Maldives – ADPAN and Ors say, ‘ immediately halt plans to carry out the execution of Hussain… ‘

JOINT STATEMENT

17 July 2016

Maldives: Resumption of executions after six decades would be a major setback for human rights

We, the undersigned organizations, are alarmed at recent statements by members of the Maldives government, including President Abdullah Yameen, indicating that the country will resume executions imminently. We urge the authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on all executions as a first step towards full abolition of the death penalty. The Maldives should maintain its commendable six-decade-long track record of not carrying out any executions.
Since 2012 Maldives has changed its position from voting against UN General Assembly resolutions calling on states to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty to abstaining. We hoped that this signalled the beginning of the country’s journey to rid itself of this punishment once and for all. This would have been consistent with the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty which continues unabated, despite a recent significant increase in the number of recorded executions in a handful of countries. In 2015, the majority of the world’s countries became abolitionist for all crimes following the repeal of the death penalty from national legislation in Congo (Republic of), Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname. Nauru abolished the death penalty this year and abolition processes are being finalized in Guinea and Mongolia.
In Maldives, however, authorities have since 2014 taken steps to resume executions, including by amending national legislation. New regulations, among other steps, have seen the following changes:
Introduction of lethal injection as the method of execution, which was subsequently changed again to hanging in June 2016;
Removal of the power from the executive to grant pardons or commutations of death sentences in murder cases, depriving those facing the death penalty of the right to apply for these as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Maldives is a state party; and
Shortened time frame for appeals in capital cases, which risks undermining the prisoners’ right to adequate time to prepare their appeal.
Government officials have also pledged that executions should happen within 30 days of the confirmation of guilty verdicts by the Supreme Court.
If Maldives resumes executions, it would not only go against the global trend towards abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, but it would also be in violation of Maldives’ obligations under international law. We are concerned that several international and national safeguards that must be observed in all capital cases were breached in the recent case of Hussein Humaam Ahmed, who was convicted for the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali, a sitting MP, in 2012.

Humaam on 24 June 2016 became the first person to have his conviction and death sentence upheld by the Maldives Supreme Court after the recent legal reforms. Our concerns include the fact that Humaam retracted a pre-trial confession, which he has insisted he made due to fear for the safety of his family members, but the trial court nevertheless took into account this “confession” in its guilty verdict.

Furthermore, claims by Humaam and his family that he has a mental disability which directly affected his capacity to support his legal representatives in the overall effectiveness of his defence were ignored during his trials. No independent psychiatric evaluation of Humaam has taken place as far as his family or legal representatives are aware. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence on 24 June 2016 despite the victim’s father and brother asking to delay the implementation of the death sentence of Humaam, citing an “incomplete investigation” into the circumstances of his murder. Humaam’s execution may be imminent.
There are at least a total of 17 prisoners on death row in Maldives, all of whose lives are at risk should the authorities resume executions. In early July 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another murder convict, Ahmed Murrath, meaning his execution could also be imminent.
It is also concerning that the Maldivian authorities are citing the resumption of executions as a necessary measure to prevent crime. Studies have consistently failed to show that the death penalty is more of a deterrent to crime than other forms of punishment.
We urge the Maldivian authorities to immediately halt plans to carry out the execution of Hussain Humaam Ahmed and to commute his, and all other, existing death sentences in Maldives. These, together with the establishment of a moratorium on all executions, must be the first, urgent steps towards full abolition of the death penalty.
Co-signed by:

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (Iran)
Amnesty International
Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, ADPAN
Association Justice and Mercy, AJEM (Lebanon)
Embrey Human Rights Program (Southern Methodist University-Dallas, Texas)
Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme, FIDH
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative
German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Greater Caribbean for Life
Hands Off Cain
Human Rights Law Service (Nigeria)
International Commission of Jurists (Kenyan section)
International CURE
Iran Human Rights
Italian Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Lawyers For Human Rights International (India)
Lutte pour la justice (France)
Lifespark (Switzerland)
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, MADPET
Ordre des Barreaux francophones et germanophone de Belgique
Parliamentarians for Global Action
Reprieve
Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, TAEDP
Think Centre (Singapore)
World Organisation Against Torture, OMCT

Taiwan:- Interview with Lin Hsin-yi of TAEDP (ADPAN member)

INTERVIEW: Fighting for the Innocent on Death Row in Taiwan

Why you need to know

‘There are records of the torture – no one can believe it, but it happened, it is very serious.’

Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡), executive director the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP), believes that at least three people who are currently on death row in Taiwan are innocent.

The organization and the lawyers it works with have reviewed all of the judgments in which the death penalty has been handed down over the past 15 years. In addition to the three cases identified so far, Lin says there is reason to believe there have been many more miscarriages of justice.

In an interview with The News Lens International at TAEDP’s Taipei office, Lin discusses the difficulties activists and lawyers have in gaining access to case records, why pressure from local activists and international diplomats has failed to change government policy, and details TAEDP’s new strategy for influencing the government.

The News Lens International (TNLI):To start with, how many people in Taiwan currently face the death penalty?

Lin Hsin-yi: Right now there are 41 death row inmates, where the death sentence was confirmed. If the Minister of Justice signs the execution order, they can be executed at any time.

TNLI: What is the process that the Minister of Justice takes, after a final Supreme Court decision, before signing an execution order?

L.H-Y: There is no law to say that he or she has to sign the execution order. The only rule is if he or she signs the order, the execution must take place within three days.

There is no law that says once the sentence is finalized then the execution must happen. The Minister of Justice, he or she can decide not to sign the execution order.

TNLI: I would like to come back to the current Minister of Justice later on, but first can you talk about how Taiwan uses the death penalty in comparison to other countries in Asia?

L.H-Y: We just went to Oslo for the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty – the biggest congress for abolitionists. People think that in Taiwan the situation is not so bad compared to Southeast Asia or even Japan, because the execution number is not increasing – maybe it’s decreasing a little – and we don’t use the death penalty for drugs and terrorism.

TNLI: Just to clarify, that is because under international law, the death penalty should only be for the most serious harmful crimes, and drugs aren’t considered part of that?

L.H-Y: Yes, that is right.

Transparency in Asia is not good – not only in Japan and Taiwan, but also Southeast Asian countries. We don’t know much about the death row inmates. For example, in Taiwan and Japan, the government will not tell the family or the lawyer when the execution will happen. In Southeast Asia, it is very difficult for them to meet with death row inmates.

For us, we have had a moratorium for four years. You can see that from 2000 – when power switched for the first time from KMT to DPP – the president, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), first announced Taiwan is going to abolish the death penalty gradually. The moratorium started in 2006. In 2008, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that Taiwan would follow the international human rights standards. In 2009, we passed the two [international] covenants, so that it become our domestic law. From that trend, Taiwan was going towards abolishing the death penalty.

According to the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], if a country ratifies the ICCPR it means that you are going towards abolishing the death penalty. Currently, in Taiwan, the politicians will say ‘the ICCPR says we can only use the death penalty for the most serious crimes, but it did not say we could not execute people.’

It is very ironic. We have already had a moratorium and signed the ICCPR. The government had given a commitment. But then, after that, the executions reopened in 2010.

TLNI: Obviously, the public sentiment over crime was a factor when the executions restarted. What is your view on why the majority of Taiwanese support capital punishment?

L.H-Y: Actually, we did a public opinion survey in 2014. You can see that there is a problem with the surveys; mostly, they make a phone call and ask one or two questions about whether you support the death penalty. Usually, this kind of survey takes place after some serious crime. Of course, most people will say ‘I support the death penalty.’

We decided to survey with [Academia Sinica]. We interviewed more than 2,000 people, with a very long questionnaire. The major finding is: if people have more information about the death penalty, they will be more against it.

My view on: ‘Why does the public want the death penalty so badly?’ It is because the government did not provide more information. The government says, ‘We cannot abolish the death penalty because of public opinion.’ But from my view, the public opinion is not ‘we want the death penalty.’ If you analyze the survey very carefully, you will understand that public opinion is more complicated. The government should do the research and give an alternative to the public. They haven’t tried to have a strategy, a policy, a real alternative.

TNLI: Following the release of your survey results, has there been growth in support for the death penalty abolition movement in Taiwan?

L.H-Y: We released the survey at an international conference, and we plan to release more analysis on it, but it is not published yet. We did provide the information to the Minister of Justice, but the impact was not big.

Our plan for next year is to have more grassroots, local discussions about this. For the people around Taiwan, most people they don’t really think about this question. We will have 30 or 40 events all over Taiwan. We will go to places where maybe they haven’t had this kind of discussion before. We will not just discuss “should we have the death penalty or not,” we will discuss the alternatives – like life sentence without parole, or life sentence with the chance of parole after 25 years. From the survey, we know that if people have an alternative, they will choose that.

Right now, we are discussing how to make the survey easier to understand. We don’t want to publish an academic book. It is a pity that the release of that report didn’t have much impact on the government or the public, but we will use the survey to do more.

TNLI: We have gone from the KMT to the DPP-led government, they have only been in charge for a short time, but what are the early signals from the DPP on this issue?

L.H-Y: The Minister of Justice, Chiu Tai-san (邱太三), has not said anything clearly [on this issue]. He seems more focused on prison reform and the national judicial reform.

Of course the President and the Minister of Justice are important, because they have power, but we also have a new congress. I think the new lawmakers are much more willing to deal with these questions – maybe not [the question of] abolishing the death penalty right now, but they will consider prison reform and the alternatives [to the death penalty].

TNLI: You mentioned judicial reform. In terms of how this applies to the death penalty, have there been miscarriages of justice in Taiwan, and if so what are the problems in the system that causes these results?

L.H-Y: Last year we reviewed all the [Supreme Court] death penalty judgments from 2000, 75 cases and 68 judgments – in some cases there were two death row inmates.

Right now we are working on three cases – within the 41 current death row inmates – and we believe they are innocent.

Chiou Ho-shun (邱和順), he was in detention for 23 years then his death penalty was confirmed in 2011. He is now 56, which means half his life he has been in prison, for a crime we believe he didn’t commit. The Control Yuan, [Taiwan’s ombudsman], says that the police tortured him. There are records of the torture – no one can believe it, but it happened, it is very serious.

Another case is Cheng Hsing-tse (鄭性澤). He was charged with [the 2002] killing a policeman in KTV [karaoke bar]. We found evidence he too was tortured. This year his lawyers asked for a retrial, and that was successful. It is now in the retrial process, so the case is basically reopened. This time the prosecutors are on our side, they believe he is innocent too.

TNLI: If the prosecutors now think he is innocent, who is making the case against him, how is there a retrial?

L.H-Y: It is something new for us, too. This is a very strange situation, the prosecutors and [defense] lawyer are on the same side. But the victims’ families have lawyers.

TNLI: And the victims’ families still want to prosecute?

L.H-Y: Yes. For them, if was not Cheng Hsing-tse, then who? They have believed for 14 years that he murdered the policeman. We hope that from the court hearing and the evidence we provide, maybe they will understand.

TNLI: And the third case?

L.H-Y: The third is Hsieh Chih-hung (謝志宏). There were two offenders, and they were both sentenced to death. We don’t think there is enough evidence to show they committed the crime together, but he was at the crime scene, he was there.

This case is weaker than the other two. The first two have very clear evidence of torture, but the third one the torture is not so clear. We have found out some things, but it is a more difficult case.

TNLI: So you have suspicions he was tortured during the interrogation?

L.H-Y: Yes, but in the first case we have the record, the second we have the photos and the doctor’s records, the third one is not so clear.

TNLI: These are three cases out of 41, and you mentioned earlier the difficulty in accessing people on death row. Looking around this office, you have three full-time employees and some interns. You obviously don’t have endless resources to look at all the cases. Do you think that if you could look closely at other cases you find more issues as well?

L.H-Y: Yes. Let me explain a little of our background. We were formed in 2003, there were only volunteers. Since 2006, we have co-operated with the Legal Aid Foundation, and since then we have had more information about the cases. We know their names, we know where they are and we started to communicate with the death row inmates.

In 2007, we had our first fulltime staff, me. The way we work is, when we have a case we find a lawyer and money is paid by the Legal Aid Foundation – not very much, but it helps.

If we can start to help them from the beginning, then maybe the decision of the trial will not be so bad. But because of our resources, we can only help the urgent ones when they are facing execution, and the lawyers can help them with a constitutional review, or a retrial or an ordinary appeal.

Recently, we have done more lawyer training. In Taiwan, the lawyers do not do a lot of training in international law.

And now we try to work on the cases from the start of the process. If we see a murder in the news, we try to connect with the Legal Aid Foundation to see if [the accused] has a lawyer. If he doesn’t have a lawyer, we try to arrange a team of three lawyers to work on the case.

We hope that if we work from the beginning then we will not have a death sentence.

TNLI: So you are able to offer better support to the more recent cases?

L.H-Y: Yes. But still we right now, for every confirmed [death penalty] case, we have a lawyer to review the older files.

But some cases are very old, we try to get files from the Ministry of Justice but [the files] are not good enough. Some lawyers want more records and information about investigations – records of interrogations. The papers may say everything is good, but if you listen to the sound recording it is different.

TNLI: The lawyers are finding differences between the written records and what was actually said? And the Ministry of Justice won’t provide all the original recordings?

L.H-Y: Some [requests for recordings] were successful, some were not. For the lawyers who are dealing with the old cases, it is not that easy to find enough information to prove a case was wrong.

I believe there are a few cases that have a chance [the accused] was innocent, but we don’t have enough information.

Of course, there are other cases where they are not innocent, but still the death sentence is not the sentence for them. So we can still find a lot of problems in the old cases.

TNLI: You have these 41 cases, and at any time, essentially, the Minister of Justice could sign the execution warrants. Under the previous Minister of Justice, who was pushing these death warrants and why?

L.H-Y: You must know Cheng Chieh (鄭捷), the MRT case, and the execution.

When a final death sentence is confirmed, normally there will be time for the lawyers to appeal. For the MRT case, when the Supreme Court gave the final decision of the death sentence it issued a press release [leading to the death warrant signed and the execution quickly carried out]. Usually, it takes more than ten days or one month, and then, when the lawyer gets the final judgment, they can do something.

I don’t think there is really public pressure. Of course someone will say, ‘He should be executed immediately.’

TNLI: This is the victims’ families, their lawyers?

L.H-Y: No, just people. This was the first time this kind of case happened in Taiwan, so people are worried about it. For other cases – murder over money, arguments, love – we know the reason. For the MRT case, we don’t know the reason.

TNLI: These are the so-called random killings?

L.H-Y: Yes, people are worried about that. So people say the trial must be quick and he must be sentenced to death and executed.

At this time though, we knew there was a new Minister of Justice coming in one month. [Then-minister] Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪)] did not have to do this.

TNLI: The criticism at the time was Luo was trying to gain popular support, so the final decision in these cases has become politicized?

L.H-Y: Yes. It was not necessary for her; she has no chance to be appointed to any [future] position from the government.

In the other executions, when a case is finalized there is a prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice who will give the suggestion to the Minister of Justice that one should be executed.

You can see from 2010 to 2015, every year we have one execution [round] where four of five people are executed. There is always a political reason. It is always following a political issue – Ma Ying-jeou wanting to save his public support.

TNLI: Do you think, given public support for executions, this will make it difficult for the new minister of justice?

L.H-Y: In Europe, they abolished the death penalty because of political will. At that time, the public opinion supported the death penalty, but the politicians led. In Taiwan, this is impossible, because the politicians will not go against public opinion, because they are so afraid of losing votes.

This is why we really want to talk to the public. We know that only public opinion can help us to impact the politicians. But right now, about 80% of people support the death penalty. But as I say, if they have an alternative they may change their opinion. That is why we are trying to discuss with the public to change their ideas.

TNLI: Every time there is an execution the European Union representatives in Taiwan and others in the international community write papers and try to lobby the government. What impact does that have?

L.H-Y: I think it helps. Take the 2010 executions. At that time, the Minister of Justice, Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫), executed four people and said he was going to execute 44. Then the E.U. lobbied and used all the diplomatic tools, and then it was stopped at four, not 44. I think it really helped.

Maybe after that, each time the affect is not so strong because the government gets used to it. Still, if the E.U. said nothing about this, I think the [Ma] government would have executed more people.

They are not only critical of the government, but they try to help. They have judicial exchange programmes with our judges, which I think is very good. Judges won’t listen to lawyers or NGOs, but they will listen to other judges.

TNLI: Finally, after the most recent of the so-called “random” killings, some commentators pointed to issues surrounding how mental health is treated in the judicial system. Do you think this is also important in discussions about the death penalty in Taiwan?

L.H-Y: Yes. We do training to help the lawyers to argue this issue in the court. But right now judgments on mental issues are not very consistent; there are two opposite opinions on this from the court.

Another problem is the testing of mental problems. So we are trying to talk to the doctors and to the lawyers and try to discuss what the best way is to approach this issue.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole

Source:- The NewsLens, 11/7/2016

 

** Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) is an active member of ADPAN

Malaysia: Minister explains delay in abolishing death penalty

Nancy explains delay in amending death penalty law

Masjaliza Hamzah Published Today 9:18 am Updated Today 9:38 am

 

At Malaysia’s presentation of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report at the United Nations in Geneva in 2013, one of the recommendations which had substantive amount of support was for Malaysia to put a stop to executions.

At least 18 states – including Norway – raised concerns about the death penalty and made recommendations for Malaysia to establish a moratorium on executions, as well as take steps to eliminate mandatory death sentences.

In response, the Malaysian government delegation stated it was studying the “issues arising from the imposition of [the] death penalty”, with the view of making recommendations on ways forward.

According to Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 report on Malaysia, official statistics listed 33 executions carried out between 1998 and 2015.

In a written reply to a question by Bukit Gelugor parliamentarian Ramkarpal Singh in May, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said there were 1,041 death penalty inmates as of May 16 this year.

Mandatory death sentence is applied to those convicted of drug-trafficking, firearm offences, murder, and treason.

In November last year, attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali had called mandatory death penalty a “paradox” because it takes away a judge’s discretion in imposing sentences.

In late 2012, International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-Cells) was tasked with providing a comprehensive review of the laws and practices on death penalty in Malaysia.

According to Nancy, the research group appointed Roger Hood, emeritus professor of criminology from Oxford University, as consultant in 2014.

When asked why the study took more than three years, Nancy admitted it took a long time but said it was fair because the review was “very thorough”.

“They (the researchers) went back in history to the 1800s. They looked into every aspect of the law, the history, why the law was made in such a way.

“That’s why, according to them, it took so long. They finished only about two months ago,” Nancy told Malaysiakini at the sidelines of the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, on June 22.

The minister said it was important to ensure the recommendations put forth by cabinet echo public opinion on the matter.

“If you see cases that happened in Malaysia, especially the victims’ families, they always want an eye for an eye … So it becomes a challenge for the country.

“It’s better to get a proper study to be done professionally and see whether this (amending) is something that the Malaysians can accept because we want to be at par with others as well.

“And not only that, we are talking about a human being, even though talking about what the accused or the perpetrator had done to the victim, it is very difficult for the government to just take away what (punishment) is already there.

So therefore … we feel that we need to go back to the court but still, we need to see what is the outcome of the study on legislative reforms, whether they (the recommendations) include that or not,” she said.

Make study public

The NGOs are urging the government to release the study.

“The study and recommendations must be made public,” said Hector.

For regional grouping Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan), Malaysia going on record in front of its UN peers that it was carrying out a study adds another layer of accountability.

“It is only prudent that the report be made public now that it is completed,” said Adpan executive member Ngeow Chow Ying.

Nancy said it was about timing.

“I cannot pre-empt it because we have to present to cabinet but I believe there shouldn’t be any problem (to share the study with the public) because it is an academic study to propose to the government what is best.

The minister herself has not read the contents of the study.

“I have not seen it (the study) because it is only I-Cells and the AG’s Chambers (which are involved). Once they have prepared the recommendation paper, I will be the one (to read it), the person to table to cabinet.

“But of course it will be up to the government to take which part of the recommendations that the government feel is suitable for Malaysia to pick up,” she said. Adpan was confident that recommendations from I-Cells’ leader Hood, whose scholarship on death penalty is known globally, would reflect international standards.

“Prof Roger Hood is an authority on this issue and he is a strong abolitionist; his recommendations will be to abolish the death penalty. The report is to be tabled to cabinet for approval. It will be a test on our politicians,” said Ngeow.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu added: “Death penalty reforms have been bandied about since 2010. Six years on, it is good to note that some progress has been made and we hope that the government will heed international calls to abolish the death penalty in its entirety.”

 

Yesterday: Gov’t should not wait to amend law, say anti-death penalty groups