UNGA Resolution 2016 -24 of OIC’s 57 member states voted in favour, 13 abstained and 18 voted against

The resolution adopted on Dec 19, 2016 was backed by 117 states, while 40 voted against it and 31 abstained.
South Asia maintained its fondness for the death penalty as Pakistan joined Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Maldives in rejecting a universal moratorium, while Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka voted in favour.
24 of the OIC’s 57 member states voted in favour of the moratorium, while 13 abstained and only 18 voted against. The Muslim states that voted against were: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Those who abstained included: Bahrain, Came­roon, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, and the UAE.

The love of hanging

PAKISTAN chose to vote against the recent resolution in the United Nations General Assembly that had called for a global moratorium on the death penalty and was adopted by a majority of member-states.

The gist of this resolution has been adopted by the UN General Assembly every two years since 2007. The resolution adopted on Dec 19, 2016 was backed by 117 states, while 40 voted against it and 31 abstained. As against the voting pattern in 2014, the new supporters of the moratorium call were Guinea, Malawi, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Swaziland.

South Asia maintained its fondness for the death penalty as Pakistan joined Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Maldives in rejecting a universal moratorium, while Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka voted in favour.


Pakistani authorities have an aversion to any scrutiny of the rationale for retaining the death penalty.


Those who defend the death penalty as a principle enjoined by Islam may look at the division among the Muslim states (the category includes all members of the OIC).

Those voting in favour of a moratorium included: Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kazakh­stan, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Suriname, Togo, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Those who abstained included: Bahrain, Came­roon, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and the UAE.

The Muslim states that voted against were: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

We find that 24 of the OIC’s 57 member states voted in favour of the moratorium, while 13 abstained and only 18 voted against. In other words, Pakistan is in the minority group of 18 OIC member-countries that opposes the moratorium.

It is for Pakistan’s government and its Islamic scholars to ponder as to why a majority of the OIC members do not find any faith-based bar to the acceptance of a moratorium on capital punishment. They may also consider the possibility that, as in the case of some international treaties, reservations expressed in the name of religion are in fact dictated by the culture or custom of the countries concerned.

What is more distressing for human rights activists, abolitionist groups and promoters of humanitarian laws in Pakistan is the authorities’ aversion to any scrutiny of the rationale for their love of the death penalty regime.

What one hears of references to the death penalty during the Universal Periodic Review or at talks with the European Union on the GSP+ status is not the result of any serious deliberation. Indeed, one doubts if any discussion on the subject has ever taken place in Pakistan. That there is an urgent need for such a discussion can easily be established.

The recent cases in which the Supreme Court acquitted two individuals who had already been executed, or ordered the release of persons who had spent long years on death row, have strengthened the call for abolition of the death penalty on the ground of high risk of miscarriage of justice. A number of other issues that have surfaced over the past many years also need to be addressed. These are:

• The view that the death sentence is not a deterrent to crime has not been challenged nor has the view that hangings brutalise society.

• The Qisas law has prevented the president from pardoning death convicts or commuting their sentence although his power to do so under Article 45 of the Constitution remains intact. How does one explain the fact that the army chief can pardon a person awarded the death sentence by a military court while the president cannot do so?

• The scholars agree that Islam prescribes the death penalty in only two instances. How does the state defend the fact that capital punishment is prescribed for 27 offences in the name of religion?

• The judiciary has pointed out the problems it faces in cases in which capital punishment is mandatory if the evidence on record warrants a lesser penalty.

• The possibility of a minor or a mentally challenged person being executed keeps cropping up every now and then.

One ventures to suggest a look at the Indian response to the issue of the death penalty in view of the shared legal tradition.

The Law Commission of India recommended in August 2015, vide its Report No. 262, that “the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war”. The commission agreed to retain capital punishment for certain offences in view of the parliamentarians’ plea that “abolition of death penalty for terrorism-related offences and waging war will affect national security”, although in the commission’s view “there is no valid penological justification for treating terrorism differently from other crimes.”

The commission noted the significant steps taken during India’s decades-long efforts to restrict the use of the death penalty: removal of the requirement of giving special reasons for awarding life imprisonment instead of death (1955); introduction of the requirement of imposing the death penalty (1973); and the Supreme Court’s decision that the death penalty should be restricted to the rarest of rare cases (1980). The conclusion reached by the commission was:

“Informed also by the expanded and deepened contents and horizons of the right to life and strengthened due process requirements in the interactions between the state and the individual, prevailing standards of constitutional morality and human dignity, the commission feels that time has come for India to move towards abolition of the death penalty.”

During the latest debate in the UN General Assembly, however, India again voted against the resolution calling for a moratorium although it could have shown some respect for the Law Commission’s recommendation by abstaining. Which only goes to show that, in developing countries, state policies are often determined by authorities that are too timid to disturb the status quo or too proud of their conservatism to heed the counsel of experts who are conscious of the call of the age.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2017

Asean Moves Boldly To End Death Penalty (Bangkok Post, 10/10/2016)

# This was an opinion of Seree Nonthasoot, Thailand’s representative to the AICHR, that was published by the Bangkok Post.

To mark World Day Against the Death Penalty today, Thailand and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have reason to revisit and recommit efforts to abolishing capital punishment.

Much work remains to be done. Thailand, which has not executed anyone for seven years, and a few other Asean countries with capital punishment continue to hand down the death penalty on drug-related offences, which is unlikely to deter crime. It is the ultimate denial of the right to life and a violation of fundamental human rights.

Of the world’s 198 countries, 102 have legally abolished the death penalty for all crimes. An additional 32 countries are abolitionist in practice since they have not executed anyone in the last 10 years and they have a policy or commitment not to carry out executions. Six countries reserve the death sentence only for the most serious crimes of culpable homicide and murders. Of the 58 countries that have not abolished the death penalty, just 25 carried out executions in 2015. However, of those 25 exceptions, four are member states of Asean. Thailand is not among them.

Though the death penalty is still on our statutes, no one has been executed since 2009. However, we still have prisoners sitting on death row and, following a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court in July, those on death row may be held in shackles permanently.

Thailand is among the first group of countries that voted in 1948 to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 3 of the UDHR states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”, while Article 5 confirms that “no one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

About half of those on death row in Thailand and a few other Asean countries are convicted of drug-related crimes. In accordance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a party, the death penalty should only be applicable in the case of the most serious crimes. Drug offences hardly fall under that category. I therefore support the initiative by the Thai Ministry of Justice to embark on the reform of drug offences such as those related to methamphetamine.

Crime determent has always been the rationale for handing down the death penalty. Empirical data proves this wrong. For example, drug use has been steadily on the rise in the region despite the death penalty. This clearly indicates that capital punishment does not work as a deterrent and it is time to reconsider it.

Studies carried out in different countries paint a consistent picture. The overwhelming majority of people who end up on death row are poor and not well-educated. They cannot afford proper legal counsel. Many, such as migrant workers, do not even understand the charges of which they are accused.

Further, many drug offenders are duped in the first place. They are executed for crimes they were not even aware of committing, often without even knowing the kingpins who planned their downfall. Once they are prosecuted, drug barons can easily recruit other vulnerable groups who are not aware of the grim fates they will be facing.

To tackle crime, we need to find ways to reduce it. Thailand’s National Human Rights Plan of Action (2014-2018) which outlines a plan to abolish the death penalty is a promising step. It suggests an opportunity and an obligation for civil society to work harder to influence this movement and to do more to develop a regional aversion to the taking of life by the state. But much needs to be done.

At the regional level, Asean governments have formally set the community on a bold and clear 10-year direction of being “people-centred, people-oriented” as well as rule-based. What is happening now seems to be the opposite. We are seeing thousands of people in the region being summarily and extra-judicially executed for allegedly being involved in drug crimes.

A lesson from this alarming phenomenon is the dynamics of politics that can equally lead to progress or regress. We cannot afford to be complacent; even countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and have thus committed themselves to abolishing the death penalty can create fanciful ways to bypass that obligation and institute state-instructed and inspired programmes to kill their own people.

I welcome the recent formation of the Coalition on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Asean (CADPA) among like-minded persons and groups to campaign for the end of the death penalty. CADPA has launched a campaign called “End Crime, Not Life”, aiming to raise public awareness of the difficulties with the application of the death penalty and to focus on improving criminal justice systems. It is time for all of us to stand up for a justice system that punishes offenders in a fair and appropriate manner. The region’s people-centred and people-oriented vision must be underpinned by its drive towards abolishing the penalty.

# Seree Nonthasoot is Thailand’s representative to the AICHR. This article expresses his personal views.

Source: Bangkok Post, 10/10/2016

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: