Tuesday, November 16, 2010
On 11 November the UN General Assembly's Third Committee adopted its third resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution, adopted by 107 votes in favour, 38 against with 36 abstentions of which there were 17 votes in favour, 11 against with 8 abstentions from the Asia Pacific region.
The following countries from Asia and the Pacific positively changed their vote compared to 2008: Afghanistan (from against to abstention); Bhutan (from abstention to in favour); Kiribati (from absent to in favour); Maldives (from against to in favour); Mongolia (from against to in favour); Solomon Islands (from against to abstention); Thailand (from against to abstention). This is a notable and positive swing from Asia and the Pacific confirming regional steps towards abolition and the worldwide trend. is particularly encouraging.
For Thailand which changes its stance on any legal position at the pace of an arthrithic snail, this is a thundering advance. It reflects the fact that the Thai government has declared its intention to achieve abolition over the next five years in its published human rights policy for 2009 to 2013. Signed, sealed, and acknowleged by every government ministry and department.
The Shadrake case has reached its predicted conclusion in Singapore. As reported by the BBC:A Singapore court has sentenced the UK author Alan Shadrake to six weeks in prison for insulting the judiciary in a book he wrote about the death penalty.
The 76-year-old was found guilty last week, and faces a further trial on defamation charges.
He was also ordered to pay a S$20,000 (£9,585; $15,400) fine.
In his book, Once a Jolly Hangman - Singapore Justice in the Dock, he criticised how the death penalty is used, alleging a lack of impartiality.
Prosecution lawyers had sought a prison term of 12 weeks.
Shadrake offered an apology, which High Court Judge Quentin Loh called "nothing more than a tactical ploy in court to obtain a reduced sentence".
Shadrake's lawyer, M Ravi, said an appeal was unlikely to succeed.
He said his client was in ill health and regretted that he had received no support from the British public.
Mr Ravi added that Shadrake did not have any money and the fine could not be paid.
Judge Loh said that Shadrake would have to serve an additional two weeks in prison if he failed to pay the fine.
Malaysia-based Shadrake was arrested in July when he visited Singapore to launch his book.
The book contains interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, as well as a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison.
It claims he executed around 1,000 men and women from 1959 until he retired in 2006.
"I think I've been given a fair hearing," Shadrake told the media after the verdict was issued last week.
US-based Human Rights Watch and other rights groups had urged Singapore to exonerate the author.
Separately, Shadrake is being investigated by the police for criminal defamation; his passport is being held by the police.
Is there no end to the legal shananigans of Singapore. They make a speciality of imprisoning the unimpeachable. If the offence were real the sentence would have been much greater! No doubt the aged owl in the background has been consulted. Another vindictive and senseless sentence which is a real cause of contempt for the Singapore legal system.
For a discussion of the true picture of Singapore's judicial system see:
"Beyond Suspicion?, The Singapore Judiciary", Francis T. Seow, Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 2006