Month: August 2013

Pakistan to carry out first executions since 2008

Pakistan will execute four people, including two jailed militants, next week, ending a five-year moratorium on capital punishment.

The move has been condemned by the Pakistani Taliban as an act of war sure to trigger more violence.

Pakistan’s new government, trying to display its resolve in fighting crime and militancy, overturned the moratorium on the death penalty in June.

A senior prison official in the southern province of Sindh said that four convicted criminals, including two militants from the radical Sunni group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, would be hanged at the Sukkur Jail between 20 and 22 August.

Another senior jail official identified the two as Attaullah alias Qasim and Mohammad Azam alias Sharif.

Both were sentenced to death in July 2004 after being found guilty of killing Shia doctor Ali Raza Peerani in Karachi in 2001.

The Taliban responded with fury in a pamphlet distributed in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan bordering Afghanistan where most militant groups are based.

“If the prisoners are executed it would amount to a declaration of war on the part of the PML-N’s [ruling party] government,” said the pamphlet.

The government of new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif overturned the moratorium on the death penalty shortly after coming to power in a May election.

The decision was condemned by international rights groups such as Amnesty International.

“We are opposed to capital punishment. We demand that the death penalty should not be awarded to anyone,” IA Rehman, head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said.

Pakistani authorities say capital punishment is key to deterring crime as well as militancy in areas on the Afghan border, where Taliban militants launch daily attacks.

Up to 8,000 inmates are believed to languish on death row in dozens of Pakistan’s overcrowded prisons.

The state of Pakistani jails jumped to the top of the government’s agenda this month after a jailbreak in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan in which 250 inmates escaped, including Taliban militants.

That attack came a year after a similar mass jailbreak in the northern town of Bannu.

Security has been tightened at jails around the country, but there are fears that the Taliban might be plotting similar attacks. (RTE News, August 13, 2013)


Video Reignites Death Penalty Debate in China

An online video purporting to show a public execution in the Chinese countryside has reignited debate about the death penalty in a country consistently singled out by human rights groups for executing vastly more people than any other.

The video, posted to the Sina Web portal Monday evening, is shot from a ridge overlooking a field and shows a group of onlookers watching as a line of police cars drives into a field, sirens blazing. The camera zooms in to show blurry images of what appear to be police removing a figure from a van wearing a white placard around the neck. Onlookers can be heard talking casually as the figure is led into a field, made to kneel and is shot in the head.

China Real Time was unable to verify the authenticity of the video (warning: graphic content). A short line of accompanying text said the footage was originally posted online prior to November 2012 but gave no other information. Onlookers, described in the video’s title as local villagers, speak a dialect found in the region of southwestern China’s Guizhou province.

The video had been viewed more than 2 million times and attracted thousands of comments by Tuesday evening.

Chinese people largely support the death penalty – a Sina survey cited by state-run media put the number at 75% in 2010 — though a number of wrongful convictions and other controversies have swelled the ranks of those who want to see it abolished or severely curtailed.

That split was evident in the two most popular comments on Sina’s video site.

“Respect human rights! Oppose the death penalty!” read the most popular comment, pushed to the top with 598 likes.

“Idiot. You think those who are sentenced to death are normal people?” read the second comment, liked 570 times. “Their victims probably suffer more than they do. I resolutely oppose getting rid of the death penalty.”

China doesn’t publicly report execution figures, but the human-rights organization Dui Hua puts the number at around 3,000 in 2012. That number is dramatically reduced from 2002, when it said China executed an estimated 13,500, but it still dwarfs reported numbers from other countries.

In its 2012 report on the death penalty, human-rights organization Amnesty International said at least 682 executions were carried out in countries other than China in 2012.

Many of the reactions to Monday’s video reflected recent controversies, including one in April in which a local court overturned the death penalty for a man coerced into confessing to the murder of a woman in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

“The most important reason to get rid of the death penalty is that you can’t undo the damage done to those who are wrongly convicted,” wrote one commenter on the Sina video site.

Most of the criticism, however, focused not on the morality of the purported execution, but instead on the manner in which it was carried out – and on the reactions of the onlookers, many of whom can be heard talking casually and laughing before and after the shooting.

“We’re still eating blood buns – listen to the sound of them laughing and chatting,” wrote one commenter in a reference to “Medicine,” a short story by early 20th century satirist Lu Xun in which a father feeds his son a steamed bun dipped in the blood of a recently executed criminal in the belief that it will cure his tuberculosis.

Many others were equally disturbed by the public nature of the alleged killing. Although China’s recent history is littered with tales of public executions—some carried out inside stadiums in front of thousands of spectators—that practice is now illegal thanks to a provision in the Criminal Procedure Law that says death sentences should be publicly announced but not made into a public spectacle.

With worries growing that Chinese society might begin to crack under the pressure of slowing growth and a widening wealth gap, a number of observers speculated the execution was intended to send a message.

“Didn’t the Supreme Court ban killing people in the street a long time ago?” lawyer Gan Yuanchun wrote on Sina’s Weibo microblogging platform.

“This feels like killing the chicken to scare the monkey,” wrote another. “The point is to terrorize.”

The Supreme People’s Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Josh Chin. China Real Time Report, WSJ, August 13, 2013)

The video can be viewed here (warning: graphic content):

Xinjiang violence: two get death penalty

Men from Uighur ethnic minority convicted over deaths of 15 members of security forces in restive Muslim region of China

Two men have been sentenced to death and three others to prison terms over deadly attacks in the traditionally Muslim region of Xinjiang, Chinese state media has reported.

The violence on 23 April was one of a series of incidents between authorities and members of the region’s native Turkic Uighur ethnic minority.

The Xinhua News Agency and other outlets said Musa Hesen, the alleged leader of an extremist group, sentenced to death following a one-day trial on Monday for murder, forming and leading a terrorist organisation and illegally manufacturing explosives.

Another defendant, Rehman Hupur, received the death sentence for murder and belonging to a terrorist organisation. The sentences imposed on the three others ranged from nine years to life in prison.

The reports said the defendants did not contest the charges and had lawyers present during their trial. Death sentences in China are automatically reviewed by the country’s highest court before being carried out. (The Guardian, August 13, 2013)

Nazi war crimes suspect Csatary dies

A 99 year old Nazi war crimes suspect, Hungarian Laszlo Csatary, has died while awaiting trial, his lawyer said.

Csatary died in a Hungarian hospital after suffering from a number of medical problems, Gabor Horvath said.

He at one time topped the list of most wanted Nazi war crimes suspects and is alleged to have assisted in the murder of 15,700 Jews during World War II.

He faced charges relating to his wartime activities in both Hungary and in Slovakia.

Horvath said his client died on Saturday morning. “He had been treated for medical issues for some time but contracted pneumonia, from which he died.”

Csatary had denied the allegations against him, saying he was merely an intermediary between Hungarian and German officials and was not involved in war crimes.

In 1944 he was the Royal Hungarian Police commander in the city of Kassa in Hungary (now Košice in Slovakia). In charge of a Jewish ghetto, he helped organize the deportation of approximately 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz. He is also accused of having inhumanely exercised his authority in a forced labour camp.

Csatary also brutalized the inhabitants of the city. He was convicted in absentia for war crimes in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and sentenced to death. He fled to Canada in 1949 claiming to be a Yugoslav national and settled in Montreal where he became an art dealer. He became a citizen in 1955.

In 1997, his Canadian citizenship was revoked by the federal Cabinet for lying on his citizenship application. He fled the country two months later.

In 2012, Csatary was located in Budapest, Hungary, based on a tip received by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in September 2011. His address was exposed by reporters from The Sun in July 2012.

He was reportedly taken into custody on 18 July 2012 by the Hungarian authorities for questioning.

On 30 July 2012, Slovak Justice Minister Tomáš Borec told reporters in Bratislava that Slovakia wanted Csatary to be tried in that country.

A file that the Simon Wiesenthal Center had prepared on Csatary implicated him in the deportation of 300 people from Kassa in 1941. In August 2012 the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office dropped these charges, saying Csatary was not in Kassa at the time and lacked the rank to organize the transports. In January 2013 it was reported that Slovak police had found a witness to corroborate other charges relating to deportations of 15,700 Jews from Kassa from May 1944.

On 28 March 2013, the Slovak County Court in Košice has changed the 1948 verdict in Csatary’s case.

The verdict was changed from death penalty to the life sentence according to the newspapers.

The reason for that was to make the verdict executable. According to the press the Prosecutor’s office spokesman said “now the Court has the task to deliver the verdict to the convict”.

On 18 June 2013, prosecutors in Hungary indicted Csatary with war crimes, saying he had abused Jews and helped to deport Jews to Auschwitz in World War II. A spokesperson for the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office said, “He is charged with the unlawful execution and torture of people, (thus) committing war crimes partly as a perpetrator, partly as an accomplice.”

The Budapest higher court suspended his case on 8 July 2013, however, because “Csatary had already been sentenced for the crimes included in the proceedings, in former Czechoslovakia in 1948”. The court added it needed to be established whether the 1948 ruling, a death sentence changed to life imprisonment later, could be valid in Hungary and under what circumstances could Csatary serve the sentence. (Euronews, August 12, 2013)

Inside the hellhole of a Bali prison

I got here a few weeks ago to shoot a documentary. Stepping off the plane is an experience in itself. A prickle of sweat confirms my arrival as I’m drowned in close to one hundred per cent humidity and stifling heat. Long queues of bored passengers, customs as basic as it gets. You have a passport and money, and Bali wants you to use both.

It’s by far Australia’s favourite holiday destination. Close to one million of us are expected to file through Denpasar airport this year, battle the hectic traffic and the street hawkers, and stand on those magnificent beaches framed by waves that every surfer dreams of. Hotels can be cheap, beer is even cheaper, and everything and anything can be bought on the street.

But we are not alone in our love of this place. When you add domestic tourists with international, Bali is flooded yearly with eight million people, a number that’s twice its population. Many feel that a growing desperation for the tourist dollar, fuelled by the chasm of disparity between the Rupiah and just about any other currency, has changed a place with a reputation of being one of the friendliest destinations on earth.

Consider this. In 2012 an Australian died in Bali every nine days. That’s almost one a week. A lot of it is from misadventure like motorbike accidents, or drug overdoses, but there is also a long list of murders. Add to this the number of assaults, rapes, and robberies, and Bali has a dark side that’s not advertised in the brochures.

Sometimes however, Australians are to blame for the trouble they find themselves in. The temptations are simply far too strong, especially to the party crowd.

They are drawn to the temples of excess that populate Kuta with flashing lights and competing sound systems that blare distorted music into next week. The pubs and clubs are legendary. Foam parties, rooftop bars, and barman who will never tell you you’ve had enough. Many of these places are either owned, or run by security teams connected to the many gangs that have carved up Kuta. We looked into a story where the security teams themselves are the ones spiking drinks, ripping people off, handing out gang bashings, and worse.

Fuelling all this is what you can buy on the street. Lets start with what’s legal, pseudoephedrine, otherwise known as speed, and hallucinogenic mushrooms which, incredibly, you can buy in milkshake form. Then there’s the other stuff. Cocaine, ecstasy, and ice. We walked the streets with hidden cameras, and caught the dealers offering, cajoling, showing handfuls of their product. At times following us aggressively, promising low prices like we were bartering for a Bintang T-shirt. Add this to copious amounts of alcohol and it’s no wonder the hospitals here do a roaring trade with banged up Australian’s. In the time we were there, we saw numerous patients with black eyes, broken noses, a split lip that required more than 20 stitches from a king hit.

The ages of those flooding the streets are mostly young and about to get younger. The Gold Coast, once the mecca for schoolies week, has cleaned up its act so much, has come down so hard on hell raising kids, last year saw a record number head to Bali. No pesky door checks for smuggled booze, no tedious lines to scrutinise I.D. no barman telling you, you can only order a few shots at a time. Just hit the go button, and hope you get home. With some luck the spirits won’t be laced with the local and sometimes deadly vodka known as Arak, or like a recent survey found, ethanol. Apparently it works just as well in your blood stream as it does in your car, except it’s an accident waiting to happen.

And while Bali can seem like a place without rules, without boundaries, if you do find yourself on the wrong side of the law, you’ll find out just how wrong you are. Indonesian law is not like it is back home. It’s a different legal system, harsh laws, and even harsher penalties. Just ask Schapelle Corby, or any member of the Bali nine, or the families of the ten drug smugglers that have either been executed, or due to be, this year alone. Each will be tied to a post, alone, on a remote island, in the dark, waiting for the orders from the firing squad in standing front of them. (

Click on the link  to read the full article

New Report on the Death Penalty in Malaysia

A new report by the London-based Death Penalty Project explores the use of mandatory death sentencing in Malaysia.

In the U.S., the Supreme Court barred the use of mandatory death sentences in 1976, holding that judges and juries needed to consider the individual differences among defendants, out of respect for human diginity. (Woodson v. North Carolina, and other opinions).

DPP’s report found that the number of executions carried out in Malaysia has declined in the last decade even though there have been no major changes in law or reforms in the system.

As part of the research, a poll was conducted to discern the public’s support for mandatory death sentences.

The poll found little public opposition to abolishing the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking and firearms offenses, though 56% of respondents still supported a mandatory death sentence for murder.

Click on the link below (Comment) to read full text of the report.


Amnesty urges Hamas to stop Gaza executions

Amnesty International has attacked Hamas’ plans to carry out executions in Gaza following the Muslim festival of Eid.

The charity said the threat facing prisoners sentenced to death was “deeply disturbing”.

Hamas’ Attorney General in Gaza announced plans last week to execute a number of what he said were “convicted criminals” as a “lesson” to other Palestinians.

According to Amnesty those at risk include a 27-year-old man detained over the death of a friend in 2009. The man was allegedly tortured by Hamas and forced to “confess” to the rape and murder of a six-year-old boy more than a decade ago.

In March a 23-year-old man was sentenced to death for “collaboration with an enemy entity” by Gaza’s central military court. He told his lawyer he had been beaten during interrogation. Amnesty said he could be executed if an appeal on Wednesday is unsuccessful.

Philip Luther, Amnesty’s International Middle East and North Africa director, said: “This and other recent announcements by Hamas authorities that they will carry out further executions are deeply disturbing.

“We acknowledge the right and responsibility of governments to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offences, but the death penalty is cruel and inhuman, and there is no evidence that it deters crime more effectively than other punishments.

“Public executions are degrading and compound the cruelty of the death penalty.”

He urged Hamas to halt executions planned for after Eid al-Fitr and to suspend all death penalties.

Amnesty said Hamas had carried out at least 16 public executions since April 2010, half of which were of people found guilty of collaborating with Israel. (