SINGAPORE: Proposed change a welcome step

Government needs to do more to abolish mandatory death penalty for all crimes

Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) welcomes the Singaporean Government’s move towards putting an end to the mandatory death sentencing for drug trafficking and homicide cases, and the moratorium on executions in place until proposed changes in the law are enacted.

Mandatory death sentences are prohibited under international law and Amnesty International therefore calls on the Government of Singapore to abolish mandatory death sentencing unconditionally.

Mandatory death sentences prevent judges from exercising their discretion and from considering all extenuating circumstances in a case.  International human rights law prohibits mandatory death sentences as they have been found to constitute arbitrary deprivation of life and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.  Many courts and judicial bodies around the world have ruled mandatory death sentencing as unconstitutional.

These proposed changes are key in saving the lives of those who are currently in death row in Singapore, particularly the case of Malaysian Yong Vui Kong, who is facing imminent execution.  Yong Vui Kong, who was 19 years old when arrested in 2007, was given a mandatory death sentence for possession of 47g of heroin, which under Singapore’s existing laws amounted to drug trafficking and warranted mandatory death penalty.  Yong Vui Kong was a courier and has identified in a police statement the alleged mastermind of the operation who instigated him to transport the controlled drugs to Singapore.  The charges against the Singaporean alleged to have masterminded the crime have been withdrawn.   Yong Vui Kong’s case has attracted international attention and concern from the diplomatic community.

Amnesty International and the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) joins local groups in Malaysia and Singapore in calling for the Singaporean Government to commute Yong Vui Kong’s sentence.

ADPAN is a cross-regional independent network made up of NGOs, lawyers and activists from 24 countries that are committed to working for an end to the death penalty in their own countries and across the Asia Pacific region.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, believing that the death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.  Amnesty International and ADPAN understand the devastating impact of violent crime and sympathizes with victims of crime and their families.  However, there is no evidence to demonstrate that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.  Victims of crime are doubly victimised by unfair trial procedures which can result in the innocent being executed and the real perpetrators never being brought to justice.

PAKISTAN: Open Letter – Urgent Request to halt the execution of Behram Khan

Ref: ASA 33/006/2012

28 May 2012

President Asif Ali Zardari

Pakistan Secretariat

Islamabad, Pakistan

Dear President,

OPEN LETTER:  TO URGENTLY REQUEST A HALT TO THE EXECUTION OF BEHRAM KHAN 

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) and Amnesty International (AI) calls on you to take steps to halt the execution of Behram Khan, to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolition and to commute all death sentences.

Behram Khan is scheduled to be executed on 30 June 2012. This would be the first execution in Pakistan in almost four years and the first under your government. It would end your administration’s welcome policy, announced in 2009, of moving Pakistan closer to the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. The execution of Behram Khan would reverse the hard fought progress made in Pakistan and possibly open the door to more executions. Only you as President can halt this execution.

Behram Khan was sentenced to death by an Anti-Terrorism Court on 23 June 2003 for the murder of lawyer Mohammad Ashraf. On 15 April 2003 he had come to the Sindh High Court to kill Qurban Ali Chauhan, a lawyer for a man accused of killing Behram Khan’s maternal uncle. Mistaking him to be Qurban Ali Chauhan, Mr Khan killed Mohammad Ashraf. A sub-inspector of police, Pir Bux, who accompanied Mr Khan to the court, was given a life sentence.

As you will know, appeals against his death sentence were turned down by the Sindh High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and a final mercy petition turned down by you, as President. On 10 May, the Anti-Terrorism Court issued a final death warrant for Behram Khan’s execution on 23 May and you issued a stay postponing his execution until 30 June.

The Anti-Terrorism Courts established in 1999 “for the purpose of providing for the speedy trial of the cases” undermine the rights to a fair trial.  The Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 has been changed various times since, but ADPAN has noted some remaining concerns in its report describing unfair trials in death penalty cases across Asia, When Justice Fails, Thousands Executed in Asia after Unfair Trials, ASA 01/023/2011. A copy of this report is attached with this letter. These concerns include the very restricted public access to the courts, as well as ‘the requirement for trials to be completed within seven working days, putting judges under extreme pressure to convict.’

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and without exceptions. ADPAN is an independent regional network comprising lawyers, NGOs and civil society groups from 24 countries including Pakistan.  It campaigns for an end to the death penalty across the Asia-Pacific region.

We welcome the fact that no executions have been carried out in Pakistan since late 2008, but death sentences continue to be imposed, with at least 313 handed down in 2011. Over half of all those sentenced to death in 2011 were found guilty of murder, while others were convicted of drug trafficking and rape to kidnapping for ransom. Three were sentenced to death for blasphemy, but no one has ever been executed for blasphemy. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that over 8,300 people are currently on death row.

The resumption of executions after almost four years would place Pakistan in opposition to regional and global trends towards the abolition of the death penalty. As of May 2012, more than two-thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Most recently, in March this year, Mongolia became the 141st country to have joined this group of countries by becoming a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, 17 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 10 are abolitionist in practice and one – Fiji – uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes. Over the years UN and regional bodies have adopted resolutions, recommendations and instruments to support the abolition of the death penalty. Since 2007 the UN General Assembly has adopted with large majorities resolutions calling for the establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Amnesty International and ADPAN reiterate its appeal to you to stop the execution of Behram Khan, to establish a moratorium on executions and commute all death sentences.

Yours sincerely,

 

Pollyanna Truscott                                                                                                                                Kamran Arif

Deputy Asia-Pacific Director                                                                                                            Co-chair

International Secretariat, Amnesty International                                                                  Human Rights Commission Pakistan

 

ADPAN-AI open letter Behram Khan_FINAL pdf

URGENT ACTION: Executions set to resume in Pakistan

The execution of Behram Khan by hanging has been scheduled for 30 June. It would be the first execution in Pakistan in almost four years and could pave the way for authorities to carry out more death sentences. Only the President of Pakistan can permanently halt his execution.

Behram Khan was sentenced to death by an Anti-Terrorism Court on 23 June 2003 for the murder of lawyer Mohammad Ashraf. On 15 April 2003, Behram Khan came to the Sindh High Court, intending to kill Qurban Ali Chauhan, a lawyer representing a man accused of killing Behram Khan’s maternal uncle. Mistaking him for Qurban Ali Chauhan, Behram Khan killed Mohammad Ashraf. A sub-inspector of police, Pir Bux, who accompanied Behram Khan to the court, was sentenced to life imprisonment for assisting with the killing.

Appeals against Behram Khan’s death sentence at both the Sindh High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan were rejected, as was a subsequent mercy petition submitted to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. On 10 May, following the dismissal of the mercy petition, an Anti-Terrorism Court issued a final warrant for Behram Khan’s execution on 23 May. On 17 May however, the President issued a stay order, postponing the execution until 30 June.

The execution would be the first to take place in Pakistan since late 2008 and the first under the current government.

Please write immediately in English, Urdu or your own language:

Calling on President Zardari to immediately halt Behram Khan’s execution;

Reminding President Zardari of Amnesty International’s position that the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, and a violation of the right to life;

Calling for the Pakistan government to establish an official moratorium on all executions in the country, including Behram Kahn’s, as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty, in line with the growing global trend, and UN General Assembly resolutions 62/149 (2007), 63/168 (2008) and 65/206 (2010);

Urging the Pakistan President to commute all existing death sentences.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 30 JUNE 2012 TO:

President

Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad

Pakistan, Fax: +92 51 920 4974

Email: publicmail@president.gov.pk

Salutation: Dear President

EXECUTIONS SET TO RESUME IN PAKISTAN

Additional Information

The Pakistan Government has not carried out executions since late 2008, but death sentences continue to be imposed, with at least 313 handed down in 2011. Over half of all those sentenced to death last year were found guilty of murder, while others were convicted of offences ranging from drug trafficking and rape to kidnapping for ransom. Three persons were sentenced to death for blasphemy, but no one has ever been executed for this offence in Pakistan’s history. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that over 8,300 people are currently on death row.

 The resumption of executions after a hiatus of almost four years would place Pakistan in opposition to regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty. As of May 2012, more than two-thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Most recently, on 13 March 2012, Mongolia became the 141st country to join this group by becoming a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

 Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, 17 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 10 are abolitionist in practice and one – Fiji – uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes. Over the years several UN and regional bodies have discussed and adopted resolutions, recommendations and instruments to support the call for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. In 2007, 2008 and 2010 the UN General Assembly adopted with large majorities resolutions 62/149, 63/168 and 65/206 respectively, calling for the establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty “with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”

 Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, considering it a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.