Israel approves preliminary death penalty bill for ‘terrorists’..

Israel approves preliminary death penalty bill for ‘terrorists’ with Netanyahu’s blessing

Israel approves preliminary death penalty bill for 'terrorists' with Netanyahu's blessing
Despite massive opposition from Israeli lawmakers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was influential in the Knesset’s decision to support a bill that would allow both military and civil courts to sentence terrorists to death.

In a narrow 52-49 vote, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved the first draft of a bill which could make it easier for terrorists to be handed the death penalty. Current military law allows a person to be sentenced to death for an act of terrorism, but only if such a sentence has the unanimous support of all three sitting judges.

The new draft legislation seeks to amend the current order, and wants it replaced by a simple majority decision of the judges. The bill, sponsored by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, also aspires to expand the potential use of death penalty beyond the military courts, seeking its application in Israeli civil courts. Israel has carried out only two executions in its modern history.

The current proposed regulations does not single out any religion or ethnicity, and if adopted, would apply to both Jewish and Palestinian terrorists. The Israeli definition of “terrorism” however, is rather broad and includes, for instance, knife attacks on military personnel, which are often committed by teenagers. In August 2016, Israeli lawmakers approved the so-called Youth Bill, legalizing the imprisonment of Palestinian minors as young as 12, should they be are suspected of grave crimes, such as acts of terrorism against the state of Israel. While the draft law still has to pass through three more readings, the age of the “terrorists” has not yet been discussed.

Fierce debates Wednesday, however, raged around the ethical application of the death penalty and its compatibility with Judaism. While Judaism allows for capital punishment, Talmudic law as followed by ultra-Orthodox members of the Jewish community argues that the death penalty ceased with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Following their religious conviction, members of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party walked out before the vote to consult with rabbis on the issue.

Netanyahu voiced support for the bill, despite the fact that previous Israeli governments, including those headed by him, have rejected all prior death penalty initiatives. “There are extreme cases, where people commit terrible crimes and don’t deserve to live,” the PM argued. “We’re changing the law for these situations.”

Netanyahu’s stance was supported by MK Yisrael Beytenu who proposed the bill. He said, “When terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons end up going free [in prisoner exchanges], I think the most moral thing is for [terrorists] to get the death penalty.”

Others, however, voiced strong opposition to the proposed capital punishment legislation. “The death penalty will not contribute anything to the war on terrorism,” said MK Eyal Ben-Reuven. “The opposite is true. Instead of deterring, it will strengthen the terrorists, who will turn into shaheeds [Arabic for martyr]. Israel has proven abilities to deal with terrorism without giving up on the strength in our values and without using our enemies’ methods.”

Opposition lawmaker Tzipi Livni called the bill “reckless, 100 percent politics,” adding, that “The defense establishment opposes the death penalty.” Just prior to the vote, the head of Israel’s internal security service (Shin Bet) Nadav Argaman also voiced strong opposition, noting that the “terrorist death penalty law will lead to wave of kidnappings” of Jews around the world to force Israelis to release convicted Palestinian prisoners before they are executed.

Wednesday’s vote was already slammed by the European Union’s ambassador to Israel. “The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity. It constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment, does not have any proven deterrent effect and allows judicial errors to become irreversible & fatal,” the EU mission said on Twitter.

In August, a poll published by the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute found that 70 percent of Israeli Jews “strongly” or “moderately” supported the death penalty.  – RT News, 4/1/2018

Israel’s new death penalty bill ‘targets Palestinians’

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The proposed law is backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [Tsafrir Abayov/Reuters]
The proposed law is backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [Tsafrir Abayov/Reuters]

The Israeli government‘s proposal to make it easier for judges to hand out the death penalty for “terrorist activity” has been condemned as “fascist” by Palestinian politicians and rights groups, who fear it will give Israel legal cover to target Palestinians.

A bill to amend existing legislation regulating the use of the death sentence passed its preliminary reading in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Wednesday with backing from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the Knesset, told Al Jazeera on Friday that while the bill does not specify any group, it is “intended mainly for the Palestinian people”.

“It’s not going to be implemented against Jews who are committing terrorist attacks against Palestinians for sure,” she said, describing the bill’s authors as “extreme right”.

“This is a fascist bill, contributing to an atmosphere of fascism inside Israeli society, which is directed towards Palestinians.”

Under existing laws, Israel’s civilian courts reserve the use of the death penalty for Nazis and Nazi collaborators convicted of committing murder during the Holocaust, while military courts can hand out the sentence if a panel of three judges unanimously agrees to issue the punishment.

The proposed changes will add an additional clause to Israel’s penal law, allowing the death penalty to be used against those convicted of “terrorist activity”, which is defined by the bill as “a deliberate attempt to murder civilians in order to achieve political, national, religious or ideological objectives.”

It will remove the requirement for military court panels to unanimously agree on issuing the punishment, instead requiring a simple majority of two of the three judges.

When asked by Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi on Wednesday about whether the law would apply to Jews who carry out attacks, such as “those who burned the children in Duma”, Netanyahu replied: “In principle, yes.”

Tibi’s reference was to a 2015 arson attack carried out by a Jewish settler in the occupied West Bank village of Duma, which left three Palestinians, including a one-year-old baby, dead and another child seriously wounded.

Dawoud Yusef of the Palestinian rights group Addameer, which advocates for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, cast doubt on Netanyahu’s assertion that the move would also apply to Jews.

“What we’ve seen in the past is that Avigdor Lieberman has been pushing for this as part of his agreement to join Netanyahu’s coalition,” Yusef said, referencing Netanyahu’s defence minister and hard-right coalition partner.

“He’s come out and said that this will only apply to Arabs. When he says Arabs, we assume he means Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.”

‘Biased judicial system’

Lieberman, whose party Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) put forward the bill, has in the past advocated the use of the death penalty against “Arab terror”, and in a Facebook post about the bill on Wednesday, the minister declared: “Jewish blood is not cheap.”

Yusef said if the bill ends up passing, it would represent a “slippery slope”.

“We really see this as a pandering to the extreme elements in the Israeli government and we’re not sure in the current climate, where that’s going to end.”

Given Israel’s position as occupying power, its biased judicial system against Palestinians, and precedence over the years, such a bill can only be read to target Palestinians who Israel characterises as terrorists, a term whose definition in Israel is so broad and encompassing.

Maha Abdullah, Legal Researcher at Al Haq

Maha Abdullah of the Palestinian human rights organisation, Al Haq, told Al Jazeera it would further compound Israel’s hold over the occupied territories.

“It should be noted that most Palestinian political detainees are tried by Israeli military courts,” she said.

“Given Israel’s position as occupying power, its biased judicial system against Palestinians, and precedence over the years, such a bill can only be read to target Palestinians who Israel characterises as terrorists, a term whose definition in Israel is so broad and encompassing.”

While Israel has a long history of carrying out targeted assassinations of its opponents, judicial executions are very rare.

In 1948, the Israeli army court-martialed and executed Meir Tobianski after accusations that he had passed on intelligence to the Jordanian army, but the officer was later posthumously exonerated of the charges.

In 1962, the state executed the former SS commander Adolf Eichmann for his part in the Holocaust. SOURCE: Al Jazeera News, 5/1/2018

January 3, 2018 / 11:07 PM / 9 days ago

Israeli death penalty advocates win preliminary vote in parliament

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s parliament gave preliminary approval on Wednesday for legislation that would make it easier for a court to impose a death sentence on assailants convicted of murder in attacks classified as terrorism.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli lawmakers attend a vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

Israeli military courts – which handle cases involving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – already have the power to issue the death sentence, although this has never been implemented. The only case of an execution in Israel was carried out against convicted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1962.

The amendment to the penal code would still require three more readings if it is to become law. Currently, a death penalty can only be imposed if a panel of three military judges passes sentence unanimously. If the amendment is adopted, a majority verdict would suffice.

Wednesday’s motion was brought by Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an ultra-nationalist in the conservative coalition government, who advocates tough action against Palestinian militants. Fifty-two of parliament’s 120 members voted in favor, and 49 were opposed.

Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoner Club which represents Palestinians jailed in Israel, denounced the vote as ”an expression of the state of blindness and confusion in the policies of this fascist regime (where) extremist parties race to pass racist laws.

“While the world moves toward repealing the death penalty, Israel is working to ratify this law, which is directed against the Palestinians,” Fares told Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted for the motion but said that such legislation required deeper discussion and that the matter would now be considered at ministerial level before further debate in the Knesset.

In remarks to lawmakers, he said: “I think that in extreme cases, when somebody slaughters and laughs (as he kills), he should not spend the rest of his time in jail and should be executed.”

Asked by an Israeli Arab lawmaker whether he would also apply this reasoning to Jewish militants convicted of killing Palestinians, Netanyahu said: “In principle, yes.”

The successful vote was the latest in a number of motions brought by right-wing coalition members who feel able to pressure Netanyahu’s brittle government into enacting hard-line legislation. – Reuters, 3/1/2018

Indonesia: Proposed law that keeps death penalty as ‘alternative sentence’, 10 year before execution with possibility of commutation

Compromise reached on death penalty

  • The Jakarta Post

Capital punishment has been designated an “alternative sentence” in the Criminal Code revision bill currently awaiting passage in the House of Representatives, in a compromise to appease both public opinion and human rights groups.

Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, 18 death row inmates, all of whom were convicted of drug-related crimes, were executed.

Fifteen of the 18 executed were foreigners, prompting international outcry and sparking diplomatic tensions between Indonesia and important allies such as Australia and the European Union.

However, despite condemnation from both foreign and domestic human rights groups, capital punishment remains highly popular in Indonesia. According to a 2015 Indo Barometer survey, 84.9 percent of Indonesians approved of sentencing drug dealers to death, while a 2016 Kompas survey showed that 89.3 percent approved of the death sentence for terrorists.

Nasdem lawmaker Taufiqulhadi acknowledged the death penalty had been a matter of ongoing debate among the lawmakers in the bill’s working committee, but said making it an alternative punishment was a “way out.”

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly had previously called the move “a win-win solution.”

Article 89 of the bill states: “The death penalty will be imposed as an alternative and as a last resort to protect society.”

The bill goes on to say convicts that receive the death penalty will be given a 10-year probation period, after which their sentence may be commuted to a life sentence or to a 20-year prison sentence at the discretion of the law and human rights minister.

In the current legal system, a death sentence can only be changed through the Supreme Court (MA) or through presidential clemency.

Activists acknowledged the move as a step forward, but remained adamant in their conviction that the death penalty was both inhumane and ineffective.

“It’s true that this is progress,” said Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) researcher Adzkar Ahsinin. “And it is probably the most realistic step that we can hope for.”

Community Legal Aid Foundation director Ricky Gunawan echoed his sentiment. “In an ideal situation, of course we hope for total abolition,” he said. “But in a country that only two years ago conducted executions on such a massive scale, this is a small step that should be appreciated.”

Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) legal expert Erasmus Napitupulu said that adding a waiting period between conviction and execution was better than the current system, but said the bill did not go far enough.

“There are still many crimes that are eligible for the death penalty that do not meet the criteria set out in the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR],” he said.

The ICCPR states that the death penalty should be restricted to only the “most serious crimes,” which have been defined as “intentional crimes with lethal consequences.”

The bill, in contrast, allows capital punishment for treason, corruption and drug-related crimes.

Erasmus also questioned the government’s and the House’s rationale for insisting on keeping the death penalty. “The government keeps saying it provides a deterrent effect. But it has never shown any evidence that the deterrent effect actually exists. It is a myth that is continually repeated.”

Adzkar agreed, saying: “We have put forward several arguments against the death penalty, but the House insists on keeping it in, often citing religious arguments.”

Erasmus said it was difficult to refute these arguments; capital punishment is allowed in the Quran, and some lawmakers saw the abolition of the death penalty as a refutation of Islamic teachings.

Ricky acknowledged the improbability of abolishing capital punishment in the current climate. “Politically, in Indonesia at this time, it does not seem possible to abolish the death penalty entirely,” he said. “It would be risky and would invite a lot of criticism, and national leadership has not made human rights a priority.”

He hoped the House would be able to clarify the criteria for sentence commutation and possibly move the decision-making power away from the executive branch. (kmt)

Malaysia – No Public Prosecutor’s OK – no judges discretion to impose sentence other than death

Malaysia have been talking for some time about the abolition of the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty. Now, a Bill has been tabled with regard to drug trafficking which now carries the mandatory death penalty. The Bill, which was supposed to return discretion in sentencing yo judges – now gives the judges a choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment(with at least 15 strokes of the whip). However, judges will not get this discretion unless the Public Prosecutor gives a written certification of assistance…

Public prosecutor granted ‘too much power’ over life and death, says human rights group

Bede Hong
A HUMAN rights group is critical of an amendment to the law governing the death penalty, saying it gives too much power to the public prosecutor over the judge in determining who deserved to be sentenced to death.

Yesterday, the bill for the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 was passed in Parliament, amending Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which pertains to the death penalty. The new law allows the judge to exercise discretion in meting out life imprisonment instead of the death penalty, which was previously mandatory for those convicted of drug trafficking. 

However, a clause states that the judge may impose a sentence other than the death penalty, only if and when the “public prosecutor certifies in writing to the court, that in his determination, the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.”

“It is wrong to give the public prosecutor the power to decide who dies and who may live,” Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) coordinator Charles Hector said in a statement today. 

“Remember, that he is also responsible for prosecution in a criminal trial, and the power to the public prosecutor to give or not give the written certification is most dangerous. It may also undermine the right to a fair trial.”

According to the proposed amending act, if the public prosecutor does not provide the certification, judges will have no choice but to impose the death penalty.  

Hector said the power of sentencing should rest with the judge alone. 

“The existence of appeals to higher courts helps ensure that there be no errors.”

Before sentencing, the judge usually hears and considers the submissions of the prosecution and the convicted person to impose an appropriate sentence. 

“Thus, the question of whether there was assistance or not could be included as one of the listed matters that should be considered by the judge before he decides and pronounces sentence.” 

“Some may have no information or very little information, or maybe that information and/or assistance will not help disrupt drug trafficking activities. As, such this really should be for the judge to decide and maybe should be a point to be considered before sentencing.”

In a statement today also condemning the law amendment,  Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said there was little guarantee that the law enforcement agencies and public prosecutor would not abuse such “unfettered and arbitrary power”.
“It is basic that the act of prosecution is an executive function of the state and the office of the public prosecutor shall be strictly separated from judicial functions. Therefore it would be a serious miscarriage of justice if the prosecutor could also decide the mode of punishment, and all the so, the punishment of death,” he said.
By compelling judges to impose a life or death sentence based on the public prosecutor’s certification is an “unnecessary fetter” on their discretion and interferes with judicial independence and justice, Paulsen said.
As of March, there are almost 800 prisoners on death row for drug trafficking offences under Section 39(B), according to Prison Department statistics.

Madpet has called for all death sentences to be commuted to imprisonment. It further calls on the government to impose a moratorium on pending executions and speed up efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty. – November 24, 2017.- Malaysian Insight, 24/11/2017

Media Statement – 24/11/2017

JUDGE’S DISCRETION TO NOT IMPOSE DEATH PENALTY ONLY IF PUBLIC PROSECUTOR GIVES CERTIFICATION IS WRONG

Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017 Meant To Abolish Mandatory Death Penalty And Return Sentencing Discretion To Judges Has Too Many Flaws

MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) welcomes the fact that the Bill to amend Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which has the mandatory death penalty, to now give judges discretion in sentencing, that will allow the imposition of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty has finally been tabled in Dewan Rakyat(House of Representatives). The said Bill, the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017, which has taken a long time, was finally tabled in Parliament on 23/11/2017 for the first reading.

SENTENCING DISCRETION TO JUDGES ONLY WHEN THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR ALLOWS IT

MADPET is disappointed that discretion when it comes to sentencing those convicted for the offence drug trafficking (Section 39B) is not going to be given to judges in all cases. Judges will only get the discretion to impose a sentence other than the death penalty, only if and when the ‘Public Prosecutor certifies in writing to the Court, that in his determination, the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.’(Section 2(b) of the Amending Act)

 

Rightly, it must be Judges and the courts that consider and decide whether one has ‘assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia’.

Before sentencing, judges will usually hear and consider submissions of both the prosecution and the convicted person, and then impose an appropriate sentence. Thus, the question, of whether there was assistance or not could be included as one of the listed matters that should be considered by the Judge before he decides and pronounce the sentence. Some may have no information or very little information, or maybe that information and/or assistance will not help disrupt drug trafficking activities. As, such this really should be for the judge to decide, and maybe should be a point to be considered before sentencing. There may be also other relevant considerations of safety of oneself and/or family as many of these drug kingpins may threaten to cause harm, and Malaysia may not yet be ready to provide the requisite protection to the accused family and loved ones.

It is wrong to give the Public Prosecutor the power to decide who dies and who may live. Remember, that he is also responsible for prosecution in a criminal trial, and the power to the Public Prosecutor to give or not give the written certification is most dangerous. It may also undermine the right to a fair trial.

Now, according to the proposed amending Act, if the Public Prosecutor does not provide this ‘certification’, judges would have no choice but to impose the death penalty. This mandatory requirement for such a ‘certification’ by the Public Prosecutor must be deleted.

NO REVIEW OF DISCRETION OF PUBLIC PROSECUTOR TO PROVIDE CERTIFICATION

Further, it is stated in the proposed amendments that, ‘The determination of whether or not any person has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities shall be at the sole discretion of the Public Prosecutor and no action or proceeding shall lie against the Public Prosecutor in relation to any such determination done by him in good faith, in such capacity’.

Well, that suggests that no one may be able to question or challenge the correctness of the Public Prosecutor’s decision – not even the courts by way of Judicial Review. This invites the possibility of miscarriage of justice, because if there is no required ‘certification’ by the Public Prosecutor, then the said convict will be sentenced to death.

Judicial Review is an essential ‘check and balance’ especially in a Democracy. One should be able to move the court to review even the decisions of the Public Prosecutor. Further, as it is Public Prosecutor, who decides whether to prosecute or not, this issuance or issuance of this ‘certification’ maybe for the wrong reasons, possibly even to ensure that the prosecution wins the case.

The power and discretion when it comes to sentencing must always rest with Judges alone. The existence of appeals to higher courts, helps ensure that there be no errors.

800 OR MORE ALREADY CONVICTED ON DEATH ROW WILL STILL BE EXECUTED?

In March, Minister Azalina said that according to Prison Department statistics, there are almost 800 prisoners on death row for drug trafficking offences under Section 39(B) (Star, 24/3/2017). These would all be persons already convicted.

The new proposed amendments, however, will not help any of these persons, whose trial is over and they have been convicted and sentenced.

The proposed amendment, in Section 3(2) of the proposed Amending Act, states very clearly that new amendments, when it comes into force, will only be used for persons who ‘…has not been convicted under section 39B…’. This means that all 800 or more on death row for drug trafficking will still be executed, unless they are pardoned by the King and/or rulers.

As such, MADPET urges that the sentence of all 800 or more persons currently convicted and on death row be immediately commuted to imprisonment.

MANDATORY SENTENCES CONTINUE TO EXIST

Even with the amendment, there still will be mandatory sentences – Death(if the Public Prosecutor Does Not Certify), and when there is certification, then judges can impose either Death or Imprisonment for Life(plus whipping of not less than 15 strokes). There is no discretion given to judges to impose a lower prison term, but judges seem to have the discretion to order whipping of more than 15 strokes.

With regard persons being tried under Section 39B Drug Trafficking, we know that many of them may have had the drugs for various different reason, knowingly or unknowingly, and some maybe out of desperation because of poverty.

We know that section 37(da) Dangerous Drugs Act states that “…any person who is found in possession of-(i) 15 grammes or more in weight of heroin;(ii)… otherwise than in accordance with the authority of this Act or any other written law, shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, to be trafficking in the said drug.” This and other similar legal presumptions shift the burden of proof to the accused person, and it is most difficult for an accused person, more so if he/she is poor, to prove that the drugs found did not belong to him/her.

Should a ‘fool’ who made one mistake be sentenced to death or life in prison. A mandatory life sentence is also grossly unjust. Judges should be given real discretion even with regard to the length of imprisonment, and as such a mandatory life sentence also needs to be reviewed, and judges should have the discretion to impose lower sentence. There should be lower prison sentences for first time offenders, and higher for repeat offenders. We should be emphasizing rehabilitation rather than a ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ policy.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY OFFENCES?

Malaysia have been studying the abolition of the death penalty, and to date we are only seeing action with regard the drug trafficking. There are so many other offences that provide for mandatory death penalty including crimes that do not result death and/or grievous hurt to victims.

Malaysia needs to speed up at least the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for all offences, and returning sentencing discretion to judges.

MADPET calls

  1. That discretion when it comes to sentencing should be with judges. The proposed pre-condition before a judge can exercise judicial discretion in sentencing, being the written certification by the Public Prosecutor that the convicted has ‘assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia’ should be deleted. Such conditions are unacceptable;
  1. That the death sentence of the 800 or over persons on death row for drug trafficking(section 39B) be forthwith commuted to imprisonment;
  1. That Malaysia speed up its efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty for all offences;
  1. That Malaysia impose a moratorium on executions pending abolition of the death penalty.

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)