5th World Congress against the Death Penalty – 12-15 June 2013

Over 1,500 participants met in Madrid  to discuss death penalty developments and abolitionist strategies. The 5th World Congress against the Death Penalty  invited government officials,  civil servants, international experts, NGOs, activists, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, ADPAN members, former death row prisoners and families of people sentenced to death from over 90 countries.

ADPAN meeting World Congress 2013 2

During this 5th World Congress, an ADPAN meeting was held  on 12 June. Attended by the ADPAN coordinator and over 30 members, ADPAN discussed a World Congress in Asia, setting up ADPAN in the region and requested  more work on unfair trials.

On 14 June , Professor Roger Hood, Professor Emeritus of Criminology at the University of Oxford,  opened the Asia Plenary Session introducing five speakers:  Sosormaa Chuluunbaata , Policy Adviser to the President of Mongolia, Yug Chaudhry, lawyer, ADPAN member from India;  Otto Nur Abdullah, former President of the National Commission of Human Rights, ADPAN member,  Indonesia; Maiko Tagusari, lawyer, ADPAN member and Director of Center for Prisoners’ Rights and Parvais Jabbar,  Executive Director, Death Penalty Project and ADPAN member.

In a Workshop on China held on 14 June,  three Chinese lawyers who are ADPAN members,  Teng Biao, Liang Xiajun, Liu Weiguo, described  their experience as  lawyers defending clients in a jurisdiction which is unable to guarantee a fair trial and in the absence of an independent bar association. Former Minister of Justice from France, Robert Badinter opened the Workshop.

ADPAN gained members at the Congress and its work as a cross regional  network was raised as important  to support the challenge facing abolitionists  from the region. Despite recent set backs in Asia-Pacific and other parts of the world,  the Congress showed once again that the abolitionist movement worldwide is gaining momentum.

The Congress sent a powerful  moral and political message for abolition to retentionist countries.

The 5th World Congress, organised by Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) in partnership with the World Coalition against the Death Penalty supported by the governments of France, Norway and Switzerland, and hosted by the government of Spain, closed on Saturday 15 June.

The next 6th World Congress  is likely to be held in a retentionist country.


NEWSFLASH – INDIA – Resumption of Executions

21 November 2012

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) condemns the execution of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national, who was hanged in Yerwada prison, in Pune City on 21 November.

Kasab was sentenced to death in May 2010. He was convicted of 80 charges including committing acts of terrorism and criminal conspiracy to commit murder. His final appeal for mercy was reportedly rejected by the President Pranab Mukherjee on 5 November.

This execution also ends an eight-year-long unofficial moratorium on executions in India; the last execution took place in August 2004. Yug Chaudhry a lawyer, who has been outspoken on Ajmal Kasab’s case, said, “Executing Kasab in the name of the Indian people will only feed a base instinct for retribution that will make our society more vengeful and violent.  It will not contribute to our safety or well-being in any way”.

There are currently over 300 people on death row in India and this latest execution is now a concern for 16 persons on death row whose appeals are awaiting clemency before the President.

This execution also comes only two days after the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted a fourth draft resolution calling on all states to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing it. The General Assembly will be voting on the resolution in December.

ADPAN, whose members in India includes MASUM, Lawyers for Human Rights International, The Peoples Union for Civil Liberty and Amnesty International India, opposes the death penalty in all cases, and calls upon the Indian  government to place an immediate moratorium on all executions, to commute all death sentences and to work toward full abolition of the death penalty for all crimes.

Navi Pillay speech on ‘moving away from the Death Penalty.’

Statement of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at the OHCHR-Global Panel on “Moving away from the Death Penalty – Lessons from national experiences”,  3 July 2012, New York.

Distinguished delegates, Representatives of civil society, Colleagues, and friends,
I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you, and thank you for participating in this event organized by my Office on “Moving away from the death penalty – Lessons from national experiences.”

The global trend and position on the death penalty have evolved over the years. An increasingly large number of Member States from all regions have acknowledged that the death penalty undermines human dignity, and that its abolition, or at least a moratorium on its use, contributes to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights.

There is no right more sacred than the right to life.  Since the beginning of my mandate, I have engaged in a dialogue with many States on this issue. During my recent country missions, I had encouraging discussions with senior officials about abolishing the death penalty or imposing at least a moratorium on it.  In addition, my Office works at the national level to stimulate the debate, including through seminars which provide a forum for a core group of scholars and practitioners that come forward with convincing arguments in favor of the abolition of the death penalty.

With regard to retentionist States,  international law requires as a minimum full compliance with the clear restrictions prescribed in particular in article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). According to this provision, its application shall be limited to the “most serious crimes. ” It should be recalled that this term has been interpreted to mean that the death penalty should only be applied to the crime of murder. Therefore, in those States that have not yet abolished the death penalty, the use of capital punishment for drug offences or for offences carried out in connection with transnational organized crime is prohibited if the offences in question do not involve a taking of life.  Furthermore, the death penalty cannot be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.

States that have maintained the death penalty must ensure scrupulous respect of due process guarantees. The imposition of a death sentence upon conclusion of a trial in which the provisions of article 14 of the ICCPR have not been respected constitutes a violation of the right to life.  Those accused of capital offences must be effectively assisted by a lawyer at all stages of the proceedings.  Furthermore, executions should not take place when an appeal or other recourse is pending, and there must be the possibility for the individual concerned to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.

Non-compliance with the principle of non-discrimination is also a major concern when considering the application of the death penalty.  A death sentence is often imposed on less privileged individuals who do not have sufficient access to effective legal representation.  Membership of a minority has often been identified as a significant factor in the decision that led to the sentence of death and execution.  In addition, due regard is often lacking for the UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of those Facing the Death Penalty, approved by ECOSOC in 1984,  which  prohibit the carrying out of the death penalty on persons “who have become insane.”

Methods of execution should meet the standards of “least possible physical and mental suffering.” Otherwise, the execution will constitute a violation of freedom from torture, inhuman or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is difficult to think of a humane method of executions that can meet these criteria. Also troubling are the length and conditions imposed on individuals on death row.

Judges often complain that executive stipulations of mandatory sentences of death for specific crimes, is an interference on judicial discretion to determine the appropriate sentence. The sentence of death is so grave that it should not be mandatory. Nor can it be carried out in secret, which would make it amount to inhuman treatment of the executed person’s family.

A key obligation to bear in mind for any State that has itself abolished the death penalty is not to expel, extradite or otherwise remove from its jurisdiction individuals who face a real risk of a death sentence and execution in the country to which they are removed, without ensuring that the death penalty would not be carried out. Extradition or other transfer to such a country accordingly requires the procurement of effective guarantees or assurances to the effect that, at a minimum, the death penalty, if imposed, will not be carried out.

Finally, it should be recalled that the lack of data with regard to the number of executions or the number of individuals on death row is a serious impediment to any national debate that may lead to a move towards abolition of capital punishment in a given State . It will also be important for the effectiveness and transparency of such a debate to ensure that the public is provided with all sides of the arguments and with information and accurate statistics on criminality and the various effective ways to combat it, short of the death sentence.

Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is interesting to note that in the early 1960s, when drafting the Covenant, its authors were already paving the way for the move in international law towards the abolition of the death penalty.  The last paragraph of article 6 of the ICCPR provides that “nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or prevent the abolition of capital punishment in any State party to the Covenant”. This move, which materialized in 1989 through the adoption of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights, to-date ratified by 74 States, is also reflected in a number of regional instruments supporting the abolition of the death penalty. I call upon States that have not yet done so to ratify the Second Optional Protocol, or as a strict minimum to place a formal moratorium on the use of the death penalty until they are ready to work towards its abolition.
I am grateful to panelists that have come from all parts of the world to share their experience with us today, in particular regarding the process of transition from capital punishment to abolition, or their experience, at times close or personal, of injustice related to the imposition of the death penalty.

I wish you a rich and fruitful discussion.