residents of a camp for the displaced, the official news agency SUNA reported. The clashes broke out in May 2005, a few months after the end of Sudan’s north-south civil war, as authorities tried to forcibly evacuate the Soba Aradi camp in a Khartoum suburb that housed 10,000 people who had fled the conflict. Thirty civilians and 14 members of the security forces were killed. Most of those arrested after the violence were acquitted, but six people were sentenced to death. SUNA said the six were executed in Kober prison in northern Khartoum after the appeal process was finally exhausted. Five years after the two-decade-long war which cost an estimated two million lives, Soba Aradi is no longer considered a camp for the displaced but an impoverished suburb that is home to thousands of people from around Sudan.
On March 18, 2010, two Sudanese men were executed for killing four oil workers, two of them Chinese, and looting their vehicle in 2004 at Heglig in Kordofan State. Sudanese State media reported that the two men were hanged at the federal prison in El Obeid.
 
 
BEHEADING
 
Beheading as a means of carrying out executions provided by Sharia law is exclusive to Saudi Arabia, the Islamic country that most strictly interprets Islamic law, and prescribes the death penalty for homicide, rape, armed robbery, drug-trafficking, witchcraft, adultery, sodomy, homosexuality, highway robbery, sabotage, and apostasy (renouncing Islam).
Typically, executions are held in the city where the crime was committed in a public place near the largest mosque. The condemned is brought to the site with their hands tied and forced to kneel before the executioner, who draws a long sword to cries of “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is great.”) from the crowd.
Sometimes, beheading is followed by the public display of the bodies of the executed. The typical procedure of beheading provides for the executioner to re-fix the decapitated head onto the body of the executed, so that it may be hung, generally, for about two hours, from the window or balcony of a mosque or hung upon a pole, during midday prayers. The pole is sometimes shaped in the form of a cross, hence the use of the term “crucifixion”. The bodies of the executed are displayed only on specific orders from the tribunal, when the crime committed is considered particularly heinous.
 
Saudi Arabia has among the highest number of executions in the world, although they have decreased considerably in recent years.
There were at least 69 executions in 2009, a drastic reduction in respect to 2008, when there were at least 102 executions, and to 2007, when there were 166 executions. The record number was established in 1995 with 191 executions.
According to Amnesty International, at least 11 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
Humanitarian organizations have denounced the absence of due process in Saudi Arabia. Often, the accused is denied the assistance of a lawyer before the trial and in the courtroom. Almost two-thirds of those executed are foreign nationals, the vast majority being from the poorer countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Executions are public domain only once they are carried out, while family members, lawyers and the condemned themselves are kept in the dark. The executions are announced by the Minister of the Interior generally and, usually, filmed by the official Saudi news agency SPA.
On January 12, 2010, Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council passed legislation amending the Criminal Procedure Law so that death sentences can only be issued if approved unanimously by all judges in the case. Currently, the law says that a majority vote from the judges is adequate to pass the death sentence. The amendment also states that lower court verdicts awarding the death penalty or sentences dealing with the severing of hands or similar punishments will not be carried out without a verdict from the Supreme Court. The Court decision shall be with a unanimous decision. An overwhelming majority of 92 members voted in favor of the new amendment, while a few members opposed it.
 
The rape of boys and girls is one of the most frequent crimes punished by beheading in Saudi Arabia.
On January 9, 2009, a traffic police officer, Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed Al-Oqail, was executed in Riyadh in presence of a number of witnesses, after he was convicted of kidnapping a foreign man, raping him and taking away his money at gunpoint.
On February 21, 2009, two police officers, Corporal Shaalan bin Nasser al-Qahtani and Lance Corporal Fahd bin Hassan al-Sebeyi, were beheaded by the sword after being convicted of raping a foreign woman. They were convicted of attacking an expatriate and raping his niece at a checkpoint they were manning in the capital.
On April 12, 2009, a Saudi Arabian man convicted of rape and robbery was beheaded. An Interior Ministry statement said the man committed the crimes after drinking alcohol.
On May 29, 2009, Ahmad Adhib bin Askar al-Shamalani al-Anzi was executed for double murder and his body was displayed in public as a deterrent. The body of the man, beheaded by sword, was put on a cross in the Saudi capital Riyadh. He was convicted of killing a man and his 11-year-old son in a shop.
On June 21, 2009, Faleh al-Mozaiberi was beheaded in the central city of Unaizah after being convicted of kidnapping and raping a boy. He left the boy in the desert after raping him.
On June 25, 2009, Saud bin Awad was beheaded in the capital Riyadh after being convicted of kidnapping and raping a 5-year-old boy.
On November 16, 2009, Saad Al-Hathli was executed in Taif for kidnapping and raping two schoolboys at a remote area outside the city. His first victim was kidnapped, bound by rope and repeatedly raped. Al-Hathli then returned to the city and kidnapped another schoolboy and raped him.
On December 7, 2009, Muhammad Basheer bin Sa’oud al-Ramaly al-Shammari, 22, was beheaded and then crucified in the Saudi Arabian city of Hail. His severed head was sewn back on to his body, which was later hung from a pole in a public place, an act known in Saudi Arabia as a crucifixion. Very little is known about Muhammad al-Shammari’s trial. He was convicted of raping five children in February 2009. One of them was left in the desert to die, the Jeddah-based Okaz newspaper reported. An appeal court upheld his death sentence and crucifixion in November, as did the Supreme Court subsequently. Muhammad al-Shammari did not have access to a lawyer during his trial and there were reports that he may have suffered from a psychological disorder.
On January 11, 2010, a Saudi man was beheaded in Madinah for raping and robbing four women after offering to give them a ride in his pick-up truck. Salah ibn Rihaidan ibn Hailan Al-Johani lured the women into his pick-up while posing as a taxi driver on four different occasions. He would then take the women to remote areas where he would abandon them after raping and robbing them, said the Ministry of Interior in a statement. Al-Johani had a pick-up truck that he used as a taxi to pick up passengers, a practice that is not uncommon in the city especially during the pilgrim seasons.
On June 13, 2010, Saudi Arabian national Hanni al-Barqawi was executed by beheading in Mecca for the premeditated murder of Sami al-Sawat, the Interior Ministry announced in a statement on the official SPA news agency.
On June 21, 2010, Saudi Arabia executed two men, the Interior Ministry said in a statement cited by the official SPA agency. In the southwestern town of Jazan, Yemeni national Shaaban al-Nasheri was beheaded for shooting Dhayeh al-Manbahi to death and raping and killing Manbahi’s daughter. Al-Nasheri’s body was nailed to a cross after his execution. In the second case, Saudi national Mohammed al-Zahrani was decapitated in El-Baha for shooting compatriot Said al-Zahrani to death over a land dispute.
On June 29, 2010, Obeid bin Saif al-Qahtani was beheaded by the sword in Riyadh for fatally shooting Mohammed bin Mejeb al-Qahtani with a pistol in a dispute, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
This last beheading brings the number of people put to death since the beginning of the year in Saudi Arabia to 16.
 
 
FIRING SQUAD
 
Not considered an Islamic punishment, the firing squad has been used in 2009 and 2010 in carrying out Sharia-based executions in Yemen, Libya and Somalia.
 
Yemen
 
Yemen applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences including murder, drug trafficking, rape, sexual offences and speech or action against Islam.
The penal code of 1994 is based on Sharia law and prescribes 100 lashes for sexual relations out of wedlock and 80 for the consumption of alcohol and defamation. Stoning is called for in cases of adultery.
Article 125 of the Code prescribes capital punishment for “anyone who committed an act with the intention of infringing upon the independence of the Republic or its unity or territorial integrity.”
On August 3, 1998, a Presidential Decree stipulated that leaders and associates of gangs involved in kidnapping, banditry, stealing or looting public or private properties by force, face the death penalty.
According to lawyer Ahmad Al-Wadei, cases of execution that contravene Islamic Sharia law number up to 315; these executions were committed under just four separate Yemeni laws: 120 of those execution cases are contained in the Penal Law of 1994, as many as 166 cases in the Military Penal Law, 33 cases in the Anti-Drug Law, and 90 cases in the Anti-Kidnapping and Highway Robbery Law. Article 128 of the Penal Law prescribes capital punishment for any individual working for a foreign State. The law doesn’t specify what type, form, or kind of work for a foreign State this would include.
 
Executions, which must be approved by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, are generally carried out in public. The condemned is spread out on the ground and shot with a rifle.
In 2009, Yemen executed more than 30 persons, while at least 54 were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
At least 13 people were executed in Yemen in 2008. At least 15 executions were carried out in 2007.
Hundreds of prisoners are believed to be on death row, including more than 70 people held at Ta’iz Central Prison alone.
 
On February 7, 2009, Bashir Sultan Mohamed al-Ja’fari, a soldier in the Yemeni army, was executed at the military prison in the capital Sana’a. In August 2006, a military court had sentenced him to pay diyeh (“blood money”), for the unintentional killing of a fellow soldier. However, in November 2007, a military appeal court ruled that he should receive a death sentence. The Military Division of the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in March 2008, and it was ratified by Yemen’s President seven months later.
On February 7, 2009, three Yemenis were executed by firing squads after being convicted in separate cases of murder, the interior ministry said. Mohammed al-Namarri was found guilty of killing three men, including one member of his extended family, for undisclosed motives, the Interior Ministry website said, adding that he was executed in Ibb province, south of Sana’a. Bashir Ali was executed in the central prison of Taiz, some 200 kilometers south of the capital, after he was convicted of murdering Mohammed Ahmed, it said. Meanwhile, Saleh Naji al-Doushan was executed in the central prison of Sana’a after he was found guilty of killing Mohammed Ali al-Doushan.
On March 3, 2009, a man convicted of killing ten people in a shooting rampage outside a mosque in north-western Yemen was executed in his home city, a security source said. A police firing squad shot Abdullah Saleh al-Kohali, 27, dead in the central prison of Amran. He was executed after the verdict sentencing him to death was read out by a judge at the prison’s courtyard. Officials said he shot worshippers with a machine gun as they were praying outside the mosque in the Bait al-Aqari village in Amran in May 2008. Victims’ relatives attended the execution, but photographers and cameramen were not allowed. Al-Kohali was sentenced to death by a court in Amran in June 2008 after he confessed to the crime. Al-Kohali told the court he intended to avenge his honor by killing a man sexually involved with his sister. He said the main target of his shooting was a fellow clansman identified as Belal Qassim Al-Kohali. “He got my sister pregnant three times,” the defendant told the judges. The ruling was confirmed by an appeal court.
On April 15, 2009, despite appeals to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to overturn the death penalty for A’isha Al-Hamzi, 40, convicted of murdering her husband Yahya Al-Sharif, the woman was executed at the Central Prison in Sana’a.
On July 6, 2009, a Yemeni man was executed by firing squad in a public square after being convicted of raping and murdering a boy. Yahia al-Raghwa, 22, was found guilty of raping and murdering Hamdi Abdullah, 11, at his barber shop in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in December 2008. He was shot by a firing squad in a public square in the capital, in the presence of hundreds of people including the family of the victim. Photographs of the execution showed al-Raghwa being led by guards to the square before he was forced to kneel. He was then shot in the back of the head in public view before his body was dragged away. In his testimonies the suspect admitted that he raped the victim and then murdered him after he cried and threatened he would tell his dad. The preliminary court sentenced the murderer to death and the appeals court approved the sentence. It was decided to throw the suspect from a roof of a high building in Sana’a city according to the Islamic Sharia that orders throwing a person that is charged of homosexual crime from a tall building. However the court changed its ruling and ordered his execution by firing squad in a public place.
On January 22, 2010, a Yemeni child shot five people in the northern province of Amran, with some of the five left in critical condition, security officials in the province said. The ten-year-old boy waited for the five outside the jail after a court sentenced his father to death, laying ambush against and shooting them by a firearm he hid under his clothes. He was later arrested by guards of the prison. The Interior Ministry’s Media Bureau also reported that the motive was only revenge for his father, Hamid Jabir Al-Hamshali, was executed by firing squad along with another man after the two were convicted of premeditated murder of a man in the province.
 
Libya
 
The “Green Book” of 1988 states that “the goal of the Libyan society is to abolish capital punishment;” however, the Government has not acted to abolish the death penalty, and its scope has increased.
Under the existing code, which dates back to 1953, 21 crimes are punishable by death, including political offences and economic “crimes”. The law calls for the death penalty for any person associated with a group opposed to the principles of the 1969 revolution, as well as for other acts such as treason and attempting to change the form of government by violence. The law also applies the death penalty to those who speculate in foreign currency, food, clothing, or housing during a state of war or a blockade, and for crimes related to drugs and alcohol (since 1996).
The penal code sanctions capital punishment for all individuals who support, create, join or finance organizations proscribed by law. Statutes and rules of civil associations are considered as not promoting the ideals of the Libyan revolution led by Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi on September 1, 1969, and therefore illegal.
On November 24, 2009, Abdelrahman Boutouta, the head of a legal committee tasked with amending Libya’s penal code, told reporters that the amended penal code will limit the death penalty to those convicted of premeditated murder and of committing acts of terrorism. “If the new legislation is adopted, Libyan citizens will have the right to create civil associations on condition that they are apolitical,” Boutouta said. According to the magistrate, all clauses forbidding the creation and outlawing membership of NGOs have been removed from the penal code, adding however that a “law of associations” is being drafted. When completed, the new-look penal code must be approved by people’s congresses in accordance with al-Gaddafi’s philosophy of “people’s power,” Boutouta said. He gave no indication of when this might take place.
 
Information concerning death sentences and executions rarely leaves the country.
There were at least 4 executions in 2009, all of Egyptian nationals, while in the first six months of 2010, at least 18 people were shot to death, all foreign nationals.
In 2008, there were at least 8 executions, seven of which involved foreign nationals. In 2007, at least 9 people were put to death, including 4 Nigerians.
On July 29, 2009, Libyan authorities executed Egyptian national Fadl Ismail Heteita for murder after more than three years on death row.
On September 8, 2009, the Egyptian organization for Human Rights said that Egyptian nationals Hijazi Ahmad Zaydan, Haytham al-Shahhat Abd-al-Qawi, and Ihab Majid Muhammad were executed in Libya in August.
On May 30, 2010, eighteen people including nationals of Nigeria, Chad and Egypt were executed in Libya after being convicted of premeditated murder, Libya’s online Qurina news website reported. Of the 18, 14 were executed in the capital, Tripoli, while the four other executions were carried out in Benghazi. Their identities have not been made public by Libyan authorities. More than 200 people are currently on death row in Libya, Qurina reported.
 
On August 13, 2009, the Nigerian Presidency said that there were only 14 Nigerians on death row in Libya and they were convicted of offences such as murder, drugs and armed robbery. Special Adviser to the President, Olusegun Adeniyi, said “Internet reports about 230 Black Africans, mostly Nigerians, on death row in Libya were discredited.”
On August 14, 2009, between 32 and 40 black Africans, mainly Nigerians, were secretly executed in Libya despite a denial by the Libyan presidency, a Nigerian House of Representatives source said. The Chairman of the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said, “constant communication with Nigerians in Libya revealed the summary execution of some of their relatives.” She urged the Libyan Government to rethink its policy, and also called on human rights groups to intervene as more executions are planned.
On August 30, 2009, Lagos lawyer Femi Falana urged Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi to order a stay of execution for all Nigerians on death row in his country. Falana said this was in line with the resolutions on moratorium on executions adopted by both the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN General Assembly.
On September 16, 2009, Minister of State for Justice and Keeper of the Seals Tayeb Belaiz expressed Algeria’s appreciation for Libyan Leader Muammar al-Gaddafi’s move, who granted a Presidential pardon in favor of Algerian prisoners, State-owned Algerian radio reported. Minister Belaiz said the Libyan leader’s move was a noble initiative which reflects the excellent relations between the two countries. “With regard to the first batch [released] in 2008, we must understand that pardon is not a right, and pardon has its conditions. He pardoned more than 30 Algerian prisoners. In the first semester of 2009, he also pardoned 38 Algerian prisoners. I believe this time he has pardoned 33 prisoners. It is worth recalling that most of these prisoners were sentenced to death or for life in prison for committing very serious crimes such as drug smuggling,” Belaiz said.
On October 1, 2009, Libyan authorities agreed to stay the execution of the approximately 200 Nigerians on death row pending a case brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. “The Commission requested a provisional measure to stay the executions. There is now a hold on the execution of the convicted persons,” Catherine Modupe Atoki, member of the African Commission, said. The African Commission is the body charged with overseeing compliance with legal obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
 
Somalia
 
The penal code of Somalia represents an amalgam of various legal systems and traditions.
In Somalia, until 1991, there were at least three types of courts. That of the State, that of Islam and the traditional courts which were all charged with settling disputes between people of the same clan.
When, in 1991, the “clans” overthrew the dictator Siad Barre, the country was torn apart by a bloody power struggle between fighting clans that has seen thousands of victims.
After thirteen years of chaos, attempts at establishing a government and two years of peace talks held under the auspices of the international community which sought to consider the principal divisions between clans, in October of 2004, the transitional Parliament elected Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as the new President of the country and gave life to an Executive Branch. The elections were held in Kenya because Mogadishu was considered too dangerous.
On December 29, 2008, after the failure to bring peace, stability and democracy to Somalia, Ahmed resigned as President and gave power over to the President of Parliament, Aden Mohamed Nur, who became the interim Head of State.
Under the circumstances, the role of Islamic tribunals was strengthened, having its jurisdiction expanded to common crimes with its sentences being difficult to appeal. The courts were seen by an increasingly larger portion of the population as the only force capable of bringing order after eighteen years of total chaos.
On April 18, 2009, the Somali parliament unanimously approved a government proposal to officially introduce Sharia law in the country. “The 343 parliamentarians present at the session voted in favor of the motion and we now have the Islamic law as the law of the land,” Osman Elmi Boqore, Deputy Speaker of the Somali legislature, said after the vote by show of hands. Opposition groups have been demanding that the Sharia law be made the only law in Somalia. The Somali government promised to introduce it in the war-torn country after its formation in early 2009. The new Somali government is dominated by moderate Islamists. Its introduction of the Sharia is seen as important milestone for national reconciliation. The Somali Parliament session was also attended by prominent Islamic clerics who urged the government to accept the implementation of the Islamic law. Opposition commanders, particularly those of the hard-line Al-Shabaab group, had previously dismissed the plan for lawmakers to introduce the Sharia as “conspiracy against the Islamist fighters and their cause.”
 
The self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland is the only part of the ruined country of Somalia to have established peace, a Government and a multiparty political system. Parliamentary elections were held in September of 2005 and the new Republic awaits international recognition. Somaliland, whose judicial system is based on the old Somali penal code, maintains the death penalty, although many local human rights’ groups have called for its abolition. In recent years, many of those condemned have been put to death, while others have had their sentences commuted thanks to the payment of “blood money” (diyeh) according to Sharia law.
 
In 2009 there were no “legal” executions but there were at least a dozen condemnations to death.
In 2008, there have been three executions. In 2007, at least five people were put to death, almost all sentenced by military tribunals. In 2006, there were at least 7 executions, almost all ordered by Islamic Tribunals and carried out in public by victims’ family members.
 
The Al-Shabaab Islamist militias that control much of south-central Somalia imposing strict Sharia law have carried out what are classified as “extra-judiciary executions” as they fight to overthrow the country’s Western-backed interim government, which is holed up in a few pockets of Mogadishu.
On January 15, 2009, an Islamist militia in Somalia executed a Somali politician who they accused of betraying his religion by working with non-Muslim Ethiopian forces. An Islamist spokesman in the port of Kismayo told the BBC that Abdirahman Ahmed was shot dead. Ahmed was also accused of spying for Ethiopian forces, said to be backing the forces of warlord Barre Hiraale in trying to recapture Kismayo.
On June 9, 2009, Al-Shabaab militants, who control Mogadishu’s town of Baidoa, the former seat of Somalia’s Parliament, executed a man accused of killing another man in the town. Sheik Hassan Adan, the Deputy Bay Region Judge, told reporters that they sentenced Hussein Hassan Nor to death. It is the second execution that Al-Shabaab administrators in Baidoa fulfilled since they seized the town in late January 2009.
On July 10, 2009, Al-Shabaab militia beheaded two men for supporting President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s internationally backed government, a militiaman and one of the victims’ relatives said. The men – two former policemen – were killed close to Baidoa, a town in southern Somalia controlled by the militia, a Al-Shabaab fighter told AFP on condition of anonymity. “It’s true that two men found assisting the enemy of Allah were beheaded and several others are still in detention,” he said. “They are being investigated and if found guilty they will face execution.” Muktar Abdullahi, whose brother was one of the murdered men, said: “We have been looking for them in the past week and we finally got information confirming they were beheaded...nobody has clearly explained to us why they were killed, but some Shabaab members say they were aiding the Somali government.”
On July 12, 2009, Islamist hardliners rejected media reports that seven men convicted of spying were beheaded, Radio Garowe reported. Sheikh Mahad Omar, the new Al-Shabaab chief in the Bay and Bakool regions, admitted that a group of men were brought to court and convicted of “spying for the government.” But he denied reports that the men were punished by being beheaded. The Associated Press had reported on July 11 that seven men were convicted of spying and beheaded in Baidoa, capital of the Bay region. Sheikh Mahad said “misinformation was spread by Western news agencies,” whom he accused of being “anti-Islam.”
On September 28, 2009, Somalia’s hard-line Al-Shabaab Islamists publicly executed two people accused of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency and the country’s embattled government. They were killed by a firing squad in the capital Mogadishu after Shabaab militia judge Sheikh Abdullahi Al-Haq pronounced them guilty. “Hassan Moalim Abdullahi is found guilty of spying for the USA. He has been proven beyond any shadow of doubt that he belongs to the CIA,” Al-Haq said of the first individual. “The defendant said that he served the CIA and admitted his misdeeds,” he said without elaborating. The second defendant was accused of guiding government troops to targets to hit with artillery shells. A third individual was flogged 29 times for counterfeiting dollars. The group also publicly chopped off the right hands of two men accused of robbery.
On October 25, 2009, Somalia’s Al-Shabaab Islamist movement publicly executed two young men by firing squad for alleged spying for the Somali government in the southern town of Marka. An official from the group told crowds who gathered to watch the punishment that the men had “confessed to the crime.” “These two young men were involved in spying against our Islamic administration,” Sheikh Suldan, an Al-Shabaab official, told reporters in Marka, 100 km (62 miles) south of Mogadishu. “We have been holding them for three months. We investigated and they confessed.” Witnesses said Al-Shabaab fighters used loudspeakers to summon residents to an open area near the port, where hundreds gathered to watch the grisly spectacle. One witness in Marka, Ali Hussein, said by telephone that residents were forced to watch the pair killed by firing squad. “The two teenagers were accused of spying, but we cannot judge if they were guilty for ourselves,” Hussein told Reuters. “One of the boys did not die easily, so about eight masked Al-Shabaab men went close and opened fire on him. Soon his body looked like chopped-up meat because of the many gunshots.”
On December 13, 2009, witnesses in the town of Afgoye, southwest of Mogadishu, said Islamist militants shot a man, Ahmed Mohamoud Awalw, 61, accused of murder. The militants apparently summoned the town’s residents to watch the execution.
On January 9, 2010, a pro-government militia in Somalia executed a commander from the Al-Shabaab rebel group in public in the central Galagadud region. The Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca militia sentenced the man to die by firing squad after he refused to renounce Al-Shabaab’s hard-line ideology.
On April 6, 2010, the Islamic administration of Al-Shabaab Islamist movement publicly executed fighter Muse Abdi Abud in a field in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, officials said. Abud was charged with killing Ahmed Abdi Yusuf at the village of Balow near Awdegle in southern Somalia.
 
 
BLOOD MONEY
 
According to Islamic law, the relatives of the victim of a crime have three options: to allow the execution to take place, to spare the murderer’s life to receive blessings from God, or to grant clemency in exchange for diyeh, or blood money.
In 2009 and in the first six months of 2010, cases involving “blood money” ended in pardon or death in Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
 
Iran
 
Iranian law provides that the “blood money” (diyeh) for a woman is half that of a man. Furthermore, if a man kills a woman, a man cannot be executed, even if condemned to death, without the family of the woman first paying to the family of the murderer half the price of his blood money.
On December 27, 2003, after a favorable verdict issued by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, a law went into effect launched by Parliament in January that guaranteed non-Muslim minorities the right to the same “blood money” as Muslims, which currently corresponds to 150 million riyal (about 20,000 USD). The blood money for the life of a woman continues, however, to be one half of that of a man.
Iranian authorities claimed that “We can’t deny a victim’s family of the legal right to ask for Islamic qisas, or eye for eye retribution.” Qisas is probably the only “right” of the Iranian people that the regime insists on protecting.
 
In 2009, there were several examples where the Iranian authorities did not respect the offended family’s right to forgive.
On May 1, 2009, Iran hanged Delara Darabi, a young woman who was convicted of murder when she was a minor. Authorities executed the 23-year-old woman in Rasht, northern Iran, without informing her lawyer or allowing the family to be present. Delara Darabi was 17 at the time the crime was committed, in 2003. To place the noose around the neck of Delara, reported the daily Etemad, was a son of the murdered woman, a cousin of Delara’s father, who, in 2003, was 58. Darabi was executed despite her having been given on a two-month stay of execution on April 19 by the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, in respect of the execution date of April 20. Instead, she was put to death after only ten days. In the suspension announcement, it is stated that the reason for the suspension is “for a brief period of time” to allow the family of the victim to reflect on the plea for pardon from the parents of Delara. The family of the victim had already denied this request before. Though they maintained their position, the judges decided to give them more time to think. Delara came from a well-to-do family and her parents offered to pay so-called “blood money,” the indemnity for the family of the victim, the first step towards formal pardon which would have stopped the execution. However, the victim’s family had no interest in forgiveness.
On July 14, 2009, a woman who unintentionally killed her father-in-law in the course of a family dispute in 2005 was executed in Qazvin prison’s facilities for women. The woman had no money and was unable to hire a lawyer, and was sentenced to death on the law of “equal punishment”. The deceased’s family refused to forgive her and the court order was carried out.
On October 11, 2009, the minor offender Behnoud Shojaee was executed at 5 in the morning at Tehran’s Evin Prison. He was convicted of murdering another boy by the name of Omid in June 2005, when he was 17 years old. Behnoud had allegedly killed the boy during a street fight in Tehran involving over a dozen boys. In 2008 authorities sent Behnoud to his death four times and once again in August of 2009, placing him in isolation at Evin prison for several days, as they usually do before an inmate is hanged. However, the execution was continually postponed – perhaps thanks to international pressure. Twice, his execution was postponed just moments before he was hanged, when he was already outside in the prison courtyard with the noose at the ready.
Behnoud was granted a stay of execution by then-head of the judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to allow time for further negotiations over diyeh (blood money) between his and Omid’s families. At first the family of the victim wanted over 2 million US dollars in “blood money” compensation. After months of negotiation, and his execution being postponed three times, the blood money was reduced to approximately $625,000 USD. Shojaee, who grew up with his grandparents since the death of his mother at age 10 from diabetes and a father living with depression from his tragic loss, could not afford the required diyeh. Three of Iran’s most prominent movie directors and actors (Ezatolah Entezami, Parviz Parastooyi and Kiymars Poorahmad) opened a joint account to help raise money for his diyeh. They raised 100 million toman (about 100 thousand dollars), convincing the family of Omid to grant their pardon. However, in an unprecedented move, the Iranian judiciary froze the bank account, summoned the artists and threatened that “they shall be investigated” under the special laws that were passed in 1997 against corruption, embezzlement, and misappropriation and which carry punishments ranging from one to seven years of prison. The parents of Omid withdrew their pardon.
These same parents were promised the privilege of hanging Behnoud with their own hands at the infamous prison of Evin.
On October 21, 2009, one woman was executed in Tehran’s Evin prison early in the morning. Soheila Ghadiri, 30, was convicted of killing her new born baby (5 days old) in 2006. According to her medical examiner she was suffering from psychosis at the time of the offence. In the court she had said: “I escaped from home and got married to the boy I loved, at the age of 16. He died in an accident and after that I started with prostitution and drug addiction. I got HIV and hepatitis. When my baby was born, I killed her because I didn’t want her to have the same destiny as mine.” The baby’s father, who according to the law was the only one who could decide whether to execute Soheila or not, wrote in a letter that he was willing to pardon her. However, neither the expert letter from the examining physician, nor the pardon of the baby’s father could save Soheila from execution.
 
Kuwait
 
On May 20, 2009, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said a foreign worker from the Philippines sentenced to death by a Kuwaiti court for killing a compatriot may be spared. In a statement, the DFA said the victim’s family agreed to forgive Bienvenido Espino, who was convicted for killing fellow OFW Jhiyas Gumapac in Kuwait in 2007. Now, the Emir of Kuwait can grant Espino a pardon.
 
Libya
 
In 2007, Libya resolved, by ransom and greed, what can be defined as an international case of “blood money” involving five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor who worked at the hospital in Benghazi. In May of 2004, they were condemned to death “for deliberately infecting” 426 children with the AIDS virus; 52 later died. The five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor were pardoned and freed in July 2007, after the decision on the part of the families of the victims to accept indemnities equal to approximately one million dollars per victim.
Foreign nationals are at a disadvantage compared to Libyans in seeking commutation of their death sentences because they generally have limited financial means and lack a family network in Libya that can assist them by negotiating with the family of their alleged victim.
 
On July 29, 2009, Libyan authorities executed Egyptian national Fadl Ismail Heteita for murder after more than three years on death row. An agreement had been reached with the family of the victim to commute his death sentence in exchange for 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($ 5,400) but the Libyan Prosecutor General did not recognize the document because it had not been authenticated by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
On September 8, 2009, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said that 5 of the 35 Egyptians on death row in al-Kwafiyah prison in Benghazi had paid blood money and received pardons from the victims’ families. They are Farhat Abdu Farhat, Sami Fathi Abd-Rabbu, Ala Salim Rimon, Hasan Darwish and Abd-al-Halim Sayyid Abd-al-Halim. However, the organization fears they will be executed. The organization said that Egyptian nationals Hijazi Ahmad Zaydan, Haytham al-Shahhat Abd-al-Qawi, and Ihab Majid Muhammad were executed in Libya in August.
On May 30, 2010, eighteen people including nationals of Nigeria, Chad and Egypt were executed in Libya after being convicted of premeditated murder, Libya’s online Qurina news website reported.
 
Qatar
 
On April 27, 2009, a Doha appeals court commuted the death penalty given to four Sri Lankans for their involvement in a compatriot’s murder to ten years of imprisonment. However, the capital punishment handed down in absentia to the mastermind of the crime was upheld. Diplomatic sources said the mother of the victim forfeited the blood money that contributed to the commutation of the penalty.
On July 18, 2009, an expatriate woman facing the firing squad for stabbing her housemaid to death was pardoned after the deceased’s family accepted blood money. She would be sentenced to 15 years in jail. The woman was pregnant and in her early thirties. Police found the maid lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen near a knife and an ash tray. The medical report suggested that the maid had been tortured with burns and beatings. The nationality of the woman was not revealed.
 
Saudi Arabia
 
In Saudi Arabia, numerous cases involving “blood money” were resolved positively thanks to the Reconciliation Committee, a nation-wide organization that secures pardons for death row prisoners and helps settle lengthy inter-family and tribal disputes through mediation.
In recent years, there has been growing concern in various parts of the Moslem world over the growing trend of exorbitant blood-money demands, which many say are fueled by greed and tribal rivalries. Officials, clerics and writers have spoken out against the excessive requests, saying an ancient Islamic practice meant to financially support those who lose loved ones has been corrupted. King Abdullah, who has paid off several blood-money debts over the past few years, has been quoted as saying that the amount should not exceed $130,000. The minimum set by the government is $32,000.
 
On March 3, 2009, Jizan inmate Yahya Al-Mujaribi was spared execution a second time. After spending 11 years in prison waiting for execution, he was spared by the family of his cousin, the young man he was found guilty of slaying. The circumstances behind why it took so long to resolve the ongoing capital punishment case is as unclear as the details behind the killing that took place over a decade ago. The Supreme Judicial Council rejected the pardon, which put Al-Mujaribi back on death row. But under pressure from local officials, a second pardon was secured for Al-Mujaribi on the condition he leave town.
On March 8, 2009, Mecca Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also chairman of the Reconciliation Committee in the province, commended the decision of two families to forgive two men on death row for murdering their relatives in Saudi Arabia. The two men, one Saudi and the other a Pakistani, were scheduled for execution on March 7. Saudi Dhaifullah Al-Maliki killed Palestinian Muhammad Salim and Pakistani Akram Muhammad killed Chadian Suleiman Abkar in separate incidents, said Nasser Al-Zahrani, Executive President of the Reconciliation Committee. He added that the committee has succeeded in securing pardons for 143 convicts since its establishment in 2000.
On April 13, 2009, the Reconciliation Committee in Mecca secured pardons for two death row inmates some 48 hours before their scheduled execution. Awad and Amer were sentenced to death for murder. Mecca Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal’s efforts paid off when the victims’ families announced the decision. They did not seek any financial compensation and said they sought only God’s reward.
On February 4, 2010, two Philippine women, Idan Tejano and Noraisa Talib Mabanding, were sent home from Saudi Arabia after being pardoned. The Jeddah General Court sentenced them to death for murdering and robbing the pregnant wife of Tejano’s employer on May 21, 2001. In May 2004, the Supreme Judicial Council upheld the death sentence. Arab News learned that the Philippine government paid SR4 million riyals (about 1 million USD) blood money to the victim’s family.
On April 27, 2010, Saudi authorities executed a man by beheading after he was sentenced to death for murder, the Interior Ministry announced. Saudi national Umair al-Shihri was put to death in the southern city of Bisha for shooting another Saudi to death, Muzakkir al Shahrani, with a machine gun, according to the announcement carried by the State news agency SPA. The ministry said the execution had been put on hold until the victim’s children came of age.
 
United Arab Emirates
 
The death penalty is rarely applied in the U.A.E., partially because victims’ families pardon the guilty in return for compensation.
On June 8, 2009, the Sharjah Appeal Court in the United Arab Emirates upheld the death sentence of a Ukrainian man who killed his Syrian business partner in 2002 with a penknife. After a trial which ran for more than two years at the Sharia court and another five years at the Sharjah Appeal Court, the man now has to pay blood money of Dh750,000 (204359.673 USD) to the successors of the deceased to avoid capital punishment. Ukranian Andrei Semenchenko, in his late 30s, requested members of the public and officials to help him raise funds for the blood money.
On May 16, 2010, six Bangladeshi workers sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates returned home after the Bangladeshi government paid blood money to secure their release. The six were sentenced to death in Dubai after they killed a Pakistani man during a quarrel in 2007, said Mainuddin Khan Badal, a member of Bangladesh parliament. “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered the labor ministry to pay the entire 9.57 million taka (138,195 dollars),” Badal said.
On June 23, 2010, the Sharjah Appeal Court upheld the death sentence of Bangladeshi nationals K.T, 28, M.M, 25 and A.A, 27, for murdering a man identified as Tara. The three allegedly murdered Tara by strangling him with his trousers after they tied his hands and legs and beat him about the head. The court was not able to trace the parents of the victim as he does not have identification papers. The convicted men will not be able to obtain a pardon and they will face the Qisas in Islamic Sharia and will be executed for killing the man.
 
Yemen
 
Executions in Yemen take place inside jails, which is why many prisoners face injuries or suffer psychological disorders. On the other hand, executions outside jails, however ugly they may look, create chances for reconciliation and humanitarian intervention that most often help save lives.
 
On February 22, 2009, in Sana’a, Yemen, Hisham Al-Lewa asked the Attorney-General to rescind the death sentence against his elder brother Mohammed Al-Lewa, 35, who had killed a highway robber while helping the security authorities arrest the robber in 2003. He was jailed in a Hajja prison. The victim’s relatives pardoned Al-Lewa in exchange for the value of his land – 7 million Yemenite riyals (about 35,000 USD) – as blood money on February 28, 2008. However, the relatives insisted on the sum being paid in cash, not wanting ownership of the land. When this was not paid the Hajja-based Penal Prosecution decided Al-Lewa must be executed. The Prosecution then urged Attorney General Abdullah Al-Ulefi to ratify the death sentence. Human rights group have criticized the decision.
On March 4, 2009, the Jewish community in Amran issued a statement rejecting the blood money of YR 5.5 million (more than 27,000 dollars) as compensation for the death of Masha Al-Nahari, a Yemeni Jew, demanding the death penalty instead. The amount of compensation money came as a ruling issued by Judge Abdul Bari Aqaba at the Amran Criminal Court. The lawyers of the Yemeni Jews appealed the sentence. The family of the accused issued numerous threats during the trial, stating that they will kill the Jews and their families if their relative is sentenced to death. In December 2008, Al-Abdi shot and killed Masha al-Nahari after he sent a threatening letter to the whole Jewish community stating that they have two options: either convert to Islam or leave the country, otherwise, he will kill them. The defense lawyers provided the forensic report to prove that Al-Abdi suffers from paranoia with hallucinations. Therefore, the report recommends that he should be kept locked up in a mental institution. During the court sessions, Al-Abdi repeatedly objected that he is insane and he said that he preferred death rather than being placed in a mental institution. “I am not crazy, and I want to be executed according to Allah’s Sharia law,” said Al-Abdi. Khaled Al-Anesi, the lawyer of the Yemeni Jews, said that the demand to seek the death penalty is within the legal rights of Masha’s family. The Yemen Observatory for Human Rights considered the verdict an abolition of equality between Yemenis and one that is bound to increase the hate against the Jews. “I will not accept any money, even if they gave me enough money to fill the entirety of Sana’a,” said Ya’ish, the father of Masha, crying. Al-Abdi laughed at Ya’ish when he mentioned the Prophet Mohammed, demanding death penalty in accordance to Islamic Sharia law. “Shave your plaits, and say ‘There is no God but Allah,’” Al-Abdi laughed and said.
On April 15, 2009, despite appeals to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to overturn the death penalty for A’isha Al-Hamzi, 40, convicted of murdering her husband Yahya Al-Sharif, the woman was executed at the Central Prison in Sana’a. The execution took place after her children, seven, refused to pardon her when she was brought to the execution site. Under effective laws in Yemen, the killer of husband of wife can survive the capital punishment if his/her sons and daughters pardon the murderer. Al-Hamzi allegedly killed her husband, whom she alleged had abused their daughter, in 2002. In 2003, she was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. Many human rights organizations appealed to overturn the verdict against Al-Hamzi but all appeals were rejected.
 
 
 
DEATH PENALTY FOR BLASPHEMY AND APOSTASY
 
In some Islamic countries, the death penalty has been expanded on the basis of Sharia law to cases of blasphemy. That is, the death penalty can be imposed in cases of those who offend the prophet Mohamed, other prophets or the holy scriptures.
Non-Muslims cannot make attempts at converting Muslims to their religion and some Governments officially prohibit the performance of religious rites in public by non-Muslims. Conversion from Islam or renouncing Islam is considered apostasy and is technically a capital crime.
In Saudi Arabia, there are people on death row accused of witchcraft and apostasy.
 
Saudi Arabia
 
On November 9, 2009, a court in Medina sentenced a Lebanese man to death for the undefined crime of practicing “sorcery” and “witchcraft”. Ali Hussain Sibat, a 47-year-old psychic who made predictions on a satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut, was arrested by religious police in the holy city of Medina during a pilgrimage in May 2008. The man was caught in a hotel room with herbs, talismans, and some papers with strange drawings and writings. According to Sibat’s supporters in Lebanon, he was denied a lawyer at his trial and “tricked” into making a confession. Sibat’s Lebanese lawyer, May al-Khansa, stated that the television psychic was told he would be deported to Lebanon if he confessed to witchcraft. Instead, Saudi lawyers used Sibat’s confession as proof he deserved the death penalty. To be definitive, the court sentence must obtain the approval of the Court of Cassations.
On March 10, 2010, the Medina General Court upheld its verdict against Ali Hussain Sibat. The judges said they called for the execution of the man for his continuous practice of black magic and that he had been doing it publicly for several years. Ibrahim Najjar, Lebanon’s Justice Minister, urged the Saudi government not to carry out the execution, originally planned for April 2, 2010, and then postponed.
 
Sibat’s case is not unique. Dozens of people are arrested each year on charges like witchcraft, recourse to supernatural beings, black magic and fortune telling. These practices are considered polytheistic and severely punished according to Sharia law. According to Saudi media, in addition to Sibat, Saudi religious police have arrested at least two others for witchcraft in October alone.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) complained in a report about the increasing use of charges of ‘witchcraft’, crimes that are vaguely defined and arbitrarily used, to arbitrarily arrest and detain people across the kingdom. HRW’s report also mentioned the case of Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist who was executed on November 2, 2007 for sorcery, which he allegedly used to break up a married couple.
According to the London-based Amnesty International, two men are sitting on death row in Saudi Arabia on charges relating to sorcery: Ali Hussain Sibat and another man who was sentenced to death for apostasy on grounds relating to sorcery by a court in the city of Hail. According to Amnesty International, Saudi authorities arrested scores of people for “sorcery” in 2009.
The European Union has voiced concern over reports of death sentences in Saudi Arabia on charges relating to sorcery. The alleged activities cannot be punishable by law, since they would simply correspond to individuals exercising their freedom of opinion and expression, the Swedish Presidency of the EU said in a statement.
 
 
 
DEATH PENALTY FOR MINORS
 
The execution of people for crimes committed before 18 years of age is a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC, which is the single most widely-ratified international human rights convention, in Art 37 (a) states: “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”
In 2009, at least 8 condemned who were minors at the time of their offences were executed in Iran (5) and Saudi Arabia (3), while death sentences were handed down, but not carried out, in cases where the defendant was a minor at the time of the crime in Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and United Arab Emirates.
In 2008, at least 13 juvenile offenders were put to death in Iran. In 2007, at least 13 juvenile offenders were put to death worldwide: in Iran (at least 8), Saudi Arabia (3), Pakistan (1) and Yemen (1). In 2006, there were at least 8 minors put to death (7 in Iran and 1 in Pakistan).
As of September 16, 2009, Kampala-Luzira Prison in Uganda was housing 17 inmates sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were below 18 years.
 
Iran
 
Under Iranian law, girls above nine years of age and boys over 15 are considered adults, and therefore can be condemned to death. Iranian authorities generally wait for young convicts to reach their eighteenth birthday before ordering their execution. Iran is in clear violation of two international treaties to which it is a party, the ICCPR and the CRC, both of which outlaw the execution of juvenile offenders.
 
Following requests – ignored for years – to stay death sentences handed down for all convicts accused of committing crimes as minors, the Mullah’s regime announced a partial and, in reality, insignificant revision of the Iranian norm, once again, out of step with the international community.
On October 18, 2008, Hossein Zabhi, Deputy State Public Prosecutor, announced that a new Iranian judicial directive would ban the execution of juvenile offenders for drug crimes. However, the judges are still required under Iran’s Islamic laws to issue death sentences for minors convicted of murder if the victim’s family refuses financial compensation. “We can’t deny a victim’s family of the legal right to ask for Islamic qisas, or eye for eye retribution,” said Zabhi.
A draft norm to fully apply the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the execution of minors and which was ratified by Tehran, was drawn up by Iranian judicial authorities and transformed into a bill that established lighter punishments for minors, though it is still on hold in the Iranian Parliament. The basis of the bill is that, minors who have committed murder will not be hanged “if they do not understand the nature of the crime they have committed or there is a doubt about their maturity and insight,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters on February 17, 2009.
The new bill’s outlines have been approved by parliament’s Judicial Commission. Jamshidi said minor offenders have been divided into three categories under the proposed bill. “People between 15 and 18 will receive a maximum punishment of two to five years in a juvenile corrective facility for crimes which adults are sentenced to life imprisonment or even execution,” Jamshidi said. He said the courts would be required to seek opinions from experts on the maturity of someone under the age of 18 who is convicted of murder. Children between the ages of seven and 12 will “receive no punishment,” Jamshidi said, adding that the bill would not differentiate between girls and boys. He said such offenders would be “sent to an educational boarding facility, receive medical and psychological treatment or be separated from family and put into foster care.” “Those between 12 and 15 will be sent to a juvenile corrective facility for three months to a year for serious crimes that land adults in jail,” Jamshidi said. “They may also receive one of the measures for the seven to 12 group.”
 
In 2007, at least 8 people under 18 at the time of their crime were executed in Iran. In 2008, at least 13 juvenile offenders were put to death in Iran, the only country reported as having carried out the death penalty for those condemned of crimes committed before their eighteenth birthday.
Executions of minors continued into 2009, when there were at least 5 such executions.
On January 21, 2009, Molla Gol Hassan, a 21 year old Afghan citizen, was executed in Tehran’s Evin prison. He was convicted of a murder 4 years before, according to the government newspaper Iran. According to the report, Hassan was convicted of murdering Fakhreddin in December 2004, making him 17 years old at the time of committing the alleged offence.
On January 27, 2009, four young men between 18 and 20 years of age were hanged in the prison of Mashad (northeastern Iranian province of Khorasan) in the morning, reported the Iranian daily newspaper Quds. The men who were not identified by name, were convicted of kidnapping and rape of a boy in 2008, according to the report. Clearly, at least one or more of the young men hanged would have been under 18 at the time of their crime.
On January 28, 2009, two men were hanged in the prison of Isfahan (central Iran), reported the State-run news agency Fars news. The men were identified as Ahmad A (age not given) and Reza A. (21), and both were convicted of murder. Reza A. was convicted of a murder in September 2006. Depending on his exact date of birth, there is a possibility that Reza was a minor at the time of committing the alleged offence.
On May 1, 2009, Iran hanged Delara Darabi, a young woman who was convicted of murder when she was a minor. Authorities executed the 23-year-old woman in Rasht, northern Iran, without informing her lawyer or allowing the family to be present, said her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei. Iranian law requires authorities to inform a prisoner’s lawyer at least 48 hours before an execution, but Mostafaei said he was not given warning that the sentence was to be carried out. The lawyer said Darabi called her parents just moments before the execution. He quoted her as saying, “Oh, Mother, I see the hangman’s noose in front of me. They are going to execute me. Please save me.” The woman’s parents were not allowed inside the prison to meet her for a last time, Mostafaei said.
Delara Darabi was 17 at the time the crime was committed, in 2003. She initially pleaded guilty to killing her father’s cousin, but later retracted her confession and said her boyfriend carried out the killing. She told a judge that she had initially confessed because her boyfriend told her that, as a minor, she would not be executed and she could save him from being put to death, her lawyer said. Her boyfriend, who was 19 at the time of the killing, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in the murder.
Darabi was executed despite her having been given on April 19 a two-month stay of execution by the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, in respect to the initial execution date of April 20. Instead, she was put to death after only ten days.
On May 20, 2009, four people were hanged in the prison of Shiraz in the morning, according to several Iranian newspapers including Etemad. According to the report one of the executed was a 20-year-old man convicted of a murder in August 2006. According to this information this unidentified young man was a minor at the time of committing the alleged offence.
On October 11, 2009, the minor offender Behnoud Shojaee was executed at 5 in the morning at Tehran’s Evin Prison. He was convicted of murdering another boy by the name Omid in June 2005, when he was 17 years old. Behnood had allegedly killed the boy during a street fight in Tehran involving over a dozen boys.
His execution had been halted five times earlier, due to international pressure and attempts by his lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei and other human rights defenders. The execution was also confirmed by the State-run news agency Fars. The night before, hundreds of people had gathered outside the Evin prison, in hope of being able to make authorities postpone the execution once again. In 2008 authorities sent Behnoud to his death four times and once again in August of 2009, placing him in isolation at Evin prison for several days, as they usually do before an inmate is hanged. However, the execution was continually postponed – perhaps thanks to international pressure. Twice, his execution was postponed just moments before he was hanged, when he was already outside in the prison courtyard with the noose at the ready. Behnoud was granted a stay of execution by then-head of the judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to allow time for further negotiations over diyeh (blood money) between his and Omid’s families. At first the family of the victim wanted over 2 million dollars US in “blood money” compensation. After months of negotiation, and his execution being postponed three times, the diyeh was reduced to approximately 625,000 USD. Shojaee who grew up with his grandparents since the death of his mother at age 10 from diabetes and a father living with depression from his tragic loss, he could not afford the required diyeh. Three of Iran’s most prominent movie directors and actors (Ezatolah Entezami, Parviz Parastooyi and Kiymars Poorahmad) opened a joint account to help raise money for his diyeh. They raised 100 milion toman (about 100 thousand dollars), convincing the family of Omid to grant a pardon. However, in an unprecedented move, the Iranian judiciary froze the bank account, summoned the artists and threatened that “they shall be investigated” under the special laws that were passed in 1997 against corruption, embezzlement, and misappropriation and which carry punishments ranging from one to seven years of prison. The parents of Omid withdrew their pardon.
The same parents were promised to hang Behnoud with their own hands at the infamous prison of Evin.
On December 17, 2009, Mosleh Zamani (20) was hanged in the Dizelabad prison of Kermanshah (western Iran) along with four unidentified people. Mosleh Zamani was convicted of raping his girlfriend in 2006 when he was 17 years old. In an interview with BBC-Persian Mr. Zamani’s sister Sanaz Zamani confirmed the news and said that Saleh Samani, Zamani’s girlfriend, didn’t have any complaints against Mosleh and they even had a letter from the medical examiner saying there was no sexual relationship between them. However she said that Mr. Zamani was convicted of “Shararat” where only three people from the village had signed as witnesses. “Shararat” is a non specific term meaning “acts of evil” frequently used for disruption of law and order or inappropriate social behavior.
 
Saudi Arabia
 
Saudi Arabia does not have a penal code and judges pass verdicts based on their own interpretation of Sharia law.
In particular, the manner of dealing with minors, who have been sentenced to flogging or even to death, is cruel and contradicts the principles of the rule of law and the minimum standards established by international law.
Saudi Arabia ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1996, which prohibits the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole as punishments for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crime. However, the Saudi authorities do not seem to take their assumed responsibilities on human rights through adherence to international treaties very seriously, because there is a huge divergence between the commitments made by Saudi Arabia for human rights and its daily reality.
Furthermore, the Sharia law of the Kingdom never imposes the death penalty on persons that have not reached the age of adulthood, and on the basis of the Regulations of Detention and the Regulations of Juvenile Detention Centers of A.H. 1395 (1975), that is defined as anyone under the age of 18. However, a judge could issue a death penalty against the accused if they felt that the offender had reached maturity, regardless of their actual age at the time of the crime.
 
In 2009, Saudi Arabia executed three people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crimes. In 2008, no executions of juvenile offenders were reported, while in 2007 there were three such executions.
On January 15, 2009, a Saudi Arabian boy convicted of murder was beheaded by the sword in the south-western border town of Abha. Moshabab bin Ali al-Ahmari used a machine gun to kill compatriot Said bin Abdulrahman al-Ahmari because of a dispute between them, the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA State news agency. Al-Ahmari was a minor when he was sentenced. The statement said his execution was delayed until he came of age.
On May 10, 2009, five men were beheaded in Madinah. Four Saudis and one citizen of Chad were convicted of “abducting children and raping them,” in addition to consuming alcohol and drugs and thievery, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Two of them, Saudi Arabian Sultan Bin Sulayman Bin Muslim al-Muwallad and Chadian ‘Issa bin Muhammad ‘Umar Muhammad, were executed after being convicted of a number of offences committed when they were 17 years old.
 
Myanmar
 
High treason and premeditated murder are capital crimes in Myanmar. The death penalty is optional for drug manufacturing and trafficking, and, in 1993, Myanmar adopted a law that allows for the death penalty to be imposed for drug offences under certain circumstances.
Myanmar is part of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which outlaws the execution of juvenile offenders. According to Burma’s 1993 Child Law, a child should not be punishable by death or an imprisonment exceeding 10 years of detention.
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1988. However, no executions have taken place since then.
 
On October 16, 2009, two child soldiers were put on death row after being accused of killing another child soldier during a fight, the family of one of the defendants said. Only Maung Aung Ko Htwe, 16, serial No Ta/351807, from the 322nd Light Infantry Regiment, based in Laogai region, Northern Shan State, was identified. The regiment did not try the two prisoners and instead sent them to the Corrections Department where they received the death sentences.
The family of Maung were not told about the incident, which happened in Laogai, the capital of Burma’s northeastern Shan State, for five months after the charges had been brought, said the sister. “No one informed us about what happened to him,” she said. “We decided to give his battalion a ring and they told us he was in prison for killing a child.” The victim is reportedly from a family with members in the pro-junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
Maung was studying in the eighth grade at the No 2 State High School of South Dagon Myothit Township when he was lured into joining the army as a child soldier. He was abducted by the army and enlisted as a soldier in 2006 whilst waiting at a railway station with friends, his sister said.
Aye Myint, a lawyer from the Guiding Star grassroots legal advocacy group, said he will give assistance to the family to take the case to the International Labor Organization (ILO). “According to [Burma’s] 1993 Child Law, a child should not be punishable by death or an imprisonment exceeding 10 years of detention,” he said, adding that authorities “have neglected this.” Furthermore, he said, Maung was recruited as a child solider, which is illegal under Burmese law. A report recently compiled by Guiding Star found that at least 107 child soldiers were recruited by the army between May and August 2009. Only around 35 of these were sent home while the rest remain in the army.
 
Nigeria
 
Nigeria is part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), both of which outlaw the execution of juvenile offenders.
 
On September 12, 2009, a man was sentenced to death by hanging for a murder committed when he was a minor. The Yola High Court in Adamawa State found Patrick Ozeoma guilty of hacking his former master, Late Pericoma Mbasalem, to death using a machete. According to the prosecution, Patrick committed the offence in the year 2000 when he was sixteen years of age following a disagreement over 52,000 naira (about 337 USD) sent to him by his mother. When Patrick was arraigned in court, he earlier pleaded not guilty, but later confessed that he decided to kill his master because his mother sent him the sum and the deceased converted it to his own use. Delivering judgment in the case, the presiding judge, Justice Bemari Bansi, noted that the argument of the defense counsel that the convict committed the offence because of annoyance was not tenable and not an excuse to commit murder.
 
Sudan
 
On July 8, 2005, Sudan approved a new Interim Constitution that allows the death penalty for juvenile offenders. Article 36 (2) of the Interim Constitution states that: “The death penalty shall not be imposed on a person under the age of eighteen or a person who has attained the age of seventy except in cases of retribution or hudud.” This last exception makes the first safeguard almost worthless; for instance hudud crimes include murder and burglary over a certain amount, according to the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code. Such exceptions in the new constitution contravene the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Sudan, stipulating that capital punishment should not be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age.
On November 22, 2009, Sudan sentenced six children to death for taking part in the May 2008 Darfur rebel attack on Khartoum, but has since promised not to execute them, a top United Nations official said. A Sudanese government official said child executions were not allowed under the law and there were checks to keep youngsters off death row. “We have six from the attack on death row,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. Secretary-General’s special representative for children and armed conflict. “The government claims that a military panel has found that these were not children. But the assessment of the international agencies is that they are children.” “I was assured today by the Minister of Justice that they will not be executed,” she told reporters at the end of a trip to Sudan. “According to that law, no child can be executed,” foreign ministry spokesman Moawia Osman Khalid told Reuters. “If a court handed out such a sentence, it would be overturned on appeal.”
 
United Arab Emirates
 
On April 19, 2010, a woman and three men sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for murder have had their appeals against the sentences rejected by the Supreme Court, the UAE newspaper Gulf News reported. At the time of the crime three of the four individuals convicted were under the age of 18. According to police, Khowla Abbas, who was 17 at the time of the crime, asked her husband, a policeman called Fahad, to come with her for dinner at the seaside in the Al Hira area. The woman asked her lover to kill her husband. He was accompanied by his friends Mukhtar, who was 17 years old and Abdullah Hussain from Bangladesh, also 17 years old at the time of the crime. The three men held the victim while Khowla stabbed her husband several times. The three accused left the victim bleeding for more than an hour before the wife contacted police, claiming that unidentified robbers attacked him. After the investigation, she admitted the crime and her three partners were arrested the next day. The four have been held at Sharjah Central Jail since 2003.
According to Federal Supreme Court documents, Mukhtar and Hussain were tried as adults after a court ruled that their facial hair indicated they were mature enough to take responsibility for their crimes. According to Sharia, a beard or moustache is regarded as evidence of maturity. The court ruled that because they were both old enough to shave their facial hair, they were criminally responsible for their actions.
Under Islamic Sharia law applied in the Gulf Arab State, a victim’s family can ask for the death penalty if the court finds the defendant guilty of murder. The victim’s family is also entitled to waive such a right and demand “blood money” in its stead. The victim’s mother asked her children on her death bed not to pardon the killers.
 
Uganda
 
On September 16, 2009, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative reported that Luzira Prison in Kampala is stuck with 17 inmates sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age. Some of them, now adults, have spent 12 years in prison. Their fate can only be determined by the Minister of Justice. The law does not allow the execution of any convict who is below 18. In the case of the 17 inmates, it is unclear if the Minister will order their execution since some of them are now adults, or release them.
Frank Baine Mayanja, the Prison spokesperson, said the institution had no power to decide the inmates’ fate. “Some have grown into adults. We are still stranded with them because we must follow orders.” “Will the Minister’s order be to hang them since they are now adults? To serve a life imprisonment or to be set free?” Baine wondered. “We are waiting but it has sincerely been a long wait.”
The report quotes the Ministry as saying it was working with the Judiciary to resolve the issue soon. The presiding judge is mandated to recommend to the Minister what to do with the children. The report, however, said the cases date back to 1997, making it hard to trace the judges who passed the sentences. In any case, it added, the judges may not remember the details of each case.
The report urged the Minister to act appropriately to save the juveniles the anxiety of waiting. It said children should only be imprisoned as a last resort. Livingstone Ssewanya, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, said the Children’s Act requires children sentenced to death to be handled by the Family and Children’s Court. He regretted that the Minister’s order had delayed and deprived the children of remedial action.
 
 
 
THE “WAR ON DRUGS”
 
Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) grants an exception to the right to life guaranteed in Article 6(1) to countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty, but only in relation to ‘the most serious crimes’. The jurisprudence has developed to the point where UN human rights bodies have declared that drug offences are not among the ‘most serious crimes’. The ‘most serious crimes’ threshold for the lawful application of capital punishment is also supported by UN political bodies, which clarified that by ‘most serious crimes’ it is intended only those ‘with lethal or other extremely grave consequences’. Therefore, executions for drug offences violate international human rights law.
Another concern is the presence in many states of legislation prescribing mandatory death sentences for certain categories of drug offences. Mandatory death sentences that do not consider the individual merits of a particular case have been widely criticized by human rights authorities. According to 2010 Report, The Death Penalty for Drug Offences, produced by the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), thirty-two jurisdictions in all maintain laws that prescribe the death penalty for drug-related crimes, including thirteen countries that allow for mandatory capital punishment for certain drug offences: Brunei-Darussalam, Egypt, India, Iran, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Syria, Laos, Yemen, Oman and Sudan.
 
The prohibitionist ideology concerning drugs, dominant worldwide, once again made its contribution to the practice of the death penalty in 2009 and the first six months of 2010.
In the name of the war on drugs and as a result of increasingly strict laws, there were executions carried out in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Death sentences were handed down but not carried out in Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Yemen.
In April 2009, the Lahore High Court in Pakistan abolished the death sentence for women and children arrested in narcotics cases.
In June 2009, Vietnam removed using drugs from the list of crimes punishable by death, but maintained capital punishment for drug trafficking.
In November 2009, the Hamas-run government ruling Gaza in the Palestinian National Authority approved a legal change that will allow for the execution of convicted drug dealers.
 
China
 
People found guilty of trafficking amphetamines or caught smuggling more than 50 grams of heroin and/or 1,000 grams of opium face the death penalty.
The proportion of executions for drug offences is unknown. However, in 2009 and 2010, the number of executions for drug-related crimes has decreased in respect to 2008. It is probable that this change is a reflection of the reform passed on January 1, 2007, that passed judicial review of death penalty cases back to China’s Supreme People’s Court, as well as the directive of the same court holding that the death penalty should be imposed on an “extremely reduced number of hardened criminals.”
Regardless, as has long been the case in China, death sentences and executions increased markedly around National holidays and dates of symbolic international importance such as the International Day Against Drugs on June 26.
 
On January 9, 2009, a man was executed for drug dealing in Guangzhou. Chen Bingxi was found guilty of trafficking and manufacturing 12.36 tons of crystal meth and selling and transporting more than 100 kilograms of heroin. The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to death and confiscated all of his personal assets on December 14, 2006. Chen and his wife Baoyu fled to Thailand in November 1999, but were arrested by police on November 4, 2003 and extradited to China the next day. Chen’s wife was sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison and fined 3 million yuan (US$439,000) for producing drugs.
On January 15, 2009, a court in east China’s Fujian Province executed a man for smuggling and trafficking about 51 kilograms of drugs. Huang Yihua, 26, was executed by the Intermediate People’s Court of Putian City after the Supreme Court reviewed and approved the death penalty case. He was arrested in March 2007, when Police seized two kg of methamphetamine and about 49 kg of ephedrine, that he intended to sell in Taiwan, according to court documents.
On April 23, 2009, Nigerian national Chibuzor Vitus Ezekwem was executed in China after being found guilty of trafficking hard drugs. According to the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing, “The Mission’s plea for mitigation of the death sentence was rejected and the death sentence passed on him was sadly carried out in accordance with the Laws of the People’s Republic of China.”
On June 25, 2009, in honor of the International Day Against Drugs, eight people sentenced to death for drug production and trafficking were executed in China. They were identified as Wang Xilin, Lu Gang, Zhou Zhenjun, Wang Li, Li Ersa and Yan Chaomin were executed for four cases of drug production and sales. The court did not disclose the locations of the executions. Tian Yulai was executed in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu Province, for trafficking. And in Quanzhou City in southeast China’s Fujian Province, Liu Huiyang was executed for a sentence of manufacturing narcotics passed in 2005.
On June 26, 2009, China executed four men for drug trafficking on annual international anti-drug day, in the southern island province of Hainan. Zheng Jinhai, Zeng Yina, Li Anyue and Liu Dacheng, were sentenced to death by the Intermediate People’s Court of Haikou. They were involved in three cases involving a total of 8,695 kilograms of drugs, the court said.
On September 15, 2009, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) said four men were executed for drug production. Liu Zhaohua was executed in Guangdong Province for making 12,660 kg of ice and 15 kg of amphetamine from 1995 to 1999. Liang Ruinan was executed for making and carrying 42.58g of methamphetamine and 9.45g of tablets on April 2, 2006, in Beijing. Zhang Jianxun and He Qibin were executed in Sichuan Province for making 68.81 kg of Ketamine powder and 9.7 litres of Ketamine liquid compound. The SPC did not reveal the times or locations of their executions.
On October 13, 2009, Lu Fuguo was executed for drug trafficking in south China’s Guangdong Province, the Dongguan Municipal Intermediate People’s Court said. Lu was caught on November 6, 2006, and had 1 million yuan worth of personal property confiscated. He was accused of making and trafficking in 48 kg of drugs including “magu”, a Thai word for a stimulant drug that is a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine, in Dongguan City since April 2006, according to a ruling of Dongguan Municipal Intermediate People’s Court.
On December 17, 2009, a Taiwan man was executed by lethal injection in China, the Xiamen Intermediate people’s court said. Xie Minghui, from the Tainan County of Taiwan, was convicted of smuggling 4,230 grams of heroin from Yangon to Xiamen on November 11, 2004.
On December 29, 2009, Akmal Shaikh, a British national who was convicted of smuggling drugs into China, was executed by lethal injection in Urumqi after approval from China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC). The SPC said that it had reviewed and approved the death sentence against Akmal Shaikh. Shaikh, 53, male, was caught carrying up to 4,030 grams of heroin at the international airport of Urumqi in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region from Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, on the morning of September 12, 2007. Shaikh was sentenced to death in the first instance by the Intermediate People’s Court of Urumqi on October 29, 2008 and his final verdict came in October after two failed appeals. The SPC said that the defendant’s litigation rights and legitimate treatment had been fully granted in custody and trial. Officials from the British embassy in China and a British organization had proposed a mental disease examination on Akmal Shaikh, but the documents they provided could not prove he had mental disorder nor did members of his family have a history of mental disease, the SPC said. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted.” Shaikh’s family insist that he suffered from bipolar disorder and that he had been tricked into carrying drugs by a criminal gang.
 
On April 6, 2010, China executed a Japanese man named Mitsunobu Akano in Liaoning province for drug smuggling, the Supreme People’s Court announced. Japan’s Kyodo news agency said Akano was convicted in 2008 of attempting to smuggle 2.5 kgs of drugs from China to Japan in 2006.
On April 9, 2010, the Chinese Supreme People’s Court announced that Japanese nationals Teruo Takeda, 67, Hironori Ukai, 48, and Katsuo Mori, 67, were executed in the northeastern province of Liaoning for drug trafficking. Takeda bought about five kg of methamphetamine in June 2003 in China and instructed the other Japanese to take the drugs out of the country. Takeda was arrested in June 2004 for trading more than 2.9 kg of stimulant drugs. Ukai was arrested at an airport in Dalian in September 2003 attempting to pass a security check with 1.5 kg of drugs hidden under clothes. Mori was arrested attempting to board a plane from Shenyang to Japan with 1.25 kg of drugs in July 2003.
On June 23, 2010, eight men were executed in southeast China’s Fujian Province in anticipation of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Zhang Jinxuan, Li Weiliang, and Dong Yunshi were executed in Putian for trafficking and transporting drugs. Lu Jianjun, Shi Zhongping and Li Dezhong were executed in Quanzhou City for dealing. Lu and Shi were convicted in 2008 of manufacturing and selling heroin from 2006 to 2007, the city court in Quanzhou said. Li was given the death penalty in August 2009 for selling 25,000 grams of ketamine. Two men, Chen Mingxiong and Jian Zhicheng, convicted of selling and trafficking 12,242 grams of heroin to Taiwan, were executed in Zhangzhou.
 
Iran
 
Iranian law provides for the death penalty in cases of possession of more than 30 grams of heroin or 5 kilos of opium.
On October 18, 2008, Hossein Zabhi, Deputy State Public Prosecutor, announced that a new Iranian judicial directive, initially issued more than a year prior, would ban the execution of juvenile offenders for drug-related crimes.
 
In the name of the war on drugs, according to the Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights, there were at least 140 executions in 2009 compared to 87 carried out in 2008, while according to the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs there were actually 172, almost double the 96 carried out in 2008.
Authorities admit that many of the executions in Iran are for drug-related crimes, but human rights observers believe that many of those executed for common crimes such as drugs are actually political dissidents.
 
On January 20, 2009, six people were hanged for drug trafficking in three different Iranian cities: Kardj, Isfahan and Yazd.
On February 17, 2009, three people were executed at a jail in Isfahan for the sale of a large quantity of narcotics.
On March 1, 2009, Iran executed 10 men for drug trafficking in the western Kermanshah Province.
On March 11, 2009, six convicted of drug trafficking were executed in the prisons of Sari and Tabas.
Between May 2 and May 8, 2009, sixteen people were hanged in Taybad, Ardabil, Kerman and Shiraz, for drug trafficking.
Between May 11 and May 16, 2009, another eight people were hanged in the prisons of Zahedan, Isfahan and Qazvin for drug trafficking.
On May 31, 2009, five people convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in the prison of Kerman.
On July 2, 2009, six men convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in the prison of Qom, south of Tehran.
On July 4, 2009, twenty drug traffickers, who were between 35 and 48 years old, were hanged in the prison of Rajaee Shahr, at Karaj (west of Tehran), after being convicted for buying, selling and possessing various drugs.
Between July 12 and 14, 2009, six people were hanged for drug trafficking in two different Iranian cities. On July 12, three men were hanged in the town of Arak in central Iran. On July 14, another three men were hanged in a prison in Isfahan.
On July 25, 2009, State-run Iranian radio reported that Seyyed Ahmad Es’hagh zahi was executed in the prison of Zahedan for being involved in transporting heroin and hashish
On July 30, 2009, 24 people were hanged in the prison of Rajaee Shahr, at Karaj (west of Tehran), according to a report published by the State-run Iranian news website Borna news. The report quoted Tehran’s Vice-Prosecutor Mahmoud Salar-Kia, and stated that all the 24 were sentenced to death convicted of drug trafficking, and their sentence had been approved by the Iranian Supreme Court. None of those executed were identified by name. According to the Afghan newspaper Herat, one of those executed on July 30 was arrested one month prior to the execution at a location close to Tehran’s Azadi square (site of the major protest demonstrations). His family was not aware of his execution and claim that he didn’t have any connection with the narcotics trade. Families of many of those executed after the elections have been threatened by the Iranian authorities, and the bodies of the executed have been given to their families under the condition of “keeping silent”.
On September 28, 2009, five people were hanged in the prison of Taybad, north-east of Iran, reported the official news site of the Iranian police. Those executed were convicted of drug trafficking and none of them were identified by name. The executions took place at about 9 pm, according to the report. Taybad is located at the border with Afghanistan, the world’s leading opium and heroin producer.
Between October 6 and 8, 2009, six people were executed in the Karoun prison of Ahwaz. Two women and two men were executed on October 6. They were identified as Fouzieh J (female), Khadijeh J. (female) and Abdollah J (male), all convicted of drug trafficking, and Karim A. convicted of murder. Two men identified as Oday B. and Sa’ad B. were executed on October 8, convicted of drug possession.
On November 7, 2009, four men were hanged in the prison of Kerman (southeastern Iran) early in the morning, reported the State-run news agency Fars. According to the report, the men were identified as Morteza Y., Akbar J., Mehdi B. and Alireza S. and were all charged with involvement in drug trafficking. The age of those executed was not mentioned in the report.
On November 17, 2009, three people, among them one woman, were hanged in the prison of Isfahan (Central Iran) early in the morning, reported the Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan. According to the report those executed were: Vahid Sh. (35) convicted of buying and possessing 143 grams of crack cocaine, Rasoul T. (age not mentioned) convicted of being involved in possessing 2 kg of crack cocaine and Begam P. (woman, age not mentioned) convicted of using narcotics and smuggling 500 grams crack cocaine in her stomach.
On November 26, 2009, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported one man was hanged in Amol in northern Iran. According to IRNA, Mohammad S. (also known as Fattah) was hanged in the prison of Amol. He was convicted of possessing 472 grams of heroin.
On December 16, 2009, three men were hanged in the prison of Zahedan, capital of the southeast Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, and one man was hanged in the prison of Kerman, reported official Iranian news agencies IRNA and FARS. According to IRNA’s report that was quoting the Baluchestan judiciary, the men were identified as Mosa M. convicted of the possession and trafficking of 84 kg heroin and 921 kg opium, Khaleghdad F. for trafficking and hiding 49,5 kg heroin and 98 kg opium and “Ghader M.” for trafficking of 745 kg heroin and 465 kg opium. The State-run news agency Fars reported that one man identified as Omid A also known as Sardar Bozorg was hanged in the prison of Kerman (southeast of Iran). He was convicted of drug trafficking and threats against national security, according to the report.
On December 20, 2009, three men were hanged in the prison of Isfahan (central Iran) according to the official site of Isfahan’s judiciary. According to the report the three men were identified as Ghodrat Gh. (55) convicted of trafficking 141,5 kg of opium, Khan Mohammad Daraei (age not mentioned) for possession of 120 grams of crack and 2 grams of marijuana, selling 15 grams of heroin, and drug addiction, and Mostafa Ch. convicted of possession of 135,4 grams of heroin, 35,6 grams of opium and addiction to opium.
 
The “war on drugs” in Iran continued in 2010.
On January 9, 2010, six men convicted of drug trafficking were hanged early in the morning in a prison in the central city of Isfahan, Iranian State-run television reported. The unidentified men used Revolutionary Guards uniforms and forged orders.
On February 20, 2010, three men were hanged in two different Iranian cities for drug trafficking. According to the Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan, two men identified as Abdollah A. (43) and Mehdi S. (36) were hanged in the prison of Isfahan early in the morning. Kayhan also reported that another man identified as Dadollah Moradzadeh was hanged in the prison of Zahedan.
On February 25, 2010, five men were hanged in the prison of Kerman in southeastern Iran, reported the State-run Iranian news agency ISNA. The men were identified as Rouhollah Kh., Saeed M., Shokrollah N. and Zabihollah Kh. and were all convicted of drug trafficking and arms possession. The charges have not been confirmed by independent sources.
On March 8, 2010, two men were hanged in the city of Khorramabad in the province of Lorestan, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. The individuals, who were only identified by the initials “Gh. B.” and “H. R.”, were convicted of drug trafficking.
On March 10, 2010, three people convicted of drug trafficking were executed in two different Iranian cities. One man, who was identified as S. M., was hanged in public in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz, reported the official news agency IRNA. Two other men, identified as Hamid Kh. and Zeinolabedin Gh., were hanged in the prison of Qom, reported the State-run Iranian news agency Fars.
On April 8, 2010, ten people were executed in four different Iranian cities for drug trafficking. None of them were identified by their names. Five people were hanged in the prison of Mashad in the early morning. Three people were hanged in the prison of Taybad. Two men were hanged in public in the towns of Behbehan and Shadegan, in the southwest Iranian province of Khuzestan.
On April 11, 2010, three men were hanged in the prison yard of Isfahan for drug related crimes, reported the State-run news agency Fars. The men were identified as: Morteza (40) sentenced to death for buying and possession of 3,188 grams crack, 60 lashes and 60 million rials of fine for transporting opium, and 10 lashes and 5 million rials of fine for drug addiction; Ghader (32) sentenced to death and confiscation of property for possession and transportation of 1,030.5 grams of crack; Gholamreza (38) sentenced to death and confiscation of property for taking part in buying and trafficking of 9 kilos and 0.5 grams of crack cocaine.
On April 19, 2010, Iran hanged four men in a prison in the southeastern province of Kerman for drug smuggling, Iran’s Students News Agency reported, quoting local judicial authorities. The executed men were identified as Mehdi N., Feizollah B., Nazar B. and Gholam H.
On April 29, 2010, one person was hanged in the prison of Ardebil, in northwestern Iran. According to the Iranian State-run news agency Fars, the man, who was not identified by name, was convicted of the possession of 1,23 kilograms of heroin.
On May 8, 2010, six men were hanged at dawn at Ghazal Hesar prison of Karaj, west of Tehran, which is rarely used for executions, reported the State-run Iranian news agency Fars. According to the report the men were identified as Arsalan Asadi, Mohammad Ali Fakhri, Abbas Garavand, Rahman Biabani, Parviz Taghizadeh and Saeid Michaeili. They were all convicted of drug trafficking. The ages of those executed was not mentioned in the report.
On May 18, 2010, Iran executed two men for drug trafficking in Isfahan Central Prison, Isfahan Province Prosecutor’s Office reported. According to FARS News Agency, the men were identified only as Murtaza and Azizullah.
On May 20, 2010, Iran publicly hanged a man convicted of drug trafficking in the western city of Ahvaz, Fars news agency reported. The man, identified by his initials as A.A., was arrested with 1.375 kilos of heroin.
On May 23, 2010, one man identified as S. R. was hanged in the Karoun prison of Ahwaz. He was convicted of carrying 675 grams of heroin according to a report for the official web site of Khuzestan judiciary
On May 25, 2010, four people were hanged in the prison of Yazd after they were convicted of drug smuggling, the official site of the Iranian judiciary in Yazd reported. According to the report three of the men identified as A. Sh., Kh. N. and M. B. were convicted of the possession of 67 Kg of crack cocaine, 120 Kg of marijuana, 36 Kg of opium and 7 Kg of heroin, while the fourth person identified as M. M. was convicted of trafficking 125 Kg of opium.
On May 29, 2010, quoting Isfahan judiciary’s public relations department, Isfahan Metropolis News agency (IMNA) reported that an Afghan citizen identified as Nour Jamal S. (26) was hanged in the prison of Isfahan early in the morning. The man was convicted of smuggling 1,385 kg of crack cocaine according to the report.
On May 31, 2010, nine people were executed for drug trafficking in two different cities. Two people were hanged in the prison of Shirvan, north Khorasan province, reported the State-run news agency ISCA. No information was revealed about the identities of the two, and the charges have not been confirmed by independent sources. Seven Afghan refugees were executed in a jail of Taybad, their relatives in western Herat province, Afghanistan, claimed.
On June 4, 2010, a 36 year old man identified as Jalil B. was hanged in the prison of Mianeh, province of East Azerbaijan. According to the State-run Iranian News Agency the man was convicted of drug trafficking and the possession of 4,5 Kg of crack cocaine and 200 grams of opium.
On June 6, 2010, according to the official site of the Judiciary in Isfahan, a man identified as Reza A, 26, was hanged in the prison of Isfahan after he was convicted of the possession of 172 grams of crack.
On June 7, 2010, according to reliable sources 13 people were hanged in the morning in the prison of Ghezel Hesar, Tehran, Iran Human Rights reported. The human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei confirmed the hangings in Tehran on his personal web site. They were all allegedly convicted of drug trafficking. Some of those executed in Tehran were identified as: Ahmad Shah Bakhsh, Abdolhossein Soltanabadi, Masoud, Amir K., Kazem Tashaki, Mohammad Azarfam, Mohammad Jafari, Nader Azarnoush, Sanjar Totazehi, Baghi Amini. The official Iranian media did not broadcast the news. On June 6, Iran Human Rights reported that 26 people had been transferred to the quarantine section of Ghezel Hesar prison prior to execution.
On June 8, 2010, the Iranian government’s newspaper Iran reported five people were hanged, including one man convicted of drug trafficking. He was identified only as Masoud, 33 years old. The State-run Iranian news agency Fars reported that the executions took place at the central prison of Qom, south of Tehran.
 
Saudi Arabia
 
In 2005, Saudi Arabia redefined the law on drug-trafficking, giving discretionary powers to judges in deciding between imprisonment and the death penalty. The 1987 law calls for the mandatory sentence of death for those who traffic or manufacture illicit drugs while the death penalty is discretionary for those who use illegal drugs. Now judges can decide, at their own discretion, to reduce the sentence to a maximum of fifteen years, 50 lashes or a minimum fine of 100,000 Saudi riyals (over 31,600 USD).
 
Of the 69 executions in Saudi Arabia in 2009, only one was carried out for drug-related crimes, while in 2008 there were at least 31 people beheaded for drug trafficking (out of a total of 102 executions).
On March 13, 2009, Saudi Arabian authorities beheaded a man convicted of petty theft and running a prostitution ring. An Interior Ministry statement said Nasser bin Fahd was executed in the city of Riyadh after being found guilty of running a gang responsible for stealing jewelery and cars, threatening women and selling drugs.
In 2010, as of June 30, there was only one drug-related execution reported.
On January 24, 2010, Mohsen bin Mohammed bin Saleh al-Mokhles was beheaded in Dammam in the east of the kingdom for trafficking hashish according to a Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
 
Thailand
 
The death penalty applies in Thailand also to heroin or amphetamine drug trafficking and especially when a prisoner is found guilty after pleading not guilty at the start of the trial.
Thailand’s Narcotics Act 1979 allows for the discretionary imposition of the death penalty for ‘Any person who produces, imports or exports the narcotics of category I… [if] committed for the purpose of disposal.’ Section 66 of the Act adds that any person who ‘disposes of or possesses for disposal’ drugs classified as category I in excess of 20 grams is liable to receive the death penalty. In practice, death sentences have been imposed for those who deal in heroin or methamphetamine.
In mid-2009 there were reportedly 832 people on death row in Thailand, a high proportion of whom are believed to be there for drug offences.
In the past decade, drug offenders accounted for two-thirds of all reported judicial executions. Although Thailand did not perform any judicial executions between 2004 and 2008, the practice resumed in 2009, when it executed two men.
 
On August 24, 2009, two men were executed by lethal injection in the prison of Bang Khwang in Bangkok. Bundit Jaroenwanit, 45, and Jirawat Poompreuk, 52, were arrested in 2001 for drug trafficking, the police had surprised them with a cargo of 114,219 pearls of methamphetamine, worth 1.2 million U.S. dollars.
Chartchai Sitthikrom, from the Committee for the Prevention and Control of Drug Trafficking, explained that this is an “exemplary” punishment in stopping others involved in drug trafficking. “A prisoner awaiting death lives in suffering – he added – without knowing when the time of death will come. They are dead men walking, under pressure and without freedom.”
 
Pakistan
 
A number of laws allow for the death penalty for drug offences in Pakistan, including Section 9 of the Control of Narcotics Substances Act of 1997, which deals with punishment for contraventions of the sections regulating the possession, import, export and trafficking of narcotics. It states that the punishment for those who contravene the provisions shall be death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term which may extend to fourteen years if the quantity of narcotic drug, psychotropic substance or controlled substance exceeds one kilogram. If the quantity exceeds ten kilograms the punishment shall not be less than imprisonment for life.
Furthermore, the controversial Islamic Hudud [Koranic punishment] Ordinances – passed in 1979 as part of Zia ul-Haq’s Islamization Program – include whipping for the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
 
Although Pakistan has been one of the world’s leading executioners in the last several years, this has not translated into significant use of capital punishment for drug offences. During the period from 2007-2009, only one person convicted of drug offences has been executed.
 
On April 10, 2009, the Lahore High Court, in the Pakistani Province of Punjab, abolished the death sentence for women and children arrested for narcotics, but increased sentences for previously convicted women and children. A full bench held to this position while issuing new principles to remove discrepancies and bring uniformity in different sentences being awarded under Control of Narcotic Substance Act of 1997. The court observed that only in cases containing special features could trial courts depart from these principles, and they would have to explain why. A previously convicted woman or child would be handed down the same sentence as a male convict, but the death penalty would not be given.
 
Vietnam
 
In Vietnam, drug-trafficking can be ruled a capital offence. A directive from the Supreme Court of the People of July 2001 recommends various penalties according to the quantity of drugs involved: 20 years of prison for between 100 and 300 grams of heroin, life in prison for between 300 and 600 grams and the death penalty for quantities over 600 grams. But this directive is not always followed by the courts, as there is still a law in force from 1997 that considers the possession or sale of no less than 100 grams of heroin or 5 kilos of opium a capital crime.
On June 19, 2009, Vietnam voted in favor of dropping the death penalty on eight crimes. The National Assembly removed using drugs from the list of crimes punishable by death, but deputies maintained capital punishment for drug trafficking.
 
On January 19, 2010, a court in Vietnam’s northern Lai Chau province sentenced six people to death for drug trafficking. Ho A Cua, Giang A Tenh, Sung A Thai, Ho A Vang, Mua Va Thanh and Ly Seo Sua were arrested in September 2009 for smuggling 4.2 kgs of heroin into the adjacent province of Lao Cai.
On February 3, 2010, the Haiphong City People’s Court in northern Vietnam sentenced Du Kim Dung, the baron of a heroin trafficking and production ring, to death at a closed trial.
On February 6, 2010, a court in Vietnam’s northern province of Hai Duong gave the death penalty to two heroin smugglers. The Phap Luat Vietnam newspaper identified the men as Nguyen Van Hien and Vu Dinh Quan.
On March 26, 2010, a court in Vietnam’s northern province of Thai Nguyen sentenced five people to death. Nguyen Van Dua, 43, and four accomplices were found guilty of trading in 16 kgs of heroin between June 2004 and February 2006.
On May 28, 2010, five Chinese men were sentenced to death by the People’s Court of northern Quang Ninh Province, in Vietnam, for illegally transporting 8 tons of marijuana resin. Group leader Lu Minh Cheng, 53, and two accomplices, were also charged for carrying illegal amounts of cash. The marijuana was carried into Vietnam from Pakistan in April 2008. The group then planned to transport the resin to Canada but was stopped by local police on May 12, 2008.
 
Palestinian National Authority
 
The Gaza Strip is subject to Egyptian law 314 which allows capital punishment for drug offenders. Until recently the Palestinian Authority in Gaza observed Israeli law, which does not have the death penalty for drugs. However, the Hamas government announced in late 2009 that it would enact Egyptian Law 19 until the Palestinian Authority in Gaza could meet to pass a new law for drugs.
 
On November 30, 2009, the Hamas-run government ruling Gaza approved a legal change that will allow for the execution of convicted drug dealers, attorney general Mohammed Abed said. “The government has approved a decision to cancel the Zionist (Israeli) military law with regard to drugs and enact Egyptian law 19 of 1962,” Mohammed Abed, the attorney general, said in a statement. “The latter law is more comprehensive in terms of crime and criminals and the penalties more advanced, including life sentences and execution.” “The Zionist law included light punishments that encouraged rather than deterred those who take and trade in drugs, and there is no objective, national or moral justification for continuing to apply it,” Abed said. Hamas, meanwhile, has cracked down on drugs, saying it has arrested more than 100 alleged drug dealers and users, with dozens of kilograms (pounds) of contraband, mostly marijuana, seized. Abed said the Egyptian law on drugs would remain in effect until a new law could be passed by the Palestinian parliament.
On March 16, 2009, Zayed ‘Ayesh Mabrouq Jaradat, 40, from al-Shoka village in the east of Rafah, who had been tortured by members of the security service during his detention by police in Rafah, was pronounced dead on arrival at Martyr Mohammed Yousif al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah city. The body was then transferred to the forensic department at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for further examination. Jaradat had been arrested on charges of drug possession by members of the police in the morning of March 15. A Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) field worker, who visited the forensic department at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and took photographs of the body, witnessed traces of bruising throughout the body. The bruises were concentrated in the area around the neck and shoulders. The PCHR field worker also reported that Jaradat’s toenails had been removed. This indicates that Jaradat had been subject to torture during his detention.
 
 
 
 
THE “WAR ON TERROR”
 
In 2009, a tough anti-terrorism law was approved in Bangladesh.
Numerous executions related to acts of terrorism were carried out in Iran and Iraq, while hundreds of death sentences were handed down though not carried out in Algeria, India, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen.
In Pakistan, numerous death sentences, also for common crimes, were ordered by special Anti-terrorism courts.
In the name of the war on terrorism and “legitimized” by the participation of the Great Coalition born out of the September 11th Attacks in the United States, authoritarian and illiberal countries like China continue in their violation of human rights within their own countries and, in some cases, have executed and persecuted people that, in reality, are only involved in passive opposition or activities that displease the given regime.
 
Bangladesh
 
On February 19, 2009, the Bangladesh government approved a tough anti-terrorism ordinance which provides the death sentence or life imprisonment or maximum 20 years and a minimum of 3 years rigorous imprisonment.
The Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 2008, presented by the previous interim government, suggests that any act that poses a threat to the sovereignty, unity, integrity or security of Bangladesh or creates panic among the general masses or obstructs official activities would be treated as terrorism. According to the ordinance, the use of bombs, dynamite or other explosives, inflammable substances, firearms, or any other chemicals in a way that may injure or kill people to create panic among the public, and damage public or private property have been defined as acts of terrorism. Threatening anyone with death, taking any person hostage, physically assaulting anyone or creating panic in the general masses, detaining or abducting a person by such acts have also been defined as terrorism.
 
On March 16, 2004, Parliament passed the Disruption of Law and Order Offences (Speedy Trial) Act of 2004 to extend the term of the much-debated Speedy Trial Act created in 2002 for another two years following its expiration on April 9, 2004. The law, approved by Parliament on March 13, 2002 and effective from April 10, 2002, instituted special tribunals and fast track trials (to take place within 90 days of the filing of a report) with the power to condemn people to death found guilty of violent crimes.
Death sentences have increased notably since these special tribunals were established. According to information provided by the Ministry of Justice, since they came into being in October of 2002 up to June 30 of 2005, the special tribunals have tried 650 cases and handed down 311 death sentences.
Terrorist acts, as well as ordinary crimes like murder, extortion and kidnapping fall under the jurisdiction of the high speed tribunals.
 
Bangladesh resumed executions in 2001, after a de facto three-year suspension. Two men were hanged between February and March and another in November. One execution was recorded in 2002 and two people were put to death in 2003. At least 13 people were sent to gallows in 2004 and at least five in 2005; four people were executed in 2006, six in 2007 and five in 2008.
In 2009, there were 3 executions. According to Amnesty International, at least 64 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
On February 12, 2009, three convicts in the sensational Minu Ara murder case were executed in the Jessore central jail. Minu Ara’s husband Minarul Islam, alias Minu, Shukur Ali and Ekramul were hanged at 11:00pm. They all came from Hajrahati village of Chuadanga Pourasava. Sources said six men took Minu Ara to a desolate spot at Boalmari village on Chuadanga-Alamdanga road in Sadar upazila on the night of September 1, 2000. They gang raped and then slaughtered her, dumping the body into nearby well in Chandrabati. Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-1 Judge MR Masud sentenced the six to death on June 18, 2002. The higher court upheld three of the death sentences and commuted three others to life imprisonment.
 
Iran
 
Under the pretext of the “fight against terrorism,” the Iranian regime once again carried out numerous executions in 2009 and in the first months of 2010. Among those condemned to death or executed for terrorism in Iran, some may very well be dissenters, in particular, members of Iran’s ethnic minorities, including Iranian Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Baluchis, and Arabs. Accused of being mohareb – enemies of Allah –, those arrested are often subject to rapid and severe trials that often end in a sentence of death.
On September 9, 2008, the Iranian Parliament showed overwhelming support for the new penal code that includes security provisions that would give Iran jurisdiction even over actions taken and deemed threatening to the State outside of Iran. After another review by a parliamentary commission to consider any possible revisions, the bill will arrive in Parliament for final approval.
On January 26, 2009, following a landmark legal victory, the European Union agreed to remove the exiled Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen organization of Iran (PMOI), from a list of banned terrorist organizations. The decision follows a number of EU court rulings against its seven-year inclusion on the blacklist. The EU placed the PMOI on its terror list in 2002 and has stubbornly resisted attempts by the group to be removed from it. The group won three cases at the European Court of First Instance – one of the E.U.’s highest courts – but each time EU foreign ministers simply drew up a new terrorist list and included the group in an effort to circumvent the ruling. But in the end, EU foreign ministers complied with the decision and removed the PMOI from the list. It also sets a legal precedent whereby any group placed on the terror list must be told why it is placed on the list and be given an opportunity to appeal the decision in the courts. In June 2008, British lawmakers formally removed the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran from the U.K.’s list of banned terror groups, following the decision of the Court of Appeal in London. In March the Court ordered the British Government to remove the PMOI from the UK’s list of terrorist organizations, acknowledging that there is no proof of actual involvement by the PMOI in terrorist activities.
 
Twenty-seven of the 31 individuals executed for moharebeh in 2009, were convicted of being members of the Baluchi group Jondollah (God’s Soldiers), which accuses the government of discrimination against Sunnis of Sistan-Baluchestan. Iranian officials say Jondollah has links to Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and support from Pakistan, Britain and the United States.
However, many of those executed either didn’t have any connection with Jondollah or they were only involved in web-based activities.
 
On February 28, 2009, one man identified as Mehdi Ghasemzadeh was hanged in the prison of Orumieh, the capital of West Azerbaijan, north-western Iran, according to several unofficial sources. “Human Rights Activists in Iran” reported that Ghasemzadeh was convicted of moharebeh (a term used for those involved in armed struggle against the authorities) and had been in prison since 2004. He was member of a group called “Ahl-e Haqq” (the majority of whom are Kurds).
On March 10, 2009, Hamed Mohammadzadeh, a prisoner from Miandoab in Iran’s West Azerbaijan Province, was hanged at the central prison of Orumieh, the capital of that province, on a murder charge, according to the website of Human Rights Activists in Iran [HRAI]. Mohammadzadeh spent several years in captivity before his execution. Mehdi Ghasemzadeh [see above, Ed.] and Azizvand, who were incarcerated in the same prison on charges of murdering three Law Enforcement Force members, were also executed some days before.
On March 9, 2009, the mullahs’ regime hanged four prisoners, including one convicted of involvement in the abduction of two Belgians in 2007 and other crimes, in the south-eastern city of Zahedan. IRNA said their crimes also included the killing of eight security forces personnel and the kidnapping of a cleric. The Belgians, a man and a woman, were seized in south-eastern Iran in August 2007 but they were released after a few days. An Iranian official said they had been abducted by a bandit group whose leader demanded that his jailed brother be freed in return for their release.
On April 10, 2009, Iran executed three people, two of them University students, convicted of being involved in the bombing of a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz which killed 14 people and injured 200 others in April 2008. Mohsen Eslamian, 21, Ali Asghar Pashtar, 20, and Rouzbeh Yahyazadeh, 32, had been charged in November 2008 as mohareb or an enemy of God, by a revolutionary court in the capital Tehran, said Iranian State news agency IRNA. The court had accused the defendants of having links to the Iran Royal Association, a monarchist opposition group outside Iran and of taking orders from an Iranian US-based CIA agent to try to assassinate a top official in Iran. The authorities also accused the group of seeking to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran and blamed the United States for arming and training those behind the blast and said Israel and Britain were also involved. The three men were hanged in the city’s Adelabad prison. The mosque that was bombed is part of the Rahpouyan-e-Vesal Cultural Center in Shiraz, about 550 miles (885 kilometers) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran. The mosque was packed with about 1,000 worshipers at the time of the explosion.
On May 30, 2009, Iran hanged three men who were accused of being involved in the May 28 mosque bombing that killed 25 people and wounded more than 100 in the southeastern city of Zahedan, the official IRNA news agency reported. The news agency identified the men as Haji Nouti Zehi, Gholam Rasoul Shahroo Zehi and Zabihollah Naroui. A provincial judiciary official, Ibrahim Hamidi, said the men were arrested a few days before the bombing but all three confessed to providing the explosive, the IRNA news agency reported. They were hanged at 6 A.M.., before the funeral of the victims. The explosion occurred at the Ali Ibn-Abitaleb mosque, the second largest Shiite mosque in Zahedan, during a Shiite mourning ceremony. Sunni militant group Jondollah took responsibility for the attack on its website and said it was a suicide bombing. It also said in a statement on its website that the three men who were executed had no involvement in the bombing.
On July 14, 2009, in a mass prison execution, Iran hanged 13 rebels from the Sunni insurgent group Jundallah. The official IRNA news agency said the insurgents were executed in prison in Zahedan. “Thirteen members of this group were hanged this morning,” provincial judiciary chief Ebrahim Hamidi was quoted as saying. The rebels were accused of being mohareb (enemies of God) and of “kidnapping foreigners, killing innocents and of carrying out terrorist acts for the Jundallah group,” IRNA said, quoting a local judiciary statement. According to Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesperson of Iran Human Rights, “some of the prisoners who were hanged on July 14 in Zahedan, did not have any connection to Jundallah, and were not even aware of that they were going to be hanged.” One of these individuals was “Manochehr Shahbakhsh” (26) who was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and handed over to Iran few weeks prior to the execution. Manochehr was working with a Sunni Muslim religious group with no connection to Jundallah or any other political group. One day prior to his execution, he wasn’t aware of the fact that he was going to be hanged.
On July 25, 2009, another two members of the Jondollah group, lead by Abdolmalik Rigi, were hanged on the Zahedan prison grounds. According to an announcement by the Sistan-Baluchestan Justice Department, Ayyub Rigi and Mas’ud Gomshadzehi were executed for fighting against God and corruption on earth.
On November 2, 2009, Iranian authorities executed a Jondollah Sunni militant in Zahedan, in the south-east of the country, the Fars news agency reported. Officials named the man as Abdolhamid Rigi, but said he was not the brother of Jondollah’s leader, who has the same name, the semi-official agency said. Abdolhamid Rigi was hanged in the Zahedan prison, Fars reported. According to the agency, provincial police commander Gholam Ali Nekouei said: “He was convicted of kidnapping, being a mohareb (enemy of God) and co-operating with [Jondollah leader Abdolmalek] Rigi’s terrorist group.” On October 18, 2009 42 people, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide bombing in Zahedan.
On May 24, 2010, Abdolhamid Rigi, brother of the detained leader of Jondollah, was hanged in a prison in the southeastern city of Zahedan, after his execution was postponed in July 2009 and again in December. Iranian authorities seized his brother, Abdolmalek Rigi, in February – four months after the group claimed the bombing in October 2009 which killed dozens of people, including senior officers of the elite Revolutionary Guards. Families of Jondollah victims were present at the execution to help alleviate “their pain,” said judiciary official Ebrahim Hamidi in Sistan-Baluchestan province. “The judiciary decided not to carry out the sentence in public because of some security issues,” he said. State Press TV said Abdolhamid Rigi was charged with bombing operations, armed robbery and drug trafficking. It showed a picture of a bearded, young man on its website. “Earlier confessions made by Abdolhamid confirmed reports that Washington aided and abetted the armed separatist ring in carrying out its terror activities in Iran,” it said.
On June 20, 2010, according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA, Abdolmalek Rigi, the founder of the armed Baluchi group Jondollah, was hanged. The execution took place inside Tehran’s Evin prison early in the morning. Abdolmalek Rigi, 26, was convicted of moharebeh (at war with God), and several other charges such as kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, propaganda against the authorities, having connections with foreign intelligence services and other counter-revolutionary groups.
 
Iraq
 
In October 2005, the Iraqi Parliament approved a new anti-terrorism law that provides for the death penalty for “whoever commits...terrorist acts,” as well as for “anyone who instigates, prepares, finances and fosters the conditions for terrorists to commit this type of crime.”
On March 9, 2006, the first condemnations were carried out under the new anti-terrorism law.
 
Iraq executed 77 people in 2009, all of whom were convicted of terrorism-related offences, the country’s supreme court said.
Of the at least 34 executions in 2008, many were of those condemned of crimes related to terrorism. Of the 33 executions in 2007, 30 were of people put to death under similar charges.
 
“Seventy-seven death sentences were enforced in 2009,” the head of the Iraqi Supreme Court, Medhat al-Mahmud, said in a statement on January 5, 2010. According to the court, the prisoners were found guilty in “cases related to terrorism” and their punishment was applied as a matter of priority.
On January 14, 2010, an Iraqi court sentenced 11 men to death, including Al-Qaeda militants, for devastating truck bombs in Baghdad that killed more than 100 people in August 2009, Ali Abdul Sattar, President of the criminal court, said at a hearing in the Iraqi capital. The August 19 attacks just minutes apart outside the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs caused massive destruction, killed 106 people and wounded around 600 others. Those convicted included Salim Abed Jassim who confessed that he received funding for the attacks from Brigadier General Nabil Abdul Rahman, a senior army officer during the rule of Saddam Hussein now living in Syria. Also sentenced to death by hanging were Ishaq Mohammed Abbas, an Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader and his brother Mustapha.
On May 18, 2010, an Iraqi court awarded death sentences to 62 people linked to Al Qaeda and different prison terms, including life imprisonment, to 130 others, Xinhua reported. The court which held the men guilty of killings and bombings is located in Anbar province. Some senior leaders of the Al-Qaeda organization and leaders of other insurgent groups were among those who received death sentences. Many of the 130 convicts were either fighters of Al-Qaeda or involved in assisting the group to carry out deadly attacks. All the convicts were residents of Anbar province.
 
Pakistan
 
Most death sentences since 1997 have been handed down by special anti-terrorist courts set up by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to combat growing terrorist attacks in the country. The jurisdiction of these courts gradually evolved to cover political charges and cases involving gang rape and violence against children. These courts hold trials within seven days. Convicted persons have to appeal within seven days, and the appeal must also be heard and decided within a week.
These provisions contravene Article 14(3) (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which entitles any person charged with a criminal offences to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defense.
 
On February 15, 2009, Pakistani Anti Terrorism Court-I (ATC-I) sentenced Shehzad Masih, Nisar Ahmed and Munir Masih to death, life imprisonment and fines. They allegedly kidnapped five year old Rayan, along with his driver and family car, on October 2, 2007. They demanded a ransom of Rs 5 million and after negotiations, agreed to release the boy, driver and car for a payment of Rs 492,000 (about 6,000 USD). The accused were later arrested and faced trial before the ATC-I. The victim and two other eyewitnesses identified them.
On April 30, 2009, an anti-terrorism court in Karachi handed down the death sentence to two for kidnapping and killing a boy for ransom. Tehsil Khan and Taj Mohammad allegedly kidnapped 11-year-old Tufail from Al-Asif Square on September 28, 2008.
On June 29, 2009, the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) in Multan awarded the death sentence to ten people for killing thirteen members of a family in four different attacks over an old enmity. Judge Sarwar Saleemullah awarded death sentences to Ghulam Mustafa, Muhammad Akhtar, Muhammad Mazhar, Muhammad Makki, Muhammad Aslam, Muhammad Siddiq, Abdul Majeed, Abdul Ghafoor, Hazaray Khan, and one unidentified person.
On August 5, 2009, Sadi Ahmad and Mahboob Shah were sentenced to death by the Anti Terrorism Court in Faisalabad for a murder committed on August 1, 2007. With 7 other accomplices, Sadi and Shah allegedly killed Sadi’s former brother in law Ali Raza and another man, Attiya Bibi. The reported motive was that Raza divorced Sadi’s sister.
On August 31, 2009, an anti-terrorism court awarded the death sentence to two traffic policemen for raping and killing a three-year-old girl. Noor Muhammad and Bashir Ahmed were tried by ATC-I for Karachi division, headed by judge Syed Hasan Shah Bokhari.
On October 4, 2009, in Gujranwala, an anti-terrorism court awarded the death sentence to Tasaduq Ijaz and Saleem. The two allegedly kidnapped Binyamin, 4, the son of cloth trader Sheikh Muhammad Azeem, for ransom on January 22, 2008. They killed him even after receiving Rs 600,000 (about 7,130 USD).
On December 11, 2009, a Special Anti-Terrorism court awarded the death sentence to Aftab, Nawaz, and Faisal for kidnapping Iqbal Hussain and later releasing him for Rs 15 million ransom (about 178,280 USD).
On December 21, 2009, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Pakistan awarded the death sentence to Imran Masih, who allegedly kidnapped Mubeen Anwar.
On December 22, 2009, in Multan, Anti Terrorism Court judge Sarwar Saleemullah sentenced Ghulam Abbas and Muhammad Ajmal to death for murdering 12 people over a dispute over water and passage rights.
 
On January 13, 2010, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi sentenced Muhsin Raza to death for kidnapping Sohrab Khan for ransom on June 21, 2008, and killing him.
On January 23, 2010, Anti Terrorist Court Judge Raja Muhammad Arshad sentenced Elahi Bux to death and ordered him to pay Rs.1 million (11,885 USD) compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased. He allegedly murdered policeman Ghulam Muhammad on July 23, 2003, who was hunting him down for robbery.
On February 17, 2010, in Sargodha, Anti Terrorist Court Special Judge Anwer Nazir sentenced Rab Nawaz to death for shooting dead Hassan Jamal and Muhammad Ramzan over a minor dispute in Mitha Tiwana in 2007.
On March 30, 2010, Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court Judge Anand Ram Hotwani sentenced a man identified as Mohammad Ayub to death for kidnapping and murdering a 12-year-old girl named Kulsoom on December 21, 2008.
On April 16, 2010, Special Judge Ahmad of the Lahore Anti-Terrorist Court sentenced Muhammad Navid, Qari Shabir and Qasim Ali to death for murder of the owner of a leather garments factory in Muridke.
On April 22, 2010, in Gujranawala, Anti-Terrorism Court No.II Judge Rana Nisar Ahmad Khan sentenced Shahwaz to death for fatally shooting Nazir Ahmad and his three sons in Shadiwal village on June 20, 2004, over a property dispute in Gujrat.
On June 16, 2010, Judge Raja Muhammad Arshad of the Faisalabad Anti Terrorist Court sentenced police constable Nasir Abbas to death. He allegedly shot his wife to death, as well as his mother-in-law and her husband, three children and two servants, over a domestic dispute.
On June 18, 2010, in Faisalabad, Anti-Terrorist Court Judge Raja Muhammad Arshad sentenced Muhammad Yaseen to death and life imprisonment for the murder of Asif, Wali Muhammad and Muhammad Nadeen when they resisted during a robbery in Mohallah Islam Pure Jaranwala on July 6, 2008.
On June 18, 2010, in Sargodha, Anti-Terrorist Court Special Judge Mian Anwar Nazir sentenced Imran Haider, Ghazanfar Hussain and Tanvir Ahmed to death for kidnapping for ransom and murdering veterinary doctor Suhail of Bhakkar on June 17, 2009.
 
Algeria
 
The political events of 1991/92 which culminated in the annulment of the vote following the election of the Islamic Front, and subsequent acts of terrorism, led to the declaration of a state of emergency and the introduction of special laws in September 1992 (anti-terrorism decree) extending the application of the death penalty to terrorist offences. This special decree was almost entirely included in the ordinary law of 1995 that is currently applicable.
Former President Liamine Zeroual declared a moratorium on executions in December 1993 and no executions have been carried out since. The last executions took place in August 1993, when seven armed Islamists were executed for a 1992 attack on Algiers airport by special courts, which have since been dissolved.
On April 15, 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected President of Algeria. After 7 years of civil war, 100,000 murders, hundreds of missing people, unemployment and institutional difficulties, the new President launched a policy for national reconciliation.
However, terrorist attacks and subsequent capital sentences have continued to the present day.
 
In 2009 and in the first months of 2010, dozens of death sentences for terrorism, most in absentia, have been pronounced but not carried out in Algeria. According to Amnesty International, at least 100 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
On February 3, 2010, the Algiers criminal court sentenced Mohamed Benziane to death for assassinations, membership in an armed terrorist group and possession of weapons of war. Mohamed had already been convicted twice in absentia and sentenced to death for participation in massacres. The defendant was arrested in December 2004, weapons in hand, during an operation by security forces. He was convicted on charges including having killed three communal guards, and having participated in a 1999 massacre in the Chlef region where more than 50 civilians were killed.
 
India
 
Special courts applying the Terrorist Affected Areas Special Courts Act of 1984, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) of 2002, were empowered to impose the death sentence for terrorism. The latter law, which had broadened the scope of the death penalty, was repealed by Parliament on December 9, 2004. After achieving victory in the elections of May 2004, the government, dominated by the Party of Congress of Sonia Gandhi, decided to eliminate the law which it judged as contrary to human and political rights. Under the same considerations of national security, the POTA was replaced by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Bill, which amended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to cover terrorism. The Bill provides that people convicted of terrorism will be punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment and a fine for any act which results in loss of life. Under the Bill, anyone threatening unity, integrity, security or sovereignty or striking terror in the people in India or in any foreign country by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons causing or likely to cause death is liable for punishment.
 
On March 25, 2010, the Madhya Pradesh Assembly in India passed a stringent law that provides for capital punishment when terror attacks, disruptive activities and organized crimes result in death. The Madhya Pradesh Terrorism and Disruptive Activities and Control of organized Crimes Bill, 2010, was passed amid protests by the Opposition.
 
On February 11, 2009, a Special TADA [Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act] Court awarded the death penalty to three Maoists, in connection with the Bara massacre which took place on February 12, 1992, in which 37 male adults, belonging to a particular land-owning caste, were killed. Though TADA has been scrapped, the special law was in force when the massacre took place. Those awarded the death penalty were Byas Kahar, Naresh Paswan and Bugal Mochi. Another three people, Tyagi Manjhi, Vijay Yadav and Madhusudan Sharma, were acquitted for lack of evidence. The death sentences have to be approved by the Supreme Court.
On August 6, 2009, three people, including a woman, were sentenced to death for their involvement in two bombings in Mumbai in August 2003. Fifty-six people were killed and 244 were injured in the bombings in Ghatkopar and at the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar. Mohammed Hanif Sayed, his wife Fahimda and Ashrat Ansari were sentenced to death by a special Prevention of Terrorism Act court.
On September 4, 2009, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant was sentenced to death by a court in India’s Reasi district for murder. Principal Sessions Judge A K Koul found that Abdul Rashid, from Challad village in Mahore, hurled a grenade at the house of special police officer Mohd Mushtaq on March 6, 2008. Mushtaq’s 70-year-old father Habibullah and two daughters, Nagina, 14, and Nazia, 10, were killed.
On April 7, 2010, sixteen persons were sentenced to death in India by a Bihar court for their involvement in the Jehanabad carnage of 1997, in which 58 unarmed Dalits (people traditionally regarded as ‘untouchable’) were massacred by the Ranbir Sena, a private militia of landlords. Ten others were sentenced to life terms and were also fined Rs.31,000 each by Additional District Judge Vijay Prakash Mishra. Fifty-eight Dalits, including 27 women and 16 children, were gunned down by the Ranbir Sena at Laxmanpur Bathe in Jehanabad on December 1, 1997, sending shock-waves across the country. The victims, landless agricultural workers and their families, were supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Party Unity. The main aim of the killers was to terrorize the CPI(M-L) Party Unity sympathizers to strengthen the stranglehold of the powerful landlords in central Bihar.
On April 22, 2010, District and Sessions Judge SP Garg sentenced Mohammed Naushad, Mirza Nissar Hussain and Mohammed Ali Bhatt to death for the Lajpat Nagar market bombing that killed 13 people in New Delhi in 1996.
On May 6, 2010, Judge M.L. Tahaliyani sentenced Pakistani Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 22, to death for a 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai which left 166 people dead and more than 300 injured. He was the lone surviving gunman from the three day shooting rampage that started on November 26, 2008. Kasab was sentenced to death for four crimes and about two dozen lesser sentences ranging from life imprisonment to a month in jail. Home secretary G.K. Pillai said Kasab’s fate depended on whether the Pakistani national challenges the sentence through the higher courts and filed an appeal for clemency to the country’s president. “If he doesn’t file any appeal anywhere I think the chances of him getting hanged this year are quite high,” he told the CNN-IBN news channel in an interview on May 11. Kasab was one of 10 Islamist militants who attacked the city’s main railway station, three luxury hotels, a popular tourist restaurant and a Jewish center.
 
All these sentences must be confirmed by the Supreme Court, which itself ruled, in the landmark judgment “Bachan Singh v State of Punjab,” that the death sentence as a punishment should be given only in the “rarest of rare” cases.
 
Lebanon
 
Lebanon reinstated the death penalty in 1994 in a bid to stem a rise in violent crime following the 1975-90 civil war. Crimes punishable by death are: murder, attempted murder, collaboration with Israel, terrorism and acts of riot and strife.
 
On October 21, 2009, military investigating judge Nabil Sari issued death sentences to seven members of the Fatah al-Islam group for a bloody attack against the Lebanese Army in August 2008. Two among the accused persons were in jail, others were sentenced in absentia. The indicted persons are Lebanese, Syrian and Saudi.
On December 29, 2009, death sentences were given to six Palestinians and one Lebanese person after Lebanese Military Investigative Magistrate Fadi Sawwan charged them with belonging to a terrorist group. They allegedly conducted terrorist acts in the Palestinian refugee camp of Baddawi in north Lebanon.
On January 18, 2010, Palestinian national, Rami Issa Abdallah, was sentenced to death by Military Investigating Magistrate Fadi Sawwan in Beirut, for belonging to a terrorist group.
On February 18, 2010, a retired member of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces was sentenced to death for having spied for Israel and for his involvement in the murder of two Palestinian militant leaders. Mahmoud Qassem Rafeh, 63, was convicted of “collaboration and espionage on behalf of the Israeli enemy,” according to the verdict handed down by a military tribunal. He was also convicted of involvement in the 2006 car bomb murder in the southern coastal town of Sidon of brothers Mahmoud and Nidal Mazjoub, members of the Islamic Jihad group. A second defendant, Hussein Sleiman Khattab, was convicted in absentia. Rafeh was arrested in 2006 and then confessed to having collaborated with Israeli intelligence agents from 1993.
On March 4, 2010, twelve Islamic extremists were sentenced to death in Lebanon for terrorism. The military tribunal in Beirut found them guilty of participating in clashes against the Lebanese army in the Nahr al Bared refugee camp in 2007. The men were members of Fatah al Islam, a group inspired by Al-Qaeda. Six of the extremists are Palestinian nationals. From May to September 2007, more than 400 people, including almost 200 Lebanese soldiers, were killed in battles both inside and around the Palestinian camp near Tripoli’s northern port. Three of the men were sentenced in absentia. The presumed leader of the group, Shaker al Abbsi, is still wanted.
On April 21, 2010, military investigation judge Fadi Sawwan sentenced two Palestinians and a Syrian national to death in absentia for joining a terrorist organization and planning attacks on the UNIFIL forces in the south.
On May 7, 2010, the Beirut Military Tribunal in Lebanon sentenced a Lebanese Army lieutenant colonel to death for collaborating with Israel during the July 2006 war. Military Investigative Magistrate Riyad Abu-Ghayda also found Lieutenant-Colonel Ghazwan Chahine guilty of possessing illegal arms and explosives, and confidential military documents.
 
Sudan
 
In June 2008, Sudan set up special courts in Omdurman and Khartoum with the expressed purpose of handing out justice to Darfur “rebels” for their alleged involvement in the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) May 10 attacks on the capital’s twin city of Omdurman that killed more than 222 people.
 
Human Rights Watch (HRW) sharply criticized the use of special courts in the Sudan: “they don’t meet even minimal fair trial standards, and yet they have the power to sentence people to death.”
The United Nations voiced concern over trials that sentenced to death alleged Darfur rebels for the attack on the capital and urged Khartoum to abolish capital punishment: “it would appear” that the accused were given access to lawyers only after trials began, and that confessions were extracted while they were held incommunicado and without legal advice.
The International Secretariat of the World organization Against Torture (OMCT) was strongly preoccupied by reports of torture and ill-treatment in detention.
Amnesty International called these trials a “sham”: “Most of those that have been taken before the courts have alleged that they’ve been tortured and that they’ve been forced to confess... and in most cases they’ve actually (first) seen their lawyers on the day of the hearing.”
 
The death sentences for “terrorism” handed down in the cases of Darfur rebels for offences related to the attack against the city of Omdurman in May of 2008, started in 2008 and continued in 2009 and 2010.
On April 15, 2009, another 10 “rebels” from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were sentenced to death. The men were found guilty of terrorist activities, overthrowing the regime, destruction of public property and possession of illegal arms.
On April 22, 2009, a Sudanese court sentenced 11 members of the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to death and acquitted five others. Judge Samid Din Ismail referred one defendant to a juvenile court and another to a mental hospital. The court gave the defense a week to appeal the ruling. Defense lawyer Adam Bakr said he would appeal, but said the week-long appeal deadline “violates rules of justice.”
On April 26, 2009, a Sudanese court sentenced another 11 Darfur rebels to death. Eight other men were acquitted.
On April 30, 2009, the Justice and Equality Movement and Amnesty International said the 82 Darfuri men sentenced to death by special courts in Khartoum were being held in inhumane conditions and many have been tortured. Ahmed Husain Adam, spokesperson for the Justice and Equality Movement, said “up to eight detainees are kept in cells originally designed for one prisoner. The cells are badly ventilated and detainees have to take turn to sleep. Detainees are denied toilet facilities between 4pm to dawn and are fed foul food and dirty water. Many have developed kidney problems.”
On May 20, 2009, a Sudanese court sentenced another nine Darfur rebels to death.
On June 9, 2009, a Sudanese court sentenced another 12 Darfur rebels to death, raising to 103 the number of Justice and Equality Movement fighters ordered hanged for the raid on the capital’s twin city of Omdurman in May 2008.
On June 24, 2009, a Khartoum court condemned four Islamists to death for the 2008 killing of a US diplomat and his Sudanese driver. The prosecution said defendants Mohamed Makkawi Ibrahim Mohamed and Abdel Basit al-Hajj Hassan fired the shots that killed driver Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama, 39, and John Granville, 33. Mohamed Osman Yusuf Mohamed, a former army officer, was allegedly the driver of the attackers’ vehicle, while Abdel Raouf Abu Zaid Mohamed was a passenger. Granville, who worked for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and his 40-year-old Sudanese driver Abbas were shot dead in their car in Khartoum on January 1, 2008. A group calling itself Ansar al-Tawhid had claimed responsibility for the New Year’s Day murder according to SITE, a US-based organization which monitors Islamist websites. It said the murder was in response to attempts to raise the banner of Christianity over Sudan, the largest country in Africa. On October 12, 2009, a Sudanese court upheld the death sentences handed down to the four Islamists. According to reports, Granville’s mother asked the court to uphold the death sentence according to Islamic law. The four men retracted their confessions, saying they were made under torture.
 
On January 19, 2010, a Sudanese court sentenced another two Darfur rebels to death for a deadly 2008 attack, raising to 105 the number of Justice and Equality Movement fighters ordered hanged for the raid.
On February 24, 2010, Sudan released 50 Darfur rebels who had been sentenced to death, under a new truce agreement between the government and the Justice and Equality Movement. Justice Minister Abdel-Basset Sabdarat told reporters that President Omar al-Bashir ordered the prisoners freed. The leader of the most powerful rebel group promised that it, too, would release government soldiers it holds.
 
Yemen
 
North Yemen gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and in 1967 the British withdrew from what would become South Yemen. In 1990, the two countries formally unified as the Republic of Yemen.
Whereas most lowland Yemenis in the south of the country are Sunni, Yemenis in the northern, more mountainous areas are Shia – specifically, followers of the Zaydi doctrine.
Since June 2004, thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced as a result of sporadic but fierce clashes between Shia al-Houthi rebels and government forces in the northern governorate of Saada, which lies close to border with Saudi Arabia. The Shia al-Houthi rebels take their name from their leader, Hussein Badraddin al-Houthi, who was killed in September 2004, and succeeded by his brother, the current leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
The Yemeni government accuses the al-Houthi group of trying to reinstall the rule of imams, which was toppled by a republican revolution in northern Yemen in 1962. It has variously described the group as “extremist”, “terrorist”, “backward” and “apostate”. The al-Houthis, meanwhile, say they have been defending themselves from a “dictatorial, corrupt power” that had tried to “eliminate their doctrine.”
Local human rights groups said about 3,000 people had been arrested by the authorities for supporting al-Houthi during the five-year conflict. Of these, 500 detainees are known. The rest are unidentified because their families are scared of reporting their fate. Their whereabouts are unknown.
 
On July 6, 2009, Yemen’s penal court chaired by Judge Mohsen Mohammed Alwan issued death penalties against seven defendants of the so called “subversive gang”, an affiliate of the Houthis in Bani-Hushaish District, some 30 kilometres north of the capital Sana’a. Those sentenced to death include: Qabos Saeed Ali Saeed al-Muzaihi, Yahia Ali Abdullah Mohammed Noman, Ali Lutf Hazib, Ali Mohsen Mohammed al-Qahm, Ahsan Qasem Ali al-Sheikh, Mohammed Ali Hamoud al-Muzaiji and Ibrahim Mohammed Ali Loqman. The court sentenced another two people to twelve years imprisonment. The court also issued a one year prison sentence against another five of the group’s members. Prosecutors said the group were among 190 insurgents captured by security forces during the battles that broke out in Bani-Hushaish in May 2008 and continued for nearly three months. They said the accused were fighting government forces in Bani-Hushaish to support Shiite rebels battling the army in the northern province of Saada.
On July 7, 2009, the Specialized Criminal Court chaired by Judge Mohsen Mohammed Alwan issued sentences of death for another three rebels from the Shiite group led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi after convicting them of causing deaths in clashes with the army in Bani-Hushaish District in 2008. The State security court also convicted six other rebels to jail terms of 5-15 years for taking part in the clashes.
On July 13, 2009, a Yemeni court sentenced six suspected Al-Qaeda militants to death for a spate of deadly attacks on government and Western targets in the country. Another 10 defendants, including four Syrians and a Saudi, were sentenced to between eight and 15 years in jail on the same charges. The 16 were convicted of carrying out 13 armed attacks over the past two years on foreign targets, government establishments and oil facilities in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. These include a January 2008 attack that killed two Belgian female tourists, a March 2008 attack targeting the US embassy and a rocket strike on a compound housing American oil workers.
In October 2009, another 72 al-Houthi rebels were convicted by the Special State Security Court and 24 of them were sentenced to death “for forming an armed gang and fighting the State and killing citizens and soldiers” from May to July 2008, in the Bani Hushaish area. On October 17, the State Security Court, chaired by Judge Ridhwan al Namir, sentenced Abdulkader Ali Yahia Abo Talib and Hussein Mohammed Ismail al-Kibsi to death, and ten others to jail terms ranging from one year to 12 years. On October 20, the penal court, presided over by Judge Mohsen Mohammed Alwan, sentenced 10 al-Houthi militants to death and sentenced five others to 15 years in jail. On October 27, four al-Houthi rebels were sentenced to death and 11 others were sentenced to 5-15 years in prison. “Death to America, death to Israel, curse to Jews and victory to Islam,” shouted the rebels from behind the bars as the judge of the Special State Security Court, Mohsen Alwan pronounced the verdict. The court condemned to death Ismail Mohsen Abdo al-Shokani, Fahd Qaid Naji al-Samin, Hifzullah Ali Mahfoz al-Tihami, and Mohammed Hussein Mohammed Murshid al-Shokani. On October 31, eight al-Houthi rebels were sentenced to death by the Judge of the State Security Court, Ridhwan al Namir, and 13 others were given jail terms ranging from 3 to 15 years. None of these defendants appealed, as they do not recognize the legitimacy of the court. They repeatedly described the Judge and court as Americans.
 
On April 3, 2010, an appeals court in Yemen upheld the death sentence against Bassam al-Haidari who was found guilty of contacts with former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert on the Internet to plot against Yemen. The court in Sana’a also confirmed a three-year jail term which a lower court gave an accomplice, Abdullah al-Mahfal, but it shortened a five-year sentence to three years for a third accused in the case, Imad al-Rimi. The three men, whose trial opened on January 10 and who pleaded not guilty to charges of making “contact with an enemy State,” said they would appeal to Yemen’s highest court. Israel has dismissed the whole case as “totally ridiculous.” Haidari was accused of having contacted Olmert in 2008, when he was Prime Minister, claiming to represent an Islamist militant group and offering to cooperate with Israel against the Yemeni State. President Ali Abdullah Saleh disclosed the case in October 2008 when he said that a “terrorist cell” linked to Israel’s intelligence services had been dismantled in Yemen.
 
The United States of America
 
On January 21, 2009, the day after Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, his staff announced a draft order to close the prison in Cuba by the end of 2009. Furthermore, on the orders of the President, the prosecutor of the tribunals at Guantanamo for war crimes called on military judges to put cases on hold for 120 days. The Pentagon will entirely re-examine procedures for the detention of prisoners accused of terrorism, while awaiting further directives from the White House. Obama’s first day in the White House had not even finished when news came in from Guantanamo. A judge announced the suspension of the trial of five people suspected of being involved in the September 11th attacks: all five risk the death penalty.
On May 21, 2009, Obama re-stated his intention to close the prison at Guantanamo. “The prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security… and that is why I ordered it closed,” the President said adding that the United States government will not “release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.” The President explained that detainees will be divided into five distinct categories. Some will be tried in U.S. courts, other in special military courts, others will be transferred abroad or into maximum security prisons in the United States. There will remain a nucleus of hard-line terrorists “who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people,” and they will not be freed and they cannot be tried: the administration intends to develop specific guidelines and procedures to deal with these cases.
The U.S. government has decided not to seek the death penalty against a Guantanamo detainee charged in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. A letter released on October 5, 2009 advised a federal judge that Attorney General Eric Holder told prosecutors not to seek the death penalty in the New York trial of Ahmed Ghailani, scheduled for September 2010. Authorities allege Ghailani was a bomb maker, document forger and aide to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The attacks at embassies in Tanzania and Kenya killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Ghailani was brought to the United States in June 2009. The Tanzanian, captured in Pakistan in 2004, was held in Guantanamo since 2006. He is the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to a U.S. civilian court for trial.
 
 
China
 
Since the attacks of September 11th against the U.S.A., the Chinese Government has used the war on terrorism as a pretext to harden its iron fist against all forms of political or religious dissent in the country. Suspected separatists or religious extremists have, for years, risked arbitrary imprisonment, isolation, torture and, at the end of the polluted process, jail or execution. In particular, China passes off repression against Tibetans and the Uyghurs as part of the war on terrorism and exercises pressure on its neighbors such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal and Pakistan to force them to repatriate exiled members of Xinjiang’s Muslim Turkic-speaking Uyghur population. Many of the repatriated Uyghurs have suffered serious violations of their human rights including torture, unfair trials and, also, execution.
 
Arrests and prosecutions for “endangering State security” (ESS) in 2009 retreated from the “historic levels” reached in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but remained high, according to new estimates produced by The Dui Hua Foundation after examining partial data revealed on March 11, 2010 by Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) Prosecutor-General Cao Jianming at the annual plenary session of China’s National People’s Congress. Dui Hua estimates that during 2009 as many as 1,150 individuals were arrested and nearly 1,050 individuals indicted on State security charges in China. The foundation said that the acceleration of arrests in the past two years reflected China’s desire to keep control over its restive ethnic regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, where mass riots have occurred, and to impose heavy penalties for “subversive” speech and association.
 
The war against terrorism is particularly heavy in East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region), the autonomous northwestern region that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the Republic of Central Asia and where eight million Uyghurs live.
On January 15, 2010, Rozi Ismail, President of the Higher People’s Court of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), reported a 63 percent increase in “endangering State security” trials in 2009 compared to 2008.
On April 9, 2009, China executed two Uyghurs in the restive northwestern Xinjiang region for a ‘‘terrorist’’ attack on border police on August 4, before the 2008 Olympic Games. The two were put to death in Kashgar, where the attack that left 17 dead and another 15 injured took place, Xinhua news agency reported. The execution was announced by a court in Kashgar to 4,000 local officials and residents. The men, Abdurahman Azat, 33, and Kurbanjan Hemit, 28, both residents of the city of Keshen, were sentenced to death in December 2008. They were executed out of public view at an undisclosed location.
On July 5, 2009, the worst ethnic violence to hit China in decades broke out in Urumqi, the capital city of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. At least 1,000 Uyghurs were involved in a protest that escalated into attacks on Han people, China’s majority ethnic group, after police cracked down on peaceful protesters. The protest march that preceded the riots was ostensibly a response to the deaths of two Uyghur migrant workers in southern China on June 26 and the Chinese central government’s handling of the case. The two Uyghur workers were killed in a “brawl” which erupted following an internet rumor, which later turned out to be false, that Uyghur workers had raped two Chinese women at the Shaoguan’s Xuri Toy Factory’s men’s dormitory.
China vowed to come down hard on those found guilty, with President Hu Jintao and other top leaders saying the “organizers, key members, and the serious violent criminals must be severely punished,” Xinhua news agency said. Authorities have claimed that the riots themselves were planned from abroad by the World Uyghur Congress (WUC); Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled leader of the congress who lives in the United States, denied the charges.
On October 10, 2009, a court in Guangdong sentenced a Han Chinese man to death, Xiao Jianhua, for his role in the racial violence that is thought to have sparked July’s mass riots in Urumqi. Xiao Jianhua was accused of being the instigator of the violence, having incited his Chinese co-workers to join in the attack on the Uyghur workers at the Hong Kong-owned toy factory and of stopping medical workers from treating the injured. Another Han Chinese man was sentenced to life imprisonment, nine were given prison terms between five to eight years. Three Uyghur factory workers were given prison terms from five to six years.
On October 12, 2009, a court in western China’s Xinjiang region sentenced six people to death in the first trials over July riots that left nearly 200 people dead and 1,721 others injured. One other defendant was sentenced to life in prison over the unrest. Authorities did not say which ethnic group the seven convicted were from, but their names suggested they were all Uyghurs. Abdukerim Abduwayit, Gheni Yusup, Abdulla Mettohti, Adil Rozi, Nureli Wuxiu’r and Alim Metyusup were sentenced to death by the Intermediate People’s Court in Urumqi for homicide, arson and robbery. Tayirejan Abulimit, was given life imprisonment when he confessed to crimes of murder and robbery and assisted police in apprehending one of the suspects, the court said, according a report in State-run Xinhua news agency.
On October 15, 2009, China sentenced six more people to death over bloody ethnic unrest in its far-western Xinjiang region in July, bringing the total to 12. Three of the six were given the death penalty with a two-year reprieve, a sentence usually commuted to life in prison. A court in the regional capital Urumqi sentenced three others to life in jail and five people to lesser prison terms for their role in the unrest that rocked the city, according to a Xinjiang government statement. One man with a Han Chinese name – Han Junbo – was among those sentenced to death for beating a Uyghur man to death, the statement said. Another apparently Han man, Liu Bo, was given a 10-year jail term. Six of the other defendants had names that appeared to be Uyghur, and the rest were not immediately identified, according to the government statement. One of those sentenced to death, apparently an Uyghur, was found guilty of beating two people to death with another defendant, as well as stealing people’s possessions, including mobile phones and bracelets.
Uyghur exiles strongly condemned the first riot-related death sentences on October 12, calling them the “first of the mass executions promised by the Chinese government.” “The Uyghurs can do nothing other than hope that the world will stop China from continuing the bloody repression of the Uyghur people,” a statement by the World Uyghur Congress read. Rebiya Kadeer, its president, said that the death sentences would serve only to “further enrage” her people.
France also reacted to the sentences, with foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero expressing regret “that European diplomats were not allowed to attend the rioters’ trial.”
On October 20, 2009, exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer said she had learnt that “out of the 11 Uyghurs who were sentenced to death [over the bloody unrest that erupted on July 5 in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi] ... nine people have been executed.” “Punishing people who demonstrated peacefully is not necessary,” she said, speaking with Agence France Presse during a visit to Japan. Kadeer added that “according to new information we have obtained, from July 5 to October 1 more than 10,000 Uyghurs have been arrested and jailed, but how many have died, or been killed, how many have been jailed, nobody knows the exact number.”
On November 9, 2009, Chinese officials partly confirmed that Chinese authorities executed nine people who had been convicted over riots in the Xinjiang region in July 2009. The nine were convicted of murder and other crimes during the riots, the State-owned China News Service said. A spokesman for the Xinjiang government said the executions had been carried out after a review by the Supreme Court. “The first group of nine people who were sentenced to death recently have already been executed in succession, with the approval of the Supreme Court,” Xinjiang government spokesman Hou Hanmin told AFP news agency.
On December 3, 2009, a court in China’s Xinjiang region sentenced five people to death for murder and other crimes over deadly ethnic riots in July, State media said. Two other people were sentenced to life imprisonment, Xinhua news agency said. Xinhua’s report named the five sentenced to death as Memeteli Islam, Mamattursun Elmu, Memeteli Abburakm, Kushiman Kurban and Helil Sadir. The five sentenced to death all appear to be Uyghurs, judging by their names, correspondents say.
On December 4, 2009, China sentenced three more people to death for murder and other crimes committed in riots in the western region of Xinjiang in July. In Urumqi, Heyrinisa Sawut, 30, of Kashgar, was sentenced to death for crimes committed during the deadly July 5 riots. Li Longfei was sentenced to death for murder after he was found guilty of beating three people to death on July 7. Ruzikhari Niyaz was also sentenced to death after he was found guilty of brutally killing two men with a pickaxe.
On December 21, 2009, Cambodia deported a group of 20 Uyghurs, including two small children, who fled China after the July riots and sought asylum with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in Phnom Penh. Their role in the rioting remains unclear, but China called them criminals, and Cambodia said it was deporting them because they had entered the country illegally. “Some of them are suspected of the crimes of arson and illegally making explosives,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular news conference, without elaborating. Human rights groups have denounced their repatriation as a violation of international conventions on refugees and asylum seekers. The US, the UN and several rights groups urged Cambodia not to deport the group, which, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, left Phnom Penh International Airport on a special plane sent from China. A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it had not finished evaluating the Uyghurs for refugee status and that expelling them was a “grave breach of international refugee law.”
On December 22, 2009, China sentenced Uyghur Mehmet Maheti, 19, to death after finding him guilty of two murders and robbery. He allegedly beat Han businessman Yang Quanhong, 41, to death on July 5 and stole his mobile phone.
On December 23, 2009, a court in China’s Xinjiang region sentenced a further five people to death for their role in July’s deadly ethnic riots. The intermediate court in Urumqi sentenced another five people to death with a two-year suspension, and jailed another eight for life. Judging from the names, the 10 sentenced to death or the suspended death sentence are likely all Uyghurs.
As of March 7, 2010, China has convicted 198 people for involvement in deadly ethnic violence in July 2009 in Xinjiang, with more sentencings to come, a top official said. “The investigations, prosecution and trials are still going on and the final figure of the people sentenced will be larger,” Nur Berkri, Xinjiang chairman, told journalists on the sidelines of the nation’s annual parliament. The convictions were handed down in 97 separate cases, he said. He refused to say how many defendants were sentenced to death or how many had been executed, but according to State press reports 26 have so far received capital punishment and at least nine have already been put to death. Most of the names of those sentenced to death appeared to be Uyghur. Nur Berkri insisted that the violence was the work of terrorists, separatists and religious extremists and not linked to China’s development policies in the impoverished region. “There are a few secessionists who are reluctant to see the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang living a happy life under the leadership of China’s Communist Party,” he said. “They will do everything possible to sabotage ethnic relations, distort Xinjiang’s history, and advocate their ideas of secession... but no matter what methods they use, they are doomed to failure.”
 
 
 
PERSECUTION OF ADHERENTS TO RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL MOVEMENTS
 
In 2009 and in the first months of 2010, repression of members of minority religious groups and religious and spiritual movements not recognized by authorities continued in China, Iran, North Korea and Vietnam.
 
China
 
The Chinese authorities recognize, in concept, freedom of religion as a fundamental human right in the country’s Constitution and as established by principle international treaties. In 2005, a new law went into effect which the Chinese Government hailed as the first substantial systemic provision for religion at a national level which “represents an advance in the protection of freedom of religion for Chinese citizens.”
Regardless, repression continues of religious or spiritual movements not authorized by the State: Protestants and Catholics, Uyghur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists. The Government has also continued its persecution of so-called “cult” movements, in particular, the Falun Gong.
The level of liberty of worship depends on the region. For instance, in Xinjiang, there is a rigid control exercised over Muslims, whereas, in the rest of the country they enjoy relative freedom. The same for Buddhists of Inner Mongolia and Tibet as compared to other regions. In Henan, Protestants undergo heavy prosecution, while in Hebei, it is the Catholics linked to the Vatican.
According to norms governing religious activity, places of worship must be authorized by the State and it is not uncommon for the police to raid private homes where the faithful have gathered to disrupt the meeting with the excuse that the neighbors were disturbed or that the gathering was otherwise socially disruptive, sometimes arresting participants and forbidding them to meet in the same place again. Saying Mass was once met with harsh punishment such as detention or actual arrest followed by re-education or prison.
Beijing permits the practice only within the framework of the Movement of the Autonomous Three (MTA), born in 1950 after Mao came to power and expelled both foreign and Chinese church leaders from the country. Official records indicate that there are 10 million official Protestants in China, all united by the MTA. The unofficial Protestants meet in unregistered “home churches” and are estimated to number around 50 million.
 
With the nomination of Zhang Qingli to the head of Chinese political power in Tibet, the repression is destined to continue if not worsen in the coming years as he is determined to fight “to the death” the Dalai Lama and defeat Tibetan “separatism” within five years. On January 1, 2007, a new law went into effect “to regulate these religions.” Approved on September 26, 2006 by the Permanent Government Commission for Tibet, rather than guaranteeing religious freedom, the law actually reinforces the power of Chinese officials in restriction, control and repression of religious beliefs.
Tibet’s largest anti-China protests in almost two decades exploded with demonstrations on March 10, 2008 to mark the 49th anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Beijing’s rule and were harshly repressed by Chinese authorities. The Tibetan authorities in exile compiled a confirmed list of the total number of deaths, injuries and arrests or detentions of Tibetans, reported during the peaceful protests in the three traditional provinces of Tibet, from March 10 to May 31, 2008. These figures, based on information and news reports collected from different sources, show that 209 people were killed, 1000 were injured, more than 5972 detained, and around 40 were convicted.
 
On April 8, 2009, the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People’s Court sentenced two Tibetans to death and two to death with a two-year reprieve for their role in the unrest in Lhasa in March 2008, Xinhua news agency reported. Of those convicted, Lobsang Gyaltsen got the death penalty for setting fire to two garment shops in downtown Lhasa on March 14 that killed the shop owner Zuo Rencun. The same sentence was handed down to Loyak for torching a motorcycle dealership in Deqen Township, which left five people dead, the agency said. Suspended death penalties were passed on an accomplice, Kangtsuk, and on Tenzin Phuntsok who reportedly confessed to starting a separate lethal fire. A fifth defendant, Dawa Sangpo, got life imprisonment. “The three arson cases are among the crimes that led to the worst consequences in the 14 March riot,” the court spokesman was quoted by Xinhua as saying. “Their crimes incurred great losses to people’s lives and property and severely undermine the social order, security and stability.” He said the judges have followed the criminal policy of “tempering justice with mercy” and “exercising strict and cautious control over the use of death penalty” in handling the cases. The spokesman also said the court had given open trials strictly abiding by the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China. “The court also provided Tibetan interpreters for the defendants,” he said. “Their lawyers fully voiced their defenses. The litigious rights of the defendants were fully safeguarded and their customs and dignity were respected,” he added.
On April 14, 2009, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) expressed its deepest concern at the first known cases of death sentences passed by the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People’s Court in China on two Tibetans. The Centre urged the Chinese authorities to overturn the death sentences passed on Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak and called for commutation of the death sentences. The Centre was seriously concerned about the fairness of the legal procedures according to international standards for fair trial and the treatment of the detainees who were held for more than a year in custody prior to their court sentencing.
On April 21, 2009, the Tibet Daily reported that the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People’s Court sentenced a Tibetan girl to death with a two-year reprieve and two others to long jail terms for setting fires that allegedly killed six people in the Lhasa riot in March 2008. While Penkyi, a 20-year-old of Norbu village, Dogra Township in Sakya County, received a suspended death sentence, the other two girls, one of them also named Penkyi, aged 23, of Thantoe village, Margkyang township in Nyemo County, was sentenced to life imprisonment and the other 20-year-old Chime Lhamo, of Sholtoe village, Namling township in Shigatse Namling County, was sentenced to jail for 10 years.
On October 22, 2009, Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reported as many as four Tibetans, who were among those sentenced to death by the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People’s Court in April 2009, were executed for their alleged involvement in the 2008 anti-China unrest in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. The Tibetan Government-in-exile also confirmed the execution report on its official website, saying Lobsang Gyaltsen, aged 27, born in Lhasa; Loyak, aged 25, of Tashi Khang, Shol Township, Lhasa and Penkyi, aged 21, born in Sakya County were executed in Lhasa on October 20. It said the identity of the fourth person is unknown. Sources told TCHRD that the dead body of Lobsang Gyaltsen from Lubug, located on the outskirt of Lhasa city, was handed over to his family and his dead body was later known to have been thrown in the Kyichu River.
On October 27, 2009, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that only Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak were executed for arson-related crimes committed in Lhasa in March 2009. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu did not give any details about the executions, the first officially confirmed to have been carried out, but told a news conference that “the procedural rights of the defendants were fully ensured...The two criminals who were executed had strictly conducted first and second trials and the Supreme People’s Court examined and ratified the sentences.”
An online Radio Free Asia report, dated November 16, 2009, indicates that Lobsang Gyaltsen was allowed a visit by his mother before he was executed. “I have nothing to say, except please take good care of my child and send him to school,” he was quoted as telling her mother.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy documented the known cases of 334 Tibetans sentenced but to its astonishment the cumulative year of sentences (excluding death sentence, suspended death sentence and life imprisonment) of all the known cases of prison sentences between 2008-09 are 1717.5 years and the average mean year of prison term is 5.3 years for each prisoner. If one is to trust reports by the official Chinese media, the total number of Tibetans convicted is 81.
On May 26, 2010, the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court in China sentenced Tibetan Sonam Tsering, 23, to a suspended death sentence, the India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Tsering, who was born in Ganzi, allegedly rioted and led others to riot in 2008 by setting cars and shops on fire and overturning police vehicles. The Center said Sonam Tsering is the seventh Tibetan so far to be sentenced to death for the riots, including two already executed.
 
The Government continued its repression of so-called “cults,” in particular, of practitioners of the Falun Gong. Members of the Falun Gong continue to be arrested, detained and there is evidence that points to some dying from torture and other abuses. Members that refuse to abjure their beliefs often suffer cruel punishments in prison or in re-education work camps and extra-judiciary detention centers.
The documentation on abuses is difficult to confirm within the country, particularly for a group that has no public profile. Practitioners living abroad confirm the situation, that is the result of State-run persecution that began in 1999. Hundreds of thousands – if not millions – remain unlawfully imprisoned in Chinese labor camps and prisons, the largest single population of prisoners of conscience in the country. Tens of thousands have suffered torture at the hands of police and security agents. 3,369 is the number of Falun Gong adherents confirmed to have died as a result of abuse in police custody or other forms persecution since 1999. There are continuous horror stories told about the extra-judicial “office 610,” a den of tortures, forced confessions and abuses by security agents.
The Falun Dafa Information Center received reports of 2,230 practitioners having been “sentenced” to prison camps following sham trials or sent by administrative fiat to “re-education through labor” camps in 2009. Reports of deaths from torture or other abuses in custody continue to flow from China on a nearly daily basis. The Falun Dafa Information Center documented the deaths of 109 adherents in 2009 because of severe abuse or neglect in police custody.
 
Iran
 
Repression of religious minorities and spiritual and religious movements not recognized by Iranian authorities – in particular of the Baha’i, who are excluded from public life, discriminated against and harassed - continued in 2009.
On January 3, 2009, a follower of the Baha’i faith was executed after his daughter complained he had raped her, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported. Baha’is say hundreds of their followers have been jailed and executed since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their religion. Fars gave no details of court proceedings and did not make clear when the man, identified as Houshang Khodadad, was hanged. “He was imprisoned and executed in Torbat-e Heydarieh (in eastern Iran) after his daughter complained he had raped her,” the news agency said, adding that charges included rape and incest.
On July 12, 2009, an Iranian follower of the Ahl-e Haq religious faith (a Shiite offshoot adhering to Imam Ali the first Shiite Imam) was executed in the northwest Iranian city of Orumiyeh, the Amir Kabir University student newsletter reported. Yunis Aqayan was arrested by security forces in 2004 and was sentenced to death for being mohareb, or an enemy of God. Aqayan was a native of Miandoab, a city in West Azarbaijan Province.
 
North Korea
 
According to its constitution, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion. But in reality, the regime severely restricts religious observance, authorizing four State churches: one Catholic, two Protestant and one Russian Orthodox. However, they cater to foreigners only, and ordinary North Koreans cannot attend the services. Other public and private religious activity is prohibited and anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious practice faces official discrimination, arrest, imprisonment, and possibly execution.
Still, more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to practice Christianity in hiding – at great personal risk, defectors and activists say. In a May 2009 report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cited defectors as saying an estimated 6,000 Christians are jailed in “Prison No. 15” in the north of the country, with religious prisoners facing worse treatment than other inmates.
 
On June 16, 2009, Ri Hyon Ok, a Christian woman accused of distributing the Bible, a book banned in communist North Korea, was publicly executed for the “crime”, South Korean activists said on July 24. The 33-year-old mother of three was also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States, and of organizing dissidents, the Seoul-based “Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity” reported, citing documents obtained from the North. Her children and husband were sent to a prison camp near the city of Hoeryong after she was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon – near the border with China.
 
Vietnam
 
The Government officially recognizes Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Muslim religious organizations. Individual congregations within each of these religious groups must be registered as well. Some leaders and believers of alternative Buddhism, Protestantism, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai organizations of these religions do not participate in the government-approved religious associations.
 
The repression of the Montagnards, the ethnic Christian minority from the central high plains, has continued to be particularly harsh. The Vietnamese Government shows extreme prejudice towards this group, accused of believing in an “Americanist religion” and cooperating with U.S. troops during the war in Vietnam. According to the Montagnard Foundation, which has operated for years to obtain religious freedom for the “population of the high plains,” there are “hundreds” of Christian Montagnards, ethnic Degars, detained in Vietnamese prisons. They can choose to renounce their religion or emigrate to Cambodia.
On January 7, 2009, Siu Krot, a Degar aged 65, was brutally murdered by both civilians and security police for his farmland. When he went to work on his farm not too far from his village early in the morning, around 10 Vietnamese civilians and a couple of Vietnamese security police were already there waiting for him at his hut. At Siu Krot’s hut this group of Vietnamese asked him to sell them his farmland but he refused. They then proceeded to take him about 3 kilometers away from his farm, then they killed him by striking him with machetes in the back of the head, on his forehead, on his nose, both sides of his cheek and then they continued to beat him until he died. Then they tied a large rock to his corpse and threw him into the river. The family was waiting for Siu Krot that night but he did not come home. So, early in the morning of January 8, 2009, his son and family went to the farm to see what had happened to him. On their way to the farm, when they got to the river, they were stopped by Vietnamese police. They could see that a doctor was performing an autopsy on the corpse of Siu Krot along the riverbank. The doctor took all of his intestines, heart, and liver and so on from his body and then he threw them back inside and told his family to take the corpse home and bury it.
On March 13, 2009, the Vietnamese government demolished the first Degar Church that had ever been built in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. This historical structure was located at Buon Ale “A” in the city of Buonmathuot. From this church, Christianity spread throughout the Central Highlands, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Degar people converting to Christianity. Degar Christians consider this building as their home church and a sacred historical site.
On April 11, 2009, Vietnamese government forces burned down a Christian Church located at Plei Todrah village, commune Ro Pang, district Amang Yang in Pleiku province. Then, on June 11, security forces and government officials came back to the village and forced the villagers to attend a meeting where they were threatened with arrest if they tell anyone how the church was destroyed. The security forces then told the villagers that they will give them money to rebuild a new church if they agree to sign a document stating they will follow the government sanctioned religion. On June 14, 2009, the security forces gave the villagers 200 USD. The villages, however, refused to sign the documents.
On March 11, 2010, a Montagnard Christian named K’pa Lot died from torture and abuse in a Vietnamese prison. K’pa Lot was born in 1979 and was from the village of Plei Thoh, commune Nhan Hoa, Cu Se district in Gia Lai province. He was arrested on May 20, 2007 and imprisoned in Phu Yen province for publicly supporting religious freedom. On the verge of death from internal bleeding, K’Pa Lot was taken to a hospital in Pleiku city on March 9, 2010. When Lot Kpa’s family saw him, they could not recognize him. He was swollen and bruises were all over his body and face. He could not move, eat, and could barely speak. K’Pa Lot whispered to his wife in his native language saying that he was mistreated and beaten on a daily basis by the authorities. The security officials forced the family to quickly bury his body, saying that he needed to be buried soon because of his sins. The family cried and pleaded with the security forces to allow them to take the body home for a proper burial but the security officials refused.
 
 
 
 
DEATH PENALTY FOR POLITICAL MOTIVES AND DISSENT
 
In 2009 and in the first months of 2010, death sentences and executions for essentially political motives were confirmed in Iran, North Korea and Vietnam.
 
Iran
 
The application of the death penalty for essentially political motives continued in Iran in 2009. However Human rights observers believe that many of the people put to death in Iran for ordinary crimes – particularly drug crimes – or for “terrorism,” may well be in fact political opponents, in particular members of Iran’s ethnic minorities, including Iranian Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Baluchis, and Arabs. Accused of being mohareb – enemies of Allah – those arrested are often subject to rapid and severe trials that often end with a sentence of death.
 
The Province of Khuzestan, where ethnic Arabs adhering to Sunni Islam make up the majority of the population, was theatre to harsh repression in 2007. Bombing attacks were even reported in the city of Ahwaz in the Province of Khuzestan in 2005, apparently in response to rumors of a government plan to reduce the number of ethnic Ahwazi Arabs in the Province. Contrary to Tehran’s propaganda, most Arab movements in al-Ahwaz are not violent separatists. They primarily want an end to discrimination, cultural rights, social justice and regional self-government – not independence.
On October 6, 2009, the Iran Press news service and the group Human Rights Activists in Iran reported that seven Ahwazi Arab opposition activists had been sentenced to death in secret trials in Iran’s Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz City. The Ahwaz Human Rights organization (AHRO) identified the men as Ali Saedi (25), Valid Naisi (23), Majid Fardipour (Mahawi) (26), Da’iar Mahawi (50), Maher Mahawi (21), Ahmad Saedi, (28), Yousef Leftehpoor (25). Some of the men are known cultural rights activists. Two others, Sayed Morteza Musawi and Adnan Biat, have been sentenced to two and three and a half years imprisonment, respectively. Arrested in August 2007, all men have been held for months in solitary confinement in Ahwaz’s notorious Karoon prison, where many Ahwazi Arab political prisoners have been tortured and executed. As is typical of Revolutionary Court proceedings against political activists, they were denied access to a lawyer. The initial charges against all nine men were conversion from Shi’ism to Sunnism, followed by charges related to the assassination in June 2007 of Shi’ite radical pro-regime cleric Hashem Saimari and for ‘acting against national security.’ Saimari was renowned for his fiery and sometimes violent rhetoric against Sunni Muslims, who he claimed were heretics. He was involved in recruiting Ahwazi youth into the Bassij paramilitary forces and was a local spokesman for hardliners in the Iranian regime. He was a known agent of the Iranian intelligence services while serving as the imam of Zahraa mosque in the Hey al-Thawra district of Ahwaz City. No Ahwazi Arab group claimed responsibility for the assassination and no evidence was produced to substantiate the government’s charges against the men, who denied all charges of involvement in armed struggle and murder.
 
The Province of Sistan-Baluchestan has also been the center of heated repression towards Baluchi dissidents, adherents of Sunni Islam, which has upped the number of executions during the year.
On March 3, 2009, two men were hanged in the prison of Zahedan early the morning, reported the State-run news agency ILNA. The men were identified as Salaheddin Seyedi and Khalilollah Zarei and were convicted of waging war against God (moharebeh) for membership in the Abdolmalek Rigi group Jundallah, fighting against the Iranian authorities in Baluchestan for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran.
 
Also in Iranian Kurdistan, death sentences and executions have been the response to political dissenters accused of “actions against National security” and “contact with subversive organizations.” Kurdish rebel groups such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and Komalah have engaged in armed struggles with Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards in a quest for more economic, democratic and cultural rights for Kurds in Iran.
On November 11, 2009, Kurdish political prisoner Ehsan Fattahian was hanged in the prison of Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Kordestan (Iranian Kurdistan). Ehsan had initiated a thirst and hunger strike in protest of his sentence. Ehsan Fattahian was convicted of being a mohareb (enemy of Allah) and for his relationship with a illegal opposition group of armed Kurds, believed to be the Kurdistan Independent Life Party (PJAK). Fattahian was detained some time between April and August 2008. Reports suggest that he may have been tortured in detention. Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment to be served in exile, after a trial in which he was denied access to a lawyer. Both Ehsan Fattahian and the prosecutor appealed against this verdict, and in January 2009 Branch 4 of the Kordestan Appeal Court overturned the initial verdict. The new sentence was confirmed, also, by the Supreme Court. The numerous campaigns by the local and international human rights groups, which asked the UN, EU and the international community to put pressure on the Iranian authorities, in order to halt Ehsan’s execution, did not gain any results.
On January 6, 2010, the Kurdish political prisoner Fasih (Fateh) Yasmini was hanged in Khoy without the notification of his lawyer. He was arrested for clashes between the PJAK and Iranian security forces in the village of Hendavan, near Khoy, in February of 2008. It is not known if Fasih was actually involved in the clashes. The authorities did not return his body to his family.
On February 18, 2010, five people were executed in the city of Urmia for assisting the “terrorist” organization PJAK. They were executed on the top of police cars in a square in the city. Their bodies were returned to their families two days after the execution.
On May 9, 2010, five Kurdish activists, including a woman, were hanged at dawn in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. The Tehran public prosecutor’s office in a statement said they were convicted of moharebeh, or ‘waging war on God’, in 2008 for membership in opposition Kurdish groups and acting against State security. Four of those executed were the Kurdish political prisoners Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili and Shirin Alamhooli, all convicted of membership in PJAK (the Iranian branch of PKK), while the fifth person was Mehdi Eslamian convicted of involvement in a bomb explosion in 2008 in Shiraz. Iranian authorities refused to hand over the bodies of the Kurdish militants to their families and buried them in a secret location.
 
On November 28, 2009, Ayoub Porkar, 46, was sentenced to death for supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. His sentence was announced by Pour-Abbasi in a “closed-door trial” which excluded lawyers and Porkar’s right to defend himself. Supporters say Porkar was tortured and is being held in solitary confinement at Evin prison in Tehran.
 
On June 17, 2009, Mohammadreza Habibi, Prosecutor-General in the central province of Isfahan, warned that the organizers of the street protests against the fraudulent presidential elections of June 12 could face the death penalty under Islamic law, Fars News Agency reported. “We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution,” Habibi said.
In the farcical trials which followed the protests against the regime, hundreds of people were brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal in Teheran and without lawyers, without their families present, they were forced to confess their own guilt in having “betrayed” their own country.
During 2009 the first death sentences were handed down for participation in the anti-government protests of June 2009 and, as of May 15, 2010, all 217 sentences against post-election protesters have been confirmed by the appeal courts, the Tehran prosecutor announced.
In 2010, the first executions were carried out.
On January 28, 2010, two of the people who had been sentenced to death in connection to the post-election protests in Iran, were hanged early in the morning. According to the State-run news agency ISNA, the men were identified as Mohammadreza Alizamani, 37, and Arash Rahmanpour, 19, and both were convicted of disruption of order and moharebeh (waging war against God) through membership in a “Monarchist Association”. The two were among 11 people who had been sentenced to death on charges including moharebeh, efforts to overthrow the Islamic establishment and membership of armed groups, said the report. The executions were the first carried out officially for election-related incidents. “The two people executed and another nine who will soon be executed were definitely arrested in recent riots and each was linked with counter-revolutionary movements,” Deputy Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi told a meeting in the holy city of Qom on February 2, 2010. “They had participated in riots with the aim of creating disunity and toppling the system,” he added. Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, 62, said that Arash did not receive a fair trial. “His interrogators promised that if he agreed to everything in court, he would be freed. He wrongly confessed to taking part in the demonstrations.” “Arash was arrested two months before the election. On his trial day his solicitor wasn’t allowed to appear in court.” “Without any legal procedures or informing the family, the young man was executed. His real crime was being a member of a monarchist group.”
On January 29, 2010, Ahmad Jannati, Secretary of the Iranian clerical regime’s Guardian Council and a leading figure in the faction affiliated with Khomeini, reiterated in his Friday prayers sermon the need to uphold the “velayat-e faqih” (absolute rule of clergy), State-run news agencies reported. In referring to the nationwide uprising he said, “Rioters… advocates of corruption on earth… those who try to shatter the structure [of the regime]… the enemies of the revolution who intend to topple [the regime]… must not be treated with compassion. Enough of kindheartedness, it is now time for toughness.” In a devious attempt to justify the inhuman crimes of the regime, Jannati said, “God says that you must bitterly attack and kill three groups of people if they do not stop the way they behave. They are: Monafeqin (literally meaning hypocrites, a derogatory term usually used by the regime in reference to PMOI), people with ill intentions, and those who spread rumors. Using harsh and firm terms, God says that these three groups of people must be killed with no mercy.” In the meantime, mullah Hassani, Khomeini’s representative in the western city of Orumieh, expressed his satisfaction with the execution of political prisoners and said, “In order to prevent further riots, the corpses of those executed must be put on display before the eyes of public in the streets of Tehran.” He added, “The tongues of those who say ‘Iranian Republic’ instead of ‘Islamic Republic’ must be cut off.”
On May 15, 2010, the death sentence for six opposition activists arrested in protests after 2009’s disputed presidential election in Iran were confirmed, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said. The six were accused of belonging to the exiled and outlawed People’s Mujahedeen. Three were arrested after opposition protests during the Shiite mourning holiday of Ashura in December 2009, Dolatabadi said, naming them as “Ahmad Daneshpour Moghadam, Mohsen Daneshpour Moghadam and Alireza Ghanbari.” The Fars news agency quoted Dolatabadi as saying the death penalty for the other three, Mohammad Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad-Ali Haj-Aghai who were arrested in September 2009, had also been confirmed.
 
North Korea
 
Conspiracy against the State power, high treason, terrorism, anti-national treachery and international murder, are capital offences in North Korea. However, people were reportedly condemned to death for such “crimes” as “ideological divergence,” “opposing socialism,” and “counterrevolutionary crimes.” Political prisoners, peaceful opponents, deserters or repatriated defectors, those who listened to foreign radio broadcasts and those found in possession of so-called “reactionary” material have been shot.
In late 2004, Officials at Seoul’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), confirmed a news report saying North Korea had revised its criminal code on April 29, 2004. Under the new code, North Koreans found guilty of organizing insurgencies against the government would be sentenced either to death or to life in one of the country’s notorious labor camps. Previously, the penalty was 10 years of hard labor or the death sentence. Defectors, defined as those “who betray the fatherland and run away to other States,” were previously jailed for up to 10 years. That ceiling had been lifted and they could be jailed for life or executed, though they must be sentenced to a minimum of five years under the new law.
 
In November 2008, at the founding ceremony of the “Free North Korea Campaign” in Seoul, the existence of six North Korean political prison camps was explained: No. 14 (Kaecheon, South Pyongan Province), No. 15 (Yoduk, South Hamkyung Province), No. 16 (Myunggan, North Hamkyung Province), No. 18 (Kaecheon, North Pyongan Province), No. 22 (Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province), and No. 25 (Chongjin, North Hamkyung Province). North Korea’s political prison camps are divided into “Revolutionary Zone,” where prisoner families and accomplices are imprisoned and can be released after a period of confinement, and “Completely Controlled Zone,” where ‘criminals’ are imprisoned for life.
On October 17, 2009, a South Korean lawmaker confirmed North Korea was still operating six Stalinist-style labor camps holding 154,000 inmates. Yoon Sang-Hyun, from the ruling Grand National Party, said the North had 10 camps holding about 200,000 prisoners until the late 1990s when it closed down four of them amid mounting international criticism. “Currently, it holds 154,000 prisoners in six places,” he was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency. He cited a government report presented to the National Assembly. Seoul had reportedly been aware of the camps since 2005 but had not disclosed the information for fear of harming inter-Korean relations, the conservative Dong-A daily said.
North Korea denies holding any political prisoners. Its official media say there are no human rights issues in the communist State where everybody leads “the most dignified and happy life.”
Inmates at the gulags are reportedly forced to work more than 10 hours a day and denied access to medical care, receiving only 100 to 200 grams of food rations, while the North Korean food ration for children up to age four is set at 234 grams. The inmates include, not only political opponents or those who lost out in political struggles, but also ordinary people who were penalized for making disrespectful remarks about leader Kim Jong-Il. Political prisoners caught while attempting to escape are subject to public execution in front of all other inmates at the site. In addition, female inmates are frequently raped, the Dong-A daily said.
 
In 2010, North Korea has cracked down on would-be defectors. Normally, persons caught in China or during defection attempts are sentenced to 7-15 years in a re-education camp, roughly analogous to prison in most countries.
On January 22, 2010, the Daily NK reported North Korean authorities had executed three people, sent three other family members to a political prison camp and exiled another family to rural Yangkang Province for their role in a failed defection attempt. The move is part of a “50-day Battle” security crackdown aimed at restoring order in society, a source told the online newspaper. On January 2, the North Korean National Defense Commission, which is chaired by ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong-il, launched a “50-Day Battle” to wipe out potentially hostile sources of unrest and prevent defections. The victims in this case have been named as Jeong Dae Sung (35), wife Lee Ok Geum (32), and a family friend, Song Gwang Cheol, all from Hyesan, a town in Ryanggang Province, on the border with China. Three other members of Jeong’s family were imprisoned and Song’s family was exiled to a rural location. Early in July 2009, Jeong escaped from North Korea to China along with his mother, wife and three- and seven-year-old daughters. However, in August the family was caught by the Chinese police on their way to Neimenggu, where they planned to cross into Mongolia and from there travel to South Korea. Their plan was foiled and the family was immediately repatriated to North Korea by the Chinese security forces. Jeong and his wife were thrown in jail under the supervision of the National Security Agency (NSA). Mother and daughters were sent home. Following Jeong’s statement and confession, the NSA arrested friend Song Gwang Cheol for helping Jeong. Jeong, Song and Jeong’s wife were all executed at an unknown location. Sources in North Korea said that the executions were carried out behind closed doors and the bodies were not returned to the families. On January 16, the NSA in Yangkang Province came back and took both families away. Jeong’s family was taken in a prisoner escort van, while Song’s family disappeared on a truck owned by Hyesan Mine. Later the source confirmed that Jeong’s family was sent to a political prison camp while Song’s was exiled to rural Chupung-ri, Gapsan.
On March 4, 2010, the Seoul-based Open Radio for North Korea said a North Korean has been publicly executed for using a mobile phone to tell a defector friend in South Korea about living conditions in the communist State, a rights group said. The man identified only as Chong was executed in late January after security officials discovered a Chinese mobile phone in his home. It said Chong, a munitions worker in the northeastern port of Hamheung, confessed under torture that he had mentioned rice prices and living conditions. The friend defected to South Korea in 2001, said the station, which allows individuals and private groups to broadcast to North Koreans via shortwave radio. Jung was the first person to be shot since Pyongyang tightened a crackdown on illegal mobile phones this year, it said. The North has a legal mobile phone service, mainly for Pyongyang residents. But the use of Chinese mobile phones with pre-paid cards is banned as part of a crackdown on information from outside the country.
 
Vietnam
 
In 2009, despite some minor progress, the Vietnamese government continued to crackdown on democracy activists, journalists, human rights defenders, cyber-dissidents, and members of unsanctioned religious organizations.
More than 400 political and religious prisoners remain behind bars in harsh prison conditions. Prisoners are placed in solitary confinement in dark, unsanitary cells, and there is compelling evidence of torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners, including beatings and electric shock.
 
On June 19, 2009, Vietnam voted in favor of dropping the death penalty on eight crimes. But even with the latest amendments to the Criminal Code the country still has 21 crimes on its statutes that are punishable by death, including seven political acts perceived as “threats against national security.”
The definition of “national security” crimes is extremely broad, and the United Nations has frequently expressed concern that critics in Vietnam may be sentenced to death under these provisions simply for the peaceful exercise of the right to free expression. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention particularly urged Vietnam to revise Article 79 on “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” which makes no distinction between violent acts such as terrorism, and the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. None of these political offences were included in the proposed reforms for abolition of death penalty sentences under discussion in Vietnam.
 
Among those that risked the death penalty was a well-known human rights lawyer, Le Cong Dinh, who was arrested on June 13, 2009 by Public Security Police and charged under Article 88 of the Criminal Code for “conducting propaganda” against the State, before being later charged for “subversion”, a charge that could carry the death penalty under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code. In August 2009, he was compelled to make a public “confession” broadcast on television.
On January 20, 2010, the People’s Supreme Court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Le Cong Dinh to five years in prison, following a one-day trial, for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” under Article 79 of the Penal Code. Le Cong Dinh was sentenced together with three other democracy activists, namely Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Tien Trung and Le Thang Long, who were sentenced to up to 16 years in prison for the same charges.
A fifth defendant, Tran Anh Kim, a former army officer, was tried separately on December 28, 2009. The trial, held in Thai Binh Province, in northeastern Vietnam, took just four hours and, in the end, a court convicted him of subversion for pro-democracy activities and sentenced him to five and a half years in prison.
Prosecutors maintain that the four were members of the Vietnam Democratic Party, a United States-based organization that Vietnam’s communist government considers a “reactionary organization.”
Dinh was also accused of participating in a three-day training course for nonviolent struggle organized by Viet Tan, a California-based pro-democracy group that Vietnam considers a terrorist organization. Dinh, one of Vietnam’s most high-profile attorneys, represented two human rights attorneys who were jailed by the government in 2007 on charges of spreading anti-government propaganda. At their trial, he made an outspoken defense of free speech. He studied law at Tulane University in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship and has served as Vice Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City bar association. Prosecutors described the case as a “particularly serious violation of national security,” because Dinh and his associates “colluded with Vietnamese reactionary groups and hostile forces in exile” to form a reactionary political organization “aimed at overthrowing the people’s government through nonviolent means.”
 
 
DEATH PENALTY FOR NON-VIOLENT CRIMES
 
According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights “In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.” The ‘most serious crimes’ threshold for the lawful application of capital punishment is also supported by UN political bodies, which clarified that by ‘most serious crimes’ it intends only those ‘with lethal or other extremely grave consequences’.
Regardless, in 2009 and the first months of 2010, the death penalty for non-violent crimes, mostly of an economic nature, was handed down and carried out in China, Iran and North Korea.
 
China
 
The revised Criminal Procedure Law which came into force in January 1997 reduced the number of capital offences to sixty-nine. However, in March 1997, new amendments added to the number of crimes punishable by death. Offences punishable by death include non-violent crimes such as tax evasion, corruption, embezzlement, forgery, financial fraud, gambling, sale of false invoices, sale of counterfeit money, drug-trafficking, bigamy, habitual theft, disturbing the peace, cigarette and car smuggling, organizing or publication of pornographic clubs or material, exploitation of prostitutes, speculation, sale of false birth or sterility certificates, stealing or trafficking in national treasures, sale of giant panda pelts, stealing cows, camels or horses, and killing giant pandas and golden monkeys.
 
The restitution to the Supreme People’s Court of China of exclusive power in approving death sentences has caused the country’s courts to handle capital cases with greater prudence, in particular, those relative to non-violent crimes.
In February 2010, China’s highest court has issued new guidelines on the death penalty that instruct lower courts to limit its use to a small number of “extremely serious” cases. The guidelines reflect the court’s call in July of 2009 for the death penalty to be used less often and for only the most serious criminal cases.
 
A new food-safety law, passed in 2008, calls for fines, imprisonment and even the death penalty for whoever produces or sells counterfeit or toxic food.
On November 24, 2009, two people were executed for their involvement in the country’s contaminated milk scandal, in which at least six infants died and more than 300,000 became ill. Zhang Yujun was executed for the crime of endangering public safety by dangerous means, and Geng Jinping was put to death after being convicted of producing and selling toxic food, the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement. Zhang was found guilty of producing more than 770 tons and selling more than 600 tons of melamine-laced protein powder from July 2007 to August 2008. Geng was convicted of selling more than 900 tons of milk tainted with 434 kg of protein powder to the now-defunct Sanlu Group, which was at the heart of the scandal, from October 2007 to August 2008. The two lodged appeals after the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court sentenced them to death on January 21, and the Hebei Provincial Higher People’s Court upheld the convictions on March 26. The death sentences and the executions were approved by the Supreme People’s Court, the Shijiazhuang court statement said. The industrial chemical melamine had been added to milk to make it appear higher in protein content.
 
On September 9, 2009, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau announced that drunk drivers will face a minimum 15 days in detention and a maximum death penalty. The bureau said drunk drivers will now be charged with endangering public security, which carries the maximum penalty of death. The legal definition of drunk driving is driving with more than 80mg/l of alcohol in the blood.
 
On January 15, 2009, two inmates who escaped from a prison in east China’s Shandong Province were executed, local authorities said. Liu Junjie, 35, and Wang Bing, 31, broke out of the prison in Zibo City on December 8, 2007 as a truck was moving out of the prison gate, according to a statement from the Shandong Provincial High People’s Court. They hit a prison worker and two policemen with iron bars and metal cutters as they forced their way out. They were later caught as they fled along a road. Liu received a 17-year sentence in 1993 for theft and fraud. He was sentenced to death in 2006 with a two-year stay for robbery. Wang was jailed in 2000 for three and a half years for rape. He was sentenced to six months in 2004 for theft.
On August 5, 2009, two people were executed for fraud after China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) approved their sentences. The Intermediate People’s Court of Hangzhou in southeast Zhejiang Province sentenced Si Chaxian to death. Si, the owner of three companies, collected 167 million yuan (almost 24 and a half million dollars) by defrauding more than 300 partners from 2003 to 2007. Du Yimin, a businesswoman in Zhejiang Province, was convicted of “fraudulent raising of public funds” and sentenced to death in March 2008. Her appeal was rejected on January 13, 2009. According to the verdict, she had illegally raised approximately 700 million yuan (US$102 million) from hundreds of people investing in her beauty parlors. Her lawyer stated that Du Yimin should have been convicted for the lesser offence of “illegally collecting public deposits,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 yuan (US$73,000). Du Yimin’s death sentence caused a debate about the consistency in the application of the death penalty in the People’s Republic of China. The day before she was sentenced to death, an official who used 15.8 billion yuan (US$2,312,984,921) of public funds to cover his personal spending was sentenced to a fixed term of imprisonment.
On August 7, 2009, the former head of Beijing airport’s management company was executed in China for corruption, State media reported. An intermediate court found 60-year-old Li Peiying guilty in February of accepting almost $4 million in bribes and embezzling about $12 million in public funds over the past 14 years.
On December 8, 2009, China executed a former securities trader for embezzlement. Yang Yanming, 51, was sentenced to death on December 13, 2005 by the No.1 Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing in a first-instance trial after being convicted of embezzling and misappropriating 94.52 million yuan (13.84 million U.S. dollars) of public funds from 1998 to 2003. The Higher People’s Court of Beijing ruled against Yang’s appeal and upheld the death penalty on April 21, 2009. The Supreme People’s Court approved it after reviewing the case. He was the general manager of the Beijing securities trading department of Galaxy Securities from 1997 to 2003. The money he embezzled has not been recovered.
On March 26, 2010, government official Li Shubiao, 46, was executed for corruption and embezzlement in central China’s Hunan province. Shubiao was housing subsidy director in Chenzhou city and allegedly embezzled 120 million yuan ($US 18 million) of public funds. Li’s personal property was also confiscated.
On May 14, 2010, four tomb robbers were sentenced to death for stealing more than 200 relics, including 11 items listed for the State’s top level of protection, from ancient tombs in central China’s Hunan Province. The death sentences were handed down at the Intermediate People’s Court in Changsha, capital of Hunan, after the first-instance trial to Lin Xisheng, Liu Shengli, Long Shouyun and Liu Zhihua, who was given a two-year reprieve. The court heard the four were among a 27-member gang responsible for robbing a dozen tombs near Changsha, including a tomb of the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.), from April 2008 to January 2009. “Police have retrieved all of the relics stolen by the gang,” said Wang Lifu, a court investigator. He said one of the stolen relics, a seal of a Changsha King, from a tomb of the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 25), was under the State first-class protection.
 
Iran
 
In 2009, Iran continued to apply the death penalty for clearly non-violent crimes.
On February 19, 2009, Abdollah Farivar Moghaddam who had previously been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, was hanged in the prison of Sari. The women’s web site Meydaan (women’s field) wrote that the music teacher Abdollah Farivar, 53, married and father of two children, was arrested in 2005 and sentenced to death by stoning for having a sexual relationship with one of his students. His sentence was approved by the Supreme Court. The family of Farivar, insisted that he did not commit adultery, since the teacher signed a timed marriage contract, or ‘Sigheh’, that means a man and a woman enter into a legally binding, but temporary union, after agreeing on the length of the contract and the amount of compensation to be paid to the woman. Farivar’s mother told BBC (Persian) that they were informed one day prior to hanging by the Iranian authorities that the stoning sentence of their son was converted to death by hanging. Shadi Sadr, lawyer and member of the Stop Stoning Campaign, told BBC that this is the first time that someone sentenced to death by stoning has been hanged. She added: “there are at least 14 people sentenced to death by stoning in the Iranian prisons, and with the execution of Mr. Farivar, the concern has grown over their fate.”
On October 5, 2009, a man was hanged for “anal rape” and adultery, human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei reported. Mostafaei wrote in an open letter that his client Rahim Mohammadi was hanged in the prison of Tabriz. Initially he was condemned to stoning, but the method of execution was changed so as to minimize problems with human rights groups. Rahim Mohammadi was condemned after having been found guilty of having sexual relations with a woman and a man, a neighbor. Accusations that, according to the lawyer “were never proven.”
On December 14, 2009, one man was hanged in the northeast Iranian town of Bojnord early in the morning, reported the official site of the Iranian judiciary. The man who was not identified by name, was convicted of “acts incompatible with chastity” according to the report.
 
North Korea
 
North Korea has resumed frequent public executions, after a decline since 2000 amid international criticism, targeting officials accused of drug-trafficking, embezzlement and other non violent crimes, and North Koreans who attempt to cross into China and South Korea in search of food and to avoid political oppression.
 
According to a set of addendum to the “DPRK Penal Code” adopted in December 2007 that leaked out of North Korea, execution is permitted for some ordinary crimes in addition to those stipulated by the full penal code itself. For instance, in cases of currency forgery, the full penal code stipulates more than 10-years of labor re-education, or indefinite re-education in serious cases, but one of the addendum articles also states, “Under extreme circumstances, one can be subject to execution.” Although these articles were adopted in 2007, they were not publicized to the outside world.
Seventeen out of the 23 articles contained in the document, called the “DPRK Penal Code Additional Clauses (ordinary crimes),” legalize execution for “especially serious cases” of certain crimes, while the full penal code only stipulates execution for four crimes of a treasonous nature, not for ordinary crimes.
Other crimes that are deemed to be grave enough to warrant execution under the addendum articles include: plundering and theft of national assets, destruction/damage to national assets, currency fraud, intentional defamation, kidnapping, rape, theft of private assets, smuggling of metals, smuggling of the nation’s natural resources, drug smuggling, and taking bribes for sex trafficking.
Importantly, Article 23 stipulates an indefinite labor re-education sentence or execution if an individual commits a number of serious crimes, or does not show acceptable signs of guilt or reform. As Article 23 makes clear, the penal code does not regard specific criminal acts with hostility, but makes execution permissible ‘under grievous circumstances’ or for ‘incorrigible persons’ in general. If this is the case, then execution sentences can in theory apply to all offences, which is a serious violation of established legal principles, albeit that such violations are not new in North Korean legal practice.
In the mid-1990s, extra-judicial public executions took place of those found guilty of committing crimes such the theft of cows or food, crimes which were actually happening in all areas of North Korean society. After the enactment of Article 23, however, the form of punishment has become possible within the judicial process.
Professor Park Jung Won of Kookmin University explained, “These changes preserve through the law the ability to punish not only treasonous crimes but also ordinary crimes through execution and expropriation of assets. The changes are also a means by which the North Korean authorities can react to outside criticism of those executions which are not allowed within the country’s main legal processes.”
 
On November 25, 2009, one defector who witnessed a public execution in the mid-2000s, explained the situation to the Daily NK, “In Kim Jung Suk (a county), Yangkang Province, I saw a young woman’s public execution, at which I read the verdict. Addendum 49 is applicable in this case. She was executed for theft of electrical wiring.” The implication is that the articles were being used for a number of years, but got revised in 2007. The source agreed, saying, “As far as I know, during the March of Tribulation in the mid-1990s, the authorities wrote the addendum to cope with emergencies.”
On March 12, 2010, North Korea executed two top financial officials over a bungled currency re-evaluation which fueled food shortages and sparked unrest in the isolated communist State, Internet newspaper The Daily NK reported. An unidentified deputy head of the National Planning Commission and Pak Nam-Ki, who was earlier reported sacked as chief of the ruling communist party’s planning and finance department, were shot dead at the Seosan Stadium in the capital’s Athletes Village in front of a group of economic officials and communist party Central Committee members. Pak, 77, was charged “with ruining the national economy deliberately as the son of a big landlord who infiltrated the ranks of revolutionaries,” Yonhap agency said, quoting sources familiar with events in the North. But it said many North Koreans believe he was made a scapegoat for the botched re-evaluation, which fueled inflation and worsened serious food shortages. Yonhap said the regime executed Pak as public anger had derailed a propaganda campaign to promote ailing leader Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son Jong-Un as eventual successor. “All the blame has been poured on Pak after the currency reform failure exacerbated public sentiment and had a bad effect” on the succession plan, one source was quoted as saying. Pak was one of Kim Jong-Il’s close associates and frequently accompanied the leader on his trademark “field inspections” outside Pyongyang. He had not been mentioned by official media since early January.
 
 
 
 
TOP SECRET DEATH
 
Several countries, mainly authoritarian ones, do not issue official statistics on capital punishment, therefore the number of executions may in fact be much higher.
In some countries, such as China and Vietnam, the death penalty is considered a State secret and reports of executions carried by local media or independent sources – upon which the execution totals are mainly based – in fact represent only a fraction of the total of executions carried out nationwide every year.
The same is applicable for Belarus, where news of executions filters mainly through relatives or international organizations long after the fact.
In Iran, that carries out executions regularly without classifying the death penalty as a State secret, the main sources of information on executions are reports selected by the regime and carried by State media. These reports do not carry news of all executions, as evidenced by information occasionally divulged by individual citizens or by political opposition groups.
Absolute secrecy governs executions in some countries, such as Malaysia, North Korea and Syria, where news of executions does not even filter through to the local media.
Secret executions are being carried out in Iraq in the prisons run by Nouri al-Maliki’s government.
Other States, like Botswana, Egypt, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore divulge news of executions after they have taken place with relatives, lawyers and the condemned people themselves being kept in the dark before the actual executions take place.
This is the prevalent situation worldwide concerning the practice of the death penalty. It points to the fact that the fight against the death penalty entails, beyond the stopping of executions, a battle for transparency of information concerning capital punishment, for democracy, for the respect of the rule of law and for political rights and civil liberties.
 
China
 
The number of death sentences passed and the number of executions carried out are classed as State secrets in China.
Previously, information filtered through diplomatic channels and to western reporters, but starting in 2002, some information is coming directly from internal sources of the regime.
In Disidai (The Fourth Generation), a Communist Party member writing under the pseudonym Zong Hairen said 15,000 people had been sent to their death in China between 1998 and 2001. Disidai was published in 2002 in article form in the Wall Street Journal. The book was based on confidential reports compiled by the Communist Party’s highly trusted organization Department in order to assist the Politburo in considering candidates for the highest offices, that is, to become the fourth generation of Chinese Communist leadership. The total number of executions mentioned was more than four times higher than the highest estimates ventured by western analysts. Andrew J. Nathan and Bruce Gilley, confirm the staggering total in their book “China’s New Rulers” based on Disidai.
In March 2004, Chen Zhonglin, a member of the People’s National Congress in Beijing, said that China carries out 10,000 executions every year. His declaration was published on the China Youth Daily on March 15, 2004. This was the first time that a similar declaration was published by a State-controlled newspaper.
On February 27, 2006, Liu Renwen, Professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, speaking at the Foreign Press Club, reaffirmed that 8,000 people were executed each year in China, according to estimates circulated in academic circles. “In China,” stated Liu, “the numbers regarding death sentences and executions are State secrets. Only the Supreme Court knows the exact number.”
The China Daily newspaper reported the Supreme People’s Court overturned 15 per cent of death sentences handed down in 2007 and 10 per cent in 2008.
 
The Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that works on behalf of political prisoners and monitors Chinese prisons, estimates that “about” 5,000 executions were carried in China in 2009, while the number of executions in 2008 – according to the Foundation – “exceeded 5,000 and may have been as high as 7,000.” According to the Foundation, run by business executive-turned-human-rights advocate John Kamm – who still maintains good relations with government officials – about 6,000 people were executed in 2007, a 25 to 30 percent drop from 2006, in which estimates reported at least 7,500 executions.
According to The Dui Hua Foundation’s estimate, therefore, the number of prisoners executed annually may have fallen by as much as half from the 10,000 cited by National People’s Congress delegate Chen Zhonglin in 2004. In any event, statistics and percentages are of little value as all aspects of capital punishment remain a State secret including the actual number of death sentences and executions.
On March 11, 2010, in his report to the annual session of the National People’s Congress, the chief justice of the Supreme People’s Court, Wang Shengjun, in keeping with the government’s customary secrecy, gave no figures for the number of death sentences or executions. Wang only noted that the courts concluded 767,000 criminal cases and sentenced 997,000 people, down by 0.2 percent and 1.1 percent respectively. The SPC itself dealt with 13,318 cases of various types and concluded 11,749 cases in 2009, up 26.2 percent and 52.1 percent, respectively. But again he did not say how many were related to death sentences and, for the first time, it did not declare – or official media sources did not report – how many people were “sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or more than five years in prison,” which was the language in which the Supreme Court encased its declaration of the “severe penalties” resulting from trials.
 
Although the death penalty is still considered a State secret in China, news in recent years, including reports from official sources, indicates that death sentences have diminished compared with preceding years.
The biggest turnaround came starting on January 1, 2007, when new legislation required that every capital sentence handed down in China by an inferior court be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
One Chinese scholar estimates that death penalty review in and after 2007 would be more than 90% of the SPC’s case load. “Death penalty cases will make up more than 90 percent of the total number of cases heard by the court,” said Ni Jian in an opinion piece appeared on November 21, 2007, in The Beijing News. If these assumptions are correct and the SPC dealt with 13,318 cases of various types and concluded 11,749 cases, an approximation but a realistic estimate would put the number of death sentences in 2009 at around 10,000.
 
Vietnam
 
Until 2004, executions numbered typically between 80 and 100 per year, most of them involving drug-related crimes. In following years they have apparently decreased. In 2007, the number of executions reported declined to at least 25. In 2008, the number of known executions diminished once again to 19.
In 2009, media reports indicated that at least nine people were executed, although the true number is believed to be much higher.
In 2010, as of June 17, 49 people were sentenced to death and one person executed, according to reports in State-linked media.
 
It is not clear whether the encouraging decrease in the number of executions reflects a more prudent use of the penalty or an increased control of media coverage, after a 2003 decision by the Vietnamese government to classify death penalty data as a State secret. On January 5, 2004, the government even made it an offence to report information on the death penalty.
Until recently, the head of the People’s Supreme Court still presented the number of death sentences handed down by courts nationwide in an annual report to the National Assembly, which was broadcast live on national television.
 
Conditions on death row are particularly inhumane. Three-four prisoners are detained in each cell. The cells are extremely unhygienic, with one latrine bucket and no ventilation. Prisoners are not allowed to leave their cells except to receive visits, which are extremely rare. Their legs are chained to a long pole, and they are generally lined up in order of execution – the first to be executed being nearest the door. Occasionally, for “humanitarian reasons,” prisoners are allowed to change places in the line.
Executions take place at 4.00 am. As prisoners are not informed in advance of their execution date, they stay awake in fear of being called, only sleeping at 6.00 am when they know their turn has not come. Execution is by firing squad. Prisoners’ families are not informed of the execution until after it has taken place.
The procedure involved in executions is described in the official Police Review (Cong An) as follows: Condemned criminals are taken before dawn to a desolate site, read the court’s verdict, offered a bowl of noodle soup and a cigarette, and allowed to write a last letter home. Then they are tied to a wooden pole, gagged with a lemon and blindfolded, and shot by five policemen. The commander then fires a last “humane shot” into the convict’s ear. According to reports in the official press, many policemen suffer trauma after working as “executioners”.
Relatives are not informed beforehand, but are asked to collect the belongings of the executed two to three days after their death. Under current practice, bodies of executed criminals are held for three years before being released to families for funerals, although photos in the official press show graves dug alongside execution fields which suggest that the bodies of executed prisoners are not always returned to their families. In 2006, the Ministry of Public Security proposed allowing families access to bodies immediately as long as they dispose of them hygienically.
 
Belarus
 
Information about the death penalty is classed as a State secret. Prisoners on death row are told they will be executed only moments before the sentence is carried out. They are shot in the back of the head. Convict’s relatives are not informed of the date or place of execution even after the event, the body is not returned to the family and the place of burial is not disclosed. Executions are reported months after the fact.
In 2009 there were no executions, but in March of 2010 two men were executed for murder.
At least 4 people were executed in 2008 and 1 in 2007.
 
In March 2010, two men were executed in Belarus, Amnesty International reported. Andrei Zhuk, 25, and Vasily Yuzepchuk, 30, were both sentenced to death in 2009 for separate crimes but had been sharing a death row cell in the capital Minsk. Andrei Zhuk’s mother told Amnesty International on March 22 she was informed by prison staff that both men had been shot. Andrei Zhuk’s mother tried to deliver a food parcel on March 19, but the parcel was returned and she was told that the two men “had been moved” and that she should not come looking for her son anymore, but should wait for the notification from the court. Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk were executed without being granted a last meeting with their relatives.
Vasily Yuzepchuk was sentenced to death on June 29, 2009, for murdering and robbing six old women in villages near the town of Drahichyn in 2007 and 2008. Vasil Yuzepchuk reportedly carried out odd jobs for the elderly women using the opportunity to find out where their valuables were hidden, and then returned later and strangled them. His defence lawyers allege that he was forced to confess under torture. “Medical examinations have documented the beatings,” defense lawyer Igor Rabtsevich said. Yusepchuk, born in Ukraine and taken to Belarus at the age of 7, was not a Belarusian citizen and his mother, 52 year old Varvara, said that his ethnicity was decisive in his case. “I don’t believe that my son killed anyone, I believe that they found a defenseless and illiterate gypsy and he was framed for these murders,” she said. On October 2, 2009, the Belarus Supreme Court had rejected the final appeal against the death sentence, and on October 13 Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko had refused to pardon Yusepchuk, despite local and international pressure.
Andrei Zhuk, a resident of Salihorsk district, Minsk region, was sentenced to death on July 17, 2009, for armed assault and murder. The Minsk Regional Court found Zhuk guilty of murdering two employees of a farming company who were carrying a large amount of cash to pay wages to the company’s staff. The robbery took place on a road near the village of Kryvichy on February 27, 2009. Another accused in this case got life imprisonment. On October 27, 2009, the Belarus Supreme Court rejected the final appeal against the death sentence. His lawyer has expressed his concerns regarding procedural violations during Andrei Zhuk’s initial interrogation.
On March 23, 2010, the Council of Europe denounced the execution of Andrey Zhuk and Vasil Yuzepchuk.
 
Iran
 
In Iran, that carries out executions regularly without classifying the death penalty as a State secret, the main sources of information on executions are reports selected by the regime and carried by State media. These reports do not carry news of all executions, and additional information that occasionally arrives from scattered reports by Iranian journalists or individual citizens or by political opposition groups, evidently, cannot cover all the executions throughout the nation.
The Iranian system and its treatment of information regarding the death penalty became even more opaque when, on September 14, 2008, the Mullahs’ Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (MCIG) warned newspaper editors to censor reports about escalating numbers of executions, in particular those of minors in the country.
 
On the basis of Iranian newspaper reports and reports from humanitarian organizations such as Iran Human Rights, there were an estimated 402 executions in Iran in 2009, 339 of them were reported by the official Iranian media. This number is the highest since 2000. In 2008, at least 350 people were put to death (282 of them reported by the official Iranian media).
According to the Iranian human rights news agency (HRANA), the Islamic Republic’s judicial system issued and enforced over 562 execution orders for murder, rape, drugs and prisoners of conscience over the Iranian year which runs from March 21, 2009 to March 20, 2010.
The numbers could be higher as the Iranian authorities do not provide official statistics.
On May 11, 2009, lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, who is acting for many of the country’s death row prisoners and, in particular, campaigning to save 25 prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed as minors, said he believes the true number of executions far exceeds estimates given by international human rights groups. “I have calculated there were at least 400 executions in 2008, but it could be 500 to 600,” he said.
Most of those executed were either identified only by their initials or not identified at all. Age and time of committing the offence were not provided for many of those executed. Many of those executed were tried in closed “Revolutionary Courts”.
 
On May 1, 2009, Iran hanged a young woman who was 17 at the time the crime was committed, in 2003. Authorities executed the 23-year-old woman in the prison of Rasht without informing her lawyer or allowing the family to be present, said the lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei. Iranian law requires authorities to inform a prisoner’s lawyer at least 48 hours before an execution, but Mostafaei said he was not given warning that the sentence was to be carried out. The lawyer said Darabi called her parents just moments before the execution. He quoted her as saying, “Oh, Mother, I see the hangman’s noose in front of me. They are going to execute me. Please save me.” The woman’s parents were not allowed inside the prison to meet her for a last time, Mostafaei said. “She was denied a legal right guaranteed under the law,” he said. “The hasty execution and the ignoring of legal provisions suggests that some authorities were happy to put an end to her life,” he said.
On October 5, 2009, a man was hanged for “anal rape” and adultery, human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei reported. Mostafaei wrote in an open letter that his client Rahim Mohammadi was hanged in the prison of Tabriz. Lawyer Mostafaei stated that neither himself nor the family of Rahim Mohammadi were advised of the imminent hanging and that his relatives were informed by another inmate that the man was put to death. He was found guilty of having sexual relations with a woman and a man, a neighbor. Accusations that according to the Lawyer “were not proven.” Initially, Mohammadi was condemned to stoning, but the method of execution was changed out of fear of reactions from human rights activists.
On January 6, 2010, the Kurdish political prisoner Fasih (Fateh) Yasmini was hanged in Khoy without his lawyer being informed. The man was arrested for participating in clashes between PJAK and Iranian security forces which occurred in the village of Hendavan, near Khoy, in February of 2008. It is not known if Fasih actually participated in the clashes. The authorities did not return his body to his family.
On March 7, 2010, one man was hanged in the prison of Rajaee Shahr, west of Tehran. According to the Iranian human rights news agency (HRANA), the man was identified as Mehdi Esmaeili, 26, convicted of a murder when he was 19 years old. Esmaili was arrested for murder at the age of 19 and spent seven years in Ward 5 of Rajaiee Shahr prison before being executed. The news had not been broadcast by Iranian authorities.
On April 8, 2010, ten people were executed in four different Iranian cities for drug trafficking. None of them were identified by their names. Five people were hanged in the prison of Mashad early in the morning. Three people were hanged in the prison of Taybad. Two men were hanged in public in the towns of Behbehan and Shadegan, in the southwest Iranian province of Khuzestan.
On May 24, 2010, five people, including one woman, were hanged in the prison of Rasht, in the northern Iranian province of Gilan, according to the rights group Iranian Activists for Human Rights and Democracy. No official Iranian source has confirmed this news yet.
On May 31, 2010, Iranian authorities executed seven Afghan refugees in a jail of Taybad, their relatives in western Herat province, Afghanistan, claimed. The families asked the provincial government to help return the bodies of their relatives to their country of origin. Shir Gul, 40, said Taybad prison officials called him and said his nephew was hanged on charges of drug-trafficking. Gul’s nephew, Mohammad Shafai, 21, phoned his family to say his last words and that his execution order had been passed by an Iranian court. Another resident of the western Afghan province, bordering Iran, Haji Ghulam Jelani, claimed that his brother, charged for similar drug-trade offences, was executed in the same prison and was buried somewhere in Iran. The Iranian authorities executed seven Afghan immigrants early in the morning, Jelani quoted other Afghan prisoners in the jail as saying. The Iranian government has not provided the Afghan government with details about the execution of its citizens, the provincial governor’s spokesman told Pajhwok Afghan News.
On June 7, 2010, according to reliable sources 13 people were hanged in the morning in the prison of Ghezel Hesar, Tehran, Iran Human Rights reported. The human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei confirmed the hangings in Tehran on his personal web site. They were all allegedly convicted of drug trafficking. Some of those executed in Tehran were identified as: Ahmad Shah Bakhsh, Abdolhossein Soltanabadi, Masoud, Amir K., Kazem Tashaki, Mohammad Azarfam, Mohammad Jafari, Nader Azarnoush, Sanjar Totazehi, Baghi Amini. The official Iranian media did not broadcast the news. On June 6, Iran Human Rights reported that 26 people had been transferred to the quarantine section of Ghezel Hesar prison prior to execution.
 
Malaysia
 
The Malaysian High Courts only try criminal cases punishable with the death penalty. Death sentences issued by a High Court can be appealed at the Court of Appeals. If an appeal is unsuccessful a death row inmate can have recourse to the Federal Court. The last resort is the State Pardons Board. The King alone is empowered to commute death sentences.
In general about two years pass between the passing of a death sentence and the execution of the person condemned. Some appeals processes however have exceeded 10 years. According to recent reports in the semi-official newspaper New Straits Times, some prisoners who have been convicted of murder, drug trafficking and firearms possession offences have been held in prison for periods between 10 and 22 years.
 
In March 2010, ONG Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) estimated the number of inmates on death row in Malaysia to be as high as 300, mostly for drug offences.
The carrying out of the death sentences is shrouded in secrecy, as dates of executions are not reported and details of those who have been or will be executed are not made public.
Under current Malaysian law and practices arrested persons have no immediate access to lawyers, no immediate right to a phone call and no right to full pre-trial disclosure.
In 2006, one execution took place in Malaysia. Before that, the last execution was carried out on December 27, 2002, when three men were hanged at the Kajang prison. At least one execution was carried out in 2008.
It is possible that executions were carried out in 2009, although none were officially reported. According to Amnesty International, at least 68 death sentences were handed down in 2009.
 
North Korea
 
There are no official records available on the death penalty from the government nor reports in the newspapers. Some reports have been secreted out of the country.
 
On March 11, 2009, South Korea’s National Human Rights Commission said seventy-six percent of surveyed North Korean defectors say they witnessed public executions in their homeland. The rights watchdog released the latest report on the human rights situation in the North based on interviews of defectors who escaped the country during the past two years. In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 defectors who escaped the North in 2007 and 2008, while 122 defectors filled out questionnaires. North Korea punishes anti-government activity, circulation of outside information, theft and illicit sale of State property, robbery, human trafficking and murder with public execution, the report said.
 
Syria
 
In Syria, capital crimes are: treason; murder; political acts such as bearing arms against Syria in the ranks of the enemy, desertion of the armed forces to the enemy and acts of incitement under martial law or in wartime; violent robberies; rape; verbal opposition to the government; and membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria also applies the death penalty for drug-trafficking while the punishment for possession of drugs is life imprisonment.
Official figures are not available, but according to Amnesty International the authorities carried out at least eight executions and handed down at least 7 death sentences in 2009.
At least 1 execution took place in Syria in 2008. No executions were recorded in 2005 while 2 were recorded in 2006 and at least 7 in 2007.
In Syria, executions are carried out in hiding and news of executions does not filter out through local press agents or even family members, who upon receiving the remains of their loved-ones are unable to ascertain whether they died under torture or by execution.
 
Syrian authorities are still adamant about ignoring the issue of the thousands of detainees who have gone missing, some for as long as three decades. Nearly 17,000 missing Syrians are believed to have been horrifically murdered by the Syrian authorities. Some died in torture chambers, others were killed in cold blood, and some were executed after summary judgments or perished from disease and epidemics in prison. It is believed that they were buried in mass graves or thrown out with the garbage.
 
In its Ninth Annual Report on Human Rights, the Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) outlined that the period which the report covers, January to December 2009, “witnessed the arrest of numerous human rights activists and presented them to exceptional courts because of their activities in defending human rights in Syria.”
Random and arbitrary arrests continued in 2009 allegedly because of religious or political affiliation or for expressing points of view.
The Syrian Authorities have launched an aggressive campaign against the Kurds, arresting hundreds of them on the pretext of their affiliation to Kurdish parties demanding Kurdish rights of various types.
Meanwhile, Islamists continued to be targeted regardless of their tendencies, despite the declaration of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement of suspending its opposing activities in the early days of 2009, and despite the news leaked by sources close to the Syrian Authorities that there was a project under consideration to revoke Law 49/1980, which sentences any member in the Movement to death.
It has been noticed that in 2009 a campaign was launched against those who have a relationship with the Communist Labor Party.
The process continued of delivering the corpses of citizens that had been arrested and died because of the cruel and fast torture characterizing the Syrian security forces.
On January 1, 2009, Yusuf Ahmad Jabbouli, an Islamic Studies Teacher and founder of “al-Mishkaat” electronic mailing group, was arrested at his home in al-Bab City (Aleppo province) by the State security branch of Aleppo. Six days later, on January 7, he was returned to his family, dead. He was transported to his family in a secret manner, directly from the security branch to his family’s home without the knowledge of the higher authorities and without any medical reports that explained the cause of death. The accusations leveled against him are unknown.
 
On September 3, 2009, two men were hanged in Aleppo for armed robbery and murder, according to a foreign witness. An Italian tourist who was in Syria in September with an organized tour group told Hands Off Cain: “I don’t remember exactly when I arrived in Aleppo, but it seems like it was September 3. Traveling to the hotel by bus, I saw a gathering of people in a square not far away and I glimpsed people hanging from the gallows in the crowd.” “I asked information from the tour guide about the place. Embarrassed, he told me that they were hanging two men,” the source who preferred to remain anonymous said. “I asked why they were sentenced to death and the guide told me the two recently robbed and murdered an elderly couple in the city,” the Italian tourist, whose identity and reliability is certain to Hands Off Cain, said. “After the executions, the bodies remained hanging as a warning to the people. I’m not certain for how long, if it was for a day or longer,” the witness explained.
On October 20, 2009, the Palestinian newspaper al Quds al Arabi reported the founding and subsequent announcement by the Syrian Alliance against the Death Penalty. The new movement was born in the Syrian capital Damascus, the work of a group of organizations to defend civil rights. In the founding announcement, the movement states that “the death penalty, other than being ineffective as a means of dissuading criminals, has been rejected in numerous civil societies, being substituted with life imprisonment.” The new movement asks the Syrian government to “adhere to the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, relative to the abolition of the death penalty,” adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 15, 1989, which came into force on July 11, 1991.
 
Iraq
 
The death penalty has been in force in the Iraqi legal system since 1921, following the foundation of the Iraqi State in 1920. Its field of application had been increasingly extended since the taking of power by the Baath party in 1968 and since 1979, the year marking the beginning of Saddam Hussein’s presidency.
Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay reportedly signed around 10,000 execution orders.
From 1998 to 2001, 4,000 people had been executed according to a report presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights by the Special Rapporteur on Iraq, Andreas Mavrommatis, on April 1, 2002.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime on April 9, 2003, the death penalty was suspended by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition. It was reintroduced on August 8, 2004, after the transfer of power to Iraqi authorities on June 28, 2004.
 
Secret executions are being carried out in Iraq in the prisons run by Nouri al-Maliki’s “democratic” government.
There are no official statistics on the number of detainees condemned to death and executed in Iraq. It is estimated, however, that, since the renewal of the death penalty in 2004 to 2009, there have been thousands of people condemned to death, many of whom have been executed subsequently.
All death sentences must be confirmed by the Court of Cassation, after which they are referred to the Presidential Council, composed of the President and the two Vice-Presidents, for ratification and implementation. The President, Jalal Talabani, opposes the death penalty and delegates his ratification powers to the two Vice-Presidents.
All prisoners whose death sentences have been ratified by the Presidential Council are transferred to the 5th section (al Shuba al Khamisa) of al-Kadhimiya Prison in Baghdad before they are executed. This section of the prison is under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, while the other sections are under the control of the Ministry of Justice.
The hangings are carried out regularly, from a wooden gallows in a small, cramped cell of al-Kadhimiya Prison, in Saddam Hussein’s old intelligence headquarters at Kadhimiya, a Shia district of Baghdad. There is no public record of these killings in what is now called Baghdad’s “high-security detention facility” but there have been hundreds since America overthrown Saddam’s regime. Saddam Hussein was hanged in the same “secure” unit at Kadhimiya where al-Maliki’s people, in an echo of Saddamite Baathist terror, now hang their victims. In many cases, it seems, the Iraqis neither keep nor release any record of the true names of their captives or of the hanged prisoners.
The condemned prisoners in Kadhimiya are said to include rapists and murderers as well as insurgents, for whom awaits the same summary justice they mete out to their own captives.
 
According to the Supreme Court, “Seventy-seven death sentences were enforced in 2009.” According to Amnesty International, however, at least 120 prisoners had been executed by Iraq in 2009, while the death sentences handed down numbered at least 366.
In 2008, there were at least 34 executions, while the death sentences handed down – according to Amnesty International – numbered at least 285.
However, these numbers could be much higher, because there are no official statistics available and news published by national papers do not report all the facts.
 
On March 9, 2009, the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council informed Amnesty International that Iraq’s Presidential Council ratified the death sentences of 128 people whose sentences were already confirmed by the Court of Cassation. The Iraqi authorities have not disclosed the identities of those facing imminent execution, stoking fears that many of them may have been sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), whose proceedings consistently fall short of international standards for fair trial.
On May 3, 2009, 12 people were hanged in Iraq. There had been no executions in the previous 18 months. On May 6, 2009 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a statement expressing concern at the execution of the 12 people on May 3 and urging the Iraqi authorities to implement a moratorium on executions. They expressed concern that another 115 prisoners risked executions shortly.
On June 10, 2009, 19 people – 18 men, one woman – were hanged, a fact that was never officially announced or reported. The deaths only became known after information later leaked out. On June 15, the European Union protested against reported executions in Iraq and called on Baghdad to resume a moratorium on the death penalty. “The European Union is deeply disturbed at reports that in recent days further death sentences were carried out in Iraq, probably totaling 20,” the Czech EU presidency said. “Moreover, the European Union is severely alarmed about indications that further mass executions might be imminent,” the EU said in a statement. The presidency did not specify which executions it referred to. A Czech official told Reuters that EU diplomatic sources in Baghdad had information of recent executions but gave no details.
On July 21, 2009, Amnesty International reported that at least three women have been executed since early June. At least nine other women under sentence of death were in imminent danger of execution, as Iraq’s Presidential Council had ratified their death sentences, and the authorities transferred them to the 5th section of Baghdad’s al-Kadhimiya Prison, which is where condemned prisoners are held immediately before they are executed. One of the women executed, Qassima Hamid, from Baghdad, had been sentenced to death some time around the middle of 2006 after being convicted of murder and kidnapping. One of the women in imminent danger, Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah, was sentenced to death in August 2005 for the murder of her uncle, his wife and one of their children. She blamed her fiancé, saying he had committed the killings in order to rob her uncle. Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah’s death sentence was upheld by the Cassation Court in February 2007. At her trial, she alleged that after her arrest she had been held at a police station in Hay al-Khadhra in Baghdad and tortured by being beaten with a cable, beaten on the soles of her feet and subjected to electric shocks to make her “confess.” The judge failed to order an investigation into her allegations, and sentenced her to death after two hearings. Among the other women who have been transferred to the 5th section of al-Kadhimiya Prison were Shuruq Hassun, Sabrine Nasser, Samira ‘Abdullah, Um Hussain (“Mother of Hussain” – real name not known), Hanan (full name not known), Dhikra Fakhry and Wassan Talib. Another woman, Lamya ‘Adnan, is believed to have died in prison recently, for unknown reasons.
On August 13, 2009, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), which is fighting for women’s human rights and to get the death penalty abolished in Iraq, reported that “two of the women on death row were taken out of the Extreme Protection prison in Kadhimiya-Baghdad a few days ago and were not returned.” It is probable that they were executed as well.
 
In July 2009, at least 1,000 prisoners were believed to be on death row, including about 150 prisoners who had exhausted all means of appeal or clemency, Amnesty International reported. The courts that sentence people to death do not meet international standards, the report charged, and Iraqi authorities “provide very little information on executions, and some have been carried out secretly.” It criticizes the Central Criminal Court of Iraq and the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, which issue the majority of death sentences in the country. “Defendants commonly complain that ‘confessions’ were extracted from them under torture,” the report alleges. “Defendants also complain that they are not able to choose their own defense lawyers” when they appear before the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.
On September 1, 2009, Agence Grance Presse reported a government source indicating that the number of executions being carried out may be much higher than previously thought. “There is an average of 10 executions per week because of the security situation” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “More than 800 people are awaiting the death penalty.” A police officer at Al-Adalah prison in Kadhimiya where executions are carried out said “10 to 15 executions are carried out every seven to eight days, the majority of them terrorists.”
 
Botswana
 
The death penalty has been on the books in Botswana since its independence from Great Britain in 1966. Since then, there have been 43 people put to death.
On July 3, 2007, in a report on “secret and summary hangings,” human rights activists point out the lack of transparency in trials involving capital punishment in Botswana. The activists criticize authorities for not providing information on the dates of executions and not allowing a final meeting between the condemned and their families.
On April 1, 2006, a man named Modisane Ping was secretly hanged in Botswana. The execution was made public by the Inter Press Service. The hanging of Ping was carried out without notice and his family could not see him before or after the execution. The family learned of the execution over the radio.
Prior to 2006, the last executions were secretly held in 2003, when four men were hanged at the Central Prison in Gaborone. One of them, Lehlohonolo Kobedi, was executed on July 18 without his lawyers present or even notified.
The only known execution of 2007 in Botswana was also held in secret. Sepeni Thubisane Popo was hanged without his lawyer or family being notified that he was to be executed. The lawyer only heard rumors that his client had been executed. “Some people told me that it was announced over Radio Botswana lunch time news,” he said.
 
On December 18, 2009, a Zimbabwean man was hanged in Botswana, after he was charged with four counts of murder. Gerald Dube killed two children and a maid together with his employer who was his cousin in Francistown on September 13, 2001.
Dube, 36, who was employed by his cousin, Patricia Majoko at her law firm as a file clerk and stayed with the family at their residence in Francistown, ran amok after she fired him from the job and he became embittered and murdered the four. Dube murdered Majoko and her two sons, Amotjilani (5) and Dumisani (7) as well as the maid, Lindiwe Ncube in cold blood.
Dube appealed against the High Court ruling, but the Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The death sentence was passed by the High Court in Francistown on June 14 2007.
Dube’s lawyer, Ookeditse Maphakwane, pleaded that his client suffered epileptic fits, which he held accountable for his behavior on the day that he allegedly killed his relatives.
 
Egypt
 
In Egypt, executions are not made public until after they have been carried out. Condemned prisoners are not told the date and time of their execution, and in practice their families are not made aware of the execution until they are called to collect the body – despite claims by the Egyptian authorities that relatives are permitted to visit the condemned person on the day appointed for execution.
The authorities never disclose how many people are awaiting execution.
Final death sentences are submitted for ratification to the President of the Republic or his nominee, who may decide on whether or not to grant clemency by ordering a pardon or a reduction of the sentence. If no clemency or reduction of the sentence is granted, the death sentence may be carried out after 14 days.
 
On March 11, 2010, Atef Rohyum Abd El Al Rohyum was executed by hanging in Cairo’s Isti’naf prison, where executions take place. His family was not informed of his execution until they were asked to pick up the body. Jihan Mohammed Ali, a woman convicted of murder in the same case, was executed in al-Kanater prison, northeast of Cairo, on March 10. Her family was given no prior notification of her execution.
The two were accused of the murder of Jihan’s husband in January 2004. Following his arrest, Atef is reported to have been interrogated without the presence of a lawyer and tortured and otherwise ill-treated, but people who say they witnessed him being tortured and harshly treated were not called to give evidence at his trial. Both Atef and Jihan were sentenced to death on July 17, 2005 by a Cairo court and their sentences were later confirmed on appeal and became final on February 2, 2009.
Atef was executed despite evidence suggesting he was not guilty of the murder for which he was condemned. His family was not made aware that his appeal, filed with the Public Prosecutor in May 2009, had failed.
 
Japan
 
The government maintained maximum secrecy concerning executions until December of 2007. The government limited itself to reporting only the number of executions without revealing the names of the executed. Executions were usually held during the summer or at the end of the year, when the Diet, the Japanese parliament, is not in session, thus avoiding the possibility of debate.
With the new Minister of Justice, Kunio Hatoyama, an outspoken supporter of the death penalty who took office in August 2007, the principles and taboos that Japan maintained with regard to capital punishment were systematically broken down.
In December 2007, with the first execution of the Fukuda government, then Justice Minister broke with the tradition of not publicizing them and announced the names and crimes of the three convicts being executed. The tradition of not carrying out executions while the Diet, Japan’s legislature, is in session in an attempt to avoid unnecessary controversies was also broken.
With the Yukio Hatoyama government entering office in September of 2009, the new Minister of Justice, Keiko Chibaha, called for a widescale public debate on the possibility of abolishing the death penalty and that greater transparency would be applied to this issue in general. “I hope that people will focus on the issue and think about it, and that we can create some kind of forum for debate,” Keiko Chiba said on September 30, 2009. “I hope we can open things up little by little in some form or other, including by making information public and bringing execution venues into public view. I am aware that it is hard for debate to proceed without the public knowing any of the reality.”
 
Typically, the accused is not informed of the date of their execution until the actual day of their hanging. Because prisoners are advised of their execution only one hour beforehand, prisoners are unable to see family members or make final appeals. Family members and lawyers are generally notified after the execution, at which even lawyers are not allowed to be present.
In 2008, “Forum 90,” a Tokyo-based citizens’ group opposed to capital punishment, said it sent questionnaires to death row inmates in detention centers nationwide via their families and lawyers, and received replies from 76 ranging in age from their 20s to 80s. Death row inmates revealed their personal stories of isolation and suffering.
The group also asked the inmates about what distresses them. Among the most common responses is not knowing until the last minute when they will be executed.
On other aspects of life in detention centers, some cited improvements after the Inmate Treatment Law was instituted in 2005 following reports of assaults on prison inmates by administrators at Nagoya Prison in 2001 and 2002. The provisions of the law on death row inmates took effect in 2007, while those on prison inmates came into effect the previous year. As examples of improvement, one cited the chance to meet and write to friends, while another said the chances of getting physical exercise have increased. Previously, visitation was limited to relatives and lawyers. But others noted a shortening of periods for meeting visitors or reduced opportunities to receive gifts such as books.
“From seven in the morning until seven at night they have to sit still in a small space. If they move, fall over or lie down, the guards immediately force them to sit up again. They only exercise twice a week, for 30 minutes,” Akiko Takada, an administrative solicitor and member of Forum 90, said. “Cameras watch them 24 hours a day, while they eat, use the toilet, do anything.”
 
The Japanese penal code requires that executions be carried out within six months of the confirmation of the sentence, though the wait can be stretched out over long periods, for example, in the event of a request for a new trial.
In the ten years prior to 2006, 30 people were put to death in Japan, who, on average, waited seven years and eleven months before their actual execution. In recent years, the waiting time has been reduced as the frequency of hangings since December 2007 took on a quickened pace.
On October 30, 2008, in its first report on Japan in 10 years, the Geneva-based Human Rights Committee urged Japan to consider abolishing the death penalty despite overall domestic public opinion in its favor. Japan “should also ensure that inmates on death row and their families are given reasonable advance notice of the scheduled date and time of the execution, with a view to reducing the psychological suffering caused by the lack of opportunity to prepare themselves for this event,” the report said.
On April 2, 2009, after reviewing operations at the Tokyo Detention Center, a government panel recommended Japanese death row inmates should be given at least one day’s notice of their impending execution. More notice will give inmates a chance to put their affairs in order, the panel said, according to the Asahi Newspaper. “The practice of notifying death row inmates on the morning of their execution creates unnecessary anxiety that is with them every day,” the panel said.
 
Saudi Arabia
 
In 2009, 69 people are known to have been executed, including almost 20 foreign nationals, the vast majority being from the poorer countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
The migrant workers are highly vulnerable to abuse from their employers and the authorities. They are often not aware that they have been sentenced to death. In many cases, they have not even realized that their trial has ended. The condemned only begin to realize the gravity of their situation, when a handful of police erupt into their cells, call the condemned by name and drag them out to their execution.
Humanitarian organizations have denounced the absence of due process in Saudi Arabia. Often, the accused is denied the assistance of a lawyer before the trial and in the courtroom.
Amnesty International estimates that out of 141 people on death row in Saudi Arabia there are at least 104 foreign nationals.
 
On January 2, 2009, two Sri Lankans, Sod Karn Tabi Fali and Miqra Safira Motio, were beheaded by sword after being convicted of armed robbery and murdering a Sudanese accountant. The two men were found guilty of shooting dead and robbing Mohammed al-Jakk Mohammed, who worked as a company accountant, as he walked out of a bank in Riyadh.
On April 7, 2009, three Pakistanis convicted of killing a fellow Pakistani man were beheaded in the central city of Burida, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Muhammad Akram Shafi, Muhammad Kamran Qassem and Asghar Ali Abdulaziz allegedly stabbed Muhammad Firyad Muhammad, a Pakistani jewelry salesman to death during a robbery. The trio kidnapped Firyad to steal money and the gold he was carrying. They took him to a deserted area and struck him on the head with a stone until he died.
On April 14, 2009, a Yemeni was beheaded for garroting a compatriot with a length of wire in a dispute over money, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Fikri Mohammed Hassan Saleh was executed in Jazan and was allegedly under the influence of alcohol when he committed the crime.
On April 21, 2009, Abbas bin Ali bin Abdullah, a Yemeni man convicted of fatally shooting a young Saudi boy after attempting to molest him, was beheaded in the southwestern port city of Jazan.
On May 6, 2009, Saudi Arabian authorities beheaded two Yemeni men convicted of fatally shooting a third Yemeni expatriate during a robbery.
On May 8, 2009, a Nigerian national was executed in Saudi Arabia after being found guilty of sexually assaulting an elderly woman twice in her home, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement. The court found that on both occasions the accused was under the influence of hashish and illegal pills.
On June 8, 2009, an Egyptian was beheaded by the sword in Riyadh for murdering a Saudi during a dispute, a Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry statement carried by the official SPA news agency said. Ahmed Mustapha was sentenced to death for killing Fahd al-Mutairi.
On August 2, 2009, Nigerian national Qorbi bin Musa Adam was beheaded by the sword in Jeddah for murdering a Saudi man after robbing him. The Interior Ministry said Adam beat Ibrahim al-Assiri, bound his hands and feet and stuck a tape over his mouth. Assiri suffocated to death.
On August 7, 2009, Muneer Ahmed Hussein Shah, a Bangladeshi national residing in Riyadh, was executed for murder. A statement by the Saudi Interior Ministry said Shah pleaded guilty to raping a woman, trying to suffocate her and setting her on fire.
On November 4, 2009, two Sri Lankans, one of them a woman, and an Indian were beheaded in the city of Jeddah for theft and murder, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. Mohammed Barmil from India and Sri Lankan Bandar Nikar entered the home of Mariam Hussein, a Saudi woman, suffocated her and stole money and jewelry, official SPA news agency reported, quoting a Ministry statement. They had entered with the help of Hussein’s Sri Lankan maid, Halima Abdelkader, the Ministry said.
On March 4, 2010, Mussa Ahmed, a Sudanese driver convicted of murdering his Saudi Arabian employer was beheaded in Riyadh. Ahmed killed Mohammed al-Mutairy by hitting him on the head with a metal object, a statement published by the official SPA news agency said. Following the crime, Ahmed fled to Sudan but was extradited to Saudi Arabia to stand trial, reports said.
On June 5, 2010, a Sudanese man named Faisal Ali Abdel Ghani Ahmed was beheaded for killing compatriot Abdel Daem al-Tahar with axe blows to the head following an argument, the Interior Ministry said. The execution took place in the south-western Assir region.
 
Singapore
 
The death penalty is still carried out in secrecy. News of executions is only released after they have taken place and there is little information about the whole issue to fuel public debate. The Singapore government works hard to prevent open discussions on the death penalty using its infamous laws which restrict the media and outlaw public speeches and “unlicensed” gatherings. The press may not give an independent opinion on the executions in Singapore. Executions are carried out on Friday mornings at dawn. Relatives are generally informed a week prior to the scheduled date.
 
According to data made public in January of 2007, more than 420 people have been executed since 1991, most of them for drug-related crimes.
The government released statistics showing that 28 people had been put to death in 2002 and 27 in 2001. There were 21 executions in 2000. At least 14 people were hanged in 2003. At least 6 executions took place in 2004. According to Amnesty International, 8 people were executed in 2005. At least 5 executions took place in 2006 and two in 2007. In 2008, there was only one execution.
Since Independence, only six death row inmates were granted clemency.
In 2009, at least 6 death sentences were handed down, but there was only one execution, for murder.
On January 9, the man dubbed the One-eyed Dragon, Tan Chor Jin, 42, was executed at Changi Prison in Singapore. Tan was convicted of murder in 2007 for the fatal shooting of Lim Hock Soon in his flat on February 15, 2006. His appeals to the Court of Appeals and to the President for clemency were turned down. According to an AFP report in 2007, Tan was without representation at the trial. When interviewed by AFP, Tan was quoted, “They don’t understand what are human rights in the prison, nor allow us to smoke.” The same day of the execution, an ailing retail magnate who was jailed for one day in 2008 for attempting to buy a kidney received the organ legally from Tan Chor Jin, the Straits Times reported on January 10. Tang, 56, was jailed and fined 17,000 Singapore dollars ($11,400) in June 2008 for trying to buy a kidney from an Indonesian donor. The case prompted the government to amend the law to allow people who donate their kidneys to get monetary compensation from the recipient or a voluntary organization.
 
 
 
THE “HUMANE” LETHAL INJECTION
 
Countries that decided to abandon the electric chair, hanging or the firing squad for lethal injection as the preferred method of execution, presented this “reform” as a conquest of civility and a humane and painless way to execute the condemned. The reality is far different.
 
The United States of America
 
During recent years, dozens of inmates condemned to death have presented appeals to various U.S. appeals and supreme courts maintaining that, given the length of numerous executions lasting beyond their foreseen time, the protocol followed in the execution process did not guarantee a painless execution, and that, to the contrary, it was a “cruel and unusual punishment,” an obsolete term perhaps, but present in the Constitution of the United States as the line between acceptable and unacceptable punishment.
Finally, after years of debate and appeals, doubts on the method of lethal injections made their way into the hands of the United States Supreme Court, bringing a suspension to executions in many States that began on September 25, 2007 and lasted until April 16, 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-2 vote, against the appeal presented by two death row inmates in the State of Kentucky, Ralph Baze and Thomas Clyde Bowling, establishing that the cocktail of lethal substances used does not represent a “cruel and unusual” punishment and is, therefore, not unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court recognized the risk of accidents and malfunctions, but argued that such problems always exist in any system. The Court stated that the Constitution protects citizens from “willingly” cruel and painful practices, but this does not mean that every practice of the State must be free of pain and risk. The amount of pain and/or risk involved in lethal injection, while being unpleasant and worthy of elimination, does not represent a violation of the Constitution, but is, rather, “inevitable.”
Furthermore, the Supreme Court recognized the validity of the proposal of the lawyers of Baze and Bowling, and by many lawyers and experts, to use a single, massive dose of barbiturate in place of the three-drug cocktail. According to the Court, it would seem that this would be the least painful and risk-free method available, but that the decision is the work of legislators.
As is well known, in recent years there has been much controversy over the second of the three drugs used in the lethal injection protocol. The second drug, which paralyzes the muscles, in reality only serves to impede the condemned from demonstrating any pain brought on by the third drug, which stops the heart, but it does not prevent the pain itself. A pain, in fact, highly acute and lasting. Studies carried out by experts of anesthesiology, point to the possibility that the first drug to be injected, the barbiturate, used to render the condemned unconscious for the administration of the other two drugs, could prove insufficient, or, in some cases, could wear off too early. The Supreme Court maintained that there was not sufficient cause for censure and invited legislators to use their power and position to study the protocol further towards its improvement.
 
On May 28, 2009, the Nebraska Unicameral legislature passed and Governor Dave Heineman signed a bill changing the State’s method of capital punishment from electrocution to lethal injection. Nebraska has been without a means of execution since February 2008, when the State Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair was unconstitutional because it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Nebraska was the only State with electrocution as its sole means of execution. However, Attorney General Jon Bruning expects the State to have an execution protocol in place within a year and to be ready to request a new execution date be set for one of the eleven men on death row within two or three years. This amount of time is probable because defense attorneys, as is usual in these types of cases, immediately began a series of appeals questioning the constitutionality of the new protocol. From State courts to federal courts, from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court, the appeals should take an estimated two years, at least. Actually, the protocol has already been examined (as called for by law) preliminarily by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which considered it constitutional in as much as it “was designed to avoid inflicting unnecessary pain, not to provoke it,” but defense appeals shall be followed through with. The new protocol is similar to that of almost all the other States and is based on the classic three drug cocktail: an anesthetic, a drug to paralyze the muscles and a drug to stop the heart. Nebraska’s protocol is more precise than those in other States, with precise dosages, a list of the twelve people that must be part of the execution team as well as outlining their specific roles, and a series of checks that must be carried out before, during and after the execution to avoid errors and accidents. None of the twelve team members are required to be registered with a medical or paramedical association but two members must have “specific training in intravenous injection.”
After Nebraska’s decision, today all the States have lethal injection as their primary method of execution. In some States the “old methods” are still available on request by the condemned and, generally, only for crimes committed before lethal injection was introduced.
 
On September 15, 2009, after two hours of trying to find a vein came the interruption of the execution in Ohio of Romell Broom, 53, black, sentenced to die for raping and killing 14-year-old Tryna Middleton in Cleveland in 1984. He was to be executed at 10 AM, September 15, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville. The execution was delayed as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered granting him a hearing. When that temporary stay was lifted, the execution process began again with the search for a suitable vein in Broom’s arm in which to insert an IV and to inject the lethal chemicals. However, after two hours of fruitless endeavor, the correctional officers were unable to complete the execution. Governor Ted Strickland intervened and granted a week-long stay of execution while the State evaluated its procedures.
On October 5, 2009, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland delayed the executions of two inmates, Lawrence Reynolds Jr. and Darryl Durr, hours after a federal appeals court halted the lethal injection of one inmate who was scheduled to die October 8. Strickland, a Democrat, ordered a review of the State’s lethal-injection procedures.
On November 13, 2009, after the botched execution of Romell Broom in September, Ohio adopted a new execution protocol, switching from a three-drug injection, to a single injection into one vein. The single-drug technique amounts to an overdose of anesthesia, sodium thiopental. In cases where a suitable vein cannot be located, a combination of 2 chemicals will be injected into muscle. Those drugs will be midazolam and hydromorphone. In the previous protocol, the same in almost all States that use lethal injection, sodium thiopental is the second drug to be injected.
While Broom managed to postpone his new execution date, appealing along the constitutional lines of “cruel and unusual punishment” (that would include the two hours he spent on the injection gurney the evening of September 15), the new protocol of Ohio was applied to Kenneth Biros, executed with the new system in December 2009.
Kenneth Biros, 51, white, was executed in the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville. Biros was convicted and sentenced to death for the February 7, 1991 murdering of Tami Engstrom, 22. It was the first execution in the nation involving one drug as opposed to the three-drug cocktail protocol abandoned by Ohio. The new method has been used already by veterinarians to put down animals, and some, such as ABC News, compared the end of the condemned to that of a guinea pig, the animal used in scientific research often at the cost of its life. Despite the use of the one-drug method, the execution was not without problems: the lawyer of Biros declared that the executioner made nine attempts before successfully finding Biros’ vein.
 
On March 2, 2010, Washington became the second State to change to the single-drug protocol, but the three-drug protocol remains an option for inmates who request it. Numerous States have begun procedures to modify their protocols.
 
Executions were suspended in California, Maryland, Kentucky and in the Federal Prison System, because of appeals against lethal injection protocols. After the 2008 sentence of the Supreme Court which confirmed the validity “in general” of the protocols in use, the appeals regard, above all, the procedures for approving the same protocols, which in many States have been discovered to be “unlawful.” The execution procedures were standardly created by the varying Departments of Corrections, but the laws of the States almost always considered executions as a normal part of their “administrative acts” and as such they are required to be approved by varying State legislatures subsequent to “public hearings” involving both positive and negative expert opinions.
 
Some observers foresee a stall in the coming years: if medical and paramedical professionals continue to refuse to participate in executions, sooner or later the Supreme Court could declare it unconstitutional to entrust executions to professionally unqualified personnel.
We have already seen the precursor to this controversy in North Carolina in 2007, where the North Carolina Medical Board has prohibited its members from participating in executions “in any capacity.” After a series of appeals, on May 1, 2009, the State Supreme Court ruled that the Medical Association did not have the authority to go against the laws of the State, and could not punish its members for participating in an execution. The Medical Association accepted the ruling, but despite renouncing internal disciplinary action, will continue to oppose the participation of physicians in executions on the moral and ethical level.
This position and all the adjustments to lethal injection and the law are keeping North Carolina “under moratorium”. At the single State level, a similar situation occurred in 2006 with the California Medical Association, but for various legal factors it had a lesser impact. At the national level, however, the American Medical Association, since 2006, has recalled numerous times that an “ethical, deontological and moral prohibition” exists for its members in terms of participating in executions but it has never declared a formal prohibition.
 
However, the American Board of Anesthesiologists did declare a formal prohibition on May 2, 2010, deciding to revoke the certification of any member who participates in executing a prisoner by lethal injection. Although the American Medical Association has long opposed doctor involvement, the anesthesiologists’ group (that has 40,000 members) is the first to say it will harshly penalize a health-care worker for abetting lethal injections. The loss of certification would prevent an anesthesiologist from working in most hospitals. About half of the 35 states performing executions require a doctor to be present. Other states have also recruited doctors, including anesthesiologists, to play a role in executions involving lethal injections. In some jurisdictions, anesthesiologists consult prison officials on dosages. In others, they insert catheters and infuse the three-drug cocktails. While death penalty opponents welcome the move because it raises yet more questions about lethal injections, capital punishment supporters contend that doctors are not needed during the procedures, which can be administered by prison employees. The group’s members learned about the new policy in February.
Up to now, it has been, to varying degrees, medical associations that have taken a stand, but it is possible that soon paramedical associations will also speak out. At that point the Supreme Court will have to decide: is lethal injection a procedure of such little importance that it should be left to “amateurs”? Is it possible that a moment exists in the arc of a life of a “citizen” that, in as much as they are a criminal, they cease to have the right to be assisted by adequately trained medical personnel? The issue is rich in developments and twists and it could be the proving point of a new equilibrium within the Supreme Court as two of its members retire and are replaced.
 
China
 
According to the Criminal Procedure Law, after receiving an order from the Supreme People’s Court to execute a death sentence, the People’s Court at a lower level shall cause the sentence to be executed within seven days.
In China, executions are mostly carried out with a shot to the back of the head or the heart from close range. The condemned are made to kneel, with their legs in shackles and their hands tied behind their backs. In previous decades, it was customary for the State to charge the family of the executed a “bullet fee,” that is, the actual cost of the bullet, a practice now said to have ceased.
In 1997, China introduced the lethal injection, applied first in Yunnan province in southwest China. Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, was the country’s first city to adopt lethal injection on March 28, 1997, followed by the cities of Changsha, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Chongqing, Hangzhou and Shenyang. In 2003, Yunnan province was the first to move exclusively to lethal injection.
In June 2006, Zhejiang province in eastern China announced it would carry out all executions by lethal injection from September 1 of that year.
In March 2008, after a 10 year trial-period, the city of Chengdu, capital of south-western China’s Sichuan Province, formally adopted lethal injection instead of shooting.
On January 3, 2008, Jiang Xingchang, Vice-President of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), said that China would adopt the use of lethal injections to replace execution by shooting. “It is considered more humane and will eventually be used in all Intermediate People’s Courts,” Jiang told China Daily. Half of the 404 Intermediate People’s Tribunals, which are responsible for the majority of executions, already use lethal injection, said Xingchang, adding “The SPC will help equip intermediate courts with all required facilities and train more professionals, particularly in the central and western regions.” According to Jiang, death row inmates and their families backed the move. To achieve the goal, the SPC will allocate the toxin used in the injection to local courts under strict supervision, he added. Currently, court officials have to come to Beijing for the toxin.
 
On December 10, 2009, The Higher People’s Court of Liaoning announced that all 14 cities in the northeast China’s Liaoning Province adopted the method of lethal injection for all executions, meaning execution by gunshot will no longer be used. “Lethal injection reduces the fear and suffering,” the court said in a statement. According to Xinhua, “officials from the Liaoning Provincial Higher People’s Court said lethal injection was more acceptable for convicts and their family members.” Lethal injection was first used in Liaoning in 2001 to execute two convicted murderers in Shenyang, the regional capital.
On November 4, 2009, Beijing Youth Daily reported that all death row inmates in the City of Beijing would be killed by lethal injection, not by gunshot, in 2010. A lethal injection room has already been set up in a site next to a prison outside Beijing. Law department officials in Beijing inspected the lethal injection room, and were working on the route by which the condemned will be escorted to the room. In the past, only Qincheng jail in Beijing which imprisons high level officials guilty of crime used lethal injection. The latest lethal injection in Beijing was performed on July 10, 2007 when China’s ministerial-level official Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the State Food and Drug Administration who was found guilty of taking bribes to approve untested medicine, was executed. Hu Yunteng, head of the Supreme People’s Court’s Research Rureau, said that lethal injection was considered cleaner, safer and more convenient than gunshot executions.
On January 26, 2010, the Beijing Youth Daily reported executioners from Beijing’s Intermediate People’s Court have finished their training and, so, they were ready to begin with lethal injection as the main technique for the death penalty in Beijing.
 
On March 27, 2009, a man convicted of leading a gang that abducted nine boys was executed by lethal injection. Ye Zengxi, 55, and his younger brother, Ye Xiaolin, led a gang to capture nine boys between April to December 2007 in Xixian County, Henan Province. Eight of the boys, aged from two to seven years old, were sold to rural families for 12,000 yuan to 33,000 yuan each, according to the Nanyang Intermediate People’s Court. The other boy was held captive by his abductors.
On December 17, 2009, a Taiwanese man was executed by lethal injection in China, the Xiamen Intermediate people’s court said. Xie Minghui, from the Tainan County of Taiwan, was convicted of smuggling 4,230 grams of heroin from Yangon to Xiamen on November 11, 2004.
On December 29, 2009, Akmal Shaikh, a British national who was convicted of smuggling drugs into China, was executed by lethal injection in Urumqi, in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Between April 6 and 9, 2010, China executed four Japanese nationals – Mitsunobu Akano, Teruo Takeda, Hironori Ukai and Katsuo Mori – in Liaoning province for drug smuggling. The executions marked the first time that Japanese nationals were executed in Japan since China and Japan normalized diplomatic relations in 1972. Akano was allowed to meet with his family before he was executed, which normally is not done. All the Japanese are believed to have been killed by lethal injection.
 
China has also introduced mobile execution units. The units consist of specially-modified vans manned by execution teams and equipped with facilities to put people to death with lethal injections close to the venue of the trials. This removes the need to transfer prisoners to execution grounds, a procedure that requires considerable security measures. Convicts are strapped to gurneys a few minutes after their death sentences become final, the needle is inserted into their arm, a member of the execution team presses a button, and the fatal chemicals are injected into their veins. Executions in death vans are recorded on video and audio that is played live to local law enforcement authorities – a measure intended to ensure they are carried out legally.
Before the creation of the buses, the condemned were executed by being shot in the back of the head, but executioners were often forced to wear rubber boots, because of the large amount of blood involved in shootings, and occasionally prisoners had to be shot several times before finally dying. One reason why executioners wanted a different method was because many of those killed were drug traffickers, and were said to have HIV/Aids. Executioners said they were worried they would become infected by spraying blood.
On March 24, 2009, the British newspaper The Independent reported that the “bus of death” used in China is made by Jinguan Auto, a Chongqing-based maker of ambulances, police lorries, bulletproof shields and armor-plated limos. The mobile death chamber is a refitted 17-seater minibus which is seven meters long. So far the company has sold 10 of the vehicles. Makers of the death vans say the vehicles and injections are a civilized alternative to the firing squad, ending the life of the condemned more quickly, clinically and safely. The switch from gunshots to injections is a sign that China “promotes human rights now,” said Kang Zhongwen, who designed the Jinguan Auto death van in which a criminal known as Zhang “Nine-Fingered Devil” Shiqiang was executed in 2004. He was among the first to die by lethal injection in one of China’s newly minted mobile death vans.
 
It is easy to imagine that the transition from firing squads to injections in death vans facilitates an illegal trade in prisoners’ organs. Injections leave the whole body intact and require participation of doctors. Organs can be extracted in a speedier and more effective way than if the prisoner is shot. China’s refusal to give outsiders access to the bodies of executed prisoners has added to suspicions about what happens afterward: corpses are typically driven to a crematorium and burned before relatives or independent witnesses can view them.
On August 26, 2009, State media reported two-thirds of organ donors in China are executed prisoners. Huang Jiefu, Vice-Minister for health, said written consent was required from condemned prisoners, but added that they were “definitely not a proper source for organ transplants.” For this, health officials launched a national donation system. Experts estimated that more than 65% of donors were criminals who had received the death penalty. (Sources: Amnesty International, 26/08/2009)
In the past, human rights’ organizations have denounced the link between the high number of executions in China and the growing demand for organ transplants, accusing the Chinese authorities of forcing those condemned to death to sign authorizations to remove their organs for transplant.
 
India
 
India’s first reported execution since 1995 took place on August 14, 2004 in Calcutta. Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 39, was hanged at dawn at the Alipore Central Jail where he had spent his last 13 years in solitary confinement. Chatterjee had been convicted in 1991 for the 1990 rape and murder of 16-year-old Hetal Parekh, who lived in the building where he worked as a security guard.
A well-remembered execution was that of Nathuram Godse, the man condemned for assassinating India’s founding father Mahatma Gandhi. It took him 15 minutes to die as he dangled from the rope. A similar fate, in 1989, awaited Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh, convicted of the 1985 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi had been a firm opponent of the death penalty. “I cannot in all conscience agree to anyone being sent to the gallows. God alone can take life because he alone gives it.”
 
On July 6, 2009, India’s top court refused to replace hanging with lethal injection as the country’s sole method of execution, saying there is no evidence it is less painful than other ways.
The Supreme Court’s ruling rejected a petition by rights activist Ashok Kumar Walia, who said hanging was a “cruel and painful” method of execution and should be replaced by lethal injection.
“How do you know that hanging causes pain? And how do you know that injecting the condemned prisoner with a lethal drug would not cause pain?” Supreme Court Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said.
Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam said experts believe that hanging – meant to dislocate the neck and sever the spinal cord – causes instant death. The judges suggested that Walia instead campaign for abolition of the death penalty in India.
 
Thailand
 
Thailand resumed executions in 1995 after a de facto eight-year suspension.
On October 19, 2003, after 68 years and 319 lives (316 men and three women) taken by the firing squad, Thailand marked the introduction of lethal injection as a means of execution by a solemn ceremony at the Bang Kwang jail – notoriously known as the ‘Bangkok Hilton’. The firing squad had replaced decapitation as the method of execution in 1935.
On December 12, 2003, Thailand carried out its first executions by lethal injection, putting to death three people convicted of drug trafficking and one of murder at the Bang Kwang jail. Three drugs were used in the executions – the first sedated the convict, the second relaxed the muscles and the third stopped the heart.
 
On August 24, 2009, two men were executed by lethal injection in the prison of Bang Khwang in Bangkok. These executions marked the end of a de facto six-year-long moratorium on death penalty in Thailand. Bundit Jaroenwanit, 45, and Jirawat Poompreuk, 52, were arrested in 2001 for drug trafficking. It is the second case of death by lethal injection since 2003, when an amendment to Article 19 of the Criminal Code changed the terms of execution: from death by firing squad to lethal injection. Jaroenwanit and Poompreuk were given 60 minutes to call or write to their loved ones. They were then offered a last meal and a chance to listen to a sermon from a monk invited from Wat Bang Praek Tai. They were blindfolded and given flowers, candles and incense sticks before being taken to the execution chamber. The two, their legs manacled, turned their faces towards the temple as they were laid out on beds. They received three injections: the first a sedative, the second to relax their muscles and the third, the fatal one, a drug that stopped their hearts.
 
Vietnam
 
On June 17, 2010, Vietnam’s communist-dominated National Assembly voted to replace firing squads with lethal injection after lawmakers sought to find a “more humane” method of execution. “Deputies voted this afternoon to choose lethal injection as the sole method of execution, starting from July 1, 2011,” a spokeswoman for the legislature said. Almost all of the 433 lawmakers present in the National Assembly approved the change, according to the VietnamNet online news service.
On April 13, 2010, the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper had quoted a senior official as saying Vietnamese lawmakers had proposed using lethal injections for death sentences to replace the firing squad, which is too costly. Truong Ngoc Lam, deputy director of Appeal Institute III, had added that the firing squad requires an appropriate location and six officials while lethal injection requires only one official.
 
 
 
EXTRADITION AND THE DEATH PENALTY
 
All the member countries of the European Union along with many other abolitionist countries are committed, on the basis of their own laws and/or through international treaties that they have undersigned, to not extradite persons suspected of capital crimes in countries where they risk being condemned to death or executed.
Some abolitionist countries have not considered this commitment as obligatory.
 
European Union – USA
 
On October 29, 2009, the United States and European Union signed an extradition agreement that allows EU nations to refuse to send suspects to the United States who could face the death penalty. Extradition to the US will henceforth only be possible under the condition that the death penalty will not be imposed or, if for procedural reasons such a condition cannot be complied with, that the death penalty will not be carried out. The current prevailing practice is for the US to provide guarantees that it will not carry out an execution on a case-by-case basis only. The agreement, which was due to come into force on February 1, 2010, was initiated in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the US. The agreement, that buttresses existing bilateral agreements between Washington and EU states, allows the creation of EU-US task forces to address terrorism and serious crimes. The agreement also makes it easier for both sides to request and share bank account information about suspects. It establishes the use of video conferencing so witnesses or experts in crimes do not have to travel to testify during proceedings.
 
Italy – USA
 
Italian extradition laws are among the most stringent. Based on the 1996 decision of the Constitutional Court to reject the extradition by the Italian Government of Pietro Venezia to the United States where he was accused of murder, no one can be extradited to countries that use the death penalty unless the given country provides not sufficient but “absolute” guarantees that the death penalty will not be applied.
In the case of Benedetto Cipriani, an Italian citizen accused of multiple homicides in Connecticut, the Italian government agreed to extradition after a “note verbale” with which the Government of the United States declared that the charge leveled at Cipriani was not punishable by death in the U.S. and that, in the case of a conviction, the Italian citizen would be able to serve part of his detention in Italy.
The extradition decree was signed on November 12, 2005, by then-Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli and followed up by his successor Clemente Mastella on July 13, 2007, after numerous judicial and administrative appeals within Italy.
His trial ended on April 2, 2009 with a sentence of 200 years, thus respecting, in part, the agreement with Italian authorities. However, the length of the sentence effectively dismisses any possibility to follow through on the other point of the pre-extradition agreement with the U.S. that would allow Cipriani, 53 years old, to serve the second half of his sentence in Italy.
 
Canada – USA
 
On March 4, 2009, Justice Robert Barnes ordered the Canadian government to seek clemency for Ronald Allen Smith, a Canadian on death row in Montana, ruling that a sudden policy shift to ignore his plight was unfair to him. Smith was convicted in 1983 of murdering two Americans a year earlier, and was sentenced to death. During most of the past quarter century, successive Canadian governments have sought clemency on his behalf from the governor of Montana on humanitarian grounds. But that suddenly changed in November 2007 under a new Conservative administration led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Canada would no longer actively seek clemency for Canadians on death row who had been tried and convicted in democratic countries that support the rule of law, said ministers. At home, Canada would however continue to uphold a ban on the death penalty. Smith’s lawyers argued the policy reversal provided tacit approval for his execution, and breached Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Justice Barnes ruled the government has a right to set foreign policy, but its reversal was “arbitrary and unlawful” in this case, as it seemingly targeted Smith. “In the absence of any new clemency policy I am ordering the government to continue to apply the former policy of supporting clemency on behalf of Canadians facing the death penalty in any foreign State to Mr. Smith.”
On May 15, 2009, a Californian man who fled to Canada in late 2007 was been sent back to the US to face a murder charge – but only after the Canadian government secured a guarantee from American authorities that the suspect would never face the death penalty, Canwest News Service stated. Arthur Charles Carnes IV was extradited after attempting to gain refugee status in Canada on the basis that he could face capital punishment if handed over to US justice officials. Carnes is alleged to have carried out the November 2007 shooting death and dismemberment of his former employer, 41-year-old lawn-mower repairman Matthew Seybert. The terms of Carnes’ transfer back to the U.S. are significant because they reinforce recent Canadian practice – even under the tough-on-crime Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper – of requiring a no-execution promise from U.S. prosecutors before returning American fugitives to face murder charges and, in States where lethal injection is still legal, a possible death sentence.
 
USA – Ecuador
 
On April 6, 2009, Ecuador’s government asked for the return of Nelson Serrano on Florida’s death row. He was sentenced to death in 2007 for killing four people in a Polk County factory in 1997. Serrano was arrested in Ecuador in 2002. Ecuador has no death penalty and will not extradite fugitives who face the punishment in other countries. But US authorities were able to use Serrano’s status as a US citizen to get him deported in a process Ecuador now claims is illegal.
 
China –Mexico
 
On February 28, 2009, the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, ratified a treaty on extradition with Mexico. The pact was submitted by the State Council, China’s cabinet, to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) for deliberation on February 25. The pact settled two major problems that may cause disputes over extradition. Mexico has banned the death penalty and usually would not deliver a suspect to another country, such as China, where he or she might be sentenced to death. Under the pact, the two sides agreed to settle solutions based on individual cases, instead of writing this in the pact as one of the refusal motives. In addition, under domestic laws, China will not deliver a citizen of Chinese nationality to another country. Mexican law allows its own citizens to be extradited. In the pact, the two sides agreed that both of them have the right to refuse extradition of their own citizens. But the suspects would be taken to court in their own country under the request of the other country. The latter should provide related documents and evidence.
 
Peru – China
 
On March 31, 2009, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked Peruvian authorities not to extradite a Chinese man, Huang Haiyong, until the IACHR had ruled on his petition for protection. Huang Haiyong (alias Wong Ho Wing) is facing extradition from Peru to China on charges that can carry the death penalty. Haiyong was arrested in October 2008 on arrival in Peru. According to his lawyer, the warrant refers to a charge of fraud.
 
Australia
 
On December 18, 2009, the Australian Government released new guidelines to govern the release of police information to countries which may apply for the death penalty. Police will now have to consider a range of factors before deciding if it will release information to overseas agencies in potential death penalty cases.
On November 19, 2009, Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland told Parliament he was introducing legislation that would ensure that the death penalty could not be reintroduced. The draft laws emphasized Australia’s commitment to its obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
United Kingdom – Iran
 
On February 12, 2009, British authorities recognized the political refugee status of Iranian lesbian Pegah Emambakhsh. This was due to the risk of capital punishment if she was forcibly repatriated to Iran, where homosexuals are punished with the death penalty. For Pegah, thousands of people and dozens of human rights associations, led by London based Iranian Queer Railroad, Rome based Association “Certi Diritti” and EveryOne Group, mobilized all over Europe. Many institutions went into action, including the European Parliament, committed to saving the life of Pegah headed up by Radical Deputies Marco Cappato and Marco Pannella.
 
Italy – Syria
 
On June 27, 2009, Maged Al Molky, the captain of the Palestinian commandos that hijacked the Achille Lauro in 1985 and killed an American citizen, was expelled from Italy and sent to Syria where he risks being sentenced to death. The expulsion happened despite him having an appeal pending with the Ministry of Justice.
Al Molky, who married an Italian citizen, spent 23 years and eight months in jail in Italy, with a reduction of his thirty year sentence for good behavior.
“They are sending me to my death,” he said as he arrived at Fiumicino airport, escorted by two policemen. His lawyer, Gianfranco Pagano, explained that it is likely that Al Molky will be sentenced to death, because the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and other related crimes took place in the territorial waters of Syria.

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