Thursday, December 13, 2007

Justice should be seen to be done

Conviction of Karen villager

25th April 1986 a Karen man rode a motorbike returning to his home village of Ban Tai from the market town of Ban Rai. At a distance of about 6 kms from home he was killed by a single shot fired by an unknown assailant. The body was discovered about half an hour later. An autopsy on the body found that death was due to a wound caused by a shot gun, that the deceased rode a Suzuki motorbike of unknown registration and that the body was taken by a daughter to perform the usual rites.

The murdered man had been a contentious person who had made many enemies in his own and in neighbouring Karen villages. Complaints against him included concern for missing funds in local cooperatives. Among the several villagers who had quarrelled with him was one Dei Zou Naa. Speaking about the matter recently the Kamnan of the village remarked that the quarrel with Dei Zou Naa was typical of the many minor quarrels which occur between villagers living in a closed community.

Little is know of police investigation at the time. Police were later to affirm that their access to the area was affected by communist influence in the area which they claimed was a ‘pink’ zone. The only evidence they found was the butt end of a hand rolled cigarette and betal spittle, which they believed to indicate that the murderer was a hill tribe man.

Karen villagers form a close community with many social interactions, mutual dependence, and family relationships. A murder affecting these relations would be a major disturbance to normal life. A ceremony of appeasement was held before a village monk where the wife of the murdered man drank sacred water and denied that she held any vindictive feeling against members of the village, nor did she blame any particular person. At the time she had a son who was about one year old.

Years passed and the murder appeared to have little further relevance. The son of the murdered man went elsewhere to attend school, returning about three years ago as a grown teenager. He appeared to inherit the contentious character of his father and began to approach the Kamnan of the village asking him to arrest this one and that one whom he suspected of being the person responsible for murdering his father. The Kamnan refused saying that there was no evidence to implicate the persons suspected by the son. Finally, the son persuaded his mother to lay charges against Dei Zou Naa with whom she had normal friendly village dealings throughout the years. Dei Zou Naa, 66 years old, was arrested for the murder of nineteen years before. He was charged in court, found guilty, and condemned to death, a penalty then moderated to life imprisonment, a living death for a 66 year old man.

The conviction astonished the villagers of Ban Tai who remembered well the events of the day 19 years before. At least 15 of the villagers, among them the present Kamnan, asserted that Dei Sou Naa was with them throughout the day husking rice. Husking rice using a foot operated pestle was a community event, each family bringing their rice and taking turns to pound the husked rice. Dei Sou Naa had neither motorbike nor bicycle by which he could travel to the scene of the murder, and a long absence could not have passed unnoticed. Besides he would have had to pass houses in the village where his passage would have been noted. Villagers also testified that Dei Zou Naa has always been a quiet and peaceable person noted for his readiness to help others. They cannot believe that he would have carried out an act of violence. It seems that their testimony was not considered by the court.

At present the case is in appeal. It is difficult to understand the conviction on extremely flimsy evidence, a cigarette end and betal nut spittal of 19 years before. The lawyer acting for Dei Zou has firm hope that the Appeal Court will reverse the verdict.

Meanwhile bail is refused for fear that Dei Zou might flee. The wife of the convicted man has become paralysed and needs his presence, He himself is prematurely aged; to where could an elderly Karen, dependent on his village community, flee. The Karen villagers are deeply disturbed and their sense of justice injured. Their reaction reflects well the criterion for sentencing in a case incurring capital punishment which requires ‘clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts’.

Image shows Karen witnesses who worked with the accused on the day of the murder and attest to his innocence

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Famous Human Rights Lawyer on Moratorium

Live and let live


Efforts to lift capital punishment in all countries by non-governmental organisations have been going on for decades and substantial progress has been made over the years. In the latest move, a motion has been submitted to the UN General Assembly for a vote on the issue.

Actually, the UN has made its stand clear that it disagrees with the death penalty. It runs against Item 3 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights which provides: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." Likewise, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Thailand ratified in October 1996, prescribes: "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law."

It also provides: "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence, and sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women".

So far, Thai constitutions and the Penal Code have been in compliance by these commitments. We don't execute a person under 18 or a pregnant woman. Our law also grants inmates on death row the right to seek a royal pardon within 60 days from the date the Supreme Court hands down its judgement and execution may take place only after royal discretion. In most cases, the royal pardon is granted, and it is only once in a blue moon that the appeal is turned down.

From Dec 12, 2003 until now, no execution has been carried out in Thailand. There are now some 900 prisoners on death row, all of whom are either in the process of seeking the royal pardon or waiting for the Supreme Court's rulings. Throughout my counselling career, I have represented three suspects facing capital punishment for manslaughter by martial court. In these cases, I sought the royal pardon on their behalf and they were all granted. All three are now free men leading a normal life. One of them even entered politics by running for Parliament thanks to the boundless mercy of His Majesty the King.

Last month, I met Prof Speedy Rice, the representative of World Coalition Against The Death Penalty, who is here on a worldwide campaign to lobby for the lift of the death penalty, and Danthong Breen from the Union for Civil Liberty, to discuss the issue. According to them, 60 countries have abolished the punishment for all crimes, 11 have done so for all but exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes, and 32 still retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any executions for the past 10 years or more and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions. This makes a total of 133 countries which have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Sixty-four other countries, Thailand included, retain and use the death penalty.

Prof Rice also met with Thirapat Serirangsan, a minister to the Prime Minister's Office, and Charan Phakdithanakul, permanent secretary for Justice, who both agree with the principle and pledged to push the issue.

Under the Thai law, capital crimes include offences against life or national security, drug trafficking, and rapes which result in deaths.

In my view, despite the letter of the law, Thailand appears to be more willing now than ever to lift the penalty. Not only does the punishment run against our international commitments, it is also not acceptable under Buddhism, the religion of the majority of the people. Since almost all of our judges are Buddhists who uphold the value of life and the instruction against killing, the death penalty is handed down only in the most violent of cases and on the cruelest of criminals. Even after it is passed, the prisoner may appeal to the King. All of our constitutions provide that the King has the prerogative to grant a pardon and in practice His Majesty has always had mercy of them.

As this year is an auspicious one in which Thais celebrate His Majesty the King's 80th birthday, the government should therefore rethink the issue and consider lifting the penalty as a gift to His Majesty. But since the UN General Assembly is nearing, we might not be able to abolish it in time. At the least, if a vote on the issue is to be cast at the meeting, I hope Thailand at least abstains and drops its support for the penalty.

Bangkok Post, Sunday 18th November 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Issue of Shackling

In July 2005 Thailand presented to the Human Rights Committee in Geneva its report on the implementation of its obligations under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In its response the Human Rights Committee issued a stern admonition that the State "should guarantee the right of detainees to be treated humanely and with respect for their dignity". The issue of shackling was given special attention; "The use of shackling and long period of solitary confinement should be stopped immediately". Yet, two years later prisoners condemned to death are still permanently shackled. UCL has drawn attention again and again to the admonition of the Human Rights Committee and the obligation under international law to implement the terms of the Covenant. The response has been that the prison authorities are 'not yet ready' to fulfill their obligation.

To the shame of the prison authorities, prisoners themselves are taking legal initiatives against the unjust practice. A first case was submitted to the Administrative Court against the Corrections Department on the grounds that perpetual shackling is against Correctional Policy Guidelines, and causes mental stress and physical difficulties to prisoners. Photographic evidence of prison conditions demonstrated that shackling could not be claimed necessary to ensure the secure detention of prisoners. The Court immediately ordered that shackles be removed from the prisoner who submitted the complaint while the case was under consideration. On this decision another prisoner also invoked legal action. In this second case the decision of the Court has already been handed down, that perpetual shackling is indeed illegal. At present fifty prisoners are bringing similar action. If the precedent has been established it is difficult to see how a favourable decision will not be granted in other cases.

A worrying consequence is that prisoners whose shackles have been removed are being restricted to their cell block, unlike shackled prisoners who are free to go outside.
The Corrections Department is appealing the case where a decision has already been given. Can this be considered acceptable given the ruling of the Human Rights Committee two years ago?

And does the Corrections Department intend to oppose the legal case of every individual prisoner who seeks redress under the law?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Text of Moratorium on Death Penalty

United Nations A/C.3/62/L.29

General Assembly Distr.: Limited
1 November 2007

Original: English

Sixty-second session

Third Committee

Agenda item 70 (b)

Promotion and protection of human rights: human
rights questions, including alternative approaches
for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights
and fundamental freedoms

Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of): draft resolution

Moratorium on the use of the death penalty

The General Assembly,

Guided by the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[1] the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[2] and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,[3]

Recalling also the resolutions on the question of the death penalty adopted over the past decade by the Commission on Human Rights in all consecutive sessions, the last being its resolution 2005/59,[4] in which the Commission called upon States that still maintain the death penalty to abolish it completely and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions,

Recalling further the important results accomplished by the former Commission on Human Rights on the question of the death penalty, and envisaging that the Human Rights Council could continue to work on this issue,

Considering that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity, and convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights, that there is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty’s deterrent value and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty’s implementation is irreversible and irreparable,

Welcoming the decisions taken by an increasing number of States to apply a moratorium on executions, followed in many cases by the abolition of the death penalty,

1. Expresses its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty;

2. Calls upon all States that still maintain the death penalty to:

(a) Respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, in particular the minimum standards, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984;

(b) Provide the Secretary-General with information relating to the use of capital punishment and the observance of the safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty;

(c) Progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed;

(d) Establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

3. Calls upon States which have abolished the death penalty not to reintroduce it;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session on the implementation of the present resolution;

5. Decides to continue consideration of the matter at its sixty-third session under the same agenda item.

[1] Resolution 217 A (III).

[2] See resolution 2200 A (XXI), annex.

[3] United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, No. 27531.

[4] See Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 2005, Supplement No. 3 and

corrigenda (E/2005/23 and Corr.1 and 2), chap. II, sect. A.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Abolish Death Penalty in Iran

deathpenaltythailand fully supports the movement against the death penalty in every country in the world, above all in the major executing countries, China, USA, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Singapore. Humanity is diminished by every execution. Abolition will only be accomplished when it is accepted by every state.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Stoning in Iran - a Barbaric Horror

New stoning to death and hanging in Iran

Paris, 11 July 2007 : The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Iranian league for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI) express their deep concern at the stoning to death of a man for adultery, on 5 July 2007, in Takistan (province of Qazvin). On July 10, a spokesperson of the Judiciary confirmed the execution of Jafar Kiani, and stressed that stoning is a legal penalty in Iran.

Jafar Kiani and his partner, Ms. Mokaraameh Ebrahimi, spent 11 years in prison. They were both condemned to stoning. The execution of Mokaraameh Ebrahimi has been postponed up to now thanks to domestic and international mobilisation.
In addition, in Sistan, in the South East of the Islamic Republic, a man whose first name is Mohamad-Gol, was hanged for armed rebellion, but no information is available concerning the date of his arrest and condemnation, the circumstances of his trial, or his family name.

The spokesperson of the Judiciary also announced on 10 July that 20 “thugs” condemned to death will be hanged in the coming days and that 15 other “thugs” may be condemned to death shortly.

Public hanging is generally used as the method of execution in the Islamic Republic of Iran, while stoning is prescribed in certain cases, including adultery (Art. 83 of the Islamic Criminal Code). The Code prescribes that men be buried up to their waist, women up to their chest (Art. 102). The size of the stones, which must not be too large so as to kill the person immediately but not too small either, is described in article 104.

Stoning is an inhuman and degrading punishment violating Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Islamic Republic, which states that «No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment ». Numerous UN bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee against Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have called for the abolition of corporal punishment.

With regard to the death by stoning, an order was reportedly made by the Iranian Judiciary in 2003 not to carry out death by stoning anymore. However, the July 5 execution by stoning is the second one since that order was made.

“We vigorously condemn the recent executions in Iran. They bring the execution toll since the beginning of the year to more than one hundred”, declared Karim Lahidji, Vice-president of FIDH and President of LDDHI. “We urge the Iranian authorities to adopt an immediate moratorium on all executions and, as a first minimal step, to pass a law prohibiting the death by stoning”, he concluded.

In Iran, the death penalty is generally pronounced after blatantly unfair trials, the executions are carried out in public, and the death sentence is not restricted to the “most serious crimes”, as required under international law. Those circumstances make an immediate moratorium on executions all the more urgent.

Little by Little - Exemption for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women exempted from death row in Thailand

Legislators on Wednesday amended the criminal code to exempt pregnant women from the death penalty.

The National Legislative Assembly approved an amendment to the Criminal Case Procedural Code to make a life sentence the maximum penalty allowed for women who are pregnant when on trial.

Under the previous code, pregnant women were eligible for capital punishment but were allowed at least one year on death row before the execution was carried out to spare the life of the child.

The death penalty is rarely carried out in Thailand, a Buddhist country.

Another amendment to the criminal code will require Thai jails to provide facilities for prison moms to take care of their children for at least three years after birth

At the UN Crime Prevention Congress in Bangkok, 2004, the then Permanent Secretary of the Justice Department declared that 'Thailand does not execute women'

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Second Thoughts on an Executioner - Chavoret Jaruboon

Addendum to 'The Last Executioner' (see below)

The fascinating biography of Susan Aldous, ‘The Angel of Bang Kwang’ (Maverick House, 2007; widely available in Bangkok bookshops) gives a complementary picture of Chavoret Jaruboon. Susan has devoted herself to the inmates of Bang Kwang, and the inmates include the staff of the prison as well as prisoners, with a fierce generosity. She describes him as ‘one of the most honest and practical people I know ..who always tries to be fair and respectable to his charges’. He was to become her friend and biggest advocate within the prison and cooperated with her on several projects.

One senses the tragedy of a fair and honest man who has been doomed to take on the tragic guilt of carrying out judicial killing on behalf of others who sleep easily at night by reducing capital punishment to the paperwork of a judicial decision, while hiding the awful reality of the execution process.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This Horrendous Practice

This website is primarily concerned with the issue of the death penalty in Thailand. However the world is one, and what happens elsewhere affects thinking and decisions made in our country. At present three examples of the barbaric practice of Capital Punishment are pending. We list them as examples of the horrendous practice of the death sentence. In these three cases UCL will make strong protest to the countries concerned. Those who wish to follow our example can easily find avenues to submit protests.

1. Iran
A man and a woman are condemned to death by public stoning on Thursday 21st June, in Takistan, Ghagrin, on a charge of adultery . Both have been in prison since sentencing 11 years ago. The judge who passed sentence will throw the first stone and posters will invite the public to participate.

An Iranian source informs us that this sentence has been canceled

Meanwhile a Sri Lankan girl awaits beheading in Saudi Arabia while the Sri Lankan government hesitates to engage Saudi lawyers to launch an appeal to save her.

SAUDI ARABIA Rizana Nafeek (f), aged 19, Sri Lankan national

Domestic worker Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death on 16 June for a murder committed while she was 17 years old. Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which expressly prohibits the execution of offenders for crimes committed when they were under 18 years old. Rizana Nafeek is believed to have appealed against her sentence, but if her appeal is unsuccessful she could be executed within days.

She was arrested in May 2005 in Jeddah on charges of murdering an infant in her care. She had no access to lawyers either during interrogation or at her trial and was believed to have confessed to the murder during police questioning. She has since retracted her confession.

She apparently told the authorities that she was born in February 1988, but they seem to have ignored this on the basis that her passport indicated that she was born in February 1982. According to information available to Amnesty International no medical examination is believed to have been carried out to ascertain her age, nor was she given the opportunity to present her birth certificate, which reportedly shows that she was born in 1988.

2. Pakistan
Younis Masih, a Pakistani Christian was sentenced to death for blasphemy on May 30th. The case arose from an event on 9th September last when Younis went at midnight to protest the loud singing during a religious ceremony in a house near his Lahore home. Trial and sentence followed a complaint lodged by the Muslim cleric who led the service. An attempt has been made on the life of the lawyer, Pervez Aslam Choudhury, who acted for the defense of Younis.
3. Libya (17th July: The death penalty has been commuted to life imprisonment in this case)

PARIS, Tuesday, July 24 (AP) — Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to life in prison in Libya for allegedly contaminating children with the AIDS virus left Tripoli on Tuesday on board a plane with the French president’s wife, France’s presidential palace said.
The plane was heading to Bulgaria, the Elysée Palace said.

In the case of the six Bulgarian medical personnel charged with deliberate injection of the AIDS virus of 438 infants in 1998 , as reported in an earlier posting, the Supreme Court Attorney has requested confirmation of the death sentence by firing squad. Probably the Supreme Court will uphold the sentence, but a compensation deal would override the Court's decision. (12th July. The Supreme Court has indeed upheld the sentence. It was earlier reported that a compensation deal was accepted by the parents of the infected children) One of the condemned, a doctor of Palestinian origin who is now a naturalised Bulgarian, confessed to the crime under torture. However, top AIDS experts have exonerated the group affirming that AIDS infection was already prevalent in the children's hospital due to poor hygiene before the arrival of the Bulgarian medical team. After more than eight years of imprisonment and sentence to death the medical team are severely traumatised.
The three cases illustrate that all cases involving the death penalty are horrendous, whether in Iran, Pakistan, Libya, or Bangkwang prison, Bangkok.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

'Studies spark fresh death-penalty debate'

An article from Associated Press on a renewed death-penalty debate, in the Nation of June 16, alludes to recent research which claims that between 3 and 18 lives would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer. This is a curious statement. The death penalty and the sociology of crime are very complex questions which do not lead to simple conclusions. An investigation resulting in a numerical conclusion which ranges over a factor of 6 indicates a huge imprecision and complexity.

This is indeed the case in the present studies, where the equation used to predict the homicide rate contains six different factors which would influence the total. However, when we examine the data used as input for these factors we find that the variation, standard deviation or, in simple terms, error, is 3 to 4 times greater than the data figure itself. This is particularly true of the execution rate which is considered the crucial factor in deterring homicide. There is no doubt that such studies are of interest and indicate paths to combat homicide. But an author quoted in the Associated Press article warns at the conclusion that ‘a stand for or against capital punishment should be taken with caution’ (Naci Mocan)

One must go further and assert that the conclusions of the article should not influence at all a stand for or against capital punishment. The pivotal article of Mocan referred to above begins with the words ‘Empirical studies of the economics of crime have established credible evidence regarding the impact of sanctions on criminal activity’. The study is an empirical study in the economics of crime. The decision to abolish the death penalty is a moral decision which recognises the inviolability of human life. Capital punishment is no longer an option as a deterrent against crime, as is now recognised in the majority of the world’s nations and by the moral leadership of the UN. To make the argument clear, we might agree that the public stoning to death of an adulterous woman might be a most effective deterrent to adultery, or the amputation of one or both hands be a powerful deterrent of theft. But no amount of juggling with figures from the economics of crime would make such barbaric punishment acceptable in civilised countries.

What then are we to make of the studies on Mocan and his fellow economists? The studies are indeed useful. If we omit from his equation the variables relating to execution and insert variables which include crime rates such as lack of education, alcoholism, and poverty etc. we have a most useful tool to compensate any increase in homicide rate that might arise from a decrease in deterrence. This kind of study is of course the product of US culture where economic thinking dominates any other, and where the loss of human life is considered a collateral issue, an unavoidable cost to be tolerated in national and foreign affairs. I believe that the study in its present form would not be applicable in a society where the free availability of firearms did not facilitate the commission of murder. The methodology of the study is also too coarse a tool to estimate the long term cultural change brought about by the increase in respect for life which inevitably results from abolition of the death penalty. In terms of use of the death penalty, the US remains in the company of China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, pariah states where respect for human rights can hardly flourish when the most basic right of all is not guaranteed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Change in Draft Constitution favours abolition in Thailand

Charter drafters pave way for end to death penalty

The Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) yesterday decided to remove the expression "death penalty" from its draft charter, thus paving the way for a possible future campaign to eventually end capital punishment in Thailand.

The assembly also supported a move that enables police to search suspects without a court warrant.

Removal of the words "death penalty" does not automatically mean an end to the death penalty, but future moves to end it will face fewer obstacles.

"It's good that the capital punishment issue has been adjusted [out of the charter] as it reflects the thinking of a society that doesn't resort to violence," said CDA member Kannika Bantherngjit.

"We should no longer resort to an eye for an eye and should look at the real cause of crime. Strong punishment is not right. It leads to society solving problems by force."

Postscript: In a referendum on 19th September the new constitution was accepted by a small majority of Thailand's population. While welcoming the omission of a phrase relating to the death penalty, we regret the passing of this unsatisfactory constitution forced on the country without consultation or freedom of discussion.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Aung San Suu Kyi

Invitation to every blog everywhere to post a request for the release from detention of Nobel Prize Winner and champion of democracy in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi. Her detention order expires on 27th May. Let us protest a renewal of the detention order for this heroic woman

Monday, May 14, 2007

First Execution of Thai Citizens in Over Three Years

Two Thai nationals beheaded in Saudi for drug smuggling

Riyadh - Two Thai nationals convicted of drug trafficking were beheaded with a sword in Saudi Arabia on Monday, 7th May, the interior ministry said in a stateฌment carried by the official SPA news agency.

The ministry said the two men were executed in the eastern city of Dammam for smuggling a "large quantity of hashish" into the kingdom hidden inside sporting equipment.

The latest beheadings brings to 55 the number of executions announced by the Saudi government so far this year.

For the whole of 2006, at least 37 people were executed, while 83 were put to death in 2005 and 35 the year before, according to AFP tallies based on official statements.

Executions are usually carried out in public in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict form of sharia, or Islamic law. Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking can all carry the death penalty.

The execution is the first execution of Thai citizens anywhere in the world in over three years. It is particularly regrettable that the execution was carried out for a crime relating to drugs which international law no longer considers to be in the category of 'most serious crimes' (Article 6 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, Nation Newspaper, 15th May 2007

Where are the official voices of protest when ordinary Thais suffer brutalityRe: "Thais beheaded in Saudi", News, May 8. It is with increasing amazement that I observe the days pass since the announcement in your newspaper of the beheading of two Thais in Saudi Arabia on charges of importing hashish, with no whimper of protest from those usually most sensitive to any aspersion on Thai honour.
Do we have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs that might interest itself in the wellbeing of its citizens abroad? The right to life of a Thai citizen has never been proclaimed in a Thai constitution. But at a time when an august minister of the present government is making a career out of protesting other slights to Thailand's culture, one might expect some response to the cruel beheadings.
The crime of the unfortunate Thai workers killed in such a brutal fashion has been clearly defined to be outside the category of "serious crimes" in international law for which the death penalty might be imposed. This ruling of the UN Commission on Human Rights was clearly spelled out in Geneva to the Thai government on the occasion of their report on Thailand's observation of the International Convention on Civil and Human Rights.
As Thai and other citizens are still condemned to death in Thailand for drug-related crimes, it appears the lesson is ignored. Nevertheless, when Thai citizens are subject to a horrible reprisal elsewhere, one would expect some official or popular reaction.
Saudi Arabia is a state violating the most basic human rights. But at least one may raise a voice of civilized protest. Ironically, Saudi Arabia is presently reacting adversely to the sentence of 10 years' imprisonment passed in a French court against a member of its royal family, Prince Nayef Bin Fawaz al-Shalaan, on charges of importing cocaine into France, and presently residing outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Can we remain silent when simple Thai migrant workers are horribly executed while a Saudi Arabian prince guilty of the same charge is claimed to be inviolate?

Danthong Breen
Chairman, Union for Civil Liberties, Thailand

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Respected Thai monk opposes death penalty

In a comment on the case of Katherine Horton, an English girl murdered on the island of Koh Samui, respected Thai monk Chaya Saryo Bhikku reflects on rejection of the death penalty from a Buddhist perspective. His view coincides with that of the Dalai Lama recorded below.

บ้านพอ - เชียงใหม่ 21-28 มกราคม 2549

โดย ชยสาโร


เรื่อง เกาะสมุย (หญิงชาวอังกฏษถูกชายสองคนข่มขืนแล้วฆ่า)

ศาลตัดสินประหารชีวิตผู้ชายสองคน แม่ของเด็กที่ตาย ไม่ต้องการให้ประหารชีวิต

รัฐบาลอังกฤษ บอกว่า ไม่สนับสนุนการประหารชีวิต ไม่ว่ากรณีใดๆ

ความเป็นเมืองพุทธ ทำไม สนับสนุนการประหารชีวิต

เมื่อไม่ใช่พุทธ ไม่สนับสนุน

การประหารชีวิต คือ การฆาตกรรมโดยรัฐ

ทางหลักพุทธศาสนา เรียกว่า ฆาตกรรมบุคคล

ทางศาสนา ฆาตกรรมเป็นยาป ไม่ว่าจะเป็นใครทำ

มีการวิจัยเรื่องการประหารชีวิต เมื่อไหร่ ที่ไหน ผลของการประหารชีวิต ไม่เคยทำให้คนกลัว สถิติอาชญากรรม ไม่ลดน้อยลง

การประหารชีวิต มีเหตุผลมาจากการแก้แค้น ไม่น่าเป็นเหตุผลที่ชาวพุทธรับได้

บางคนเชื่อว่า คนต่างชาติจะปลอดภัยกว่าที่คิด

แต่ปรากฏ ว่า เมืองไทยเป็นเมืองพุทธน้อยกว่าที่คิด

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dalai Lama Rejects Death Penalty



เมื่อกล่าวถึง ความตายความตายเป็นสิ่งที่ไม่มีใครต้องการ ไม่อยากแม้แต่จะต้องคิดถึง ความตายที่มาถึงตามกาลแห่งธรรมชาตินั้น เป็นเรื่องที่อยู่นอกเหนือการควบคุมบังคับของคนเรา แต่ความตายที่ถูกมอบให้อย่างจงใจต่อผู้หนึ่งผู้ใด จะด้วยเหตุผลกลใดก็ตาม นับเป็นเรื่องที่เลวร้าย ในระบบกฏหมายของหลายๆ ประเทศในสมัยปัจจุบัน ยังมีโทษประหารชีวิตอยู่ด้วยเหตุผลนานา เป็นต้นว่า เป็นโทษอันสมควรแก่ผู้ละเมิดต่อกฎเกณฑ์ที่ตราไว้อย่างชัดเจนของสังคมนั้นๆ เพื่อจะได้ป้องกันมิให้ผู้ละเมิดกฎเหล่านั้นกระทำผิดซ้ำอีก ตลอดจนเพื่อเป็นการห้ามปรามคนอื่นๆ ไม่ให้ปฏิบัติตามอย่างด้วย แต่หากเราลองสำรวจตรวจสอบเรื่องนี้อย่างละเอียดและเป็นธรรม เราจะเห็นได้อย่างชัดเจนว่า การลงโทษประหารชีวิตนี้ มิใช่ทางออกที่ถูกต้องในการปรามบุคคลไม่ให้ทำผิดซ้ำ ทั้งไม่ใช่การป้องปรามคนอื่นมิให้กระทำผิดอย่างเดียวกันที่มีประสิทธิผลด้วย

การทำร้ายบุคคลอื่นจนเป็นผลให้เกิดความสูญเสียที่น่าเศร้าขึ้นนั้น เป็นผลมาจากภาวะทางอารมณ์ที่ถูกรบกวนจนผิดปกติ และการมีความคิดต่อสังคมในแง่ลบ ซึ่งภาวะเช่นนี้มีแฝงอยู่ในตัวคนทุกคน ต่างแต่เพียงว่าใครจะก้าวไปถึงจุดที่กระทำอันตรายต่อผู้อื่นหรือไม่เท่านั้น ดังนั้น เราจึงไม่สามารถจะเอาชนะภาวะอารมณ์อันผิดปกติในตัวของมนุษย์นี้ได้ ด้วยการประหัตประหารคนอื่น

สิ่งที่ถูกถือว่าเป็น อาชญากรรมนั้น อาจแตกต่างเป็นดำกับขาวได้ ระหว่างสังคมหนึ่งกับอีกสังคมหนึ่ง เป็นด้นว่า การเรียกร้องสิทธิมนุษยชนนั้น ในสังคมหนึ่งจะถูกตราว่าเป็นอาชญากรรม ขณะที่ในอีกสังคมหนึ่ง การปิดกั้นการแสดงออกอย่างเสรีของประชาชนต่างหาก ที่ถือว่าเป็นอาชญากรรม ทั้งการลงโทษต่ออาชญากรรมทั้งหลายก็มีความแตกต่างห่างไกลกันจากสังคมหนึ่งสู่อีกสังคมหนึ่ง นับแต่การจองจำ การบังคับให้มีความเป็นอยู่อย่างบากลำบาก การปรับเงิน และในบางสังคม ก็ยังมีการทรมานให้ความเจ็บปวดต่อร่างกายอยู่ ขณะที่ในบางสังคม ผู้ปกครองลงโทษผู้ก่ออาชญากรรมร้ายแรงด้วยโทษประหารชีวิต การประหารชีวิตอาจช่วยห้ามปรามคนอื่นมิให้ทำตามได้บ้าง แต่ก็นับเป็นการแก้แค้นต่อผู้กระทำผิดอย่างชัดแจ้งด้วย นับเป็นการลงโทษที่รุนแรงอย่างเหลือคณา ผู้ถูกตัดสินต้องสิ้นชีวิตไปโดยไม่ได้รับโอกาสให้ปรับปรุงตัวเอง ไม่มีโอกาสแก้ไขทบทวนถึงอันตรายที่เขาได้ก่อขึ้น ทั้งไม่มีโอกาสที่จะชดใช้ความผิดนั้นอีก ก่อนที่จะตัดสินลงโทษประหารชีวิตแก่ใคร เราควรไตร่ตรองให้ถี่ถ้วนเสียก่อนว่า ผู้ที่ถูกเรียกว่าเป็นอาชญากรนั้น เป็นคนมีอันตรายในเนื้อแท้จริงหรือ และเขาจะเป็นอันตรายต่อสังคมอยู่เช่นนั้นตลอดชั่วชีวิตเขากระนั้นหรือ ข้าพเจ้าเชื่อว่า คำตอบที่ท่านได้เมื่อได้ใคร่ครวญอย่างเป็นธรรมแล้ว ย่อมต้องบอกว่า ไม่จริงและ ไม่ใช่ ข้าพเจ้าเชื่อมั่นว่า ไม่ว่าบุคคลใดก็ตาม แม้จะได้กระทำสิ่งที่เลวร้ายและเป็นอันตรายยิ่งต่อผู้อื่นมาแล้ว ก็ยังมีโอกาสที่เขาผู้นั้นจะสามารถปรับปรุงแก้ไขตัวเองได้ ข้าพเจ้าเชื่อมั่นว่า ทุกสังคมสามารถจะหามาตรการหยุดยั้งการก่ออาชญากรรมและปกป้องอันตรายจากความสูญเสียไม่ให้เกิดขึ้นได้ โดยไม่ต้องใช้โทษประหารชีวิตแต่อย่างใด

ข้าพเจ้ามีความเชื่ออย่างแน่นแฟ้นว่า ผู้เป็นอาชญากรนั้นสามารถปรับปรุงแก้ไขตัวเองได้ ดังนั้น ข้าพเจ้าจึงไม่อาจยอมรับการมีโทษประหารชีวิตได้ และข้าพเจ้าขอให้การสนับสนุนอย่างเต็มกำลังแก่องค์กรหรือคณะบุคคลใดๆ ก็ตาม ที่เพียรพยายามหาวิธีการต่างๆ เพื่อหยุดยั้งการมีโทษประหารชีวิต

ในโลกทุกวันนี้ มีประชาชาติและสังคมมากมายหลายแห่งเหลือเกินที่ให้ความสำคัญต่อการให้การศึกษา และการพัฒนาคุณค่าแห่งมนุษย์น้อยมาก ดูจากการสร้างกิจกรรมทางสังคมและสื่อบันเทิง ตัวอย่างแค่โทรทัศน์เพียงอย่างเดียว จอโทรทัศน์ของเกือบทุกสังคมในโลกวันนี้ เต็มไปด้วยเรื่องราวแห่งความรุนแรง รวมถึงการฆ่าฟันเอาชีวิต รายการประเภทนี้ ได้รับการจัดอันดับว่า มีคุณค่าในการสร้างความบันเทิงใจแก่ผู้ชมอย่างสูง เพียงเรื่องนี้เรื่องเดียว ก็ชี้ได้อย่างชัดเจนแล้วว่า พวกเราทุกวันนี้เดินมาผิดทิศผิดทางกันมากเพียงใด

ข้าพเจ้าเชื่อว่า มนุษย์ไม่ใช่สัตว์ดุร้าย ไม่ใช่เสือสางหรือสิงห์ร้าย ธรรมชาติไม่ได้ให้กรงเล็บที่แหลมคมแก่พวกเราเพื่อตะปบ กัด และขบเคี้ยวเหยื่อ ด้วยความทัศนะแห่งศาสนาพุทธ ข้าพเจ้าเชื่อว่า ธรรมชาติขั้นพื้นฐานของสัตว์รู้คิดในระดับของมนุษย์อย่างเราๆ นั้น เป็นความบริสุทธิ์ เรามีธรรมชาติของจิตใจในส่วนลึกที่บริสุทธิ์และสะอาด แต่มนุษย์กลับกลายเป็นผู้สร้างความรุนแรงขึ้นได้เมื่อมีความคิดอ่านในด้านลบเกิดขึ้น อันเป็นผลจากสถานการณ์และสภาพแวดล้อมที่เลวร้าย

ข้าพเจ้าขอให้ความสนับสนุนอย่างสูงสุดต่อการเรียกร้องให้ประเทศต่างๆ ที่ยังมีโทษประหารชีวิตอยู่ได้โปรดตอบรับต่อกระแสเรียกร้องให้ยุติโทษประหารชีวิตโดยไม่มีเงื่อนไข พร้อมกันนี้ พวกเราก็ควรให้ความสนับสนุนการศึกษาและส่งเสริมให้เกิด

จิตสำนึกแห่งความรับผิดชอบสากลให้สูงขึ้น พวกเราควรหมั่นอภิปรายชี้ความสำคัญแห่งการให้ความรักและความเมตตาแก่กันและกัน เพื่อความอยู่รอดของมนุษย์ชาติเอง และพยายามขจัดสภาวะเงื่อนไขที่อำนวยให้เกิดการพิฆาตเข่นฆ่ากันขึ้น เป็นต้นว่า การต่อต้านความแพร่หลายหาซื้อง่ายของอาวุธยุทโธปกรณ์ในสังคมของพวกเรา อันเป็นเรื่องที่ทุกๆ คนสามารถจะช่วยกันทำ คนละไม้คนละมือได้เสมอ


His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama



In general, death is something none of us wants, in fact it is something we don't even like to think about. When death takes place naturally, it is a process beyond our control to stop, but where death is willfully and deliberately brought about, it is very unfortunate. Of course, within our legal systems there are said to be certain reasons and purposes for employing the death penalty. It is used to punish offenders, to prevent them ever repeating their misdeed and to deter others. However, if we examine the situation more carefully, we will find that these are not the real solutions.

Harmful actions and their tragic consequences all have their origin in disturbing emotions and negative thoughts, and these are a state of mind, whose potential we find within all human beings. From this point of view, every one of us has the potential to commit crimes, because we are all subject to negative disturbing emotions and negative mental qualities. And we will not overcome these by executing other people.

What is deemed criminal can vary greatly from country to country. In some countries, for example, speaking out for human rights is considered criminal, whereas in other countries preventing free speech is a crime. The punishments for crimes are also very different, but usually include various forms of imprisonment or hardship, financial penalties and, in a number of countries, physical pain. In some countries, crimes that the government considers very serious are punished by executing the person who committed the crime.

The death penalty fulfills a preventive function, but it is also very clearly a form of revenge. It is an especially severe form of punishment because it is so final. The human life is ended and the executed person is deprived of the opportunity to change, to restore the harm done or compensate for it. Before advocating execution we should consider whether criminals are intrinsically negative and harmful people or whether they will remain perpetually in the same state of mind in which they committed their crime or not. The answer, I believe, is definitely not. However horrible the act they have committed, I believe that everyone has the potential to improve and correct themselves. Therefore, I am optimistic that it remains possible to deter criminal activity, and prevent such harmful consequences of such acts in society, without having to resort to the death penalty.

My overriding belief is that it is always possible for criminals to improve and that by its very finality the death penalty contradicts this. Therefore, I support those organizations and individuals who are trying to bring an end to the use of the death penalty.

Today, in many societies very little importance is placed on education or the development of human values through social programs and entertainment. In fact, if we take television programming as an example, violence, including killing, is regarded as having a high entertainment value. This is indicative of how misguided we have become.

I believe human beings are not violent by nature. Unlike lions and tigers, we are not naturally equipped to kill with sharp teeth and claws. From a Buddhist viewpoint, I believe that the basic nature of every sentient being is pure, that the deeper nature of mind is something pure. Human beings become violent because of negative thoughts which arise as a result of their environment and circumstances.

I wholeheartedly support an appeal to those countries who at present employ the death penalty to observe an unconditional moratorium. At the same time we should give more support to education and encourage a greater sense of universal responsibility. We need to explain the importance of the practice of love and compassion for our own survival and to try to minimize those conditions which foster murderous tendencies, such as the proliferation of weapons in our societies. These are things even private individuals can work towards.

Tenzin Gyatso

A Symbol for Abolition

Hrdefender has long been looking for a suitable image to promote abolition.

The Old Legend of the Barcelos Cock
Once, at Barcelos, a small town in the north of Portugal, a Spanish pilgrim was arrested and condemned to death for the murder of one of the townspeople. He declared his innocence but could offer no evidence in his defence. As a last wish he asked to be brought again before the judge who had condemned him. The judge was dining with some friends and before them all the man again pleaded his innocence. "There is nothing I can do" replied the judge.
Abandoned by man the Spaniard turned to the saints of his faith who inspired him to declare that the roasted cock on the judge's table would get up and crow. Everyone laughed and the feast continued. But suddenly the cock jumped up and crowed. The pilgrim was set free and the Cock of Barcelos became a symbol of faith, justice, and good luck.
We wish that the cock may crow for all prisoners condemned to death.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Proposed Constitution Article

A broad coalition of Thai human rights organizations proposes the following formulation of the right to life for inclusion in the Thai Constitution now being written.

การมีชีวิตเป็นสิทธิขั้นพื้นของมนุษย์ทุกคน การประกันสิทธิที่จะมีชีวิตโดยการรับรองไว้ในรัฐธรรมนูญ จึงเป็นสิ่งสำคัญที่สุด แต่รัฐธรรมนูญ 2540 มีบทบัญญัติที่เสมือนการยอมรับการทำลายชีวิตมนุษย์ และสิทธิที่จะได้รับการปกป้องคุ้มครองจากการกระทำทารุณยังไม่ครอบคลุมเพียงพอ จึงสมควรรับรองสิทธิในชีวิตให้สอดคล้องกับหลักสิทธิมนุษยชน
มาตรา...บุคคลมีสิทธิและเสรีภาพในชีวิตและร่างกาย และจะต้องไม่ถูกทำให้เสียชีวิตตามอำเภอใจ หรือการถูกบังคับให้หายตัวไปโดยไม่สมัครใจ
การทรมาน ทารุณกรรม หรือการปฏิบัติ หรือการลงโทษด้วยวิธีที่โหดร้าย ไร้มนุษยธรรม หรือย่ำยีศักดิ์ศรี จะกระทำมิได้

Proposed Article: Every person has the right to life and bodily integrity. A person may not be deprived of life by a deliberate act nor be forcefully abducted unwillingly.

A person may not be tortured or treated inhumanely or submitted to cruel punishment or tyrannically deprived of freedom.

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Constitution

As Thailand writes a new constitution the examples of the 47 states who reject the death penalty may be useful

47 Countries throughout the world have repudiated the death penalty in their constitutions. The following table records the wordings of these guarantees of the right to life.


Words of Constitution


1. Andorra

The penalty of death is prohibited


2. Angola

1. The State respects and protects human life

2. The penalty of death is prohibited


3. Austria

The penalty of death is abolished


4. Belgium

The death penalty is abolished, it cannot be brought back into force


5. Bosnia-Herzegovina

All persons within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall enjoy the human rights and fundamental freedoms referred to in paragraph 2 above; these include:

(a) The right to life

Paragraph 3

6. Cambodia

Every individual has the right to life, to liberty, and to personal security. The penalty of death should not exist


7. Cape Verde

No individual may be subject to torture, nor to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. The death penalty may not be applied in any case.


8. Colombia

The right to life is inviolable. The death penalty does not exist


9. Costa Rica

The right to life is inviolable


10. Cote d’Ivoire

Any sanction leading to the deprivation of human life is forbidden


11. Croatia

Every human being has the right to life. The death penalty does not exist in the Republic of Croatia


12. Czech Republic

The death penalty does not exist


13. Dominican Republic

Neither the death penalty, nor torture or any other penalty or repressive procedure or punishment resulting in loss of, or damage to, the physical integrity or health of an individual, may be established


14. Ecuador

The State recognises and guarantees inviolability of life to all citizens. The death penalty does not exist


15. Finland

Every individual has the right to life, to individual liberty, to physical integrity and to security. No individual may be condemned to death, to torture, or to other degrading treatment


16. France

No one may be condemned to the penalty of death


17. Germany

The penalty of death is abolished


18. Guinea-Bissau

In no case may the penalty of death exist in the Republic of Guinea Bissau


19. Haiti

The penalty of death is abolished for every matter


20. Honduras

The penalty of death is prohibited


21. Iceland

The penalty of death may in no case be established by law


22. Ireland

The Parliament shall not enact any law providing for the imposition of the death penalty


23. Luxembourg

The death penalty may not be established


24. Macedonia

Human life is inviolable. The death penalty may not be applied in any case in the Republic of Macedonia


25. Marshall Islands

In virtue of the legislation of the Marshall Islands, no crime is punishable by penalty of death


26. Micronesia

Penalty of death is forbidden


27. Monaco

The penalty of death is abolished


28. Mozambique

1. All citizens have the right to life and that their physical integrity be respected. They may not be subjected to torture, nor to cruel or inhuman treatment.

2. The penalty of death does not exist in the Republic of Mozambique


29. Namibia

The right to life will be respected and protected. No law may impose the death penalty as a judicial punishment.. No tribunal or court may issue a death penalty. No execution may take place in Namibia


30. Nepal

No law can envisage the death penalty


31. Netherlands

The death penalty sentence may not be pronounced


32. Nicaragua

The right to life is inviolable and inherent in the human person. The penalty of death does not exist in Nicaragua


33. Panama

The penalty of death does not exist


34. Paraguay

The penalty of death is abolished


35. Portugal

(1) Human life is inviolable

(2) The death penalty is applicable in no case


36. Romania

The penalty of death is prohibited


37. Sao Tome and Principe

1. Human life is inviolable

2. The death penalty may not be applied in any case

38. Seychelles

2. No law allows a tribunal to pronounce a sentence of capital punishment


39. Slovak Republic

3. The penalty of death is inadmissable


40. Slovenia

Human life is inviolable. The death penalty does not exist in Slovenia


41. South Africa

Everyone has the right to life


42. Sweden

Sentence of death may not be pronounced


43. Switzerland

Every person has the right to live. The death penalty is prohibited


44. Timor-Leste

There shall be no death penalty in the Democratic Republic of East Timor


45. Ukraine

Every person has the inalienable right to life.

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life. The duty of the State is to protect human life.


46. Uruguay

Penalty of death may not be applied in any case


47. Venezuela

The right to life is inviolable. No law may establish the penalty of death, and no authority may inflict it



Abolitionist and retentionist countries
Over half the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
Amnesty International's latest information shows that:

  • 89 countries and territories have abolished the death penalty for all crimes;
  • 10 countries have abolished the death penalty for all but exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes;
  • 29 countries can be considered abolitionist in practice: they retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any executions for the past 10 years or more and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions,

making a total of 128 countries which have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

  • 69 other countries and territories retain and use the death penalty, but the number of countries which actually execute prisoners in any one year is much smaller.