Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network

Death penalty: How many countries still have it?(BBC)

Death penalty: How many countries still have it?

  • 14 October 2018
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Image copyright Getty Images

Claim: Some 170 States have either abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium on its use.

Verdict: According to Amnesty International in 2017, 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

The UN Secretary General António Guterres marked the World Day Against the Death Penalty by praising the efforts of countries to end the practice.

He said “170 States have either abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium on its use.”

A moratorium is an agreement to suspend a policy or action.

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So, is he right?

The UN Secretary General’s report on the death penalty presented to the Human Rights Council in September this year says that “some 170 States have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice, or have suspended executions for more than 10 years.”

As the UN has 193 members, this implies that 23 states carried out at least one execution in the past decade.

The UN says these figures are compiled from information provided by member states as well as civil society.

However, Amnesty says that 142 countries have either abolished the death penalty in law or in practice and that in the past five years 33 countries have carried out at least one execution.

Amnesty collects its statistics using official figures, media reports and information passed on from individuals sentenced to death and their families and representatives.

Four countries were responsible for 84% of executions in 2017 (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran). That doesn’t include China, where the statistics are a state secret. Amnesty estimates that China carries out thousands of executions each year.

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Methods of execution in 2017 were beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

The human rights organisation recorded at least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries in 2017. But in some cases the death sentences will be commuted, where countries are reluctant to enforce the punishment.

According to Amnesty there are:

  • 106 countries where use of the death penalty is not allowed by law
  • 7 countries which permit the death penalty only for serious crimes in exceptional circumstances, such as those committed during times of war
  • 29 countries which have death penalty laws but haven’t executed anyone for at least 10 years, and a policy or more formal commitment not to execute
  • 56 countries which retain death penalty laws and either carry out executions or the authorities have not made an official declaration not to execute

(Amnesty includes five non UN-member countries. Thailand included for an execution carried out in 2018).

The Malaysian government followed the secretary general’s comments with an announcement that it intends to abolish the death penalty.

About 1,200 people are thought to be on death row in Malaysia, where the punishment is given for offences including murder, drug trafficking and treason. The parliament will consider a bill at its next session.

If Malaysia does abolish the death penalty, it would follow Guinea and Mongolia, which ended the practice in 2017. The Gambian president Adama Barrow announced a suspension earlier this year. The Guardian reported that the death penalty was last used in Gambia in 2012.

In June, Burkina Faso’s parliament adopted a new penal code which abolishes the death penalty. At the end of 2017 there were 20 countries which have abolished capital punishment in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to Amnesty.

In total 23 people were executed in the US last year. Washington state became the 20th to ban the death penalty in October 2018. The state’s Supreme Court found that the punishment was applied in an “arbitrary and racially biased manner”.

The number of countries which have formally abolished the death penalty has been steadily increasing, from 48 in 1991 to 106 in 2017. In recent years the number of countries which carry out executions has also gradually declined.

Countries that carried out executions between 2013 and 2017:

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Botswana, Chad, China, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand (2018), United Arab Emirates, USA, Vietnam and Yemen. (Due to ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria, Amnesty International is not able to confirm that judicial executions were carried out in these countries).

The 21 countries that did not carry out an execution in those years despite not having abolished the death penalty:

Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guyana, Jamaica, Lebanon, Lesotho, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Zimbabwe. – BBC, 14/10/2018

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

Death penalty to deal heavier blow on the poor —UN special rapporteur

Death penalty to deal heavier blow on the poor —UN special rapporteur

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said Thursday that the poor would suffer the brunt of death penalty, which is proposed to be revived in the Philippines.

“Death penalty, even when it is officially applied, is a punishment that affects much more severely those who are not well-off financially,” Alston said in a video message presented at the National Congress Against the Death Penalty held in Pasig City.

“They are the ones who are least able to defend themselves, they are the ones who are unlikely to be able to get a decent lawyer, who are not going to be able to challenge the judicial system,” he added.

Arguing against the idea that the re-imposition of death penalty would deter crimes and give more teeth to the law, Alston said it might actually lead to “a dramatic weakening of the rule of law,” especially when the power to take lives is vested upon the “unrestricted hands” of few people.

He noted that there are two classifications of death penalty.

“You have formal penalty, meaning legally-sanctioned, state-administered killing where an individual goes through the legal process and is finally condemned to death, and then the sentence is carried off,” he said.

“But we also have what we can call an informal, unofficial death penalty and that’s even more traumatic in its consequences,” he added, noting that state-sponsored vigilante killings fall under this category.

The spate of killings in the Philippines, both during police operations and  summary executions, amid the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs have seized the attention of local and international human rights advocates.

President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly said he is ready to answer and die for his campaign which he said only aims to protect the Filipino people and the generations to come.

During his fourth State of the Nation Address, the President also urged Congress to reimpose death penalty in the country for crimes related to drugs and plunder.

Four lawmakers filed death penalty bills in the Senate—focusing on offenses involving illegal drugs, plunder, and other heinous crimes.

Both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) expressed support to the President’s agenda, saying that capital punishment will “add more teeth to the crusade against crime, drugs, and corruption.

Alston, however, said that based on the experience of various countries he visited around the world, killing has not been a proven panacea for problems on illegal drugs.

“The flashy killing of significant number of people might achieve other government objectives but it does nothing in terms of eliminating long-term drug problems,” he said. LBG, GMA News

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