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)

Death penalty reforms must be an opportunity for positive human rights change — Amnesty International Malaysia

Friday November 3, 2017
05:34 PM GMT+8

ICYMI

 

NOVEMBER 3 — Amnesty International Malaysia welcomes the statement by the Malaysian government outlining its efforts  to amend Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and to provide courts with the discretion to spare lives when imposing the death penalty. The organisation encourages the Government of Malaysia to ensure that the proposed amendments will fully remove the mandatory death penalty and establish a moratorium on all executions as first critical steps towards abolition of the death penalty.

The announcement comes after a parliamentary reply by Law Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said on 30 October 2017,  stating that the first draft of the amendment has been completed by the Attorney General’s Chambers and is awaiting the approval of the cabinet.

The organisation also welcomes the support of the Attorney General, Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali  in giving the discretionary power to the judiciary in drug-related offences in a statement made on 31 October.

While Amnesty International believes that these amendments is a step in the right direction, the organisation hopes that these amendments will be implemented in a manner that is effective and far-reaching.

The organisation renews its call on the Malaysian authorities to abolish the mandatory death penalty for all offences and restrict the scope of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes”, which do not include drug-related offences. International law prohibits the use of the mandatory death penalty and restricts the use of the ultimate punishment, in countries where it has not yet been abolished, to intentional killing.

Amnesty International Malaysia is in fact concerned that the statement of the Attorney General suggested that the death penalty legislative amendments, as currently drafted, would introduce limited sentencing discretion only for those found guilty of transporting prohibited substances. Amnesty International’s analysis of the impact of similar reforms implemented in Singapore since 2013 indicate that the introduction of limited sentencing discretion that fell short of fully abolishing the mandatory death penalty has done little to improve the protection of human rights.

In its report  Cooperate or Die; Singapore’s Flawed Reforms to the Mandatory Death Penalty, Amnesty International found that  the mandatory death penalty continues to be extensively imposed in Singapore, and that drug trafficking continues to involve the great majority of the death sentences imposed in the country. In cases where information is available, the burden of the death penalty once again appears to fall on those with less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and convicted of importing relatively small amounts of controlled substances.

The amendments also introduced a new section in the Singaporean Misuse of Drugs Act, giving courts discretion to sentence persons to life imprisonment, if found guilty of drug trafficking or importing prohibited substances over certain amounts if they can prove their involvement in the offence was restricted to that of a “courier”; and if the Public Prosecutor issues a “certificate of substantive assistance”, confirming that the convicted person has substantively assisted in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

This not only narrows the court’s discretionary powers considerably, it violates the right to a fair trial as it places life and death decisions in the hands of an official who is neither a judge nor a neutral party in the trial and should not have such powers.

It is our hope that the Malaysian authorities will make the ongoing legislative reforms on the death penalty a meaningful opportunity to improve the protection of human rights and adopt a comprehensive approach on its policies on the death penalty.

Pending abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International Malaysia renews our call on the authorities to establish a moratorium on all executions. The government had stated that as of April 30, 2016, 1,042 people comprising 629 Malaysians and 413 foreign nationals were sentenced to death due to murder, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking or kidnapping; Sixteen (16) death row inmates have been executed since 2010 in Malaysia.

Even with plans to amend laws and rulers granting pardon to death row inmates, Amnesty International Malaysia still calls for the total abolition of the death penalty as it is proven multiple times not to have a unique deterrent effect on crimes, and violates the Universal Declaration of Human rights, including the right to life and the right to live free from torture.

It is in this context that Amnesty International Malaysia welcomes the pardon by the Sultan of Perak on November 1 of  two prisoners, who have been imprisoned for more than 16 years. Death row prisoners are usually kept in solitary confinement once their sentence has been imposed.

In a country where information on the use of the death penalty is not publicly available, the announcement of the pardon is a positive development which the organisation hopes it can be replicated to allow for greater transparency and more commutations of death sentences.

Background

Mandatory death sentences leave courts no option but to condemn drug  offenders and those convicted of murder to the gallows. Drug trafficking does not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international human rights law.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organisation considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International calls for the government’s urgent intervention to halt all executions and to broaden the scope of the proposed reforms to encompass all capital offences; and to abolish the automatic presumptions of drug possession and trafficking allowed under Section 37 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952 as initial steps.

Amnesty International has ranked Malaysia tenth in the use of the death penalty among 23 countries that carried out capital punishment last year.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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