Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Death Row Thailand - empty!

Male prisoners condemned to death are detained in Bang Kwang prison, in segregated areas of Buildings 5 and 7, which for want of another name is often referred to as Death Row, even if the areas do not have a topological similarity or penitentiary identity with those in the US,home of death rows. Women prisoners condemned to death are held in the Women's Central Prison, Ladphrao, and are not segregated at all from other women prisoners. However, relatives know exactly where they are and when they may be visited. Until Bangkok was flooded. First, it was reported that 600 prisoners had been moved from the flooded area of Bang Kwang in 17 buses, to be distributed in prisons elsewhere in the country. Now, we are told that Bang Kwang, this massive old high security prison, has been emptied of all prisoners, and its prisoners are being held in unknown locations. This is no small matter, Bang Kwang is already an overcrowded prison, with 4,191 prisoners, 676 of them condemned to death and permanently shackled. Where are they? The website of the Corrections Department has provided a phone number and an email address to make inquiries during the flood emergency. Emails remain unanswered and the telephone rings without response. These 676 people are already vulnerable and under severe stress. They desperately need the support of relatives, lawyers, and others who relate to them. The feeling of being out of sight in unknown locations must be especially traumatic. One could quote all kinds of rules of prison practice requiring relatives to be notified of the place of imprisonment, but this crisis is beyond rules. There is a grave injustice in moving prisoners en mass to unknown locations and letting the days pass with no news release of what is happening to them.
In fact, the treatment of prisoners is not very different from the treatment of ordinary citizens throughout the country. God-like decisions are made on which areas will be flooded, which dams will release water, which water gates will open or close, when and where mysteriously planned walls of sandbags will rise and fall, without explanation to those who suffer the consequences. But, at least, the public fight back, ask questions, act against the flood barriers in their utter frustration.
Prisoners are treated as non-persons with no rights, chained, and restrained against every norm of human dignity.
Women prisoners live in even more inhumane conditions.
Where are they? Thai prisons are already among the most crowded in the world; undoubtedly prisoners are being forced into even more intolerable conditions. Are they receiving food and water? One does not dare to ask whether they receive adequate food and water, as these are hardly available to the ordinary citizen in the flooded areas.
What is happening? Let the prisoners telephone their relatives, friends, and supporters. Or at least make a news release on the issue.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Death Penalty and Thailand's Universal Periodic Review

I have been analyzing the references to the death penalty in the Thai UPR process, which took place on 5th October in the headquarters of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. In all ten countries raised the issue:
France: moratorium + abolition. good basic reference
Nicaragua: abolition, even for grave crimes
Canada: passing reference only
Slovakia: moratorium + abolition + prison conditions. excellent
Turkey: amazing. reference to human rights plan and the issue of death penalty for drugs
Switzerland: good basic reference
Argentina: good basic reference
Hungary: best reference, mention of human rights plan, abolition, and application of death penalty to non-violent crimes
UK: Advance question on reference to death penalty in 2nd National Human Rights Plan and on 2nd OP of ICCP
Czech Republic: Advance question on 2nd OP of ICCPR

Glaring absence of Netherlands who financed UCL projects against death penalty.
Surprisingly strong support from Slovakia, Turkey, and Hungary.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Letter to US Ambassasor in Thailand

October 4, 2011 11:33 am, Nation Newspaper
On September 21, in Jackson, Georgia, the 42-year-old Afro-American Troy Davis was put to death.

The execution of Davis has shocked the world. You may reply that the execution was "prescribed by law and after due process". This is no longer a sufficient reply. The great majority of members of the world organisation you helped found already formally request a moratorium on such actions. International law continues to require ever more narrow interpretation of the phrase "most serious crimes" of Article 6.2, edging closer to an outright rejection of capital punishment.

"Any man's death diminishes me," wrote John Donne. Personally, I felt the diminishment. All capital punishment is abhorrent. The executioners speak with contempt of the "weaklings" who cannot stomach judicial killing. In fact it is the strong who object, and do not just turn away with a tear in the eye.

The reason that the death penalty is a necessary deterrent has long been shown to be a falsehood. The arguments are well known. One must counter that the state, or any human agent, does not have the authority to deprive anyone of life. It is thus written in the highest rule of life, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

You may respond further that it is the duty of an ambassador to uphold the laws of the state she represents. I think not. The death penalty is a matter of conscience, and no state may impose it on any of us. You lived in the Philippines at the time that the death penalty there was abolished. For one reason or another you may not risk a personal opinion on the issue, but at least you may report the revulsion felt throughout the world to the execution of Troy Davis. He spent 20 years on the ill-named "death row". We can have no real understanding of the horror of such an experience. I can guess a little from conversations with the condemned in Bang Kwang prison. Madame Ambassador, you know the French language; doubtless you have read in its emotive original Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamne by Victor Hugo. You may be familiar with the writings of Robert Badinter, who visited his clients, the last men to be executed in France, every day between their condemnation and execution. In response to the news of the execution of Troy Davis he spoke of: a judicial assassination; a stain on US history; a defeat for humanity

A man has been kept on death row for 20 years; a punishment considered cruel, inhumane and degrading by the European Court of Human Rights. As one of the founding members of the UN and as a permanent member of the Security Council, the US has an exceptional responsibility to this body. I ask whether it is appropriate that your country has declined to accept the call for a moratorium on the death penalty, first passed by majority vote on December 8, 2007 and since then twice repeated with an increased majority.

I am aware that your country claims to follow the letter of the law in retaining the "right" to capital punishment, by adding to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, sotto voce, the phrase rejected by the General Assembly of 1948, "except in cases prescribed by law and after due process". Eleanor Roosevelt urged the rejection of this amendment. More explicitly, your country claims the justification allowed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6.2, "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".

But we are no longer in 1948, nor even 1966, the date of the International Covenant referred to. In 1966, Article 6.6 indicated that the allowance of Section 6.2 was a temporary measure, allowing time to adapt to the full requirement of abolition: "6.6 … Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by a State Party to the present Covenant".

In 2011, attitudes to the death penalty have greatly changed. In his report to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN secretary-general points out that, "About 140 of the 192 state members of the United Nations are believed to have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium either legally, or in practice."

When we consider details of this case, the story becomes worse.

In 1991 Troy Davis was condemned to death for the murder of a white policeman in 1989. There was no physical evidence that he committed the crime, nor was the weapon ever produced. His condemnation followed the evidence of 9 witnesses who identified him as the murderer. Seven of those witnesses later retracted their evidence, some saying that their evidence was given under pressure of police persuasion. The identification parade was carried out in a way which is no longer tolerated; before seeing the parade, witnesses had been shown a picture of Troy Davis, and told that this was the man they were expected to identify. The identification parade is now known to be a very flawed process.

The standard of evidence in the trial was far short of the standards for capital punishment. You will be aware that the standard of evidence in cases involving the death penalty is far more demanding than is the case in other criminal trials. In all probability Troy Davis was innocent.

The execution was delayed for four hours until the Supreme Court ordered the lethal injection to proceed. Is there another Victor Hugo, who can decode for us this ultimate inhumanity? President Obama declined to intervene. Before he died, Troy Davis declared that the movement to abolish the death penalty will go on. Indeed it will, Troy. This case has shocked many, and may well prove decisive in leading to abolition. One may also truly pity the wife of the slain policeman who declared her satisfaction that vengeance was achieved.

This letter is addressed to Your Excellency ahead of October 10, World Day for Abolition of the Death Penalty. One ambassador in Thailand has submitted her plea to the government of Thailand to proceed with abolition. Other ambassadors have assured me that they avail of every opportunity to make the same submission to the Royal Thai Government. Perhaps Your Excellency can find some diplomatic way to express support for an initiative parallel to that taken in the Philippines.

Danthong Breen is chairman of the Union for Civil Liberty.
10 1Email0

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis Executed

On 21st September 2011, at 23h08, in Jackson, Georgia, the 42 year old Afro-American, Troy Davis, was put to death.
In 1991 he was condemned to death for the murder of a white policeman in 1989. There was no physical evidence that he had committed the crime, nor was the weapon ever produced. His condemnation followed the evidence of 9 witnesses who identified him as the murderer. 7 of these witnesses later retracted their evidence, some of them saying that their evidence was given in response to police persuasion. The identification parade was carried out in a way which is no longer tolerated; before seeing the parade, the witnesses had been shown a picture of Troy Davis, and told that this was the man they were expected to identify. Study of witness by identification parade is now known to be a very flawed process.
The standard of evidence in the trial is far short of the standards for capital punishment. In all probability Troy Davis is innocent.
Execution was delayed for four hours until the Supreme Court ordered the lethal injection to proceed. President Obama declined to intervene.
Before he died, Troy Davis declared that the movement to abolish the death penalty will go on. Indeed it will, Troy. This case has shocked many, and may well prove decisive in leading to abolition. In passing, one may pity the wife of the slain policeman who declares her satisfaction that vengeance is achieved.

Comment by Robert Badinter who abolished the death penalty in France

- a judicial assassination
- a stain on US history
- a defeat for humanity
A man has been kept on death row for 20 years; a punishment considered cruel, inhumane, and degrading by the European Court of Human Rights

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another lesson for Thailand

Once again an illustration of the ill-practice of Thai officialdom in taking US practice on the death penalty as a model.
A stay of execution has been granted to Duane Buck just hours before he was to be put to death in Texas on Thursday.
Mr. Buck, an African-American, was convicted of murder in 1997. At the sentencing, a psychologist who was an expert witness said “yes” when asked if “the race factor, black,” increased the chances that Mr. Buck would again do something dangerous.
In Texas, this is a pivotal question: if the state does not prove “future danger” beyond reasonable doubt, it cannot sentence a convict to death. The prosecution got the answer it wanted. The jury sentenced Mr. Buck to death.
"The gross racism in Mr. Buck’s case is proof again that the death penalty is cruel and unusual because it is arbitrary and discriminatory, as well as barbaric, and must be abolished." (From Editorial, NYT, 17th September 2011)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Whispers and Rumours

In his annual report on the death penalty Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, takes note of the recommendations to Retentionist countries, made on the occasion of their Universal Peer Review (UPR) before the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Thailand will undergo such a review on 5th October of this year and its death penalty practice is certain to be raised. There will be two issues, one on continued use of the death penalty, the other on shackling and other abuses of detention for those on death row. Regarding the death penalty an informant in the Rights and Liberties Protection Department of the Ministry of Justice reveals that they have already been instructed to prepare legislation for abolition. Meanwhile the death row of Bang Kwang prison is alive with rumour that shackling will be abolished. If these two tendencies are realised, we can expect Thailand to take the place of honour in next year’s report on the death penalty to the Human Rights Council.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Slaugther in Norway and the Death Penalty: Thai reaction

สังหารหมู่ในนอรเวย์ กับการไม่ลงโทษประหารชีวิต

สมศรี หาญอนันทสุข
สมาชิก แอมเนสตี้ อินเตอร์เนชั่นแนล ประเทศไทย

การละเบิดที่กรุงออสโล และการสังหารหมู่อย่างโหดเหี้ยมที่เกาะอูโทยาในวันที่ 22 กรกฏาคม ที่ผ่านมา เป็นข่าวสะเทือนขวัญไปทั่วโลก และเป็นเหตุการณ์ที่ยอมรับกันไม่ได้ ไม่ว่าใครจะอยู่เบื้องหลังการกระทำของชายคนร้ายวัย 32 ปี หรือจะมีกี่คนที่ร่วมมือในการโจมตีครั้งนี้ เหตุการณ์ดังกล่าวหากเกิดขึ้นในประเทศไทย และหากชายผู้นี้เป็นคนไทยที่ก่อคดี แล้วถูกจับได้ในเมืองไทย คงถูกศาลเตี้ยรุมประชาทัณฑ์ จนครอบครัวต้องย้ายบ้านหนีไปแล้ว

คนไทยที่อ่านหรือดูข่าวนี้ คงตกใจไม่แพ้ชาวต่างชาติ ซึ่งกำลังติดตามอย่างใจจดใจจ่อเพราะอยากจะรู้ว่าอะไรที่ทำให้คทาชายชาวนอรเวย์ผู้นี้ต้องลงมือวางระเบิด ยิงสังหารหมู่ อย่างเลือดเย็นมากๆ ที่ผ่านมาสื่อมวลชนไทยหลายแขนงวิพากษ์วิจารณ์ และบางคนลุ้นให้มีการลงโทษประหารชีวิต รวมทั้งสื่อที่ไร้คุณภาพบางแขนง เชื่อว่าประเทศนอรเวย์จะลงโทษคนคนนี้ดังเช่นที่หลายประเทศ (รวมถึงประเทศไทย) มีแนวโน้มจะกระทำกัน ที่หนักไปกว่านั้นผู้เขียนได้ฟังผู้อ่านข่าวสองท่านเมื่อวันอาทิตย์ที่ผ่านมาซึ่งพูดอย่างสะใจว่า ประเทศนอรเวย์ควรจะประหารชีวิตชายผู้นี้และสัปให้เป็นชิ้นๆ ฟังแล้วก็อดรู้สึกอเน็จอนาจใจกับเรื่องทั้งสองเรื่องไม่ได้ ก็คือเรื่องการสังหารหมู่ที่นอรเวย์ และทัศนคติของสื่อมวลชนไทยที่ซาดิสย์ไม่แพ้กัน

มันน่าสนใจว่า ผู้อ่านข่าว และคนไทยจำนวนมากไม่ทราบเลยว่าประเทศในยุโรปเขาไม่มีการลงโทษแบบนี้นานแล้ว โดยเฉพาะสมาชิก 27 ประเทศของสหภาพยุโรป (EU) ซึ่งกำหนดเป็นกฏระเบียบเลยว่าหากประเทศใด ยังมีการลงโทษประหารชีวิตอยู่ ก็จะเป็นสมาชิกไม่ได้

อย่างไรก็ตาม สำหรับประเทศนอรเวย์ (และสวิสเซอแลนด์) แม้จะไม่ได้เป็นสมาชิกสหภาพยุโรป แต่ก็ได้ปฏิบัติเช่นเดียวกับประเทศอื่นในแถบเดียวกัน และรัฐบาลทุกชุดของประเทศเขาก็ไม่เห็นด้วยกับการลงโทษที่ป่าเถื่อนทุกรูปแบบ เขาจึงออกกฏหมายยกเลิกโทษประหารฯให้นักโทษธรรมดาตั้งแต่ปี 2448 (คศ. 1905) หรือร้อยกว่าปีที่แล้วและยกเลิกคดีอาญาทุกคดีในปี 2522 อีกทั้งยังลงนามในปฏิญญาและอนุสัญญาหลักๆ ถึง 14 ฉบับ หรือเกือบทั้งหมดที่ระบุไว้ในรายงานของ แอมเนสตี้ อินเตอร์เนชั่นแนล

หากมองเรื่องการโจมตีด้วยระเบิดที่กรุงออสโลและที่เกาะอุโทยา จากตรรกะธรรมดาๆ ต้องยอมรับว่าเป็นเรื่องน่าสพึงกลัว และต้องลงโทษค้นร้ายที่เกี่ยวข้องทุกคน ไม่มีข้อยกเว้น แต่จะลงโทษอย่างไร หากถามรัฐบาลของประเทศเขาและประชาชนทั่วไปในนอรเวย์ว่า เรื่องนี้น่าจะทำให้รัฐสภาของเขานำโทษประหารชีวิตกลับมาใช้เพื่อป้องปรามการกระทำที่อาจจะเกิดขึ้นอีกในอนาคต หรือไม่ อย่างไร

ผู้เขียนขอถือวิสาสะ ยืนยันแทนคนนอรเวย์ได้เลยว่า รัฐบาลและประชาชนนอรเวย์เขาเลิกคิดถึงการลงโทษแบบตาต่อตา ฟันต่อฟัน และข้ามพ้นการลงโทษเก่าๆเช่นนี้ไปไกลเกินกว่าที่เราคิดมากแล้ว ทั้งนี้เป็นเพราะเขามีความศิวิไลย์มากกว่าเรา และเขาไม่เห็นว่ามีหลักประกันอะไรที่ โทษประหารชีวิตจะช่วยยับยั้งไม่ให้ผู้กระทำผิดผู้นี้ คิดวางระเบิด และสาดกระสุนใส่บรรดาเยาวชนเหล่านั้น เพราะผู้ที่คิดทำอะไรได้ถึงขนาดนี้ส่วนใหญ่ ไม่กลัวการถูกประหารฯอยู่แล้ว บางคนถึงขนาดติดระเบิดพลีชีพวิ่งไปยังเป้าหมาย เพื่อตายพร้อมๆกันโดยไม่ต้องคอยโทษประหารด้วยซ้ำไป

ดังนั้นโทษแบบนี้จะมีความหมายอะไร มีไปก็คอยแต่จะสร้างภาพพจน์ไม่ดีให้กับประเทศชาติ สู้เรามาคิดใหม่ ตรากฏหมายใหม่ ให้ลงโทษตลอดชีวิตดีกว่า เพื่อให้ผู้ที่กระทำผิดในลักษณะนี้มีชีวิตอยู่ในคุกให้เราได้ศึกษาถึงต้นเหตุปัจจัยที่ทำให้เขาคิด วางแผน และลงมือกระทำการนั้น ไม่ว่าสาเหตุจอมาจากการเล่นเกมส์คอมพิวเตอร์มากไป หรือมีพฤติกรรมเรียนแบบจากที่ไหน หรือเป็นความเชื่อทางศาสนา ลัทธิที่สุดโต่ง หรือเป็นผู้ก่อการร้าย หรือเป็นปัญหาทางจิตล้วนๆ ที่อาจจะเกิดขึ้นอีกกับสมาชิกของอีกหลายครอบครัวในอนาคตก็ได้

จึงอยากจะเตือนสติคนไทยหลายคนว่า เมื่อเราจะกำจัดความรุนแรงด้วยการใช้วิธีที่รุนแรง มันอาจจะกำจัดคนๆนั้นด้วยการเพิ่มคนตายให้กับประเทศนอรเวย์อีกหนึ่งคน แต่ความรุนแรงที่เสริมเพิ่มเข้าไปนั้น มันจะฝังลึกในจิตใต้สำนึกผู้คนทั่วไปมากกว่าเก่าหรือเปล่า หรือสู้เรานำกรณีความรุนแรงนี้มาเป็นประโยชน์ศึกษาให้ถึงต้นเหตุ เพื่อนำผลการศึกษามาเฝ้าระวัง ป้องกันคนต่อๆไปไม่ให้มีโอกาสกระทำการเช่นนี้ จะดีกว่าหรือไม่

H.E. Nordgaard Katja,
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway
Bangkok, Thailand

It seems to me that many people from inside and outside the country are calling for bringing back death penalty to Norwegian society after the bombing and shooting by Anders Behring Breivik. I hope your respected government will not consider capital punishment for the final solution and will be able to clam down the anger of the people.

I understand that this incident has caused a big tragedy (76 dead) which no one can accept it but death penalty is not an ideal solution for any problem. Norway is a developed country, high moral and abolished DP since 1905. It is a model of HR and Peace and it is well respect place for Nobel prize for the world.

With our awareness and concern, there are many ways of punishment to assure security and confidence for people, ie. extending the penalty period from 21 years to be more years, promulgate a new law for life sentence for heinous crime (not for every cases) or consider it case by case, etc.

Bringing back DP to the Kingdom of Norway will be a big shaking for our international norm and undermine our human right principle against DP.

We join the sorrow of victims' relatives and the grief of all people and God bless you all.

Somsri Hananuntasuk
Member of AI Thailand

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

UPR Triumvirate

It bodes ill for progress towards abolition of the death penalty in Thailand that the three countries chosen to respond to Thailand's human rights report on October 5th, the UPR "triumvirate" are countries which themselves retain the death penalty.

Cuba, commuted the death sentences of the remaining 3 death row inmates in 2010. The last execution was carried out in 2003.
In Indonesia, 98 people remained under sentence of death at year end 2010. New death sentences that year totaled 7 and 10 persons were executed in 2008
In Nigeria the number on death row is approximately 824, and there were 151 new death sentences last year. The last execution was in 2006.

Figures for Thailand are: prisoners on death row 759; death sentences in 2010,53; most recent executions, 2 persons in 2008.
In summary, Cuba is very low on the list of retentionist countries, while Indonesia, Nigeria, and Thailand are comparable middle level executioners. The only hope of strong recommendation to abolish the death penalty rests with interventions from countries attending the UPR.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

One must not shuffle about with the death penalty. In 2009, the Ministry of Justice published a second Human Rights Plan for the years 2009 to 2013. In section 3.1 of the plan we are informed that Parliament has discussed the death penalty, agreeing to abolish the penalty and to replace it with life imprisonment. The document originates from the Ministry of Justice. In an annex to the plan, government ministries and departments, respond to the plan, accepting its proposals. Among the signatories are Mr. Kasit Phirom, Minister of Foreign Affairs. On October 5th, Thailand is scheduled to present itself for a Universal Peer Review (UPR) of its human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at present displays a report which the Royal Thai Government will present at the Review. Strangely, there is no mention of abolition of the death penalty. It is impossible that this is some careless omission. In its previous appearance before the UN Human Rights Council the Government was advised that current interpretation of international law recommends abolition. Since that time the UN General Assembly has voted three times in favour of a Moratorium on executions worldwide to be accompanied by national reflection on abolition.
What is the Government doing? Have they reversed the decision in favour of abolition? Ominously, regarding the death penalty, the UPR submission speaks of the importance of paying attention to public opinion throughout the country. By this statement, it appears that the Government is falling back on an old cliche, that abolition must wait a majority in public opinion. As the government, now three years into the human rights plan, has made no effort to introduce a public debate or to present evidence for an informed discussion, we can only assume that it intends yet again to quote the uninformed opinion of a majority to block progress on abolition. This is a failure in moral leadership, and a betrayal of the stand taken in the 2nd human rights plan. Is this a decision of the Ministry of Justice? By what right do they reject the plan and the signatories who accepted its proposal? Will they try to justify this stand in Geneva in the coming October, or hope that it will quietly pass unnoticed?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Protest against the death penalty for homosexuality

Death Penalty Thailand on Saturday 25th June joins in world rejection of the death penalty for homosexuality.

Nine countries still enforce the death penalty against homosexuals:
Afghanistan, Saudia Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Soudan, Yémen.

Allah is All-merciful

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Conference on Prison Conditions in Thailand

As the possibility arises that Thailand will replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, we turn our attention to conditions of long term imprisonment. On 31st May UCL organised an afternoon conference on prison conditions in Thailand. What follows is a BBC report on the conference.
Prisoners in Thailand kept 'shackled and cramped'
By Vaudine England BBC News, Bangkok
An independent rights group in Thailand, the Union for Civil Liberties, has opened a campaign to improve conditions in Thailand's jails. It has issued a report on prisons which highlights overcrowding, the use of shackles and the lack of medical care. The group has campaigned against the death penalty and praises the government's promise to commute death sentences to life imprisonment.
That makes improving prison conditions even more important, it says.
Thailand's prisons are built to hold about 100,000 people - but according to the government's own figures, they are holding more than twice that number.
As a result, the conditions, says the Union for Civil Liberties, are horrendous.
People have to sleep in tight rows on hard floors. In these sleeping cells, each prisoner has an average of one square metre - as opposed to the four to six square metres described as the minimum by the Council of Europe.
Danthong Breen, chairman of the union, says the overcrowding is shocking.
"In the women's prison it's particularly bad. You have 200 women in a single cell," he told the BBC. "If one of them has to get up at night to go to the toilet, they all shift a bit and when she comes back the space is gone and she has to stand up all night.
"The level of crowding is inhuman and inhumane."
The other horror, he says, is the widespread use of shackles.
These are welded on to the ankles of long-term prisoners and are not removed, even during illness, until the sentence is served.
The United Nations has criticised the practice. The Thai foreign ministry has promised to end it. The constitutional court ruled the practice was wrong.
But the reality of the over-crowding and a ratio of warders to prisoners of about one to 45, makes the practice hard to stamp out.
Prisoners with money are able to improve every aspect of their life behind bars, Mr Breen says. But a lack of government money is holding back investment in new facilities and extra staff.
The civil liberties group suggests Thailand could look more at using non-custodial sentences. It estimates at least half of those jailed are being held for drugs offences.
And it hopes that whatever government emerges from elections next month, the promise to no longer impose the death penalty is kept.

Not revenge, but forgiveness is sweet

Victim of 9/11 hate crime fights for attacker's life
Days after the 9/11 terror attacks, 31-year old laborer Mark Stroman went on a shooting spree in the Dallas area. In a drug-fueled mission of revenge, he killed two South Asian immigrants and shot another — Rais Bhuiyan — in the face at close range, blinding him in one eye.
Shortly after his arrest, Stroman boasted of his role as "Arab Slayer."
Now, as Stroman faces imminent execution in Texas, an unlikely champion is fighting to save his life: Bhuiyan, who spent years recovering from the wounds he suffered in the attack.
"I've had many years to grow spiritually," said Bhuiyan, a Muslim who immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh and now works as technology professional in Dallas. "I'm trying to do my best not to allow the loss of another human life. I'll knock on every door possible."Bhuiyan began collecting signatures late last year on a petition asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Stroman's death penalty sentence to life in prison without parole through his website World without Hate.
Among those supporting his cause are some relatives of the two victims who were killed.
'Unprecedented' The odds are stacked against Stroman, 41, who is held in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, where he is scheduled to be executed on July 20.
The seven-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles holds the power to recommend a commutation to the governor, but it has only done so in one death penalty case since December 2000, when the current Gov. Rick Perry took office. That recommendation was denied by Perry.
By Kari Huus, Canada msn news June 3

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Not in Our Name: Relatives of Victims on Death Penalty

One of the arguments most often quoted in support of the death penalty, in Thailand as elsewhere, is that it is necessary to give justice to relatives of the victims of capital crime. Increasingly these relatives are denying that capital punishment is in their interest, as the following newspaper account relates:

"As the country has increasingly turned against capital punishment as barbaric and horrifyingly prone to legal abuses, defenders are pointing to the emotional needs of the families of murder victims — “co-victims” to those who study crime — as justification. Many family members, however, have said they want no part of that.

When New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007 and New Mexico did in 2009, each did so with the support of co-victims. In Connecticut, the Legislature’s joint Judiciary Committee has now approved a bill that would repeal that state’s death penalty, again with the support of victims’ families.

The family members say that rather than providing emotional closure, the long appeals process in death penalty cases is actually prolonging their suffering. They also say it wastes money and unjustifiably elevates some murders above others in importance. In an open letter to the Connecticut Legislature, relatives of murder victims — 76 parents, children and others — wrote that “the death penalty, rather than preventing violence, only perpetuates it and inflicts further pain on survivors.” New York Times, 30th April 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Imprisonment for life without parole

As Thailand moves to abolish the death penalty, there are fears that, following US example, it will replace death by imprisonment for life without parole. The following leads one to doubt the wisdom of imitating US practice:

In the United States, dozens of 13- and 14-year-old children have been sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole after being prosecuted as adults. While the United States Supreme Court recently declared in Roper v. Simmons that death by execution is unconstitutional for juveniles, young children continue to be sentenced to imprisonment until death with very little scrutiny or review. A study by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has documented 73 cases where children 13 and 14 years of age have been condemned to death in prison. Almost all of these kids currently lack legal representation and in most of these cases the propriety and constitutionality of their extreme sentences have never been reviewed.
Most of the sentences imposed on these children were mandatory: the court could not give any consideration to the child’s age or life history. Some of the children were charged with crimes that do not involve homicide or even injury; many were convicted for offenses where older teenagers or adults were involved and primarily responsible for the crime; nearly two-thirds are children of color.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Death Penalty in Thailand

Current Death penalty Statistics

For all crimes
Sex. Appeal Court. Supreme Court... Juridical Process Complete....Total

For drug related crimes
Sex....Appeal Court....Supreme Court....Juridical Process Complete....Total

For crimes of homicide and others
Sex....Appeal Court....Supreme Court....Juridical Process Complete....Total

Source: Department of Corrections, Bangkok, 30th March 2011

In 2010 the total number of those under sentence of death numbered 708. The increase to 759 is consistent with the 53 reported death sentences in the last year.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Execution of three Filipinos on drug charges in China

On Wednesday 30th March 2011, three Filipinos, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, aged 32; Elizabeth Batain, aged 38, and Ramon Credo, aged 42 were executed by lethal injection in China. They were charged with smuggling heroin weighing 4 to 6 kilos into the country. By Chinese law the smuggling of a quantity exceeding 50 grams is subject to the death penalty.
Pleas for clemency made by the President of the Philippines were rejected by Chinese authorities.
In a statement made by a spokesperson of the Chinese government:
"In China, our judicial authorities handled the case independently and we grant equal treatment to foreign drug traffickers. The involved individuals rights and treatment are ensured and safeguarded according to the law. China has fulfilled its international obligations in the process.”
This is not so. In international law the death penalty may be inflicted only for the most serious crimes which is interpreted as intentional homicide. The UN Human Rights Council has insisted that drug related crimes do not come under the ambit of “most serious crimes”.
China must not deny the experience of most countries in the world, nor the shared moral sense of the majority in rejecting the death penalty

The three executed were drug mules recruited by foreign drug syndicates preying on jobless Filipinos, not professional drug dealers. In one of the cases there is doubt that the carrier was aware of the nature of the carried package. They appear to have been first time offenders.
They carried the drugs through an ineffective surveillance in Manila International Airport, a process which must be investigated.

The three condemned Filipinos were allowed to meet with their families for one hour before execution. One of the three was unaware that the visit was a prelude to her execution, and her family tried to hide from her the significance of their visit.

The drug trade is the largest crime problem in the world and cannot be solved by the death penalty. The Chinese government should study the case of Hong Kong where the death penalty has not been used in 40 years and where the drug problem is no different than in the comparable city of Singapore, which surpasses even China in its rate of execution per population unit (Evidence may be found on an earlier posting on this blog: See Archives; December 2008)

Many other Filipinos are under death sentence in China and elsewhere. The death penalty has been abolished in the Philippines for the last nine years.
13 Thai women are awaiting execution on drug charges in China

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thailand dissociates itself from countries which insist on their right to use the death penalty

The representative of Egypt in the United Nations General Assembly has presented on 10th March the "right" of a group of countries to retain the death penalty.

Thailand is no longer amongst this group, a choice consistent with its proclaimed decision to abolish the death penalty, in respect of the right to life of all human beings

"(d) Capital punishment has often been characterized by some as a human
rights issue in the context of the right to life of the convicted prisoner. However, it is first and foremost an issue of the criminal justice system and an important deterring element vis-à-vis the most serious crimes. It must therefore be viewed from a much broader perspective and weighed against the rights of the victims and the right of the community to live in peace and security;
(e) Every State has an inalienable right to choose its political, economic,
social, cultural, legal and criminal justice systems, without interference in any form by another State. Furthermore, the purposes and principles of the Charter of the
United Nations, in particular, Article 2, paragraph 7, clearly stipulates that nothing in the Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State. Accordingly, the question of whether to retain or abolish the death penalty, and the types of crimes for which the death penalty is applied, should be determined by each State, taking fully into account the sentiments of its own people, state of crime and criminal policy. On this question, it is improper to attempt to create a universal decision or to prescribe to Member States actions that fall within their domestic jurisdiction, or attempt to change, by way of a General Assembly resolution, the stipulations under international law that were reached through a comprehensive negotiation process;
(f) Some Member States have voluntarily decided to abolish the death
penalty, whereas others have chosen to apply a moratorium on executions.
Meanwhile, many Member States also retain the death penalty in their legislations.
All Member States are acting in compliance with their international obligations.
Each Member State has decided freely, in accordance with its own sovereign right
established by the Charter, to determine the path that corresponds to its own social,
cultural and legal needs, in order to maintain social security, order and peace. No
Member State has the right to impose its standpoint on others.
The permanent missions to the United Nations listed below wish to request the
circulation of the present note verbale as a document of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly.
New York, 11 March 2011
1. Afghanistan
2. Antigua and Barbuda
3. Bahamas
4. Bahrain
5. Bangladesh
6. Barbados
7. Botswana
8. Brunei Darussalam
9. Central African Republic
10. Chad
11. China
12. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
13. Democratic Republic of the Congo
14. Dominica
15. Egypt
16. Equatorial Guinea
17. Eritrea
18. Ethiopia
19. Grenada
20. Guinea
21. Guyana
22. Indonesia
11-26164 5
23. Islamic Republic of Iran
24. Iraq
25. Jamaica
26. Kuwait
27. Lao People’s Democratic Republic
28. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
29. Malaysia
30. Myanmar
31. Niger
32. Nigeria
33. Oman
34. Pakistan
35. Papua New Guinea
36. Qatar
37. Saint Kitts and Nevis
38. Saint Lucia
39. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
40. Saudi Arabia
41. Sierra Leone
42. Singapore
43. Solomon Islands
44. Somalia
45. Sudan
46. Swaziland
47. Syrian Arab Republic
48. Tonga
49. Trinidad and Tobago
50. Uganda
51. United Arab Emirates
52. Yemen
53. Zimbabwe

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One more State in US abandons death penalty

Governor Pat Quinn signed into law on Wednesday 9th March 2011 legislation abolishing capital punishment in the State of Illinois, 16th State in the US to stop the death penalty. It seems that change in US must come one state at a time, such is the tenacity of the old way of vengence.
While signing the law, Quinn said: "Our system of imposing the death penalty is inherently flawed."
“It's not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system."

Monday, March 07, 2011

Death Penalty persists in Asia


The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) says the latest executions of five men in Taiwan on 4 March 2011 calls into question the Taiwan government's stated intention to abolish the death penalty.

This brings the number of executions to nine since last year and goes against the global trend towards abolition.

The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP), who are members of ADPAN, pointed out today that, "carrying out any executions at this point in time would violate both domestic and international law." Taiwan has legally committed itself to the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2009, which includes the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence, and incorporated it into domestic law the same year.

The executions today of Wang Chih-huang, Wang Kuo-hua, Chuang Tien-chu, Kuan Chung-yen and Chong De-shu were carried out by shooting. None of the family members were informed before the executions took place.

Bizarre reasoning of Taiwan spokesmen.
Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) said on Friday that the latest executions were of people “who had committed atrocious crimes and who had killed between three and five people.”
He added that the five people executed had exhausted all possible legal avenues and “there were no reasons not to execute them. We had to deal with them according to the law.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said he understood the dilemma of the government because of international pressure and the backlash from local civic groups, but said that if the government does not carry out executions, it will leave a bad impression on society and that it will not be fair for those on death row.
Wu expressed hope that the ministry would continue to execute death-row inmates and “complete the execution of all inmates this year.”
Entertainer Pai Ping-ping (白冰冰), whose daughter was murdered in 1997, said: “It is a good thing to execute them, because it helps to solve a lot of problems.”
“Isn’t it good for the government to save the money used to incarcerate them to take care of the underprivileged?” Pai asked.
James Lee (李光章), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of European Affairs Lee said Taiwan has been trying to make European countries understand that the executions were carried out according to the law, as Taiwan followed the rule of law.
As Taiwan is a country that respects human rights, it has been working toward reducing the use of capital punishment before a consensus is reached on revising the laws to eliminate the death penalty, he added.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Appalling, but wonderful

Giving Life After Death Row
Published:NYT, March 5, 2011
EIGHT years ago I was sentenced to death for the murders of my wife and three children. I am guilty. I once thought that I could fool others into believing this was not true. Failing that, I tried to convince myself that it didn’t matter. But gradually, the enormity of what I did seeped in; that was followed by remorse and then a wish to make amends.
I spend 22 hours a day locked in a 6 foot by 8 foot box on Oregon’s death row. There is no way to atone for my crimes, but I believe that a profound benefit to society can come from my circumstances. I have asked to end my remaining appeals, and then donate my organs after my execution to those who need them. But my request has been rejected by the prison authorities.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 110,000 Americans on organ waiting lists. Around 19 of them die each day. There are more than 3,000 prisoners on death row in the United States, and just one inmate could save up to eight lives by donating a healthy heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and other transplantable tissues.
There is no law barring inmates condemned to death in the United States from donating their organs, but I haven’t found any prisons that allow it. The main explanation is that Oregon and most other states use a sequence of three drugs for lethal injections that damages the organs. But Ohio and Washington use a larger dose of just one drug, a fast-acting barbiturate that doesn’t destroy organs. If states would switch to a one-drug regimen, inmates’ organs could be saved.
Another common concern is that the organs of prisoners may be tainted by infections, H.I.V. or hepatitis. Though the prison population does have a higher prevalence of such diseases than do non-prisoners, thorough testing can easily determine whether a prisoner’s organs are healthy. These tests would be more reliable than many given to, say, a victim of a car crash who had signed up to be a donor; in the rush to transplant organs after an accident, there is less time for a full risk analysis.
There are also fears about security — that, for example, prisoners will volunteer to donate organs as part of an elaborate escape scheme. But prisoners around the country make hospital trips for medical reasons every day. And in any case, executions have to take place on prison grounds, so the organ removal would take place there as well.
Aside from these logistical and health concerns, prisons have a moral reason for their reluctance to allow inmates to donate. America has a shameful history of using prisoners for medical experiments. In Oregon, for example, from 1963 to 1973, many inmates were paid to “volunteer” for research into the effects of radiation on testicular cells. Some ethicists believe that opening the door to voluntary donations would also open the door to abuse. And others argue that prisoners are simply unable to make a truly voluntary consent.
But when a prisoner initiates a request to donate with absolutely no enticements or pressure to do so, and if the inmate receives the same counseling afforded every prospective donor, there is no question in my mind that valid organ-donation consent can be given.
I am not the only condemned prisoner who wants the right to donate his organs. I have discussed this issue with almost every one of the 35 men on Oregon’s death row, and nearly half of them expressed a wish to have the option of donating should their appeals run out.
I understand the public’s apprehension. And I know that it could look as if what I really want are extra privileges or a reduction in my sentence. After all, in a rare and well-publicized case last December, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi released two sisters who had been sentenced to life in prison so that one could donate a kidney to the other. But I don’t expect to leave this prison alive. I am seeking nothing but the right to determine what happens to my body once the state has carried out its sentence.
If I donated all of my organs today, I could clear nearly 1 percent of my state’s organ waiting list. I am 37 years old and healthy; throwing my organs away after I am executed is nothing but a waste.
And yet the prison authority’s response to my latest appeal to donate was this: “The interests of the public and condemned inmates are best served by denying the petition.”
Many in the public, most inmates, and especially those who are dying for lack of a healthy organ, would certainly disagree.
Christian Longo, a prisoner at Oregon State Penitentiary, is the founder of the organization Gifts of Anatomical Value From Everyone.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Death Sentences in Thailand

There are 708 prisoners condemned to death in Thailand, two have been executed during the last eight years. The tendency is that death sentences are being commuted to life imprisonment by Appeal Courts. But the overall number of those sentenced is not decreasing. In the last year, 53 death sentences were handed down in Courts of First Hearing, showing that a breath of change has yet to reach the judiciary.
Meanwhile, the Government has declared, in its current five year human rights programme, an intention to abolish the death penalty. So why does the awful torture of living under penalty of death, shackled and in crowded cells, separated from the slight amenities of the general prison population, still go on?

Iran, Asia's second executioner after China

Iran is considered an Asian country, located on Asia’s Western border. As such it is on ‘The Next Frontier” where the death penalty plague still rages.
(Paris, 16 February 2011) – Other nations and the UN should speak out against a wave of executions in Iran, the Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and six human rights organizations said today.
At least 86 people have been executed since the start of 2011, according to information received by the six organizations. At least eight of those executed in January were political prisoners, convicted of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) for participating in demonstrations, or for their alleged links to opposition groups.
The increase in executions follows the entry into force in late December 2010 of an amended anti-narcotics law, drafted by the Expediency Council and approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Officials have also vowed to step up enforcement measures against drug trafficking. Sixty-seven of those executed in January had been convicted of drug trafficking. The true number of executions may be even higher, the groups said, as there are credible reports that some executions that are not officially announced are taking place in prisons.
The recent executions also raise fears for the lives of two men, Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, believed to have been sentenced to death by Revolutionary Courts following separate unfair trials in which they were accused of “spreading corruption on earth.”
Iran executes more people than any country other than China. The hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners currently on death row may include more than 140 who were under the age of 18 at the time they allegedly committed their offence. International law prohibits the execution of persons for offences that they committed while under 18.
In many cases, lawyers of those sentenced to death are informed of their clients’ executions only after they have taken place, despite the legal requirement for 48 hours’ notice.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Pause in Execution in Singapore

New Hope for Sentenced Malaysian
By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Feb 4, 2011 (IPS) - A young Malaysian’s legal battle to escape the hangman’s noose in Singapore is finding new hope. "He has a 50-50 chance of being spared," Madasamy Ravi, the lawyer appearing for 23-year-old Yong Vui Kong, said in a telephone interview from the city-state.

The 41-year-old lawyer, who traded a lucrative career in corporate law in 2003 to become an outspoken human rights crusader, stepped in to take up Vui Kong’s case shortly after the Malaysian was sentenced to death in December 2009 by a Singaporean court that found him guilty of trafficking 47.27 grams of heroin. Vui Kong was only 19 when arrested in mid-2007 under Singapore’s draconian Misuse of Drugs Act.

The efforts to save Vui Kong won a reprieve mid-January when the Court of Appeal reserved judgment, in what anti-death penalty activists say is the young Malaysian’s last hope. Ravi argued in the court that his client had been deprived of a fair clemency process.

The lengthy appeals process has emboldened Singapore’s small group of anti-death penalty campaigners. "Vui Kong’s case since the sentence has taken a surprisingly long time. It has been dragging on and this, for us, is change from the status quo," says Sinapan Samydorai, a director of regional affairs at the Think Centre, a local, independent human rights lobby. "This is an opportunity to push for change."

Samydorai faces a formidable challenge. During 1991-1999, Singapore recorded 13.57 executions per one million population. Saudi Arabia, with 4.64 executions per one million population, was a distant second, according to a UN Secretary-General’s report assessing capital punishment.

But such numbers are far from conclusive, because the Singapore government has always been "secretive about the number of executions," says Lance Lattig, a South-east Asia researcher at Amnesty International.

"Singapore might or might not be in the first place (today) when it comes to executions per capita," Lattig said in an e-mail interview. "Either way, the government’s secrecy about its record on executions suggests that this is one indicator Singapore isn’t entirely proud of."

In November, 76-year-old Malaysia-based British author Alan Shadrake was sentenced to six weeks in jail for contempt of court and fined 15,400 dollars for the contents of his book: ‘Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice In The Dock’.

Shadrake was arrested in July last year when he visited Singapore to launch his book. The book includes an interview with Darshan Singh, the chief executioner at the city-state’s Changi Prison. Singh reportedly executed about 1,000 men and women from 1959 till he retired in 2006, the book notes.

In at least 11 passages of the book Shadrake questioned the impartiality of the judiciary in making rulings on death penalty cases.

Critics question the rationale of the country forging ahead with a mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers and murderers – while keeping the number of executions hidden.

"They justify executions to deter crime but they don’t publish the details," says Danthong Breen, chairman of the Union of Civil Liberty, Thailand’s oldest human rights organisation. "It is extraordinary. They treat the details of executions as a state secret."

But what is not a secret is the manner in which condemned prisoners meet their death: all hangings take place at dawn on Friday.

The law that sets out a mandatory death penalty for anyone trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin or over 30 grams of cocaine, and the manner of execution still enjoy wide public support, according to polls.