Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network

Bangladesh – Execution during Covid-Pandemic

Bangladesh Hangs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Killer Abdul Majed on Sunday(12/4/2020) during the Covid pandemic – see news report below.

Capital punishment in South Asia amidst Covid-19

Professor Pritam Singh

April 12, 2020

The three major South Asian countries – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – may pretend to be very different from each other or might even have some geo-political tensions between them but all three share one obnoxious cultural and social similarity that there is almost a public consensus in the three countries on having capital punishment or death penalty for some crimes in their legal systems.

Last month, four men who were found guilty of the horrific rape crime in Delhi in 2012 were hanged to death in a Delhi prison. It has been recently reported that in Bangladesh, the President of the country has rejected the mercy plea of Abdul Majed who has been sentenced to death for his involvement in a military coup in 1975 in which Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh, was assassinated. With this last hurdle removed for his hanging, Mr Majed is likely to be executed very soon.

Given the widespread cultural acceptance of the death penalty in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, raising objection to capital punishment may seem unacceptable but with the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 when human beings are being killed in thousands all over the world, it is worth considering whether these legal killings have any meaning. Should human beings be killing other human beings whether through wars, border conflicts, terrorist actions, ‘encounter’ killings, sectarian massacres, armed insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, lynchings or death penalties when the whole of humanity is collectively under threat from this terrible virus? All these different forms of human beings killing other human beings seem to lose all significance in the context of the coronavirus threat.

Those who favour retention of death penalty consider that this acts as a deterrence against heinous crimes. Bringing a legal change as was done in India after that horrific rape in 2012 to make the rape crime punishable by capital punishment has not acted as a deterrence against rape crime in India. According to one estimate, women are still raped in India at the rate of one every twenty minutes. The historical experience from all over the world shows that capital punishment has nowhere acted as a deterrence against any activity which is made punishable by the death penalty. It does not make any difference whether the execution takes place through hanging as done in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh or a lethal injection in jail as one of the methods used in the US or beheading in Saudi Arabia, to take a few examples.

Life imprisonment is a better course of action than the death penalty for those rare crimes for which capital punishment still exists in the legal system. Life imprisonment keeps the possibility open for repentance by the guilty and perhaps to gain better understanding of the nature of their crime. This may result in developing more informed ways to deal with that crime. There are examples in history where hardened criminals during their incarceration repent for what they have done and go through total transformation. Capital punishment puts an end to this possibility. Jailing for life allows the possibility for reformation.

It is also worth keeping in mind that there are examples where it emerges after the execution that the person executed did not deserve to be executed. The recent ongoing revelations about the activities of the Kashmir police official Davinder Singh raise serious doubts about whether Afzal Guru, who was executed in 2013 really was guilty of what he was accused of. There have been doubts also about whether Kehar Singh’s role in Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 by her security guards Beant Singh and Satwant Singh was such that it deserved the death penalty.

Execution is an irreversible act. Life imprisonment opens the possibility of reversing the judgement if later evidence is found that the basis of the earlier judgement was flawed. There is the famous Birmingham Six case in the UK where six men, all Roman Catholics from Northern Ireland, were sentenced in 1975 to life imprisonment for what was claimed by the prosecution as their participation in Birmingham pub bombings in 1974 which had resulted in 21 deaths. The prosecution had claimed that the bombings by the six men were organised by the Irish Republican Army, the paramilitary organisation that had been carrying an armed campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland and to unite both parts of Ireland to create a united independent Ireland. The Court of Appeal in 1991 quashed their conviction and all six were set free. Had they been executed in 1975 instead of imprisoning them, a terrible act of injustice would have taken place. The six men were later awarded compensation ranging from £840,000 to £1.2 million for all the suffering they had gone through for having been falsely implicated and imprisoned for 17 years.

Another consideration, apart from the fact that capital punishment has never acted as a deterrence for acts such as rape and murder, is the effect on those who have to administer it. In this context, a friend of mine has brought to my notice the work of the famous British barrister, novelist and playwright John Mortimer. Mortimer had acquired special fame in dealing with divorce cases and he recalled one case he had dealt with in which it came to light that the male party, whose sexual predilections were unspeakably gross, was a part-time hangman. Mortimer reflecting on this case had remarked that if the system of capital punishment relied on monsters like that administering it, there must be something wrong with the system. John Mortimer was a lifelong opponent of capital punishment. Apart from the hangmen, all others who are involved in the act of execution suffer everlasting psychological damages with harmful and multiplier implications for everyone in their lives.

The death sentence leads to complacency in society by cloaking over the underlying responsibilities that society has for dealing with the causes that lead to serious crimes.

According to Amnesty International, which campaigns worldwide for abolishing the death penalty, at the end of 2018, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, and 142 countries constituting more than two-thirds of all the countries in the world, had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Of the 56 countries that still retain the death penalty law, an overwhelming majority are from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Among the developed countries, only USA and Japan have the death penalty, and even there the public opinion is moving in the direction of opposition to death penalty. It is time that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh also move in this direction of doing away with the death penalty. As we are passing through an exceptional period of loss of lives due to the coronavirus pandemic, the heightened importance of saving lives and not ending them may trigger a cultural change in these three South Asian countries in favour of abolishing the death penalty law.

The writer is Visiting Scholar, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, UK.

Those who favour retention of death penalty consider that this acts as a deterrence against heinous crimes. – The Nation, 12/4/2020

Bangladesh Hangs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Killer Abdul Majed Who Was Captured After Hiding In Kolkata For 23 Years

Bangladesh Hangs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Killer Abdul Majed Who Was Captured After Hiding In Kolkata For 23 Years   

Campus24live dot com 

Abdul Majed, a sacked army captain and one of the convicted killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first president of Bangladesh, has been executed at the Dhaka Central Jail, Dhaka Tribune reported.

“The convict was hanged at 12:01am Sunday,” Inspector General (Prisons) Brigadier General AKM Mustafa Kamal Pasha said. He added that other concerned officials including a magistrate, police representatives witnessed the execution as required by the law.

This was the first case of the execution since Dhaka Central Jail was relocated in Keraniganj.

Earlier on Thursday, President Abdul Hamid rejected Majed’s petition for presidential clemency, filed by the convict’s lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajol on April 8.

On Friday, some family members of Abdul Majed were permitted to meet him at Dhaka Central Jail where he had been kept in solitary confinement on death row.

Majed’s remains are said to have been buried at his in-law’s family graveyard in Sonargaon.

According to a local report, defying the coronavirus lockdown, a number of people emerged in front of the jail at midnight.

Majed was sent to the jail hours after he was arrested in Dhaka on Tuesday (Apr 7).

“Majed said he arrived in the country on March 15 or 16 from Kolkata. He claimed that he was hiding there for about 23 years,” The Daily Star quoted Hemayet Uddin Khan, assistant public prosecutor as sating.

Majed was one of the six remaining fugitive killers of Bangabandhu believed to be hiding abroad with no confirmed whereabouts.

Majed served in Bangladesh Embassy in Senegal. He retired from Bangladesh Army in 1980 and joined the civil administration as a Deputy Secretary. He worked at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation, Ministry of Youth and Sports as the director of youth development and also in the National Savings Directorate.

Majed disappeared in 1997 after Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was voted Prime Minister of Banglades. In 1998, he was sentenced to death on the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman case by a trial court.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and almost his entire family were killed during the early hours of 15 August 1975, when a group of Bangladesh Army officers went into his residence and assassinated Sheikh Mujib as part of a coup.

The assassination conspirators could not be tried in a court of law because of the Indemnity Act passed by the government under President Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad. But act was removed when Awami League stormed back to power in 1996 paving away for the criminal trial of assassins.

In 1998, a Dhaka court ordered the death sentence by firing squad to fifteen out of the twenty accused of conspiring in the assassination.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on November 19, 2009 upheld the death penalty of 12 convicted ex-army officers for the assassination.

Five of the convicts – Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Mohiuddin Ahmed – were hanged on January 27, 2010. Another convict, Aziz Pasha, met a natural death in Zimbabwe in 2001. – Swarajya, 13/4/2020

29 years on death row, Pakistan woman suffers mental illness

29 years on death row, Pakistan woman suffers mental illness

KATHY GANNON
Associated Press
1 / 2

Pakistan Death Row

FILE – In this July 8, 2006 file photo, women prisoners celebrate the news of their release on bail, at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Kanizan Bibi, charged with murdering her employer’s wife and five children, remains a prisoner on death row for the last 29 years. She’s one of more than 600 mentally ill prisoners in Pakistan’s overcrowded prisons. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed,file)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Kanizan Bibi was 16 when she was charged with murdering her employer’s wife and five children. The police said she was having an affair with her employer, who was also arrested and later hanged.

Until his execution in 2003, Khan Mohammad swore he and Bibi had never had an affair and had not killed anyone. He maintained his wife and children were killed as payback in a long-running land dispute with his relatives.

Yet Bibi, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2000, remains on death row, where she has been for 29 years.

The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide is spearheading efforts along with the independent Justice Project Pakistan to get Bibi released. But the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down most of Pakistan seems to have also shut down Bibi’s chance at freedom.

She’s one of more than 600 mentally ill prisoners in Pakistan’s overcrowded prisons. A March 30 hearing to present yet another psychiatric evaluation was postponed when courts closed.

Most days Bibi can barely dress herself. She hasn’t spoken in more than a decade and her father, before he died in 2016 pleaded in a letter to Pakistan’s president to free his only child.

“My daughter was accused of murder, which was a lie,” he wrote telling of how she was tortured in police custody.

“They hung her from a fan with ropes thicker than her tiny wrists, beating her small frame with all their might. They let mice loose in her pants, which they tied from the ankles so that they could not escape. Kanizan had been terrified of mice her whole life,” he wrote. “I am a poor man and I beg that the death sentence of my daughter be converted into life in prison.”

He never received a reply.

Justice Project Pakistan this week warned of a steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Pakistan’s crowded jails. The Supreme Court of Pakistan this week agreed to release some mentally ill and disabled prisoners to ease conditions, but only those whose sentences are less than three years.

That meant Bibi had to remain in prison.

A land dispute between relatives was at the center of her case. Her employer’s cousins had been feuding with him over land and had originally been arrested for the murders. They pointed to Bibi and accused her of adultery, a crime of shame in conservative Pakistan, saying that’s why she killed her employer’s wife and children. In villages adultery can bring summary executions by family members.

Bibi was accused of involvement in the killings and charged with murder. Unsubstantiated adultery claims and a confession elicited after days of torture were enough for the judge to sentence her to death.

Delphine Lourtau, who heads the Cornell Center on Death Penalty Worldwide said the group’s research showed that women often aren’t just punished for crimes they are being charged with “but also for transgressing gender norms.”

Lourtau said three decades on death row have taken a severe toll on Bibi.

“She has lost touch with reality and is oblivious to her surroundings. There are days when she is unable to eat or dress herself. She trembles, hears voices, and is rarely able to recognize family members,” the Cornell Center said.

___

This story has been corrected to show that the employer’s name was Khan Mohammad, not Sher Mohammad. – Yahoo News, 10/4/2020

Pakistan – Poor And Marginalised Suffer Disproportionately From Capital Punishment

Pakistan: Poor and marginalized suffer disproportionately from capital punishment

08/10/2019
Report
In a new report issued today, FIDH and its member organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), detail the systemic bias faced by the poor and marginalized with regards to the death penalty in Pakistan. The report, published ahead of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October), urges the Pakistani government to reform the criminal justice system to eradicate the procedural and policy issues that are among the primary causes of high rates of capital convictions and executions for the most vulnerable members of society.

 

The report, titled “Punished for Being Vulnerable: How Pakistan executes the poorest and the most marginalized in society”, is based on an investigation the two organizations carried out in November 2018 to examine the issue of capital punishment in Pakistan. The investigation focused on fair trial rights for defendants accused of capital offenses, detention conditions on death row, the conviction and execution of juveniles, and the toll the use of the death penalty takes on convicts’ families. A disturbing theme emerged throughout the course of the investigation: lower economic classes and other vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by the deficiencies of Pakistan’s criminal justice system.

“It is highly concerning that those at the margins of Pakistani society are more likely to be convicted of capital offenses. While the death penalty violates the most fundamental human rights wherever it is used, in Pakistan its discriminatory application is particularly egregious” –Shawan Jabarin, FIDH Secretary General.

 

The way Pakistan’s criminal justice system currently operates – from police investigations, to prosecutions, to trials – results in the most vulnerable segments of society being much more likely to confess to crimes under duress, be prosecuted in unfair trials, and sentenced to death. They face an insurmountable systemic bias, which leaves them even more susceptible to violations of due process and at risk of being executed.

“There is an urgent need for the Pakistani government to address the numerous failures of the criminal justice system, not only to move Pakistan towards complete abolition of the death penalty but also to promote a system that respects fair trial rights for all.” –Dr Mehdi Hasan, HRCP chair

 

Capital punishment in Pakistan also entails significant and long-lasting harm for family members of those on death row, including socioeconomic impacts. Convicts tend to be their families’ breadwinners, and legal processes – which can last for years – can impose crippling costs. Furthermore, the ordeal can inflict psychosocial anguish. The wife of a death row prisoner expressed the effect of her husband’s imprisonment on her: “[My husband] has been in jail for 27 years. He is being punished inside the jail and I am being punished outside the jail.”

While executions in Pakistan have decreased in recent years, the country remains one of the world’s top executioners. Between the end of a moratorium on executions in December 2014 and August 2019, close to 1,800 death sentences were imposed across the nation’s court system and 520 people were executed. Thirty-two offenses remain punishable by death in Pakistan, including for many offenses that fail to meet the “most serious crimes” threshold under international law. – read more at FIDH website

Poverty is a capital offence

 

Access to justice is a fundamental right of all. But a recent report jointly authored by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says that in Pakistan, the poor are on the receiving end of the criminal justice system.

And therefore the poor are more likely to receive capital punishment – a grim reality, expected to come under sharper focus on the World Day Against the Death Penalty observed yesterday.

The report, which looks into the record of capital punishment in Pakistan, points out that “lower economic classes and other vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by deficiencies in Pakistan’s criminal justice system”.

The poor who face charge of capital crime, invariably face “insurmountable systemic bias, which leaves them even more susceptible to violations of due process at the risk of being executed”.

The obstacles they encounter on way to receiving a fair trial are: financial costs, socio-economic inequality, distant courts, lack of information and complexity and requirements of judicial process. Their predicament gets compounded when justice mechanism is corrupt, inefficient and out of reach. Also, the system of investigation as it exists today in Pakistan leaves the vulnerable segments of society with no other option but to confess, and get sentenced to death.

Do the poor of Pakistan have a chance to escape this misfortune’ Given robust commitment to human rights, it is possible and the most result-oriented action should be a big ‘No’ to execution. And if that’s not possible then ask for a moratorium on executions. Otherwise, the legal system as it prevails would keep Pakistan earning notoriety of being one of the world’s top executioners. Therefore, in the words of HRCP chairman Dr Mehdi Hasan, not only Pakistan should opt for abolition of the death penalty but also help promote a system that respects fair trial rights for all.

Given serious security challenges confronting Pakistan and the incurable socio-cultural tradition of exacting revenge the call to abolish capital punishment is likely to remain unheard. Until very recently we had military courts to deliver justice to terrorists, only because the normal legal system was incapable of generating required deterrence against terrorism.

Of course there is controversy among a section of people against these courts, but the reality cannot be denied that the system did succeed to a large extent in curbing the menace of terrorism. Perhaps, the full-doze of 30-year imprisonment as capital punishment, as proposed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, may obviate the need for execution of the convict.

But here we are talking about the ordinary poor who are not terrorists but face the fate of terrorists just because they are poor and an unprivileged segment of society.

To improve their access to justice, not only the legal tools, information and services need to be upgraded but it also requires a holistic approach based on human rights principles. No less important is the report’s argument that capital punishment in Pakistan also entails significant and long lasting harm for members of those on death row. In most of the cases, the convicts happen to be their families’ breadwinners and the long legal processes tend to impose crippling costs on their families.

What the FIDH-HRCP joint report brings to light is indeed a compelling cause for action. Unfortunately, the question whether or not this is doable has no easy answer.

For the poor and unprivileged to have access to fair trial and equal justice the entire system is required to be thoroughly overhauled. As of present, the entire legal system is almost irretrievably stuck in the hundred years old, worn out rut. The law as prevails, was enacted to protect the tree of state instead of worrying about its leaves.

Justice as a fundamental right remains an ever-receding mirage for the poor of Pakistan.

The report is indeed well intentioned, but it should have gone a step further by offering a kind of concrete action plan, particularly on issues like timelines of investigation and the court proceedings and largely prohibitive costs of legal services. – Business Reporter, 11/10/2019

 

Pakistan: Poor And Marginalised Suffer Disproportionately From Capital Punishment

Pakistan: Poor and marginalised suffer disproportionately from capital punishment

In a new report issued today, FIDH and its member organisation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), detail the systemic bias faced by the poor and marginalised with regards to the death penalty in Pakistan

Lahore (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 7th Oct, 2019) In a new report issued today, FIDH and its member organisation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), detail the systemic bias faced by the poor and marginalised with regards to the death penalty in Pakistan. The report, published ahead of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October), urges the Pakistani government to reform the criminal justice system to eradicate the procedural and policy issues that are among the primary causes of high rates of capital convictions and executions for the most vulnerable members of society.

The report, titled “Punished for Being Vulnerable: How Pakistan executes the poorest and the most marginalised in society”, is based on an investigation the two organisations carried out in November 2018 to examine the issue of capital punishment in Pakistan. The investigation focused on fair trial rights for defendants accused of capital offences, detention conditions on death row, the conviction and execution of juveniles, and the toll the use of the death penalty takes on convicts’ families. A disturbing theme emerged throughout the course of the investigation: lower economic classes and other vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by the deficiencies of Pakistan’s criminal justice system.

“It is highly concerning that those at the margins of Pakistani society are more likely to be convicted of capital offences. While the death penalty violates the most fundamental human rights wherever it is used, in Pakistan its discriminatory application is particularly egregious,” said FIDH Secretary General Shawan Jabarin.

The way Pakistan’s criminal justice system currently operates – from police investigations, to prosecutions, to trials – results in the most vulnerable segments of society being much more likely to confess to crimes under duress, be prosecuted in unfair trials, and sentenced to death.

They face an insurmountable systemic bias, which leaves them even more susceptible to violations of due process and at risk of being executed.

“There is an urgent need for the Pakistani government to address the numerous failures of the criminal justice system, not only to move Pakistan towards complete abolition of the death penalty but also to promote a system that respects fair trial rights for all,” said HRCP Chair Dr Mehdi Hasan.

Capital punishment in Pakistan also entails significant and long-lasting harm for family members of those on death row, including socioeconomic impacts. Convicts tend to be their families’ breadwinners, and legal processes – which can last for years – can impose crippling costs. Furthermore, the ordeal can inflict psychosocial anguish. The wife of a death row prisoner expressed the effect of her husband’s imprisonment on her: “[My husband] has been in jail for 27 years. He is being punished inside the jail and I am being punished outside the jail.”

While executions in Pakistan have decreased in recent years, the country remains one of the world’s top executioners. Between the end of a moratorium on executions in December 2014 and August 2019, close to 1,800 death sentences were imposed across the nation’s court system and 520 people were executed. Thirty-two offences remain punishable by death in Pakistan, including for many offences that fail to meet the “most serious crimes” threshold under international law.

This report follows up on a previous joint FIDH-HRCP report, “Slow march to the gallows: Death penalty in Pakistan”, published in January 2007. – Urdu Point, 7/10/2019

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