Thursday, December 28, 2006

Abolition in French Constitution

On 3rd January President Jacques Chirac of France vowed to forbid the death penalty absolutely and in all circumstances. Now approaching the end of his presidency he is keeping his promise. A change in the French Constitution is being proposed to the Council of State in January, in the words: NO ONE CAN BE CONDEMNED TO DEATH

France already abolished the death penalty 25 years ago, now it does so irreversibly. In the words of a spokesperson of Amnesty International France; "In enacting a constitutional prohibition on the death penalty, France is sending a strong message to all governments maintaining this cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment".

However, France could make a further step by acceding to the Second Optional Protocol of the Covenant on Social and Political Rights which would confirm its commitment to the community of nations.

South Africa, Ireland, and Germany already prohibit the death penalty in their Constitutions AND have signed the Second Protocol.

Thailand is at present drafting a new Constitution . . . . . . . .

Monday, December 25, 2006

Black Day for Japan and for the World

On Christmas Day 2006 Japan hanged four men. While Christmas Day is considered world wide as a day of peace,Japan wished to show its people and the world that the death penalty remains in force in Japan. The last previous execution took place a few days before the appointment as Justice Minister of Seikei Sugiura in 2005 who, following his Buddhist beliefs, refused to sign death warrants for executions (see posting below). As a result Japan has not had an execution for a period of fifteen months.

When the term of prime minister Junichiro Koizumi ended, Seikei Sugiura also stood down to be replaced by a Minister in favour of the death penalty. Japan is the only major industrialised country besides the United States maintaining Capital Punishment. Executions are carried out without the knowledge of relatives of the condemned, and in unknown locations. The condemned prisoners themselves are informed at the last moment. These practices are against United Nations declared norms for the humane treatment of persons condemned to death.

The Christmas Day executions are particularly noxious as two of those executed are aged 77 and 75 years old. The other two are 64 and 44 years old.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Death Penalty Lesson for Thailand

In his autobiography “The Last Executioner” Chavoret Jaruboon describes steps leading to Thailand’s adoption of execution by lethal injection: “Some prisons in America started using lethal injection back in 1977. Bang Kwang wanted to move with the times. Our forward-thinking chief sent researchers over to America to study the process of injecting a criminal with chemicals”

The time has come when researchers should return to study the suspension of executions by lethal injection in the US as it is increasingly realised that lethal injection causes unacceptable suffering. The latest in a series of reactions came on Friday 15th December when Judge Jeremy Fogel in California ruled that executions by lethal injection as practiced in California do not conform to the US Constitution which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

Lethal injection involves the introduction of three chemicals into the veins of the condemned prisoner. The first is a sedative inducing unconsciousness, the second paralyses the muscles and the third causes the heart to stop. If the sedative does not act correctly the two following chemicals cause extreme pain. Several other US states are encountering the same difficulty. On Wednesday last a condemned person being executed in Florida took 34 minutes to die. The governor of Florida, Jeb Bush has ordered a suspension of executions and the creation of a commission of inquiry on the process.

Executions in California have been suspended since February last.

In fact there is no solution to the problems of execution. The proposal that a medical doctor participate in executions to confirm that the sedative has succeeded is rejected by the medical profession.

The medical profession in Thailand has long since issued a statement that doctors or nurses are unwilling to participate in executions (see posting below, Statement of Thai Medical Personnel).

The Union for Civil Liberties proposes that Thailand delay no longer in joining the majority of the world’s countries in abandoning forever the barbaric practice of the death penalty. The writing of a new constitution is an opportune time to take this momentous step in protecting the right to life in Thailand.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Murder on Koh Samui, death sentence commuted

Two Thai fishermen convicted of raping and murdering, Katherine Horton, a 21-year-old British student on holiday in Thailand, on New Year's Day have had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment, their lawyer said today, 25th November.

Bualoy Kothisit, 23, and Wichai Sonkhaoyai, 24, were sentenced to death after a speedy trial in January but won a reprieve this month after an appeal. The trial was strongly criticised after Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister at the time, called for the harshest punishment. The mother of the victim rejected the death penalty saying that such would also be the wish of her daughter.

"The court commuted their death sentences on the ground that they had voluntarily confessed their crime,'' lawyer Prompatchara Namuang said, adding that prosecutors could challenge the court's decision and bring the case to the Supreme Court by December 7.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Last Executioner

The Last Executioner Memoirs of Thailand's Last Prison Executioner by Chavoret Jaruboon

This is a distasteful book. It is a book of no literary merit, little imagination, and little of human feeling. But it tells the story in plain, unadorned language of the most distasteful job on this earth, that of a public executioner. It is an unacceptable job, no one should be called on to carry out judicial murder and made to believe that it is their duty to do so. The task of execution highlights the whole repugnance of the death penalty and the gradual realisation of this is leading to its ultimate abolition.
Chavoret Jaruboon was an ordinary young man who sought the prison service as a stable employment. He was assigned to Bang Kwang, the high security prison in Bangkok where male prisoners condemned to death are detained and where executions are carried out. Others would have kept well away from the death chamber and its rituals but Chavoret wandered in when the machine gun was being serviced and was instructed in its operation by one of the executioners. He must well have realised where his interest would lead. He was recommended to join the team of executioners and progressed through the various levels of responsibility until after ten years he became executioner.
Chavoret's motivation for taking the steps which led to his position are never clearly stated. He obviously has the careful technical ability required to operate a weapon that can give problems, an ability which would not otherwise lead to promotion in the prison service. He is a meticulous person with great control of his feelings and an unquestioning respect for authority, the qualities which certainly led to his selection as executioner. He does not glory in the comradeship of the prison staff but enjoys the regard of his superiors, the chance to perform before the highest authorities, and to make an impression. The 2000 baht fee earned for an execution helps towards the education of his children.
His mental rationalization of his function is a simple one. There are people who are pure evil, "I believe that there are truly bad people who can never be cured of their desire to do depraved things... I believe this type of person deserves to die". Deliberately, he refuses to know the story of the criminals to be executed until after their death lest any personal feeling might affect his efficiency. His duty is to carry out the execution efficiently. Regulations must be complied with but for the rest there must be no delay or mishap which would prolong the agony of prisoner or other participant. Early in the book he repeats his simple belief that the death sentence is justified, and justifies his participation in carrying it out.
It is only at the end of the book that he admits that "killing criminals troubled and depressed me". He has come a long way, "I have come to believe that severe punishment does nothing to solve the problem of crime but it should function as an extreme warning" without seeing the contradiction in this sentence. He reflects further "I believe in karma, which can be bad or good depending on the individual. I never got any pleasure out of shooting people, or out of performing any other role in the persecution process. It was my job". Buddhism gives him the excuse "the convicts on death row are swamped in bad karma and the executioner is doing them a favour by sending them on to their next incarnation for the chance to redeem themselves". It is to his credit that this opinion is quoted from Buddhist monks and he does not adopt it as his own.
Executing 55 men and women in a working life is an abomination. The memoirs of Chavoret Jaruboon are a sad and distasteful story. In the end he cannot justify his choice in life because there is no justification. The value of his story is surely to instruct those who form the chain of command in the justice system that their adherence to capital punishment is also their karma as much as if they pulled the trigger of the machine gun. And so for all of us who acquiesce to this perversity of justice without declaiming 'Not in my name'
'The End of the Death Penalty' refers like the title of the book 'The Last Executioner' to the end of the death penalty by machine gun. Since 2003 Thailand has replaced the machine gun by lethal injection. There are now three executioners where one sufficed before, and the process is no less horrible.
'The End of the Death Penaly' looks forward in hope to the day when this awful practice will truly end.
'The Last Executioner' is available in Asia Book Store

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Conditions of Detention On Bang Kwang Death Row

Prisoners are shackled permanently, shackle chains weigh about 5 kgs
There are up to 30 prisoners in each cell, they sleep on the floor in rows
Prisoners spend up to 22.5 hours a day in crowded cells
Ventilation is through a single narrow window which also provides the only lighting
Living in semi-darkness the eyesight of prisoners is affected
Apart from being shackled there is no space to exercise
Drinking water is stale and contaminated
From testimony of prisoners

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Justice Minister who refused to sign death sentences

When Seiken Sugiura was appointed Japanese Minister of Justice last October, he declared his intention of not signing execution orders while in office. He based his decision on Buddhist religious beliefs and philosophy. When reprimanded by the Prime Minister he said that his remarks only described his personal feeling and did not refer to official duties. On Tuesday next he will step down as Justice Minister when Prime Minister Junchiro Koizumi retires.
During his year in office Suguira has refused to sign execution orders. He has received both praise and blame for his action.
Surely the act of signing is an act of responsibility, expressed as much in a refusal to sign as it would be in signing.
One legal expert gave support: “The law may expect a Justice Minister to exercise leadership in such decisions, depending on the trends of the times”.
Another commentator claimed that a refusal to sign was a failure to fulfil the duty of Justice Minister.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

China Changes Law on Death Penalty

A Lesson for Thailand
On 31st October China adjusted its law on capital punishment to reduce judicial errors.
The new measures, which will become effective on 1st January, legislate that all death sentences passed by local courts will be reviewed and ratified by the Supreme Court.
The present system of allowing provincial High Courts to sign orders of execution was instituted in 1983 and resulted in a series of judicial errors. The President of the Supreme Court, Xiao Yang, believes that the change in law is an important stage in avoiding judicial error.
In addition certain courts will allow oral presentations of appeals to replace a review of documents only. This measure is an important indicator for Thailand where obligatory review of death sentences are by review of documentation only without the possibility of oral clarification, thereby limiting the effectiveness of the appeals to reverse errors of judgment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Department of Justice to Discuss Death Penalty

In a response to a submission on World Action against the Death Penalty, 10th October, by the Thai Coalition Against the Death Penalty, to the Prime Minister's Office and to the Correction' s Department, a response has been received with the assurance that the submission has been forwarded to the Department of Justice for discussion.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Abolition of Death Penalty - Thongbai Thongpao

In listing tasks worthy of attention for the new interim Minister of Justice, Mr. Charnchai Likhitjittha, Thongbai Thongpao, renowned human rights lawyer, lists the following:

…..a lack of justice is the root cause of several major problems that call for immediate solutions today. In the war against drugs during the Thaksin administration, thousands were killed without trial despite complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The National Human Rights Commission had also submitted a report on the need for a probe into the issue to the Thaksin government, but no action was taken.

Therefore, it would be nice if the new minister reconsiders this issue and installs safeguards to prevent such extrajudicial killings from happening again.

A call for the abolition of capital punishment should also be considered now that more than half of all countries in the world have already lifted it.

I wholeheartedly support the policy to create justice without indiscrimination. For problems in the deep South, many are of the opinion that they are caused not by differences in races and religions or by separatists but rather by abuses of authority by officials and years of being treated unfairly. By restoring justice, peace will prevail in the region.

Bangkok Post, 15th October 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

Death Penalty Thailand - The Final Say

In a response to statement issued on World Abolition Day by the Thai Coalition Against the Death Penalty (TCADP) a government spokesman said that the government must retain the death penalty as such was the wish of the majority of the population. The following letter is a reply from the Union for Civil Liberties:

POSTBAG Bangkok Post, 12th October 2006

Death penalty is an affront to humanity

The response of Thongthong Chandarangsu, justice deputy permanent secretary, to the submission of human rights activists that the death penalty be abolished raises a fundamental issue of ethics (Bangkok Post, Oct 11, "Rights advocates seek end to death penalty").

The momentous issue of judicial execution cannot be decided by majority vote, especially by a population which remains uninformed and where the issue has not been debated.

Arguments against the death penalty are based on the perception that the right to life is the most basic right of a human being and that no individual or government has the right to take it away. As the world came to understand that slavery and judicial torture are unacceptable infringements of human dignity, so, today, almost two-thirds of the world's nations have come to realise that the death penalty also is an affront to humanity.

The motive of moral conviction is supported by practical experience that the death penalty is no more effective a solution to crime than the punishment of life imprisonment. The abolition of the death penalty recognises the inalienable right to human life and founds a culture where lethal violence becomes abhorrent. The rights of victims are thereby more enhanced than by a vengeful satisfaction of an illusory blood debt.

Twenty-five years ago the death penalty was abolished in France. As in several other countries which have taken the same decision, it is admitted that a majority of the population would still favour execution. Abolition requires moral and political leadership rather than an appeasement of popular opinion.

The practice of waiting for majority approval in ethical issues would be a perverted notion of democracy and a failure of leadership.

It is timely that the worldwide trend to abolition is being broadcast in Thailand. In time, the abolition of the death penalty will be seen as a profound consequence of Thai Buddhist and other religious beliefs.


Chairman, Union for Civil Liberties

World Day for the Abolition of Death Penalty - Thailand


เรียกร้อง-สมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน ชุมนุมหน้าทำเนียบรัฐบาล และเข้ายื่นหนังสือผ่านไปถึง พล.อ.สุรยุทธ์ จุลานนท์ นายกรัฐมนตรี เรียกร้องให้ยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต เมื่อวันที่ 10 ตุลาคม

นายธงทอง จันทรางศุ รองปลัดกระทรวงยุติธรรม โฆษกกระทรวงยุติธรรม กล่าวถึงกรณีองค์การนิรโทษกรรมสากลยื่นหนังสือเรียกร้องให้ยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต เนื่องในโอกาสวันนิรโทษกรรมสากลว่า คงไม่มีสูตรสำเร็จว่าควรหรือไม่ควรประหารชีวิตสำหรับทุกประเทศ แต่ละประเทศมีภูมิหลังและวิวัฒนาการที่แตกต่างกัน การเรียกร้องให้ยกเลิกในวาระสำคัญทำได้ แต่ต้องสร้างความรู้ความเข้าใจกับประชาชนให้เห็นคุณเห็นโทษทั้ง 2 แง่มุม สุดท้ายแล้วให้ข้อมูลให้ประชาชนคนในประเทศตัดสินใจ รัฐบาลปัจจุบันมีเวลา 1 ปีเท่านั้น เรื่องนี้จึงไม่แน่ใจว่าจะได้รับการพิจารณาในเร็ววันนี้หรือไม่ เพราะต้องฟังความเห็นประชาชนเป็นสำคัญ แต่ในภาคปฏิบัติแล้ว ผู้ต้องขังยังมีสิทธิได้รับการลดโทษในวาระโอกาสสำคัญ จากประหารชีวิตเป็นจำคุกตลอดชีวิต

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty - Thailand

The first activity marking World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Thailand took place on October 10th. There were many adverse conditions, Thailand is still under martial law and prison authorities could insist threatningly that the gathering was illegal, and on no account would they allow it to take place or be photographed in front of the entrance to the prison. Besides, it was raining continually and the road and sorroundings were flooded! The result was a rather restricted showing of shackling chains, the display of a banner calling for abolition, the distribution of literature on the death penalty, and of copies of the statement printed below. The only part of the planned protest which could be carried out in full was the delivery of the statement and literature on the death penalty to the Governor of the Corrections Department.
To supplement the curtailed activity, the statement and literature were also presented at the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Office.

No More Death Penalty, No More Shackling

On the fourth World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, the Thai Coalition against the Death Penalty (TCADP) is joining the international community to review again the traditional actions on heinous offences, which have been in practice by all former governments in Thai history. The Death Penalty is seen as a dark sign of all societies including Thailand; especially as it has been gravely undermining the principle of Buddhism and the right to life of humankind.

Thailand has been moving forward to a civilization in which ruling intellectuals and educated people seem to still maintain primitive thinking in some practices. We are confident that murders and other serious crimes can be reduced in number by addressing the root causes by other means than the death penalty. The solution can be attained by law enforcement, while the authorities themselves must not be involved in any crime on any account, and they should not allow impunity to agencies and agents involved in lawless acts. TCADP has already proposed the former government with an alternative by calling for life sentence to replace the Death Penalty for all crimes.

In the light of humanity and respect for human rights, we are also concerned about the condition of prisoners who are condemned to death, all of whom are shackled on the legs for twenty four hours a day. The Correction Department previously informed us that such practice will be reviewed and that they are willing to learn from the practices of many countries where shackling is not used. However until now this promise, has not been carried beyond the level of words. We have been asked by the international community and the prisoners themselves to campaign to abolish shackling, which is considered a part of torture or double punishment.

On the occasion of World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, TCADP invites the Thai government and Correction Department, as well as Thai people to respond to the good will and similar activities in sixty countries worldwide to abolish the death penalty and shackling.

"No More Death Penalty, No More Shackling" is in line with moral principles. It is time for all Buddhists and others of different religious in Thailand to have collective merit making for all; the victims, executed offenders, executioners and those who passed sentences of death.

In submitting these proposals we also convey our appreciation of the difficult task of prison administration and hope that Thailand may achieve the goal of humane and effective prison reform, especially for the most disadvantaged sector of those condemned to death.

Thai Coalition Against the Death Penalty
10th October 2006


วันที่ ๑๐ ตุลาคม ๒๕๔๙

เรื่อง การยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต

กราบเรียน ฯพณฯ ท่านนายกรัฐมนตรี พล.อ.สุรยุทธ์ จุฬานนท์

ในโอกาสวันรณรงค์สากลเพื่อยุติโทษประหารขีวิตวันที่ ๑๐ ตุลาคม ๒๕๔๙ กลุ่มประสานงานรณรงค์ยุติโทษ ประหารขีวิต หรือ TCADP ประเทศไทยได้ร่วมกับนานาชาติเพื่อทำการทบทวนประเพณีการลงโทษนักโทษที่กระทำความผิดร้ายแรงอีกครั้งหนึ่ง ซึ่งก่อนหน้านี้รัฐบาลทุกชุดได้ใช้วิธีการประหารชีวิตเป็นการลงโทษนักโทษที่กระทำผิดร้ายแรงมาโดยตลอด ดังที่ทราบกันว่าโทษประหารชีวิตนั้นเป็นปมมืดของทุกสังคมร่วมทั้งสังคมไทย ซึ่งหลักการลงโทษของรัฐต่อผู้กระทำผิดที่ผ่านมาได้กลายเป็นการบั่นทอนหลักการทางศาสนาพุทธ และสิทธิในการมีชีวิตอยู่ของมนุษยชาติมาโดยตลอด

ขณะที่ประเทศไทยได้พัฒนาไปสู่ความก้าวหน้าในหลายๆด้านเป็นอย่างมาก แต่ยังมีการดำรงโทษประหารชีวิตโดยมีความเชื่อว่าจะสามารถจะลดปัญหาและป้องปรามอาชญากรรมได้ ทั้งที่ข้อพิสูจน์ในประเด็นนี้ไม่สามารถยืนยันได้อย่างชัดเจนกลุ่มประสานงานรณรงค์ยุติโทษประหารชีวิต มีความเห็นว่าปัญหาอาชญากรรมมีสาเหตุเกี่ยวข้องกับสภาพปัญหาเศรษฐกิจและสังคม ดังนั้นการแก้ปัญหาอาชญากรรมต้องแก้ปัญหาที่ต้นเหตุ และต้องแก้โดยการบังคับใช้กฏหมายอย่างจริงจัง ไม่เลือกปฏิบัติ และไม่ยอมให้ผู้กระทำผิดที่เป็นเจ้าหน้าที่หรือบุคคลออื่นสามารถลอยนวลอยู่ได้ในสังคม ทางกลุ่มประสานงานฯได้เคยเสนอทางออกให้รัฐบาลชุดก่อน โดยการให้นำการลงโทษจำคุกตลอดชีวิตมาสำเร็จโทษต่ออาชญากรรมร้ายแรงทุกประเภทแทนการลงโทษประหารชีวิต

บนพื้นฐานของมนุษยธรรมและการเคารพซึ่งสิทธิมนุษยชน กลุ่มประสานงานฯยังห่วงใยในประเด็นการตีตรวนนักโทษกลุ่มที่ทำผิดร้ายแรงนี้ทึ่ถูกตีตรวนขาทั้งสองข้างเป็นเวลา ๒๔ ชั่วโมงและทุกวัน ก่อนหน้านี้ทางกรมราชทัณฑ์เคยกล่าวว่าจะมีการทบทวนการกระทำดังกล่าวโดยยินดีที่จะเรียนรู้จากประเทศอื่นๆว่าจะทำอย่างไรเมื่อได้ยกเลิกการตีตรวนไปแล้ว ขณะนี้กลุ่มประสานงานฯเห็นว่าการสัญญาดังกล่าวยังเป็นเพียงคำพูดเท่านั้น ไม่มีความคืบหน้าให้เห็นเป็นที่ประจักษ์ จนทำให้นานาชาติ และนักโทษที่ถูกตีตรวนเองได้ร้องขอให้ยกเลิกการปฏิบัติเช่นนี้โดยเร็ว เพราะถือว่าเป็นการกระทำที่ไม่ต่างจากการทรมานหรือการลงโทษสองชั้นนั่นเอง

ในวันยุติโทษประหารฯสากล กลุ่มประสานงานฯขอเชิญชวนรัฐบาลไทยและกรมราชทัณฑ์ รวมถึงประชาชน ร่วมกันขานรับเจตนาดีในครั้งนี้รวมถึงประสานการรณรงค์กับอีกหกสิบประเทศทั่วโลกที่เรียกร้องให้ยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตโดยนำการลงโทษจำคุกตลอดชีวิตมาใช้แทน และยกเลิกการตีตรวน

ความพยายามให้โทษประหารชีวิตและการตีตรวนนักโทษประหารชีวิต ให้หมดไปจากสังคมไทยนั้นเป็นการยึดหลักจริยธรรม ที่สมควรอย่างยิ่งที่ชาวพุทธและผู้ที่นับถือศาสนาอื่นๆในประเทศไทยจะได้ร่วมกันทำบุญกุศลให้กับเหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย ผู้กระทำผิดที่ถูกประหารไปแล้ว และให้เพชรฆาต พร้อมทั้งผู้ที่ตัดสินประหารฯนักโทษได้เข้าถึงบุญอย่างทั่วหน้า

กลุ่มประสานงานฯขอยื่นข้อเสนอนี้ พร้อมกับขอแสดงความชื่นชมที่เจ้าหน้าที่ที่เกี่ยวข้องทุกท่านซึ่งทำงานด้วยความยากลำบาก และหวังว่าประเทศไทยจะสามารถเดินไปถึงจุดมุ่งหมายให้มีการปฏิรูปในเรื่องนี้ โดยเฉพาะเป็นการทำเพื่อผู้ด้อยโอกาสและผู้ที่จะถูกปลิดชีวิตจากโทษประหารชีวิต

องค์การนิรโทษกรรมสากล ประเทศไทย
Asian Institute for Human Rights (AIHR)
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Law Council of
Cross Cultural Foundation
Thai Coalition for Human Rights Defender

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Thailand Still Shackles Death Row Prisoners

On 29th October 1996 Thailand acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) thereby standing with the countries of the world binding themselves to observe just and civilised standards of behaviour. Ten years later Thailand continues to ignore and flagrantly offend these standards on many counts.

Article 7 of the Convention defines that “No one shall be subjected…to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Binding a human being in chains is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and yet its practice continues in Thai jails. This is especially the case in the case of male prisoners condemned to death who are shackled permanently. The shackles are welded in place on the legs of the prisoners and are removed only on the death or pardon of the prisoner.

Consider the reality of the practice. The chains can weigh as much as 5 or 6 kilograms, although a timely bribe may achieve a lighter load. The chain is permanently in place and prisoners must wear only the lightest clothing which can be passed through the small gap between flesh and metal to bath or change clothing. The metal scratches and tears the skin leading to ulceration and infection. Exercise. prescribed as a necessity of humane prison conditions, becomes impossible.

The first time in Thailand that I knew of chaining was on hearing the rhythmic clink of chains and without even looking, I realised what the sound meant, a chain gang walking at the edge of the road. I had thought that such a practice had gone with the disappearance of slavery and the reform of prison systems. That was over thirty years ago. Today you can see men in chains in the corridors of the Bangkok Criminal Court. Where is the presumption of innocence when a prisoner bound in chains appears before a court?

Fierce animals are chained, and even that is wrong. I have seen dogs, elephants, monkeys chained, and men. In all cases it is cruel, in the case of men it is inhuman and degrading. Once a prisoner, who had just arrived in Bang Kwang prison was shackled with chains still stained with the blood of a man who had been executed in the same chains a few hours before.

It is not that Thailand is unaware of its contravention of its obligations by the International Convention. The words of the Convention are written into Article 31 of the Constitution of 1997, disgracefully abrogated by the recent military coup; “..any kind of inhumane punishment is prohibited”. In a statement by the United Human Rights Committee in Geneva on 28th July 2005 Thailand was again reminded that the Committee “deplored the continued shackling of death row prisoners”. Furthermore, the Committee declared; “THE USE OF SHACKLING AND LONG PERIODS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY”

When asked about the condemned continuation of shackling the Corrections Department recently replied that the prisons are NOT YET READY to fulfil Thailand’s obligations in this matter.

In condemning the practice of shackling UCL is not rejecting punishment. A condemned prisoner must be punished, but not in an inhuman manner. Over 60 years ago the UK attempted to shackle German prisoners of war on the excuse that Germany had shackled UK prisoners. Canada as a Commonwealth ally was expected to follow suit but replied with the firm principle that the contravention of the Geneva convention on the treatment of prisoners of war by one side of the conflict could never absolve those on the other side from observing their treaty obligations.

Thailand cannot be absolved from its obligations to observe humane norms which it has aqccepted as binding. Do the prisoners themselves object to their treatment. They cannot because Thailand has also neglected to sign the First Protocol of the Convention which gives its citizens right of appeal to the UN if their rights are transgressed. Thailand’s accession to the Convention remains an empty gesture both in theory and in practice.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

World Day Against the Death Penalty - Thailand

10th October is the 4th World Day against the Death Penalty with the theme "Death Penalty a Failure of Justice". The extent of the failure in Thailand has been revealed by a prisoner who was on death row in Bang Kwang prison in Bangkok for five years before having his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Now released he recounted impressions gathered from his follow prisoners. He points out that among the prisoners on death row who see no prospect of release no lies are told about their past, they are people in a hopeless situation whose only relief is to share the truth of their stories with their companions.
From hearing the stories related over many years the released prisoner, now a practicing lawyer, estimates that:

* 12 to 13% of those condemned to death are innocent
* 30 to 40% of those condemned to death were indeed implicated in the crime for which they are condemned to death but not to a degree which should merit execution
* aprroximately 50% are indeed guilty as charged


For details of World Day see link to World Coalition

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Latest Statistics on Death Penalty in Thailand

DP Information on September 14th, 2006

Number of offences for all cases

Cases at Appeal Court

Cases at Supreme Court

Final Verdict

















Number of offences for drug cases

Cases at Appeal Court

Cases at Supreme Court

Final Verdict

















Number of offences for murder cases and others

Cases at Appeal Court

Cases at Supreme Court

Final Verdict

















Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Policy of Political Parties in Thailand on Death Penalty

ยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต กับความกล้าของพรรคการเมือง ?

6 กันยายน 2549 16:02 น.
พิทักษ์ เกิดหอม สมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน (สสส.)

กรุงเทพธุรกิจออนไลน์ : อย่างน้อยมีพรรคการเมืองใหญ่สามพรรค ไทยรักไทย ประชาธิปัตย์ และชาติไทย ที่ไม่มีนโยบายในการยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต ไม่ว่าจะด้วยเหตุผลใดก็ตาม มันก็สะท้อนให้เห็นว่า เรื่องอะไรที่ไม่มีคะแนนเสียงหรืออาจจะเสียคะแนนเสียง ความใส่ใจของพรรคการเมืองแทบไม่มี โดยเฉพาะเรื่องที่เกี่ยวกับนักโทษ เพราะนักโทษต้องห้ามมิให้ใช้สิทธิเลือกตั้ง

การเสนอนโยบายเรื่องการยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต มิได้หมายความว่าเราจะปกป้องผู้กระทำความผิด ผู้กระทำความผิดที่ได้ผ่านมาต่อสู้คดีในชั้นศาลอย่างเต็มที่ ต้องถูกลงโทษเป็นเรื่องธรรมดาที่ต้องปฏิบัติ แต่ก็มีทางเลือกที่กระทำได้ภายหลังการยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตคือการจำคุกอย่างจริงจังในระยะเวลาที่ยาวนาน

เราอาจจะมองว่านักโทษที่ถูกประหารชีวิตในประเทศไทยมีน้อยเหลือเกินเมื่อเทียบกับสัดส่วนประชาชนในประเทศ ประเด็นเรื่องจำนวนนั้นไม่ใช่สาระสำคัญ แต่การคงโทษประหารชีวิตมันตอบไม่ได้ในหลักสิทธิมนุษยชนและหลักคำสอนของศาสนาพุทธ ในศีลข้อที่ 1 ห้ามฆ่าสัตว์ตัดชีวิต

การยกเลิกโทษประหารเท่ากับเป็นการประกาศทิศทางของประเทศไทย ที่จะไม่แก้ไขปัญหาด้วยวิธีการรุนแรงแบบเดิมๆ รัฐบาลและพรรคการเมืองในบางเรื่องบางประเด็น ควรเป็นผู้นำพาสังคมไปในทิศทางที่ถูกต้อง รัฐบาลและพรรคการเมืองควรชี้ให้ประชาชนเห็นว่า ต้นเหตุที่แท้จริงของอาชญากรรมฆ่าข่มขืนมาจากอะไร

แน่นอนทุกครั้งที่มีคดีข่มขืนและฆ่า สังคมมักโกรธแค้นชิงชังผู้กระทำความผิดและเรียกร้องให้ลงโทษอย่างรุนแรง แต่เราลืมไปว่าประเทศของเราในเวลานี้ มีแต่สื่อลามกและกระแสวัฒนธรรมกระตุ้นเล้าความกำหนัดอยู่ตลอดเวลา เหล้าเบียร์หาซื้อได้ง่ายเหมือนซื้อน้ำเปล่า เด็กและเยาวชนของเราจำนวนไม่น้อยที่ตกอยู่ในกระแสเหล่านี้ เมื่อสภาพแวดล้อมของสังคมเป็นอย่างนี้

เมื่อสังคมด้านมืดมันหล่อหลอมคนของเราให้กระทำความผิดได้ง่าย มันจึงไม่มีความชอบธรรมอันใดที่จะประหัตประหารชีวิตของเขา เว้นเสียแต่ว่าถ้าเราสามารถแก้ปัญหาโดยจัดสภาพแวดล้อมของสังคมให้ดี ไม่มีสิ่งกระตุ้นเร้า แต่มันยังมีการกระทำความผิดอีก นั่นย่อมหมายความว่าเป็นการกระทำความผิดโดยสันดานตนเองโดยแท้ รัฐอาจมีความชอบธรรมในการตัดออกจากสังคมเสียถึงแม้ผู้เขียนจะไม่เห็นด้วยก็ตาม

ประเด็นที่สำคัญยิ่งที่สัมพันธ์กับการลงโทษประหารชีวิต กระบวนการกลั่นกรองผู้กระทำความผิด โดยกระบวนการยุติธรรมทางอาญา ยังมีข้อจำกัดอยู่พอสมควร จากข้อมูลของกรมคุ้มครองสิทธิและเสรีภาพปรากฏว่าในปี 2548 มีจำเลยที่ยื่นแบบคำขอรับค่าทดแทนและค่าใช้จ่ายแก่จำเลยในคดีอาญาที่ศาลพิพากษาถึงที่สุดว่า จำเลยมิได้เป็นผู้กระทำความผิดหรือการกระทำของจำเลยไม่เป็นความผิด จำนวน 610 เรื่อง เข้าสู่การพิจารณาของคณะกรรมการจำนวน 355 เรื่อง

รัฐต้องจ่ายให้แก่จำเลยถึง 214 เรื่อง เป็นจำนวนเงินกว่า 60 ล้านบาท ในปี 2549 (มกราคม-กรกฎาคม) มีจำเลยยื่นแบบคำร้อง จำนวน 354 ราย รัฐต้องจ่ายจำนวนถึง 216 ราย เป็นจำนวนเงิน 58 ล้านบาท ข้อมูลเหล่านี้แสดงให้เราเห็นได้ว่า กระบวนการยุติธรรมทางอาญานับตั้งแต่ตำรวจ ทนายความ อัยการ และศาล ยังคงต้องปฏิรูปอีกพอสมควร

หากมีจำเลยคนหนึ่งคนใดที่อาจมิได้กระทำความผิด แต่ด้วยข้อจำกัดในกระบวนการยุติธรรมต้องถูกประหารชีวิต เรามิอาจเอาชีวิตเขากลับคืนมาได้ เช่นเดียวกับการบัญญัติกฎหมายของเรา เมื่อก่อนยาบ้ามีโทษสูงสุดไม่ถึงประหารชีวิต แต่ปัจจุบันโทษสูงสุดคือประหารชีวิต แต่หากวันใดสังคมหรือรัฐสภาเรียกร้องให้แก้ไขกฎหมายใหม่ กำหนดโทษไม่ถึงขั้นประหารชีวิตแล้วชีวิตคนที่เราประหารไปแล้วจะทำอย่างไร

ผมคิดว่าถึงเวลาแล้วที่พรรคการเมืองต้องตระหนักถึงการนำพาสังคมไทยไปในทิศทางที่ถูกต้องดีงาม ต้องกล้าหาญทางจริยธรรมมากพอสมควร โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งภายใต้ภาวะวิกฤติทางการเมืองเฉกเช่นทุกวันนี้ มีความจำเป็นอย่างยิ่งยวดที่พรรคการเมือง นักการเมืองต้องกล้าฝ่ากระแสอารมณ์ความรู้สึก กล้าประกาศนโยบายยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต นั่นหมายความว่าเป็นการประกาศแนวทางสันติวิธีและเคารพศักดิ์ศรีความเป็นมนุษย์ในการบริหารประเทศ สังคมไทยจึงมีความหวังที่จะกลับมาสงบสุขอีกครั้ง

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Death Penalty in Indonesia

A serious debate on the death penalty has begun in Indonesia. Below are two views, one in favour of, the other in opposition to the death penalty.

AUGUST 25, 2006
INDONESIA: NU rejects abolition of death sentence
The Indonesian biggest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulema (NU), has expressed disagreement to proposals to abolish the death sentence as the capital punishment would basically guarantee a more extensive life.
"In the philosophy of the law, there is no need to eliminate the death sentence, as capital punishment will protect human life in a broader sense," NU General Chairman KH Hasyim Muzadi said at his office here on Thursday.
And in fact, countries where the death sentence still prevails in their criminal code, had proven that crime, like murder, has declined, he said, taking Malaysia as a good example.
Hasyim Muzadi presented his opinion amidst rising demands for the abolition of the death sentence from some circles, on the grounds that capital punishment is a violation of human rights as it deprived of an individual`s right to live.
"But in this case, we should not only consider the human rights of a murderer. How about the rights of the the people they had killed, and why should we ignore their rights," Hasyim said.
As a matter of fact, the essence of a death sentence is to uphold justice, rather than the execution itself.
"For example, fights by using sickles are still rampant in Madura, because the killers knew they would be jailed for their crime for only a comple of years. Practically, such relatively short sentences have not deterred people from committing the same crime again, not to mention discrimination in the application of justice," he said.
Asked on the planned execution of Tibo and associates, and Amrozi, he said the government had the authority to consider and take a decision on who is liable to the death sentence through the legal process.
Touching on an appeal from from Pope Benedictus to the Indonesian government for a clemency to Tibo and friends in death row, Muzadi said that if it is based on humanitarism reasons, the appeal shoule be met for Amrozi and his associates. "I think the Vatican is aware of this."

Jakarta Post
Opinion, Patrick Guntensperger; the writer is a Jakarta-based political risk analyst
INDONESIA:Let's look at the death penalty
As the execution of the convicted Christian Poso terrorists draws near, predictably, groups of Christian bishops and other Christian are weighing in with their opposition to the death penalty. In a sense, this anti-judicial killing philosophical stance makes sense; it resonates well with the Jesus-inspired teachings and admonitions to love one's neighbor, to practice forgiveness, turn the other cheek, etc. I suppose one would have to be somewhat cynical to ask where these anti-death penalty activists were when executions of Islamic radicals were imminent.
Nevertheless, as Indonesia prepares to stand some more people in front of a wall and ritually and legally end their lives, this seems as good a time as any to consider the death penalty.
This is particularly treacherous territory to explore, because feelings run so high. For a fruitful dialogue on the subject, reason must be employed and personal feelings, no matter how intense, must be suppressed; few other discussions so quickly degenerate into ad hominem arguments.
I remember years ago, discussing the subject with my strongly pro-death penalty sister who, at the time, had 2 young children, while I had none. Disagreeing with my abolitionist stance, she shouted me down, arguing that I had no right to an opinion on the subject, being childless, but that I would quickly see her (correct) viewpoint if I ever had my own children to protect from those who would murder them.
Clearly the argument was going nowhere, so I suppressed 1 or 2 obvious retorts. In the first place, all of my philosophical education suggests that having a less personal stake (no children) in the matter under discussion rendered my viewpoint more, rather than less valid, being more objective.
Secondly, the assumption that having a legal death penalty in place protects children from predators simply doesn't hold water. There are no accepted statistical studies that support that widely held piece of dogma.
The most common argument in favor of the death penalty for murder is the deterrence argument. More specifically, deterrence falls into 2 different categories.
Let me be the first to concede the 1st of the 2, sometimes referred to as "specific deterrence". Specific deterrence argues, perfectly legitimately, that if a murderer is executed, that specific murderer is deterred from any repetition of the crime. That specific deterrence can be accomplished in any number of ways, we will leave for another discussion.
"General deterrence" on the other hand, can be summed up as the argument that suggests that members of a society are less likely to commit murder if they will be executed upon conviction of their crime. While on a superficial level that seems to make sense, as noted earlier, there is simply no evidence to support that hypothesis. And yet a completely unproven, some would even say utterly discredited hypothesis is the one upon which most arguments for the legal killing of human beings rests.
Studies have indicated that, more than the ultimate punishment, the deterrence that has any effect on those susceptible to deterrence is the likelihood of getting caught. That is to say, that when a criminal (of any sort, not just murderers) is making the Dostoevskyan calculus of crime versus punishment, the severity of the punishment is of far less significance than the estimated probability of detection. If a person is thinking of robbing a store, simply getting caught forms the largest part of the decision making process; whether he will do five years or seven probably doesn't even enter the equation.
In Indonesia where a drug smuggler may be executed, may spend twenty years in jail, or may be released after a few months, the severity of the potential penalty is disregarded in favor of planning the crime in such a way that detection is avoided, whatever the result upon conviction might be. The obvious effective deterrence is improving the law enforcement in the country, so that criminals have a reasonable expectation of being caught, and if, caught, matter who they are.
Increasing the severity of the penalties, even expanding the use and frequency of the imposition of the death penalty, will have no effect whatever on lowering the murder or any other rate. There is some indication that, having nothing to lose, criminals may resort to murder to avoid apprehension; the murder rate may actually increase.
And that brings us to the most compelling reason even general deterrence, as a principle, doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The vast majority of homicides are not calculated at all. When a family member loses control and lashes out, when a street brawl erupts, when a demonstration gets out of control, the penalties for criminal behavior do not occur to those who are involved.
Certainly when a stoned, spoiled, rich kid pulls out a gun and shoots a waiter for a perceived slight, he has not worked out the cost-benefit ratio of instant gratification versus long term self-interest.
Interestingly, the reverse of this is also true in this climate of sectarian violence and terrorist attacks. Terrorist attacks, particularly suicide attacks, do make those sorts of calculations. The problem is that the calculations arrive at a solution that is satisfactory. The murderers, having judged whether to kill someone is worth their own death rationally decide that it is. In a perverse way, the death sentence in these instances legitimizes the terrorist murders, because it has tacitly agreed with the calculus.
What is needed is twofold. In the first place, those who break the law must have a reasonable expectation of apprehension. Convictions of those apprehended must be fair and even -handed. Secondly and most importantly, however, there needs to be a permeating sense of the sanctity of human life. All human life. And that can start by the people deciding that the state shouldn't take human life in an effort to prove that human life has intrinsic value.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Friday, July 07, 2006

National Seminar on Capital Punishment in Thailand

National Seminar on Capital Punishment in Thailand

On 3rd and 4th July seminar on the death penalty was organized by the Union for Civil Liberty under the auspices of the National Human Rights Committee. Those attending were largely representatives of Government ministries with an interest in legal affairs, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Corrections Department, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Diplomats, academics, students of human rights, and human rights activists also took part. The International Federation of Human Rights and Amnesty International were represented showing the importance given to the seminar on an international scale. A total of 115 persons registered their attendance.

The seminar covered a wide range of issues related to the death penalty in Thailand. A full report is being prepared for distribution and will be available on this site. In this preliminary news item some highlights of the meeting are indicated.

Key Note Speaker

The key speaker at the seminar was Professor William Schabas, a recognised world authority on the death penalty. On the first day he spoke of the inevitability that the death penalty will be abolished world wide, as have the institutions of slavery and judicial torture in the past. He based his assertion on the astonishingly rapid rate at which countries are declaring themselves in favour of abolition. Only a minority of countries persist in practicing the death penalty and they find themselves increasingly at a disadvantage in cooperation on criminal extradition with abolitionist countries. The most striking block of countries rejecting capital punishment are the countries of the Council of Europe and the European Union where rejection is a condition of membership. Professor Schabas has calculated that by comparing the number of retentionist countries with the rate of conversion to abolition, we can expect to see a world free of the death penalty in at most another 24 years. He pointed out that such an outcome was clearly in the minds of those who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights who in Article 3 affirmed, without reservation, the right to life of all persons.
Professor Schabas enumerated the reasons in favour of the death penalty, the fear of wrongful conviction, the ineffectiveness of the death penalty in controlling crime, the victimisation in practice of the poor and disadvantaged who cannot afford expensive legal representation, and others. But he based his belief on the unacceptability of the death penalty, above all on the affront to human dignity which it implies.

On the second day of the seminar he laid out the principles of alternative punishment to the death penalty, which, simply stated, consists in life imprisonment. Life imprisonment can have different meanings allowing for parole or excluding it, but he declared himself ready to accept any preliminary meaning of the term in return for the willingness of governments to move towards abolition. The question of the meaning and practice of life imprisonment can be evolved over time. The practice in some states of interpreting life imprisonment as extending to the natural death of the condemned leads to a meaningless geriatric detention of people no longer capable of offending or even realising where they are and why they are there!

Philippine Experience

Another highlight of the seminar was a session on the recent Philippine experience of abolition. Speakers included His Excellency Antonio Rodriguez, the Philippine Ambassador to Thailand, and Attorney Theodore O. Te who had played a large part in fighting for abolition. The detail of the debate to abolish the death penalty, over a period of 12 years illustrated the complexity of issues involved. Lobbying had to be continuous and focused. An interesting aspect was the involvement of condemned prisoners themselves and their families, simple people who achieved a sophisticated level of appeal. Another aspect was the preparation and submission of case studies illustrating defects in death penalty legislation and practice. The example of the Philippines was frequently referred to throughout the seminar.

Viewpoint of Political Parties

A presentation by representatives of three main political parties was illustrative of the general lack of appreciation in Thailand for the world wide debate on abolition. The representatives agreed that a decision for abolition could be made at administrative government level without the need for changes to the Constitution. It was felt that time was needed for Thailand to adjust to the circumstances of abolition. The representative of one Party specifically claimed that the death penalty was necessary in Thailand for the defence of the revered institution of the Monarchy. A comment from the audience suggested that the UK, Norway, and Cambodia appeared capable of being both monarchies and abolitionist.

Case Studies

The second day of the Seminar began with the presentation of case studies describing the legal procedures of several prisoners whose sentence of capital punishment remained after all stages of court hearing were exhausted. The cases were of accused whose poverty made them dependent on legal aid. The most striking aspect was that after the passing of death sentence by the court of first instance, their legal submissions to the Appeals and Supreme Courts were prepared not by a lawyer but by a fellow prisoner supposedly skilled in such matters. The lack of professional participation in what should have been the most important part of the legal process is chilling.

Prison Conditions

In the final session Dr. Waemahadee Waedao, member of the Senate, discussed prison conditions in the light of his own recent imprisonment in the South of Thailand. He discussed the general conditions of his imprisonment which were in direct conflict with the rights of a prisoner who had not been sentenced. He cited details of clothing, food, and medical care, as well overcrowding in the prison which grossly contravened his rights. He did not appear to be reassured by an assertion by a representative of the Corrections department that much was being done to improve the situation. Other speakers condemned as unacceptable the current practice of perpetual shackling of all male death row prisoners.


The above are brief indications of striking issues discussed during the Seminar. The content of other talks and sessions, and of points raised by the audience are also of great interest and will be made available in book form.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Indonesia: Thai Woman to be Executed

While Indonesia is not a signatory to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights which might strengthen the case for an appeal against the death sentence reported below, the right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to life..." is being increasingly appealed to as the basis for a rejection of all applications of the death penalty. Experience has also shown that women involved in drug trafficking are often doing so at the instigation of a male accomplice with implications for reduced culpability.
We appeal for clemency in the following case and urge readers to email this item to their local Indonesian representative as a gesture of appeal.

The email address of the Thai embassy in Bangkok is:

INDONESIA :A Thai woman will be executed for drug trafficking after her appeal was turned down, an Indonesian government official said yesterday.

Boonyong Kaosa-art is among 16 people, including 10 foreigners, on death row for drug trafficking. Seven of the convicted are Nigerians, one is Nepalese and one is from Malawi. The rest are Indonesians.

Ms Boonyong, 48, was arrested in 2002 at the airport in Jakarta with 400gm of heroin capsules in her stomach.

The courts passed the death sentence in 2003 and the Thai government appealed for a reduced penalty in 2004.

Indonesia's National Anti-Drugs Agency has called for authorities to speed up the executions of the traffickers

Bangkok Post 29th June

Philippines, Abolition Welcome but Profound Concern Continues

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

Open Letter
To Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
President of the Philippines

Paris, Manila, 27 June 2006

Your Excellency,

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and its member
organization the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
take this opportunity to warmly welcome your decision of 24 June 2006,
on the eve of your trip to Europe and the Vatican, to sign into law the
legislation passed by the Philippines Congress, providing for the
abolition of the death penalty. The abolition of this cruel, inhumane
and irreversible punishment is a highly significant step. On this
momentous occasion, FIDH and PAHRA call upon you to mark a new
commitment to the absolute and unequivocal respect of the most
fundamental human right, the right to life.
FIDH and PAHRA express profound concern over reports of escalating human
rights violations in the Philippines, including extrajudicial
executions, arbitrary detentions and torture. Reports of extra-judicial
killings in the Philippines are received by our organisations with
alarming regularity. There is a growing pattern of politically
motivated killings, reported across a number of provinces nationwide.
Witnesses have reported victims being shot dead by unidentified men,
suspected of links with the military, police, and other security forces.
The principal targets of the shootings are human rights defenders,
journalists, lawyers, community leaders, and union workers who speak out
against the authorities. Groups and individuals identified with the
opposition are increasingly at risk. Over the past year dozens of
activists identified with opposition groups have been killed.

In the face of these violations, the authorities of the Philippines have
consistently failed to carry out effective investigations into these
crimes and to bring to justice those responsible. This climate of
impunity further fuels human rights violations.

It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens and to take action
to ensure respect for human rights, whoever is responsible for the
violations. The Philippines must abide by its obligations under
international agreements to which it is a party, notably the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which
recognises, under article 6, the inherent right of every human being to
life and provides that, " this right shall be protected by law. No one
shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life". Under articles 2 and 26 of
the ICCPR, all persons are entitled to the protection of the right to
life without distinction or discrimination of any kind, and all persons
must be guaranteed equal and effective access to remedies for the
violation of this right. Furthermore, article 4 of the ICCPR provides
that the right to life is absolute and that exceptional circumstances
such as internal political instability or any other public emergency
cannot be invoked to justify derogation.

FIDH and PAHRA urgently call upon the authorities of the Philippines to
fulfil the obligation to protect the right to life by conducting prompt,
thorough and impartial investigations into all extra-judicial killings,
to identify and bring to justice those responsible before independent
and impartial tribunals. Our organisations call upon you as President
to send a clear and strong message that these unlawful killings will not
be tolerated under any circumstances.

On the occasion of your trip to Europe and the Vatican and as the
President of an elected member state of the newly established United
Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), FIDH and PAHRA call upon you to
ensure the implementation of the extensive undertakings made to the
international community, on the occasion of the election of the
Philippines to the HRC, to ensure the protection and promotion of human

Yours sincerely,

Renato G. Mabunga
Sidiki Kaba

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Seminar on Death Penalty

สัมนาระดับชาติ เรื่อง การลงโทษประหารชีวิตในประเทศไทย

วันที่ ๓ - ๔ กรกฎาคม ๒๕๔๙ เวลา ๐๘.๓๐ - ๑๖.๓๐ น.

คณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ และสมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน(สสส.)

ณ ห้องประชุม ๕๐๑ สำนักงานคณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Abolition of Death Penalty in Philippines

Abolition of Death Penalty in Philippines, an Example for Thailand
On 6 June, both the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives voted to repeal death penalty legislation. Philippines now joins the worldwide trend toward abolition of the death penalty and is the 125th nation to become abolitionist in law or practice.
In 1987 the Philippines set an historic precedent by becoming the first Asian country in modern times to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. However, the death penalty was reintroduced in late 1993 for 46 different offences. The death penalty was reinstated, not because it was a just punishment but because it was a high profile and desperate remedy to quench public anger at the rising tide of unchecked crime. Executions resumed in 1999 until former President Estrada in 2000 announced a moratorium on executions, which President Arroyo has continued, in practice, throughout her presidency.
On 15 April 2006 President Arroyo commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment in what is believed to be the largest ever commutation of death sentences in modern times. Four days later, President Arroyo marked as urgent, legislation to repeal the death penalty.

House of Representatives
By a vote of 119-20, the House of Representatives approved on a third and final reading Tuesday night, 6th June, the measure abolishing the death penalty in the country.
Speaker Jose de Venecia, who presided as the final vote was taken said the measure is a step that restores the sanctity of human life in the way the country dispenses justice. “We have taken this courageous decision because we believe in the sanctity of human life and in the value of justice not as an act of retribution. This is the mark of a higher civilization.”
“The penalty of life imprisonment is just as harsh as the death penalty,” said Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar, who was a member of the 9th Congress that had approved the death penalty.

The Senate
Sixteen senators voted for the abolition and one abstained.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said that the Death Penalty Law has no place in a Christian nation like the Philippines.Senator Sergio Osmena III stressed that the Death Penalty Law proved that it was not a successful deterrent against heinous crimes.Earlier, in a co-sponsorship speech on the abolition of the death penalty, Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, declared that he supports “the abolition of the death penalty at the present time,” but does so rather” haltingly and hesitatingly” and voted “to abolish the death penalty albeit temporarily.”Gordon, himself a victim of grievous crimes when his father was assassinated and his niece brutally killed, stated that he is doing so “not just to be merciful but to be just”. ”It is so easy to kill a person to bring him to justice, but the lifetime suffering of a nation when it finds out that it has made a mistake is indelible,” he added.

Reasons behind abolition
The bill gave weight to the argument that death penalty is “not a deterrent to crime” and that “judicial error” is a possibility in all justice systems. It cited several other reasons for abolishing the death penalty, among them the following:
· death penalty is retributive justice, therefore vengeful and barbaric;
· it is the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment;
· it is irrevocable;
· it shuts out rehabilitative justice;
· it raises the likelihood of criminals becoming more violent for fear of being convicted by death sentence; and
· it is anti-poor
The measure’s proponents also argued the Philippines is violating international treaties, covenants and policies by “mere implementation” of the death penalty.The death penalty abolition affirms what the government is already practicing since President Arroyo’s administration has not carried out a single execution.

The Philippine debate on the Death Penalty shows a remarkably clear discernment of the moral and practical issues involved. The rejection of the motive of retributive justice is rightly placed at the head of the list of motivation. The ancient appeal for retribution in the saying: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is rejected as vengeful and barbaric. This is at the heart of the matter and it is not a matter of logic but of an informed moral sense. The Philippines has gone through a fine analysis of the balance between killing and being killed in retribution, to come to the realization that they are not equal. The appropriate balance to killing is indeed punishment, but a punishment which allows for repentance, reform, and rehabilitation. We are not God, we did not create life, and having the power to take life away does not give us the right to do so.
The objection of the Philippine lawmakers that the death penalty is irrevocable refers to wrongful convictions:
Of the 1205 inmates on the Philippines’ “death row”, many have been wrongfully convicted according to human rights groups representing some of them. Only 230 of these convictions have been affirmed by the Supreme Court. One study citing a decision of the Supreme Court in July 2003 showed that the lower regional trial courts had close to a 72 per cent wrong conviction rate. In reviewing 907 death penalty cases, the Court admitted that 26 were dismissed, 555 modified, 65 acquitted, and 31 remanded. This underlines just how flawed is the system of justice in the Philippines.Most death penalty sentences are unsafe and those convicted are overwhelming the poor and unable to hire a lawyer. The public defender, no matter how dedicated, is inexperienced, under trained, has no resources or help to investigate the circumstances and uncover evidence that would exonerate his client and expose lies. Convictions are handed down despite the preponderance of reasonable doubt. The rich have the best of lawyers, power and influence, bribe officials and police, and scare off witnesses. They almost never get convicted.
The Philippines is very aware of problems raised by the commutation of execution to life imprisonment:
Arroyo urged religious leaders to help the government in the moral and spiritual transformation of convicts, particularly those serving maximum jail terms, who could not be given parole.The government will work on improving the country’s jail facilities to create an environment that is more conducive to the prisoners’ rehabilitation and reformation, she said.

Instead of death, the penalty is downgraded to life imprisonment without parole, under the Senate version.
Arroyo explained that convicts in the death row will be commuted to reclusion perpetua but they can still get the President’s pardon.
The farsightedness of Arroyo in leaving open a gate of hope to those condemned to permanent imprisonment is truly visionary. In a striking development, French prisoners whose death sentences had been commuted to perpetual imprisonment recently pleaded for execution to be restored as a better alternative to endless jail sentence. Human beings cannot live without hope and the humanity of the Philippine legislation shows remarkable understanding.
The acknowledgment of a Christian inspiration to the abolition is noteworthy. All religions claim to be inspired by the concept of mercy. Would that the nations of Asia learn a lesson from the heroic initiative of our neighbour country, finding a similar inspiration in their own religious traditions, to abrogate the hateful and barbaric practice of capital punishment.

Danthong Breen
Danthong Breen is president of the Union for Civil Liberty

Special to The Nation, Saturday 17th June