Monday, December 24, 2012

Taiwan continues to harvest the organs of executed prisoners

Taiwan has claimed to no longer harvest body parts of executed prisoners. However*:

Flesh-cooking convict's organs transplanted

A hospital in Taiwan harvested organs and other body parts from one of six executed death row inmates, in a controversial procedure that could help five patients, local media reported Sunday.
Inmates at Changhua jail in Taiwan's central Erlin township. A hospital in Taiwan harvested organs and other body parts from one of six executed death row inmates, in a controversial procedure that could help five patients, local media reported Sunday.
Taiwanese authorities executed six death row prisoners Friday, the largest number to be put to death in one day in recent years, amid an ongoing debate about the maintenance of capital punishment.
Three inmates had agreed to donate their organs but doctors only harvested material from one of them, the United Daily News said.
Chen Chin-huo, convicted of murdering a woman and cooking her flesh, had his liver, two kidneys, corneas and bone removed, the newspaper reported.
"The donation will benefit at least five patients waiting for transplanting of organs," it said, without identifying the hospital where the procedure took place.
The Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in the south refused to harvest organs from a second inmate.
Lin Hsin-yi, of the Taiwan Alliance to End Death Penalty, told AFP that death row inmates had to give consent for their organs to be removed but that some doctors refused to perform such operations.
"Unlike the people who die of illnesses or killed in accidents, the inmates have their lives taken by force," she said.
"As doctors need to race against time, the inmates are sent to the hospital as soon as possible after execution.
"Against that backdrop, some doctors may feel they are removing organs from people who are still (medically) alive."
The justice ministry did not reveal how the six inmates were executed Friday but usually death row convicts in Taiwan are put to death with a bullet to the head.
Taiwan is one of the few countries where organ harvesting from death row inmates is allowed.
Taiwan executed five prisoners in March 2011 and four in April 2010. The 2010 executions were the first after a hiatus that had lasted since 2005.
The death penalty debate reignited in Taiwan after the playground murder of a 10-year-old boy whose throat was slit.
Following reports suggesting the 29-year-old suspect was allegedly looking forward to free board and lodgings in jail, angry protesters gathered at the justice ministry demanding the island's death row inmates be executed.
The debate has also been fuelled by the 1997 execution of a soldier wrongly convicted in a child murder case.

Prisoners whose organs are harvested in Taiwan are executed as they lie in a plastic bath. Rather than the usual bullet in the heart, the prisoner is executed by a single bullet in the brain stem. The still breathing body is put on life support until doctors remove organs, hence the report that the donor is still medically alive. In previous practice, those condemned could donate organs but under criticism that the donation could not be freely made in the stress of impending execution, the harvesting of prisoner organs was said to be discontinued. Not quite, it seems from this report. The hesitations of "some doctors" are well founded.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Executions in Taiwan

Execution Chamber Taiwan* by Toshi Kazama

Zeng Si-ru, Hung Ming-tsung, Huang Hsien-cheng, Chen Chin-huo, Kuang Te-chiang and Tai Te-ying were executed on Friday 21st December at different locations across Taiwan.

The executions by shooting are the first in the country this year. Five people were executed in 2011 and 55 people are awaiting execution and have exhausted all appeals.

The sentences were carried out late Friday, a day after Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu signed the execution orders, a government statement said.
The six men who were executed had been convicted of "grave offenses" such as fatal kidnappings and multiple murders and were executed because of the brutality of their crimes, the statement said.
Their sentences were confirmed by court authorities at various levels, and the executions were carried out simultaneously in four prisons across the island, officials said.
The last executions in Taiwan were in March 2011, when five men were put to death.

The authorities have repeatedly declared their intention to move away from using the death penalty and lead a public debate on the issue.
Deputy Justice Minister Chen Shou-huang said on 19 December that the authorities would carry out death sentences on its own schedule and will not be influenced by foreign experts. On 20th December 111  countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly in favour of a Moratoriium on the death penalty, the day that the death sentences were signed. While Taiwan is not a member of the UN, it very much courts its approval and has set up its own monitoring functions on human rights to mimic UN procedures. The emptiness of its monitoring functions is displayed by its actions.

On 14th November the author of this blog discussed the death penalty with the Deputy Justice Minister during an interview arranged with an investigative team from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The Minister did not accept that Taiwan was bound to refrain from executions by Taiwan's promised adherence to the standards of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, now interpreted by experts in international law to necessarily involve abolition. He affirmed his belief that Capital Punishment is an effective deterrent to crime. Finally, he affirmed adherence to biblical authority for the slogan "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth", unaware, it seems, that the phrase is specifically rejected in the New Testament.We surmise that he is also totally unaware of the vote in the UN General Assembly.

*There are slightly different accounts of the execution procedure. The following is consistent with the image shown; to the right is the last meal provided to the condemned person. The condemned lies face down on a sheet on the floor, which is covered in black sand to reduce the contrast of fresh blood. A medical practitioner marks where his heart is. The prisoner is shot from behind three times at close range.Death at its most clinical and cruel.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Schabas on death penalty

During a roundtable discussion in the Bangkok Office of the UN Secretariat Professor William Schabas commented on current trends in abolition of the death penalty. Worldwide abolition of the death penalty is inevitable.
He pointed out that for several years the rate of approach to total abolition has been an average of 2.5 countries per year. However 2.5 from a current total of about 40 countries retaining the death penalty is a much higher that 2.5 countries out of the 80 retentionist countries of several years ago.
He noted the great reduction in the number of executions in the countries which retain the death penalty, saying that this amounts to a reduction in executions equivalent to total abolition in other countries.
The category of countries "abolitionist in practice" for countries which have not carried out executions for ten years or more, in fact shows a strong commitment to abolition which is only very rarely reversed.
Regarding the US, a seeming stronghold of the death penalty, change is likely to come through a vote by Supreme Court judges. It is likely that court appointments to be made by Obama in his second term of presidency will tip the scale and end US use of the death penalty.
Even in China, major executioner of the world, there is a notable reduction in the number of executions, and abolition is now accepted as a long term objective. Singapore, once identified as having the highest rate of executions compared to its population has retreated from this embarrassing position, and now executes perhaps one a year, or less.
Abolition can come with unexpected speed. He recalled a meeting in 1994 where he sat next to representatives of Russia and South Africa. They assured him that their two countries had no intention of changing their practice of execution. However, within one year both countries committed themselves to a moratorium on executions.
Professor Schabas spoe of his experience of raising the constitutionality of the death penalty, first in Canada, and later in Indonesia where three of nine judges voted that the death penalty is contrary to constitutional rights.

Addendum: On completing his visit to Bangkok, Professor Schabas posts on his blog:
 Until about 2003, Thailand was regularly executing 8 to 10 people a year, with a focus on drug offences. From 2004 until 2009 there were no executions, but that year two convicted drug criminals were put to death. Since then, nothing.
Pol. Col. Dr. Naras Savestanan, who is Director General of the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection of Thailand's Ministry of Justice.
On Tuesday, I met with Wanchai Rujjanawong, who is Director-General of the International Affairs Department of the Office of the Attorney General. He assured me that the last execution in Thailand had taken place. Although he did not expect any legislative reform, he said that by 2019 we would be able to count Thailand as de facto abolitionist under the principle that a state that has not actually conducted an execution for ten years is deemed to have abolished the death penalty in fact.

My conclusion is that Thailand is now in a quite determined and intentional moratorium, although it is not yet prepared to declare so officially.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Death Penalty Seminar 12/12/12

 Thailand is falling behind its neighbours when it comes to abolition of the death penalty, activists and experts said at a seminar yesterday.

THE NATION December 13, 2012 1:00 am

The event, organised by the Union for Civil Liberty with support from the European Union, the French Embassy and others, brought together participants from across Southeast Asia to Thammasat University in Bangkok. There was talk of progress made in the region and a call for Thailand to speed up the abolition of the death penalty.

"We sincerely urge Thailand to take the lead" in abolishing the death penalty in the region, said Debbie Stothard, deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Two countries in the region, the Philippines and Cambodia, no longer have the death penalty, she said.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand's death-row population is second to that of Malaysia, where about 900 prisoners are awaiting execution.

In Thailand, the number of inmates on death row is around 600 - about half of them drug-trafficking convicts, according to Amnesty International Thailand.

Singapore was named by Amnesty International in 2004 as the country with the highest per-capita ratio of death-row prisoners, but their numbers have since been markedly reduced with far fewer executions in recent years, said Mabasamy Ravi, a lawyer and death-penalty opponent from Singapore.

In Vietnam, which like Thailand still retains the death penalty, the right to life is increasingly viewed as important by Vietnamese authorities, said academic Ngo Ming Huong.

Thailand last executed two inmates in 2009, said Pol Colonel Aeknarat Sawettanand, director-general of the Department of Rights and Liberty Protection. He reported that department will engage in two phases of work in order to gain more knowledge from abroad and in Thailand and enable the public to better understand and be sensitised to the fact that death penalty doesn't help reduce severe crimes.

Aeknarat said many Thais are still in the mindset of revenge and retribution, which poses a hurdle in trying to convince them that it is against human rights standards to retain the death penalty. Back in the 1960s, said Aeknarat, prime minister Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat used Penal Code Article 17 to summarily execute arson suspects. Many Thais thought it was swift justice.

"I think times have changed," said Aeknarat. Besides growing opposition to the death penalty by some Thais and acceptance that death penalty is against human rights by the Justice Ministry, the Royal Thai Police have also increasingly recognised that forced disappearances and torture under interrogation are no longer acceptable, said Aeknarat.

However, the director-general admitted that Thai society is "addicted to violence" as reflected in the popularity of gruesome photos splashed on newspapers' front pages. "The mass media breed revenge and retribution," he said, adding that what Thailand needs is rehabilitation of people who commit crimes so they can become productive citizens.

Ultimately, it's up to Parliament to end the death penalty, Aeknarat said.

Thailand lags behind Asean in ending the death penalty

  • Published: 14/12/2012 at 12:00 AM
  • Bangkok Post 14/12/12
Human rights activists calling for the abolition of the death penalty say Thailand is lagging behind other countries in the region and the global community in bringing an end to capital punishment.
Antoine Madelin, a director at the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) told a seminar on the death penalty at Thammasat University on Wednesday that judges around the world have been limiting the scope of the death penalty.
Thailand is lagging behind its Asean neighbours, which are moving away from the death penalty in favour of clemency, judicial review, or abolition, Debbie Stothard, the FIDH deputy secretary-general, said.
She said Singapore in 2004 had the highest rate of capital punishment, but the island state has had zero executions in the eight years since then.
"[We] urge Thailand to take the lead in this important human rights issue."
Vietnam has also moved away from capital punishment, she said.
Though it still has the death penalty, it rarely uses it, she said, noting Vietnam increasingly has turned to rehabilitation as part of its drug enforcement policy.
Capital punishment has been used in Thailand since 1350.
Thailand held no executions from 2004-2008, or in 2010, or 2011. In 2009, there were two executions.
Danthong Breen, chairman of the Union Civil Liberty (UCL), said Thailand and Malaysia have the largest number of inmates in death row. As of October this year, Thailand had 649 prisoners on death row. According to a UCL report, Thailand executed 369 people between 1935 and 2003.
Mr Madelin suggested the public be asked whether they gain anything from maintaining capital punishment.
"Globally, research has shown that the death penalty does not deter crime," he said. "Crimes in many countries have in fact fallen off since the death penalty was abolished."
Pol Col Naras Savestanan, head of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, said the elimination of the death penalty would require public support and the involvement of politicians.
The Ministry of Justice is researching the death penalty and surveying stakeholders, Pol Col Naras said. In the next two years the government could decide to reduce death sentences to life in prison, but it is not clear how current inmates on death row would be affected.
Pol Col Naras said the decision to eliminate or amend the death penalty ultimately would be up to lawmakers.
Malaysia's Bar Council member Andrew Khoo said public opinion on capital punishment is still influenced by emotion.
"People might not see [abolition] as a national priority," he said. "If a referendum is needed, we need to raise people's awareness."

Monday, December 03, 2012

Progress to Abolition in Thailand

เรื่อง สถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตในประเทศไทยและอาเซียน ปี ๒๕๕๕
วันพุธที่ ๑๒ ธันวาคม ๒๕๕๕ เวลา ๑๒.๓๐ ๑๖.๓๐ น.
ณ ห้องประชุมบุญชูโรจนเสถียร ชั้น ๓ อาคารอเนกประสงค์ ๑  มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์
จัดโดย สมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน , มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์
                                   สนับสนุนโดย สหภาพยุโรป  FIDH    สถานฑูตฝรั่งเศส
๑๒.๓๐ ๑๓.๐๐ น.            ลงทะเบียน
๑๓.๐๐ ๑๓.๑๕ น.            เปิดการสัมมนา โดย Ms. Ana Beatriz Martins, Head of Political, Press
                                         and Information Section, Delegation of European Union
๑๓.๑๕ ๑๓.๓๕ น.          รายงานสถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตในประเทศไทย
                                                ดร.แดนทอง  บรีน  ประธานสมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน(สสส.)๑๓.๓๕ ๑๔.๑๐ น.           สถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตทั่วโลก: Mr. Antoine Madelin,
                                         Director  of Intergovernmental Organizations Activities, FIDH
๑๔.๑๐ ๑๕.๐๐ น.             สถานการณ์การยุติโทษประหารชีวิตในภูมิภาคอาเซียน
                                                ผู้แทนจากประเทศ เวียดนาม , มาเลเซีย , สิงคโปร์ , อินโดนีเซีย
                                                ดำเนินรายการโดย Ms. Debbie Stothard, Deputy Secretary-                                                                    General of FIDH and Coordinator of Altsean
๑๕.๐๐ ๑๖.๑๕ น.             แลไปข้างหน้า การเปลี่ยนโทษประหารชีวิตเป็นจำคุกตลอดชีวิตใน
                                                พันตำรวจเอกณรัชต์ เศวตนันทน์    อธิบดีกรมคุ้มครองสิทธิและเสรีภาพ
                                                นายไพโรจน์ วายุภาพ        ประธานศาลฎีกา
                                                นายมณเทียร บุญตัน           สมาชิกวุฒิสภา
                                                Mr. Antoine Madelin, FIDH
                                                ดำเนินรายการโดย              นายพิทักษ์  เกิดหอม
๑๖.๑๕ ๑๖.๓๐ น.            มุมมองของเหยื่อและอดีตนักโทษประหารชีวิต
๑๖.๓๐ น.                              ปิดการสัมมนา

“Progress to Abolition of the Death Penalty in Thailand and the Region, 2012”

Seminar on 12th December, 2012, 12.30 to 16.30
Bunchoorochanasathian Meeting Room, 3rd Floor, Aneekprasong Building 1 Thammasat University, Prachan Campus

Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Thammasat University
with support of the European Union, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Ambassade de France

12.30 – 13.00  Registration

13.00 – 13.15  Opening address by Ms. Ana Beatriz Martins, Head of Political, Press
                                    and Information Section, Delegation of the European Union

13.15 – 13.35  Current Situation on Abolition in Thailand
                        Dr. Danthong Breen, Chairman, UCL

13.35 – 14.10  Abolition on a World Scale
                        Mr. Antoine Madelin, Director of Intergovernmental                                          Organisations Activities, FIDH

14.10 – 15.00  Abolition in Thailand’s Neighbouring Countries
                        Representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam
                        Introduced by Ms Debbie Stothard, Deputy Secretary-General of FIDH                       and Coordinator of Altsean-Burma

15.00 – 16.15  Discussion on Replacing the Death Penalty with Life Imprisonment
                        Police General Narat Sewdanant, Director of Rights and Liberties
                        Protection Department, Ministry of Justice
                        Mr. Phairoj Wayuphab, President of Appeal Court
                        Mr. Monthian Bundan, Member of Senate
                        Representative of News Media
                        Mr. Antoine Madelin, FIDH  
                        Moderator Mr. Pithak Kedhom, Human Rights Lawyer

16.15 – 16.30  Testimony of ex-Death Penalty Prisoner, and Relative of Victim

16.30               Closure of Seminar

Monday, October 29, 2012

A joint call against the death penalty

Remarkable appeal by prominent Council of Europe Countries

Bangkok Post 19/10/2012
There are struggles that cannot be won single-handedly. One of these is the fight against capital punishment.
A lone warrior could not have succeeded in convincing so many countries to eliminate the death penalty. But through the combined efforts of many countries, international organisations, and civil society, working together to put an end to executions, we have succeeded.
Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland have been at the forefront of this campaign for the complete abolition of the death penalty. It is a movement for the preservation of human dignity.
As representatives of countries that uphold the same shared values, we join together in a united appeal for the abolition of the death penalty _ a practice for which there can no longer be any justification in the 21st century.
Over the past 20 years, more than 50 countries have turned their backs on capital punishment. More than 130 countries have abolished or placed a moratorium on the death penalty. There are now only some 50 countries left that still use the death penalty. These numbers are encouraging, and show that the initiatives and efforts undertaken until now have borne fruit. But we have not yet attained our goal, so that we must now redouble our commitment. As long as capital punishment still exists we will continue to fight against it.
The notion of killing in the name of justice is contrary to the fundamental values for which our countries stand. We intend to work together, with determination and perseverance, to ensure that the number of executions continues to decline, that judicial proceedings are made more transparent, and that further countries renounce the death penalty until this inhumane form of punishment has disappeared entirely.
The death penalty cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights and human dignity. It is in contradiction with the right of all human beings not to be exposed to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or humiliating treatment. What is more, executions are sometimes carried out as a result of discriminatory practices. And because they are final, there is no possibility of revising the sentence. In some cases, innocent people lose their lives. The risk that an innocent person could be executed is, in and of itself, reason enough to deny the death penalty any legitimacy.
Executions also do nothing to prevent crimes from being committed, and they do not make society any safer. For the families of crime victims, they provide neither justice nor relief.
These reflections seem obvious to us, living in countries where the death penalty was abolished many years ago. In order to achieve the complete elimination of capital punishment in all countries of the world, however, it will take a strong and unwavering commitment. Change does not come overnight.
It is a process of many small steps. The progress we have made until now is nevertheless substantial, and we must make sure that it continues. We will work for the abolition of the death penalty also in the future, for only a resolute political commitment can ensure that this form of punishment one day disappears.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by a vote of 109 to 41 a third resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty. This resolution, which reaffirmed earlier versions adopted in 2007 and 2008, was introduced by our countries, the European Union, and numerous other countries from all regions of the world. In the current year this resolution will be put before the General Assembly once again for a vote. Our countries are making every effort to secure an even greater majority in its favour. This resolution underscores the progress that has been made, and signals that the worldwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty is now irreversible.
Public opinion plays a central role in the struggle against capital punishment. All peoples throughout the world must have access to information and the possibility of expressing their opinions freely.
It is only in this way that a reasoned decision is possible. Here, civil society and non-governmental organisations have a key role to play.
It is our intention to continue to work together in our opposition to the death penalty. This is a duty we share, born of our common values and the pursuit of an ideal that allows all human beings to live in dignity.

Edited excerpts from the joint declaration to mark the World Day Against Death Penalty. It has been signed by the foreign ministers of Switzerland, Mr Didier Burkhalter; Germany, Mr Guido Westerwelle; France, Mr Laurent Fabius; Liechtenstein, Ms Aurelia Frick; Austria, Mr Michael Spindelegger; and Italy, Mr Giulio Terzi.

Current Statistics of Prisoners Condemned to Death

The current numbers of prisoners condemned to death in Thailand show a reduction in numbers following the commutation of sentence of 57 prisoners on 11th August 2555 (2012 in Western Calender). The reduction in numbers since the previous statistic is less than 57 because of the increase in condemned prisoners due to a continuing application of the death penalty in Thai justice, which appears unaware of the implications of royal pardon.
ผู้ต้องราชทัณฑ์-โทษประหารชีวิต ประเทศไทย

ตารางรวมทุกคดีความผิด Sentenced for all crimes

เพศ Gender อุทธรณ์ In Appeal ฎีกา before Supreme Court เด็ดขาด Legal process completeTotal

ชาย men 346 218 21                     585
หญิง women 55 9 0 64
รวม total 401 227 21 649
ความผิด พ.ร.บ.ยาเสพติดให้โทษ Drug Cases
เพศ อุทธรณ์ ฎีกา เด็ดขาด รวม
ชาย 170 78 7 255
หญิง 45 8 0 53
รวม 215 86 7 308
คดีความผิดต่อชีวิตและอื่นๆ Homicide and Other
เพศ อุทธรณ์ ฎีกา เด็ดขาด รวม
ชาย 176 140 14 330
หญิง 10 1 0 11
รวม 186 141 14 341

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Capital Punishment Is Not an Option

Put rapists to death, Isaan folk say

Most residents in the Northeast believe rapists should be sentenced to death, a poll conducted by the Isaan Centre for Business and Economic Research at Khon Kaen University revealed yesterday.

A survey of 810 respondents from 20 provinces in the Northeast, conducted on September 29 and 30, showed 43 per cent worried that they or people close to them could become victims. About 35 per cent said they wanted the authorities to punish sex offenders by sentencing them to death, while 32 per cent suggested life in prison. Around 18 per cent said they wanted the offender's sexual organ cut off, while 13 per cent suggested they be imprisoned for 10 years.

To reduce sex offences, 64 per cent suggested laws be amended to ensure severe punishment, while 17 per cent said drug abuse was the root cause of sexual crimes, and 14 per cent blamed the media for showing improper images. Up to 88 per cent said sex crimes often took place in isolated areas, 6 per cent said rapes usually took place on public transport, while 1 per cent said such crimes often happened at home.

A former Prime Minister considered that drug dealing could be eliminated by extrajudicial killings. A Deputy Prime Minister in the current government is trying to speed up legal process so that those condemned on drug charges can be speedily executed. And now the people of Isaan want the execution of rapists. All of these aberrations of  justice will continue in Thailand until the death penalty is abolished, and no longer be considered an option. Meanwhile, Prime Ministers and their Deputies, as well as the good people of Isaan, must learn that human life is inviolable, that Capital Punishment has not deterred any type of crime, and that a numerical majority cannot justify measures which are morally wrong. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Jose Ramos-Horta appeals to Thailand


โดย โฮเซ รามอส – โฮร์ตา
 วันที่ 10 ตุลาคม เป็นวันครบรอบปีที่ 10 ของวันต่อต้านโทษประหารชีวิตโลก ข้าพเจ้าภูมิใจที่จะพูดว่าสิทธิอันละเมิดมิได้ของการมีชีวิตได้ถูกบัญญัติอยู่ในรัฐธรรมนูญของประเทศติมอร์-เลสเตของข้าพเจ้า การต่อสู้เพื่อให้ได้มาซึ่งอิสรภาพของประเทศเราไม่ใช่ไม่มีการเสียสละ ในการแสวงหาศักดิ์ศรีและการตัดสินใจด้วยตนเอง บุคคลอันเป็นที่รักของเราหลาย ๆ คนต้องเสียชีวิต ซึ่งเป็นสิ่งเตือนใจตลอดเวลาถึงคุณค่าศักดิ์สิทธิ์ของการมีชีวิต ดังนั้น สิ่งแรก ๆ สิ่งหนึ่งที่เราทำหลังจากได้รับอิสรภาพเมื่อ 10 ปีมาแล้วคือการรับรองว่าจะไม่มีใครได้รับโทษประหารชีวิต

การเคารพชีวิตมนุษย์เป็นสิ่งที่สอดคล้องกับประสบการณ์ของมนุษยชาติในโลกปัจจุบัน ในมาตราที่ 3 ของปฏิญญาสากลว่าด้วยสิทธิมนุษยชนซึ่งบัญญัติขึ้นหลังสงครามโลกที่ได้คร่าชีวิตมนุษย์ไปหลายสิบล้านคน กล่าวไว้ว่า “ทุกคนมีสิทธิ์ที่จะมีชีวิต” ในทำนองเดียวกัน ประเทศกัมพูชาผ่านความป่าเถื่อนของทุ่งสังหารและมีรัฐธรรมนูญซึ่งยืนยันคุณค่าศักดิ์สิทธิ์ของการมีชีวิต ประเทศฟิลิปปินส์ซึ่งเป็นสมาชิกอาเซียนได้ยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตไปแล้ว

เมื่อปฏิญญาสากลถูกประกาศใช้ในปี ค.ศ. 1948 นั้น มีเพียง 8 ประเทศที่ยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต ในวันที่ 13 กันยายน ที่ผ่านมานี้ นาย บันคีมูน เลขาธิการสหประชาชาติ ได้รายงานว่าจำนวนประเทศที่ได้ยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตในรูปแบบใดรูปแบบหนึ่งมีจำนวน 150 ประเทศ ขณะที่อีก 32 ประเทศยังคงโทษนี้อยู่

แม้ว่าประเทศไทยจะยังคงมีโทษประหารชีวิตอยู่ แต่มีการประหารชีวิตเพียง 2 รายตั้งแต่ปี ค.ศ. 2009 เป็นต้นมา รัฐบาลไทยได้แจ้งต่อสหประชาชาติว่าไทยกำลังศึกษาความเป็นไปได้ของการยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต การยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตได้ถูกรวมไว้ในแผนสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ ฉบับที่ 2 ปี พ.ศ. 2552 – 2556 และเมื่อวันที่ 15 สิงหาคม ที่ผ่านมานี้ มีการลดโทษนักโทษประหาร 58 คนให้เหลือโทษจำคุกตลอดชีวิต

ญัตติเรียกร้องให้หยุดโทษประหารชีวิตทั่วโลกถูกเสนอเข้าสู่สมัชชาใหญ่สหประชาชาติ 3 ครั้งในปี ค.ศ. 2007, 2008 และ 2010 ในสองครั้งแรก ประเทศไทยลงคะแนนเสียงคัดค้าน แต่ในครั้งสุดท้าย ปี ค.ศ. 2010 ประเทศไทยงดออกเสียง

ในเดือนธันวาคม จะมีการยื่นญัตติหยุดโทษอีกครั้งในสมัชชาใหญ่สหประชาชาติ ในฐานะมิตรของประเทศไทย ข้าพเจ้าหวังว่าประเทศไทยจะลงคะแนนเสียงสนับสนุนญัตตินี้ แม้ว่าในการลงคะแนนเสียงทุกครั้ง เสียงสนับสนุนจะมีเพียงพอที่จะผ่านญัตติโดยเสียงสนับสนุนเพิ่มจำนวนขึ้นทุกครั้ง เป็นสิ่งสำคัญที่ประเทศไทยจะลงคะแนนสนับสนุนเพื่อเป็นหลักฐานอย่างเป็นทางการของจุดยืนทางศีลธรรมของรัฐบาลและประชาชน ในเรื่องที่มีความสำคัญไม่ยิ่งหย่อนกว่ากัน ข้าพเจ้าหวังอย่างจริงใจว่าประเทศไทยจะดำเนินการสืบเนื่องคำสัญญานี้โดยการหยุดการลงโทษประหารชีวิตและหยุดการประหารชีวิต

เราจะสามารถเสนอเหตุจูงใจอะไรให้แก่ประเทศที่ยังลังเลเพื่อให้สนับสนุนการก้าวไปข้างหน้านี้? เป็นเวลาหลายศตวรรษแล้วที่ฝ่ายนิติบัญญัติและนักมนุษยธรรมได้ตระหนักว่าโทษประหารชีวิตไม่ได้ยับยั้งอาชญากรรมรุนแรง ซีซาร์ เบคคาเรีย นักอาชญวิทยาชาวอิตาเลียนได้ชี้ให้เห็นในงานที่มีชื่อเสียงของเขาเรื่อง Crime and Punishment (อาชญากรรมและการลงโทษ) ว่าการประหารชีวิตไม่มีผลในทางยับยั้ง ความมั่นใจว่าจะถูกจับและถูกลงโทษเป็นสิ่งขวางกั้นเพียงอย่างเดียวของอาชญากรรม

ข้อสนับสนุนการหยุดการประหารชีวิตมีหลายประการ สภายุโรปซึ่งมีสมาชิก 47 ประเทศ ได้ตั้งให้การยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิตเป็นข้อแม้หนึ่งในการเข้าเป็นสมาชิก โดยประกาศอย่างกล้าหาญว่า “โทษประหารชีวิตเป็นสิ่งที่ผิด เหมือนกันกับการทรมาน” โทษประหารชีวิตไม่ได้ยับยั้งอาชญากรรม แต่ว่าเราจะได้ประโยชน์มากจากการเน้นถึงชีวิตมนุษย์ที่จะละเมิดมิได้ ในประวัติศาสตร์ของเอเชีย ได้มีการเน้นถึงความเมตตา กรุณา และการให้อภัยในทุก ๆ ศาสนาและคุณค่าทางวัฒนธรรม

ในฐานะประชาชนคนหนึ่งของประเทศพี่น้องในครอบครัวของประเทศในทวีปเอเชีย ข้าพเจ้าหวังว่าทุกประเทศในเอเชียจะร่วมกับติมอร์-เลสเตในการลงคะแนนเสียงสนับสนุนชีวิตเหนือความตายในสมัชชาใหญ่สหประชาชาติ ข้าพเจ้าภูมิใจอย่างยิ่งที่ติมอร์-เลสเตไม่มีโทษประหารชีวิตและโทษจำคุกสูงสุดคือ 25 ปี เราไม่มีโทษจำคุกตลอดชีวิต

โฮเซ รามอส-โฮร์ตา
ผู้ได้รับรางวัลโนเบลสาขาสันติภาพ (1996)
ประธานาธิบดีประเทศติมอร์-เลสเต (2007-2012)
อดีตนายกรัฐมนตรี, รัฐมนตรีกระทรวงต่างประเทศ

Time for Thailand to Take a Stand against Death

by Jose Ramos-Horta
(Published in Bangkok Post, Wednesday 10th October 2012)
October 10 marks the 10th World Day Against the Death Penalty. I am proud to say that the inalienable right to life is enshrined in the Constitution of my country, Timor-Leste. Our struggle for independence was not without sacrifice. Many of our loved ones died in the quest for self-determination and dignity, a constant reminder of the sacredness of life. Therefore, one of our first priorities upon gaining independence 10 years ago was to ensure that no one would be subject to the death penalty.

This reverence for human life is consistent with humanity’s experience of the modern world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, formulated after the devastating world wars that caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, declares in Article 3 “Everyone has the right to life”. Similarly, Cambodia emerged from the savagery of its Killing Fields with a Constitution that also upholds the sacredness of life. The Philippines, another ASEAN member, has also abolished the death penalty.

At the time the Declaration was proclaimed in 1948, only eight countries had abolished the death penalty. On September 13th of this year, the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon reported that the number of countries which have now, in one form or another, abolished the death penalty has reached a total of 150 States, while another 32 are retentionist.

Although Thailand retains the death penalty, there have been only 2 executions since 2009. The government of Thailand has told the UN that it is studying the possibility of abolishing the death penalty. Abolition of the death penalty has been included in Thailand’s National Human Rights Program of 2009 to 2013. On August 15th this year, there was a remarkable commutation of sentence from execution to life imprisonment of all 58 condemned prisoners.

The resolution calling for a World Wide Moratorium on the Death Penalty has been presented at the UN General Assembly 3 times already in 2007, 2008, and 2010. Thailand on the first two occasions voted against the Moratorium, but in 2010, abstained.

In December, a vote on a Moratorium will again be submitted to the UN General Assembly. I hope, as a friend of Thailand, that it will vote in favor of the resolution. While the votes have been enough to get the resolution passed, with an increasing number of countries voting “Yes” with each occasion, it is important that Thailand votes “yes” as official evidence of the moral stand of its government and people. Just as importantly, I sincerely hope that Thailand follows up on such an official commitment by stopping the imposition of death sentences and executions.

What motivation can be proposed to favor a step forward for countries which still hesitate?  For centuries now, law makers and humanists have come to realize that the death penalty does not deter serious crime. Caesar Beccaria, an Italian criminologist pointed out in a famous work on Crime and Punishment, that execution was an ineffective deterrent, that certainty of detection and punishment were the only bar to crime.

There are many arguments for a Moratorium on execution. The Council of Europe, an association of 47 states, makes abolition of the death penalty a condition of membership, declaring boldly: “Capital Punishment, like torture, is simply wrong”. The death penalty doe not deter crime, however much is to be gained in emphasizing the inviolability of human life. In the history of Asia, there is an emphasis on mercy, kindness and forgiveness in all our faiths and cultural values.

As member of a brother nation in the family of Asian nations I hope that all the countries of Asia will join Timor-Leste in the UN General Assembly to cast a positive vote in favor of life over death. I am very proud that Timor-Leste does not have the death penalty, and that the maximum prison sentence is 25 years. We do not have life imprisonment.

Jose Ramos-Horta
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1996)
President of Timor-Leste (2007-2012)
Former Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Vietnam court upholds drug smuggler's death sentence

Published:  Bangkok Post 7/10/2012 at 04:52 AM Newspaper section: News

Vietnam's Supreme Court has refused to commute the death sentence of a 24-year-old Thai woman who smuggled narcotics into the country, according to the Saigon Daily.
The Supreme People's Court in Ho Chi Minh City has upheld the lower court's death sentence against Preeyanooch Phuttharaksa, the newspaper said on its website.
Preeyanuch was arrested in October of last year after customs officials at Tan Son Nhut Airport found more than three kilogrammes of methamphetamine hidden inside her luggage. Before her arrest, Preeyanuch had sneaked drugs into Vietnam twice, according to the indictment.
She was handed the death penalty on June 26 by the People's Court and she later appealed to a higher court.
Preeyanuch, a student, had confessed to having been paid 50,000 baht by a Nigerian drug gang to bring the drugs into Vietnam from the west African country of Benin. She had met her Nigerian contact originally at a mall in Bangkok.
Thai officials have said that even if the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, she could still petition the Vietnamese president for mercy. Vietnam executes criminals with lethal injections, which replaced the firing squad last year.
Statistics from the Thai Foreign Ministry show that about 100 Thai women are currently being detained for drug trafficking in several countries, including China, India, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Brazil and South Africa.
Some of them had married citizens of African countries and were forced to become involved in the trans-national drug trade, officials say.

Discussion 34 : 07/10/2012 at 01:50 PM34
It is surely opportune to point out that according to international law (as interpreted by the UN Human Rights Council) the death penalty may apply only for premeditated homicide, not for drug crimes. Firstly, the Government of Thailand should immediately abolish the death penalty for drug crimes, and then impress the principle on other members of ASEAN. Do it now, and urgently. Then take the responsibility to save our fellow citizen from unjust execution. The death penalty is not the solution to drug crimes!

On this website we have pleaded for clemency in the case of a young Vietnamese condemned to death in Singapore. Now we plead for a young Thai woman in Vietnam. Yes, she is foolish and has committed a criminal act for derisory payment. But she does not deserve to die. And her death will serve no purpose. Yes, confine her in prison; in time send her back to Thailand to serve a further prison term. She will realise the wrong she has done and her life will change.  She has life before her still, and a purpose to fulfill.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

How fast do the wheels of justice turn?

On the same day that a man under the age of 60  is condemned to death in a Thai Court of First Instance, he is shackled. The shackles are welded to his ankles and are intended to remain until his execution or until the death sentence is rejected by a Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, or by a Royal Pardon. In a judgement made by the Administrative Court such shackling is illegal and prohibited by the Thai Constitution. The judgement has been appealed by the Department of Corrections, three years have passed without a response from the Appeal Court, during which time the prisoner concerned has remained shackled.
In shackling prisoners the wheels of 'justice' turn very fast indeed.
However, when prisoners benefit from a Royal Pardon, the wheels of Justice turn slowly. A recent proclamation of Commutation of Sentence, dated 11th August, allows 90 days for its implementation. Which is hardly intended to mean that a delay of 90 days is mandatory or even advisable. Prisoners are assured by well meaning officials that the shackles will be removed, perhaps tomorrow. Is this extra frustration for a prisoner who has been shackled for years necessary or tolerable?   

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Chalerm and the Way of Death

Death no deterrent

Re: ''Critics of swift drug executions blasted'' (BP, Aug 30).

In pursuing his campaign to hurry to the execution chamber prisoners condemned to death on drug-related charges, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung appears to ignore the implications of the recent royal pardon extended to all prisoners condemned to death, for whom legal process is complete. Of the 58 people who have been pardoned, 37 were condemned on drug-related charges.

The Chalerm proposal to execute them within 15 days of an Appeal Court sentence, was already a travesty of national and international law, which still allowed submission to the Supreme Court, and the prerogative of the procedure of royal pardon. On a previous effort to accelerate executions initiated by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok, the Corrections Department had declared the legitimacy of waiting for a royal response. To their great credit the Corrections Department rejected the proposal of swift execution by the minister, quoting their right to act only on the delivery of the royal decision.

While Chalerm is to be lauded for his successes in seizing drugs and lowly carriers in the current campaign, he has still to capture the drug lords who are behind the whole drug trade. There is ample evidence that the death penalty is not a deterrent to the drug trade, nor according to international law, as interpreted by the United Nations Human Rights Council, does it even constitute a valid punishment for drug-related crimes. In fact, the death penalty is being recognised as an irrelevant and disproportionate response to all crimes. But in a Thai context, and with respect to royal prerogatives in Thailand, the attempt of Chalerm to preempt royal pardons is odious. If Chalerm had his way, none of the 37 pardoned people would have lived to benefit from this reaffirmation of the value of all human life and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. I suggest that he respects humane practices and announces a rejection of the way of death he is attempting to install.

The Union for Civil LIberty