10 October 2012
Asia has seen many positive developments over the past decade towards abolishing the death penalty, but significant challenges still remain in a region that executes more people than the rest of the world combined, the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) said.
On this World Day against the Death Penalty, ADPAN is calling on all governments that carry out executions to establish a moratorium on its use.
Despite the still unacceptable number of executions in Asia, there have been several positive trends in the region over the past decade since the first World Day in 2003.
General public awareness has led to a greater level of debate and transparency. This year, Singapore – known for its harsh drug laws – announced that it would be introducing legislation later this year giving judges greater discretion in sentencing those convicted of drug offences under its mandatory death penalty laws, while Malaysia is also considering reforms to its mandatory death penalty for drug couriers.
In 2010 Mongolia’s President announced the establishment of an official moratorium on all executions and ratified the 2nd Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Amnesty International’s Mongolia section, a member of ADPAN, welcomed the decision, calling it “a basic requirement in safeguarding the value of human life.”
But the abolitionist movement still faces major obstacles. In 2010, Taiwan’s Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng was forced to resign when she tried to insist on extending the informal moratorium on the death penalty, following an outcry from victims’ families.
Japan, after not executing a single person in 2011, has executed seven people this year, most recently on 27 September. The lack of transparency in the Japanese justice system adds to concerns about potentially unfair trials.
Failures of justice in trials across Asia continue to result in the execution of the innocent.
On this World Day ADPAN has highlighted the case of Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani textile worker who in 2004 was sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug offences. Despite overwhelming evidence of Zulfiqar’s trial being far from fair and impartial – he was denied access to a lawyer, frequently beaten in detention, and a key witness statement showing his innocence was rejected by the court – he now faces execution.
ADPAN covered other failures of justice in death penalty trials across the region in its reports issued in 2011, “When Justice Fails: Thousands Executed in Asia after Unfair Trials”, including the use of the mandatory death penalty for drug offenders.
Recent developments in India, such as the Supreme Court upholding Ajmal Kasab’s death sentence, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, have led to a renewed debate about the death penalty in the country. India is now also at real risk of resuming executions after not having executed anyone since 2004.
ADPAN is an independent network made up of lawyers, NGOs and civil society groups working for an end to the death penalty across the Asia Pacific region.
Robert Godden, Asia-Pacific Campaign Coordinator, Amnesty International <email@example.com> (+852 2385 7513)
Louise Vischer, ADPAN Coordinator, <firstname.lastname@example.org> (+44 207 413 5656)