Malaysia and Pakistan supports 2018 UNGA Resolution on Moratorium on Executions pending Abolition of Death Penalty

Death penalty: Global abolition closer than ever as record number of countries vote to end executions

After a record number of UN member states today supported at the final vote a key UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Expert Chiara Sangiorgio said:

“The fact that more countries than ever before have voted to end executions shows that global abolition of the death penalty is becoming an inevitable reality. A death penalty-free world is closer than ever.

“This vote sends yet another important signal that more and more countries are willing to take steps to end this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment once and for all.

“The result also shows the increasing isolation of the 35 countries that voted against the resolution. Those countries still retaining the death penalty should immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards full abolition.”

Background

121 of the UN’s 193 member states voted in favour of the seventh resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the UNGA plenary session in New York, while 35 voted against and 32 abstained. 117 had done so in December 2016. This resolution was proposed by Brazil on behalf of an Inter-Regional Task Force of member states and co-sponsored by 83 states.

For the first time, Dominica, Libya, Malaysia and Pakistan changed their vote to support the resolution, while Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and South Sudan moved from opposition to abstention. Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Mauritius, Niger, and Rwanda once again voted in favour of the call for a moratorium on executions, having not done so in 2016.

Five countries reversed their 2016 votes, with Nauru moving from vote in favour to vote against and Bahrain and Zimbabwe switching from abstention to opposition. Congo and Guinea changed from voting in favour to abstention.

When the UN was founded in 1945 only eight of the then 51 UN member states had abolished the death penalty. Today, 103 of 193 member states have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and 139 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In 2017 executions were reported in 22 UN member states, 11% of the total. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. – Amnesty International, 17/12/2018

Thailand – Activist call for abolition of DP – starting with ban on death sentences for female convicts

Rights activists push for ban on death sentences for female convicts

national January 16, 2019 01:00

By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

HUMAN RIGHTS defenders are calling for an end to capital punishment for women as a next step forward to achieving the universal abolition of death sentences in Thailand.

A public forum hosted by the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) on Monday discussed a proposal to ban the death sentence for female inmates in Thailand, and concluded that executing women is not only ineffective in suppressing crimes but also contributes to additional social problems.

Assoc Professor Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, has pushed for the abolishment of capital punishment for all convicts, but acknowledged strong public opinion in favour of retaining the sentence.

A gradual step-by-step approach to abolition would better suit the country, Gothom suggested, adding that it is more practical than going against majority public opinion and abolishing it in one move.

Thailand has already abolished death sentence for pregnant women and youth, so it appears the next step would be to officially end the execution of female convicts,” he said.

“We need a new round of legislative reforms that abolishes the execution of women, just like our current law prohibits the execution of pregnant women and youth.

In addition to an active campaign for legislative reform, he emphasised that human-rights defenders must work on raising public awareness so society can understand the flaws of capital punishment.

Though the execution of women is not common in Thailand – with only three female convicts executed since 1932, with the last being put to death 19 years ago – it is believed neither male nor female convicts are safe from capital punishment under the current political climate.

Last year Thailand was on the verge of being recognised for not carrying out a death sentence for 10 consecutive years. Despite capital punishment still being meted out by judges, no convict had been put to death in Thailand since 2009. However, this record was broken when the authorities executed a 26-year-old male convict on June 18, 2018.

Most countries have stopped carrying out the death sentence. The UCL has been campaigning against capital punishment, as this unacceptable practice is in direct conflict with the basic principles of human rights. The group said Thailand will ultimately find it impossible to go against the global trend.

Also, the UCL noted that putting female convicts to death has proved to be ineffective in maintaining justice in society and has  led to tougher social problems.

Angkhana Neelapaijit, a National Human Rights Commissioner (NHRC), noted that studies on the statistics and backgrounds of female prisoners in Thailand have found that most were sentenced for crimes related to domestic violence and narcotics.

“These crimes were not caused by personal wickedness. Instead, these women were forced by the circumstances, their environment and problems in our social structure to commit these crimes. So killing these women will not solve the problem,” she said.

Hence, she said, the authorities should change their attitude toward the corrections system and prioritise treatment for the wrongdoers and turn them into good citizens, instead of punishing them severely for their crimes.

Human-rights lawyer Natthasiri Bergman emphasised that many women behind bars were breadwinners and mothers, so locking them away or putting them to death greatly affects their families.

Natthasiri also cautioned that keeping these women away from their children forces the young ones to grow without maternal care.

“The impact from the absence of a mother is significant, and can contribute to more crimes, violence and other social problems in the future,” she added. – The Nation, 16/1/2018

 

Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) is a member of ADPAN

JAPAN – Will new ‘plea bargaining’ result in greater miscarriage of justice and even death penalty?

 

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Japanese-style plea bargaining debuts but authorities fear spread of false testimony

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

Japan on Friday introduced a bargaining system as part of an overhaul of its criminal investigation and trial systems, while battling concerns the new practice could encourage suspects or defendants to make false statements that lead to miscarriages of justice.

The new bargaining system, which resembles what is known as plea bargaining in the West, allows criminal suspects to negotiate deals with prosecutors in exchange for information on another criminal.

Prosecutors can reward informants who snitch with a variety of benefits, such as a recommendation for a lighter sentence or a promise to drop his or her case altogether.

Unlike the U.S. plea bargaining system, admitting to a crime does not warrant a deal with prosecutors in Japan. The new system, introduced in a revision to the criminal procedure law, allows suspects in such crimes as bribery, embezzlement, tax fraud and drug smuggling to negotiate with prosecutors. The bargaining only applies to crimes listed in the law, with murder and assault off-limits.

Prosecutors hold most of the bargaining power, barring some specific cases that involve the police, and deals can be made before or after prosecutors file formal charges.

The Japanese bargaining system is unique in that it permits deals only when the accused snitches, said Kana Sasakura, a professor at Konan University who specializes in criminal law.

“Bargaining systems around the world are usually based on rewarding suspects who confess” to a crime, but the revised Japanese law lacks that system and instead focuses entirely on deals between prosecutors and informants to aid investigations, she said.

Prosecutors had been advocating for the introduction of a bargaining system, claiming that changes in criminal procedure law, including a new rule obligating the recording of interrogations in certain investigations, required new and “diverse” ways to obtain evidence.

Yet critics are worried that pressure from prosecutors to cut deals will only reinforce the weaknesses of Japan’s current criminal justice system, which is largely dependent on confessions, unless proper measures are put in place to prevent false testimony and miscarriages of justice.

There will be “a strong incentive to “implicate others to get away with their own crimes or receive a lighter sentence,” said Sasakura. “That does lead to the possibility of wrongful accusations and convictions.”

Indeed, a 2005 report by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law (now Pritzker School of Law) found that, since 1973, more than 45 percent of the wrongful convictions involving men on death row in the United States who were later exonerated were obtained in part through such arrangements.

Also, out of 330 DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., 22 percent involved informant testimony that was used as evidence to convict, according to Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

To prevent suspects or the accused from lying to get a deal, Japan’s revised law penalizes false depositions and obliges defense lawyers to be involved in the bargaining process. If depositions are found to be false, those giving them will face up to five years in jail.

But critics are skeptical these measures would be enough to prevent fabrications.

Penalizing false depositions could “make it harder for informants to retract what they said,” Sasakura pointed out. Instead of discouraging false statements, the penalty may instead push informants to stick with their story even if it’s false, she explained.

Getting lawyers involved doesn’t guarantee false statements won’t be made, either.

Defense lawyers might find themselves in an ethical dilemma — whether to fight for their client’s best interests by making a deal or to see justice served, said Yuji Shiratori, a professor at Kanagawa University who specializes in criminal procedure law.

The lawyer of the informant “won’t have access to the information needed to make a justified decision about the ‘other case’ (involving an accomplice) and decide what is best for the client” when considering whether to bargain with prosecutors, he added.

“There are measures to deal with individual issues arising from the introduction of the bargaining system. But upon closer examination of such steps, it’s hard to say they would do enough” to prevent miscarriages of justice, Sasakura said.

Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor and current lawyer at Gohara Compliance and Law Office in Tokyo, insisted it is necessary to record people’s statements to detect the false ones.

Fabricated statements usually change over time to fit objective facts, so “it’s very important to know whether any ex post facto tweaks to the story have been made” to assess whether the informant’s account is false, he said.

However, given that the bargaining process won’t be recorded, it will be hard to judge whether a statement is false, he added.

Since informants, defense lawyers and prosecutors all have a stake in ensuring the depositions of suspects or defendants are true, it may make the Japanese criminal justice system more prone to wrongful convictions, Gohara also said.

Sasakura, the professor at Konan University, pointed out that the reliance on confessions and statements is a distinct aspect of the Japanese criminal justice system.

Behind Japan’s wrongful convictions is an “underlying mentality that confessions and statements are the most reliable piece of information,” sometimes more so than scientific and objective evidence, she said.

In the past, Japanese investigators “forced suspects to confess by applying pressure and conducting torturous interviews,” said Gohara. With the new system, the prosecutors will try to make them speak up in return for benefits.

“The way prosecutors try to make suspects or defendants speak may change, but the reality (of the confession-based justice system) won’t,” he added. – Japan Times, 31/5/2018