Month: March 2014

Iran’s busy hangmen

March 19, 2o14

Source: The Washington Times, EDITORIAL
The hangman is out of work in most of the West. Even in the United States, where several states are searching for more “compassionate” ways to kill, capital punishment is not as popular as it used to be.

The mullahs in Iran are as enthusiastic as ever in meting “justice” at the end of a rope. International human rights groups are raising protests, but the mullahs vow no mercy, but continued repression, ever harsher.

The Iranian state has executed 176 men and women so far this year, some of them hoist high on the end of a construction crane arm. Taking the trouble of building a gallows is too much.

The rate of hangings has increased sharply over last year, when the mullahs decreed the rope for 500 to 625 of the doomed. No one outside knows the exact number, and the grisly estimate was made in a report this month by the United Nations Commission for Human Rights.

So much for hope of a kinder and gentler Iran by Hassan Rouhani, who was elected president last June.

Death is exacted for offenses deemed undeserving of capital punishment elsewhere. Drug dealers can quickly get the noose, the fate of Afshin Darvazi last December. Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani Amouri from Iran’s Zagros Mountains region were hanged for a crime called “enmity with God,” the euphemism for acts against the regime.

Farzaneh Moradi, a onetime child bride, confessed under duress to killing her husband. She tried to withdraw her confession, according to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but the court would not allow it. Case closed. She was hanged in Isfahan Prison on March 4.

Even North Korea, where brutality is the national sport, sometimes grants a quick death, with a bullet to the head rather than an agonizing end, thrashing like a fish on a hook.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a carefully worded rebuke of the government for the rising body count. “The new administration has not made any significant improvement in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and opinion,” he said, “despite pledges made by the president during his campaign and after his swearing in.”

The mullahs insist the liberal application of the noose is doing the world a favor. The mounting execution toll is a “positive marker of Iranian achievement” and a “great service to humanity,” says Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s Judiciary Human Rights Council.

Human rights observers, who professed themselves shocked by the claim that dispatching citizens with a torturous form of execution is an “achievement,” urge Tehran to declare a hangman’s moratorium.

Iran clings to a cruel punishment of the past that many other nations have forsworn as an affront to civilization. Iran’s hard-line rulers shake their fists at foreign enemies, real and imagined, but save their worst barbarities for their own people.


In Saudi Arabia, Indonesian maids are on death row for sorcery

march 17, 2014

JAKARTA, Indonesia — After 10 years in a Saudi prison, Ati Abeh Inan finally made it back to Indonesia last month. On death row for “casting a magic spell on her employer and his family,” she was pardoned by King Abdullah.

Needless to say, she was very lucky.

About 40 other Indonesian domestic workers still face potential death sentences in the Saudi kingdom. They’ve been convicted of witchcraft, sorcery or of murdering their employers. Five have exhausted all judicial appeals.

Migrant Care, an Indonesian NGO following their cases, says most of the convicts acted in self-defense against sexual or physical abuse.

For years, rights groups have reported the horror stories of maids in Saudi Arabia.

Nisha Varia, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher who has interviewed domestic workers in Saudi Arabia says she has spoken to women “whose employers beat them, threatened to kill them and dump them in the trash, compared them to animals.” They’ve alleged rape, harassment, mistreatment, torture, and having their bodies burned with irons and boiling water. Some have had nails hammered into their hands.

Behind the closed doors of private homes, the fate of the one to two million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia depends solely on their employers’ will. Migrant Care’s director Anis Hidayah explains they are much more at risk than other migrant workers because they’re extremely isolated. “It’s very difficult to monitor the situation in the houses of employers,” she says.

In addition to the abuse, human rights groups have described slave-like conditions.

Domestic workers often work from dawn to late at night, sometimes up to 100 hours a week, with no day off. They often lack adequate food, and they sleep in the kitchen or in tiny rooms if they’re lucky. They are not entitled to overtime pay or compensation in the case of work related injury.

And they’re not allowed to resign.

The “kafala” system of sponsorship means a worker’s visa and stay is tied to the one person who gives them a job and a house. This creates an opportunity for exploitation and abuse, experts say.

In 2011, after one of its nationals was executed for killing her allegedly abusive employer, Indonesia decided it had had enough. Its embassy in Riyadh, which had been seeking clemency for the domestic worker, wasn’t even notified until after her decapitation. Jakarta called it “unacceptable,” against “norms and manners” of international relations. The president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, announced a moratorium on sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia.

Three years later, the ban might soon be reversed.

At the end of February, the two countries signed a “historic and remarkable” agreement, as Indonesian minister of manpower and transmigration, Muhaimin Iskandar, described it. Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia will now have access to very basic rights.

They will no longer be deprived of their passports, and will be allowed to communicate with their families, get paid monthly, and have some time off.

Calls for clarifications on how the agreement will be implemented and monitored are yet to be answered.

Until last year, domestic workers were completely excluded from Saudi labor law. In July 2013, the government introduced some new labor regulations for domestic workers, including an outrageous limit of 15 hours of work a day. Yet while maids are considered the most vulnerable group among migrant workers, they are still not granted the same protection as others.

“There needs to be strong regulations that set the standard for what treatment should look like. If you ask average employers in Saudi Arabia, they think it’s acceptable to take the domestic worker’s passport because they’ve paid a lot of money to recruit her,” says Nisha Varia. “There needs to be a change in the norms and regulations to make it clear that it doesn’t mean that they then can completely control the domestic worker.”

According to Migrant Rights, 30 to 50 maids report abuse and exploitation every day at the center for housemaid affairs in Riyadh, which deals with runaway maids and those who refuse to work for their sponsors. The center coordinates with the domestic workers’ sponsors and embassies to solve the problem, but only accommodates them for a maximum of a week, after which they’re deported if no solution is found.

Those who dare submit official complaints for mistreatment face the risk of employers filing counter-claims of witchcraft or adultery, which are severely punished in Saudi Arabia.

According to Indonesian authorities, some 6.5 million Indonesians work overseas, mainly as domestic workers in the Middle East, Hong-Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Cases of abuse are not limited to Saudi Arabia. In January, the story of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a 23 year-old maid who came back to Indonesia on a wheelchair after having been tortured for months by her employers in Hong-Kong, sparked outrage across Indonesia. The president called Erwiana Sulistyaningsih’s father to tell him he was “angry.”

But Indonesian officials are less inclined to condemn the fact that the country’s estimated 2.6 million maids working in Indonesia are also still in legal limbo and facing daily abuse.

“There is nothing protecting domestic workers at the moment. There is no regulation on their working hours, no standard for wages or days-off,” says Albert Bonasahat, from the International Labor Organization office in Jakarta. He says it makes it harder for Indonesian delegations to negotiate better conditions for their workers overseas. “When they ask for a weekly day-off for example, the destination country will reply, well, do you have such regulation in Indonesia?”

Amnesty International recently accused Indonesia of “dragging its feet” on a domestic workers law, stuck in parliament since 2010. The parliament only has a few months to make a change until the bill expires in September this year.

(Source: MinnPost)

VIETNAM – Disgraced bank head given death sentence for corruption

march 14, 2014

Vu Viet Hung, former director of the Bank for Development of Viet Nam (BDV)’s branch of Dak Lak- Dak Nong provinces, was accused of taking bribes, misappropriation of assets and violating credit lending regulations.

He denied all of the charges.

His accomplices – Cao Bach Mai, Nguyen Thi Van and Tran Thi Xuan – were sentenced to life imprisonment for appropriating money and distributing bribes.

In addition, five former officials of the bank were also sentenced to five to 10 years in jail for violating credit lending regulations, while another official was given three years’ probation.

According to the indictment, between 2008-10, Hung, as director of the BDV Dak Lak-Dak Nong, had approved credit loans of VND350 billion (US$16.66 million) for Cao Bach Mai, former director of Minh Nhat Co. Ltd, and Tran Thi Xuan, former director of Nhat Tan Co. Ltd.

He permitted the lending of money despite being aware of their insolvency, and in return was given a car worth VND3.2 billion ($152,380).

Further, Hung allegedly signed falsified deposit contracts at his bank to help Mai and Xuan, along with Nguyen Thi Van, former head of Song Cau Cooperative and Dang Thi Ngan, former director of Thuy Ngan Co. Ltd., to appropriate VND580 billion ($27.61 million) from the Nam A Joint Stock Commercial Bank, Hanoi branch, and the Phuong Dong Joint Stock Commercial Bank, HCM City exchange.

Mai forged 75 export contracts with foreign partners to borrow over VND1 trillion from BIDV Dak Lak – Dak Nong and then appropriated VND155 billion ($7.14 million) from the bank, according to court officials.

Source: VNS

High Court Upholds Death Penalty in Delhi Gang Rape Case

March 13, 2014

NEW DELHI — The Delhi High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentences of four men who were convicted of gang-raping and murdering a 23-year-old student in the capital in December 2012.

In September, a lower court sentenced the men to death by hanging after determining that the case fell into the “rarest of the rare” category, which the Supreme Court has said is the only one that can merit capital punishment. The men were charged with murder after the woman died from severe injuries sustained when she was repeatedly assaulted with an iron rod.

In their order upholding the men’s convictions and death sentences, the two judges from the Delhi High Court called attention to the “gruesome manner of the execution of the crime” and said that such a case was “unparalleled in the history of criminal jurisprudence.”

For months after the gang rape and the woman’s subsequent death, protests were held across India to demand justice for the victim and greater safety for women. The public anger helped push the trial into a special fast-track court and pressured Parliament to strengthen sexual assault laws in March 2013.

“A strong message needs to be sent to the perpetrators of grotesque and ghastly crimes against women,” the Delhi High Court said.

The father of the rape victim said in a televised interview outside the courthouse that he was very happy with the court’s decision on Thursday.

He also expressed hope that it would serve as a deterrent. “Not just them, but other people who commit such crimes should be given a death sentence,” he said. “If that happens, such cases will surely decline.”

A. P. Singh, a lawyer for two of the convicted men, said in a telephone interview that the decision to uphold the death penalty was politically motivated. “When the lower court passed the judgment, the Delhi Assembly elections had just been declared,” he said. “And now, they have passed this judgment as the national elections are around the corner.”

A fifth defendant, Ram Singh, was found dead in a Delhi prison in March last year. A sixth defendant was a juvenile at the time of the gang rape and was sentenced by a Juvenile Justice Board to the maximum jail term of three years. The family of the victim is also demanding the death penalty for that sixth person, who is now an adult.

The defense lawyer did not contest the court’s upholding of the guilty verdict but contended that because the men were not habitual offenders, the courts should show compassion and try to rehabilitate them.

“We will definitely challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court,” A. P. Singh said.


BANGLADESH – Man to die for killing wife for dowry

march 13, 2014

District Judge of Woman and Child Repression Control Tribunal Fatema Nazib passed the order on Wednesday.

The convicted was identified as Mohammad Faruk, a carpenter and son of Yunus Chulder of Kishoredia village of Rajoir Upazila in Madaripur district.

Special Public Prosecutor Mohammad Shahjahan told reporters that the convict had been on the run after securing bail from the trial court.

According to the case details, Faruk attacked wife Salma Begum, 34, with a brick which caused her to death at Ershadnagar, a colony for the destitute, in Tongi on Oct 19, 2011.

Salma’s mother filed a lawsuit with the Tongi Police Station under the Women and Children Repression Control Tribunal over the murder.

The police had arrested Faruk, but he has been on run after securing bail from the court three months ago.

The relatives said that after their marriage, Faruk used to stay at the house of his in-laws and that he killed Salma for failing to get land’s ownership as dowry.

Special Public Prosecutor Mohammad Shahjahan said that the couple had two sons – Mohammad Sakib, 8, and Mohammad Rakib, 16.

The two sons also testified against their father at the hearing.

The court recorded deposition from seven witnesses.

Advocate Zakir Hossain of Gazipur Judge Court argued for the accused at the hearing.


Sri Lankan hangman resigns in shock at sight of gallows

march 12, 2014

A newly recruited hangman in Sri Lanka has resigned in shock after being shown the gallows for the first time.

The country has not carried out a judicial execution since 1976 but has over 400 prisoners on death row.

The authorities want to have an executioner ready in case hangings resume.

But three recruits have now abandoned the job within a year after the previous hangman was promoted to become a prison guard.

Commissioner-General of Prisons Chandrarathna Pallegama told the BBC that the new recruit – reported to be 40 and from the town of Anuradhapura – “got shocked and afraid” after seeing the gallows, which came after several days of training.

He had written a letter saying he wanted to resign and had failed to report for training since Monday.

Mr Pallegama said the man would be given one month to consider his decision. If there was no change, fresh applications would be called for through a government gazette.

The last permanent hangman had also said the gallows made him nervous, and he felt he was lucky only to have done clerical work despite his job title.

Two men were then recruited from among 176 applicants but quit the job last year after going on unauthorised leave, reports said.

The man who has just resigned is reported to have been the third-placed applicant from that process.

Any new execution in Sri Lanka would have to be authorised by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Those on death row do not include former members of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) or LTTE suspects.

(Source: BBC News)

Iran executed 331 for drugs offences in 2013 – with UN and European support

Iran executed 331 people for drug-related charges in 2013, a new report published today by the non-profit organisation Iran Human Rights reveals.

The findings will put further pressure on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and a number of European countries which continue to fund counter-narcotics policing operations in countries such as Iran which impose the death penalty for drugs offences.

UNODC, which receives significant funding from the UK, France and EU (among others) runs programmes in Iran and Pakistan which help the countries’ anti-narcotics forces carry out arrests and prosecutions – inevitably contributing to large numbers of death sentences, as no conditions are imposed on the aid to prevent this outcome.

Executions for drugs offences make up almost half the total number of executions identified by IHR for 2013: 331 out of 687. IHR notes that “Possession and trafficking of narcotic drugs remain the charges the most commonly used against those executed in Iran in 2013.”

Pakistan’s imposition of the death penalty for drugs offences makes a major contribution to its death row population of around 8000 – thought to be the largest in the world. The UK continues to fund Pakistan’s Anti Narcotics Force via UNODC projects, despite the organisation highlighting the four death penalties it secured in 2013 as among its key “achievements.”

Khadija Shah, a young mother from Birmingham, is one of a number of British citizens potentially facing the death penalty on Pakistan on drugs charges – a situation towards which the UK taxpayer contributes through aid provided to the ANF.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of legal charity Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “It is scandalous that the UNODC continues to – in effect – fund the death penalty around the world. The huge numbers of people executed on drugs charges in Iran last year must act as a wake-up call for the UNODC. Either it needs to put in place measures which prevent its support contributing to the death penalty, or it needs to stop funding anti-narcotics projects in those countries which impose it. It is also vital that Britain – which is the biggest donor to anti-narcotics in the region – acts to ensure that public money is not being used to further swell Pakistan’s huge death row population.”

(Source: Reprieve)